Panel Patter Roundtable: Some Thoughts from Rob and James on the 2022 Eisner Nominees

The 2022 Eisner Award Nominees were announced last week! So, a few of us decided to share some quick thoughts on some of the categories and nominees (or people that we think should have been nominees. Here we go!

Rob's Ramblings:

The fun part about this for me is I have no say in the Eisners whatsoever! I'm no longer an educator (and God Bless those of you who are, I don't know how you're managing these days) and while I'm a published *prose* author, I have no comics credits and no expectations that will ever change. So I get to play "outsider" here in a weird way. It's really weird, especially when we're a former nominee and I have going on two decades of reviewing comics at this point. That's a long-winded way of saying: Anything I say here is likely out of touch!

Best Continuing Series has a lot of great candidates. Bitter Root's message is fantastic. David is one of the few writers out there who can be both literal and figurative at the same time. Department of Truth is a total mind-fuck, as you know, and a favorite of a good chunk of the team. But Al Ewing and his collaborators, primarily Bennett, created not just an all-time great Hulk story, but one of the best Big 2 comic book stories of all time by building on what came before instead of shitting on it. It's a once in a generation project that deserves recognition as such. Any of those three are worthy, but I'm giving the Green Goliath the edge here, personally.

Best Anthology not featuring Ice Cream Man feels like a crime against humanity to me, with no disrespect meant to any of the others. This is a really hard one for me, because I loved Silver Coin, as our readers know. Walsh's horror anthology uses the coin in innovative ways to keep each story varied, even while his art style ties them together, and the different voices working the scripts really makes it feel like an anthology. But damn it, friends first, always, and Kel is my friend and edited a kick-ass anthology of talent for You Died: An Anthology of the Afterlife alongside Andrea Purcell. An Iron Circus book that, as per usual, had wild crowdfunding success, and has an awesome group of collaborators including Raina Telgemeier. Kel's a great anthologist and deserves recognition for it. Plus: My friend!

Best Reality: Lugosi was one of my top books of 2021. Glad to see it get a well-deserved nomination. What might hurt it a bit is that it's not as hard-hitting as something like David's Black Panther Party bio.

Best Adaptation: I must be the only person who didn't care for 1984. I didn't think it added anything to the text, merely illustrating it rather than bringing the story to life. I don't do a lot of adaptation reading from personal preference, so can't speak on any of the others.

Best Translated Manga (I don't care what they call it, that's what it is): I've actually read four of these, which surprises me a bit, as there's so much good manga out there right now, and it's easy to miss something (for example, I would have probably put Moriarity here). And while y'all might expect me to knee-jerk to the Ito, which was awesome, I'm actually going to go with Chainsaw Man, which is delightfully batshit insane in premise and art. It's not trying to be anything award-worthy and therefore deserves an award. A dude is poor as hell and gets stuck working around demons, then merges with one and his already miserable, hungry, unfulfilled horny life gets worse. Just a bucket of stupidity and I love every minute of the over-the-top premise and art! Zom 100 was an unexpected surprise for me. A loser puts his all into work, only to realize its futile just as a zombie apocalypse hits. So he sets out to do a bucket list, to hell with the danger. A great story that's a lot deeper than it appears on its face. Either of those would be a great winner, IMO.

Best Writer/Artist: I'll make up for my Ito snub by saying that he is one of the greatest horror writer/artists of all time, possibly the best, and therefore deserves this award. But this is Barry Windsor-Smith's award to lose, let's be honest. And I'll just have to sit in the minority of people who just doesn't get the appeal of that creator. It's okay, I know I'm wrong, I just...nothing he's ever done has made me want to go back and linger over the art. It's a personal quirk thing and I own it.

Best Cover Artist: Jen Bartel's one of the best in the business and I would love to see her win an Eisner for doing covers, because they're phenomenal. But Alex Ross is putting out some of the best work of his long, star-studded career, and I think he deserves it most this year. His work on Hulk and Iron Man alone should get him the nod. But really, either one would be a good pick. Mack's selection feels more on his past work than on the covers for Norse Mythology, which have just been okay, even if the book itself is a personal favorite.

Best Letterer: Simon Bowland is the best letterer working in comics right now, and that's saying something. Total snub in my opinion to leave him off here. No Jim Campbell, either. And Hassan is also absent. What in the world is going on in this category? With respect to the people named, this just feels completely and utterly wrong to me.

And on that grumpy note, that's all I have for now.

