April 9, 2011

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Some Thoughts on the 2011 Eisner Nominations

Like last year, I thought I'd provide my thinking on the Eisner Award nominations again. Because I am a wide but shallow comic reader, I don't always have complete familiarity with the works being honored. However, it's still fun to dig in and praise or pan, depending on my opinion.

Of course, it's a lot less fun this year because I don't see any inexplicable nominations, like James Robinson for best writer. Oh well, maybe next time.

Without further ado, here's a few thoughts on the Eisners. Please note I am not looking at every category, so if you want to see the entire rundown, have a look here.

Some overall thoughts:

It's interesting to me that DC seems to get more nominations than Marvel but I personally don't see much value in a lot of what DC is publishing. Marvel is outdone by just about every semi-name publisher, and might not be on here at all except for a Wizard of Oz adaptation that looked rather bad when I flipped through it. Even taking Vertigo out of the equation, DC still beats out the House of Ideas.

I have to say it's pretty cool that this set of nominations gives a lot of street cred to the smaller publishers like Archaia and even Bongo. It seems like there's more competition for quality among the "not Marvel or DC set" than there was when I was buying single issue comics. Perhaps it's just that I notice them more now.

I'm a bit worried that Dark Horse is represented primarily in the reprint category. I hope that doesn't mean they are having trouble getting new material on the shelves. Of the more artistic publishers, it's not a shock to me that Fantagraphics dominates, because the editions they release are absolutely gorgeous and not outrageously priced. I seem to recall NBM getting shut out last year, so it's nice to see they're back. I I'm sure it's hard to narrow things down, and I can't even begin to imagine what it would be like to have a ballot.

In the glaring omission department, however--nothing at all from Top Shelf? Really?

Manga once again slips into the more mainstream categories here and there. Is this enough recognition, manga fans? Or do you think the genre was slighted? As I mentioned above, trying to keep the list down to five nominees has got to be a hard task. I'd say they tried to be inclusionary here.

Now for a few words on the specific categories:

Best Continuing Series
  • Chew, by John Layman and Rob Guillory (Image)
  • Echo, by Terry Moore (Abstract Studio)
  • Locke & Key, by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW)
  • Morning Glories, by Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma (Shadowline/Image)
  • Naoki Urasawa's 20th Century Boys, by Naoki Urasawa (VIZ Media)
  • Scalped, by Jason Aaron and R. M. Guéra (Vertigo/DC)
This is one of those times I'm glad I'm not a judge. I have a feeling it will go to Scalped, but it would be nice to see an upset by Urasawa here. He'd get my vote, but only just barely over Echo.

Best Publication for Kids
  • Amelia Earhart: This Broad Ocean, by Sara Stewart Taylor and Ben Towle (Center for Cartoon Studies/Disney/Hyperion)
  • Amelia Rules!: True Things (Adults Don't Want Kids to Know), by Jimmy Gownley (Atheneum/Simon & Schuster)
  • Binky to the Rescue, by Ashley Spires (Kids Can Press)
  • Scratch9, by Rob M. Worley and Jason T. Kruse (Ape Entertainment)
  • Tiny Titans, by Art Baltazar and Franco (DC)
  • The Unsinkable Walker Bean, by Aaron Renier (First Second)
I really, really want Tiny Titans to win. It's so adorable! Shame on the judges, though, for not nominating a single Top Shelf book here. Dragon Puncher or Johnny Boo belong in this category. Perhaps they missed Dragon Puncher's theme song!

Best Publication for Teens
  • Ghostopolis, by Doug TenNapel (Scholastic Graphix)
  • Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword, by Barry Deutsch (Amulet Books)
  • Return of the Dapper Men, by Jim McCann and Janet Lee (Archaia)
  • Smile, by Raina Telgemeier (Scholastic Graphix)
  • Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty, by G. Neri and Randy DuBurke (Lee & Low)
I realize I've only read one of these, but since Smile was in my top five books last year, I have to hope that it was in the judges' top five, too.

Best Humor Publication
  • Afrodisiac, by Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca (Adhouse)
  • Comic Book Guy: The Comic Book, by Ian Boothby, John Delaney, and Dan Davis (Bongo)
  • Drinking at the Movies, by Julia Wertz (Three Rivers Press/Crown)
  • I Thought You Would Be Funnier, by Shannon Wheeler (BOOM!)
  • Literature: Unsuccessfully Competing Against TV Since 1953, by Dave Kellett (Small Fish Studios)
  • Prime Baby, by Gene Luen Yang (First Second)
Has Adhouse ever had an Eisner win? This could be interesting, because while people like parodies of Blackspoitation, there's got to be a lot of appeal to making a person who says "worst comic ever" into "award winning worst comic ever."

Best Anthology
  • The Anthology Project, edited by Joy Ang and Nick Thornborrow (Lucidity Press)
  • Korea as Viewed by 12 Creators, edited by Nicolas Finet (Fanfare&midot;Ponent Mon)
  • Liquid City, vol. 2, edited by Sonny Liew and Lim Cheng Tju (Image)
  • Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard, edited by Paul Morrissey and David Petersen (Archaia)
  • Trickster: Native American Tales, edited by Matt Dembicki (Fulcrum Books)
I'm really happy to see Matt get an Eisner nomination, but I have a feeling this one is going to the highly regard Mouse Guard, which I really need to read someday. This is also a place where the manhwa-French comic anthology could see recognition.

Best Digital ComicZahra's Paradise is really, really good. It's the only one on this list I've read, though, so I don't know how it stacks up to the other four. Those who prefer paper should definitely check out Zahra's when it hits the shelves from First Second this fall.

Best Reality-Based Work
  • It Was the War of the Trenches, by Jacques Tardi (Fantagraphics)
  • Picture This: The Nearsighted Monkey Book, by Lynda Barry (Drawn & Quarterly)
  • Special Exits: A Graphic Memoir, by Joyce Farmer (Fantagraphics)
  • Treasury of XXth Century Murder: The Terrible Axe Man of New Orleans, by Rick Geary (NBM)
  • Two Generals, by Scott Chantler (McClelland & Stewart)
  • You'll Never Know Book 2: Collateral Damage, by Carol Tyler (Fantagraphics)
50% of these are Fantagraphics, a trend we'll see in other categories as you move through the list. I'm rooting for Rick Geary, though, because I love his stuff.

Best Graphic Album-Reprint
  • The Amazing Screw-on Head and Other Curious Objects, by Mike Mignola (Dark Horse)
  • Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites, by Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson (Dark Horse)
  • Motel Art Improvement Service, by Jason Little (Dark Horse)
  • The Simpsons/Futurama Crossover Crisis, by Ian Boothby, James Lloyd, and Steve Steere Jr. (Abrams Comicarts)
  • Tumor, by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Noel Tuazon (Archaia)
  • Wednesday Comics, edited by Mark Chiarello (DC)
Damn, but that's a great set of books. I'm going to give the nod to Bongo here, because I think it had the best presentation. If we were going for the content, however, I'd say Mignola should win. That collection was a lot of fun to read, and one I'd easily re-read and recommend to others. Still, I wouldn't complain if the others got the nod instead.

Best U.S. Edition of International Material-Asia
  • Ayako, by Osamu Tezuka (Vertical)
  • Bunny Drop, by Yumi Unita (Yen Press)
  • A Drunken Dream and Other Stories, by Moto Hagio (Fantagraphics)
  • House of Five Leaves, by Natsume Ono (VIZ Media)
  • Naoki Urasawa's 20th Century Boys, by Naoki Urasawa (VIZ Media)
Sorry, Ed, but much as I like Urasawa, this one better go to Hagio and A Drunken Dream. Its overall quality is just too good to not win this award, and it has the Fantagraphics cache behind it, to boot. Then again, this is another one where any of these is a good choice.

Best Writer
  • Ian Boothby, Comic Book Guy: The Comic Book; Futurama Comics #47–50; Simpsons Comics #162, 168; Simpsons Super Spectacular #11–12 (Bongo)
  • Joe Hill, Locke & Key (IDW)
  • John Layman, Chew (Image)
  • Jim McCann, Return of the Dapper Men (Archaia)
  • Nick Spencer, Morning Glories, Shuddertown, Forgetless, Existence 3.0 (Image)
This is like the Bizzaro list compared to 2010, which if I remember correctly featured almost exclusively capes comic writers. Why can't we get a happy medium?

Best Writer/Artist
  • Dan Clowes, Wilson (Drawn & Quarterly)
  • Darwyn Cooke, Richard Stark's Parker: The Outfit (IDW)
  • Joe Kubert, Dong Xoai, Vietnam 1965 (DC)
  • Terry Moore, Echo (Abstract Studio)
  • James Sturm, Market Day (Drawn & Quarterly)
  • Naoki Urasawa, Naoki Urasawa's 20th Century Boys (VIZ Media)
Here we go again. With the exception of Wilson, which I hated, there's not a bad pick in the bunch. I'd be voting for Cooke and Parker, but since it's an adaptation, I don't think it belongs in this category. So I'll use that as my flimsy excuse to root for Urasawa here instead of in the manga category.

Best Cover Artist
  • Rodin Esquejo, Morning Glories (Shadowline/Image)
  • Dave Johnson, Abe Sapien: The Abyssal Plain (Dark Horse); Unknown Soldier (Vertigo/DC); Punisher/Max, Deadpool (Marvel)
  • Mike Mignola, Hellboy, Baltimore: The Plague Ships (Dark Horse)
  • David Petersen, Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard (Archaia)
  • Yuko Shimizu, The Unwritten (Vertigo/DC)
I love Dave Johnson's covers. The only problem is when they put them on top of books that have terrible interior art, making me wish Johnson was drawing the whole thing. It would be nice to see him get this one.

Best Lettering
  • Darwyn Cooke, Richard Stark's Parker: The Outfit (IDW)
  • Dan Clowes, Wilson (Drawn & Quarterly)
  • Jimmy Gownley, Amelia Rules!: True Things (Adults Don't Want Kids to Know), Amelia Rules!: The Tweenage Guide to Not Being Unpopular, by Jimmy Gownley (Atheneum/Simon & Schuster)
  • Todd Klein, Fables, The Unwritten, Joe the Barbarian, iZombie (Vertigo/DC); Tom Strong and the Robots of Doom (WildStorm/DC); SHIELD (Marvel); Driver for the Dead (Radical)
  • Doug TenNapel, Ghostopolis (Scholastic Graphix)
  • Chris Ware, Acme Novelty Library 20: Lint (Drawn & Quarterly)
If you are a bit surprised to see Cooke on this list, don't be. He does some really innovating things with the lettering, both in style and in placement, in the Parker books. I know Klein is a great letterer, but I think I'd go with Cooke here personally.

Best Comics-Related Periodical/JournalismGO COMICS ALLIANCE GO! Ahem. Seriously, nothing against the others, which I also like, but of all the choices, it's Comics Alliance that gets the most hits from me and also manages to draw in people who are not heavily interested in the comics industry. For that reason (and not just because Chris Sims slipped me $5*), it should get the win here, but alas, probably won't due to its irreverent nature.

So that's my take on this year's Eisner's. What's yours? Any categories where you have a hard time making a pick? Any categories I shouldn't have ignored? Anybody I'm rooting for that you hate? Tell me!

*Chris did not in fact give me $5 to root for them. It was actually $10.**

**That is, of course, a lie. We settled at $8.