James' Medium Takes:

Best Single Issue/One-Shot: In any other year I would have absolutely awarded this to Nightwing #87, which is a wonderful single issue of a comic. Bruno Redondo does something incredibly fun and ambitious, which is to make the entire comic essentially one continuous action sequence. It's a delight to read, gorgeously illustrated, and very ambitious, and anyone can pick it up, regardless of whether you're reading the series. However, Wonder Woman Historia: The Amazons exists, and I can't imagine awarding any other comic. This comic is, without exaggeration, one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. Every page from artist Phil Jimenez is absolutely jaw-dropping, and each page is the coolest thing you've ever seen until you get to the next page. And the story from Kelly Sue DeConnick (about the goddesses going against the gods and deciding to create women that cannot be oppressed by men) is powerful and compelling and tragic.

Best Continuing Series: This is a tough category! All of the books (Bitter Root, The Department of Truth, Immortal Hulk, Nightwing, and Something Is Killing the Children) are all really excellent comics. Nightwing is, month-to-month, one of the most entertaining comics out there. It's everything a superhero comic should be. And Immortal Hulk was one of my favorite comics in years. An incredibly smart, ambitious, stunning, and occasionally horrifying book that plumbed the depths of Bruce Banner's mind. But neither is my choice - my choice is The Department of Truth (DoT).  I don't think there's any comic now that has its finger more on the pulse of our society than DoT. I think DoT has really gotten a handle on something really ugly and uncomfortable in the zeitgeist , about distrust, and the tenuous nature of facts and reality. and that is perfectly embodied by the art of Martin Simmonds and the excellent guests artists who have contributed recently to the comic.

Best Limited Series: This is another really strong category, with many worthy nominees (Beta Ray Bill: Argent Star, The Good Asian, Hocus Pocus, The Many Deaths of Laila Starr, Stray Dogs, and Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow). I loved each of Beta Ray Bill: Argent Star, The Good Asian, and Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow, but my choice has to be Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow. This was a comic of stunning beauty and depth; a deep-space retelling of True Grit. A story with some of the best dialogue and narration of anything I read last year. With art of staggering beauty from artist Bilquis Evely and colorist Mat Lopes. 

Best New Series: My personal choices here are The Human Target and The Nice House on the Lake, both from DC. Some of my favorite art from last year came from The Human Target, where Greg Smallwood is conjuring a world that looks like you wish the 1960's looked. A smart, stylish, sexy murder mystery. But if I have to pick one comic it's going to be The Nice House on the Lake. As I said with DoT, James Tynion really understands how to channel the zeitgeist. This is a story about a group of poeple holed up in a house while the world is ending all around them. There's fear, tension and paranoia. Feel familiar yet? And the art from Alvaro Martinez Bueno is weird and scary and unsettling. 

Best Anthology: I really loved Superman: Red & Blue. These were ultimately inspiring stories, because that's kind of the point of Superman. He exists to inspire us to be our best, most heroic selves. All the while, there were some incredibly illustrated stories in here, from Daniel Warren Johnson and many others. 

Best Graphic Memoir: So I read each of Factory Summers, Run: Book One, and Save It for Later: Promises, Parenthood, and the Urgency of Protest. I liked Run but honestly didn't find it to be quite at the level of March. I loved both Factory Summers and Save It For Later. If I had to pick one book it would be Save It For Later. It's a lot about Nate Powell's reaction to the 2016 election, and so revisiting that time can be kind of a tough read emotionally. But it's powerful, and informative, and is a real call to action. 

Best Graphic Album—New: It's hard for me to separate Destroy All Monsters from the other Brubaker/Phillips Reckless book released last year, Friend of the Devil - I think of them both in their totality. And that totality was fantastic. So my choice here would certainly be Destroy All Monsters. Brubaker and Phillips keep getting better and better at comic storytelling, which is as it should be. I thought In. was interesting. And Monster by Barry Windsor-Smith was a hell of a read, but I respected it much more than I enjoyed it. I found it to be an unpleasant read, which is, I get, the point. But that still doesn't make it any more enjoyable to read.  

Best Adaptation from Another Medium: I agree with you Rob on this category. I don't know who should win, but I was not a huge fan of the 1984 graphic novel adaptation. I felt the same issue, that the adaptation was too much of a straight transmittal of the novel text to the comic page. Almost every page of the graphic novel felt too text-heavy. And then, most of the way into the book, we have the manifesto of the revolutionaries, simply presented in its entirety as text only (and that stops the momentum of the book entirely). Artist Fido Nesti is very talented, but I really wish he'd just relied on his art a lot more.  

Best Writer: So I've read work from most of the nominated writers here (Ed Brubaker, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Ram V, and James Tynion IV) and while I loved Wonder Woman Historia, I can't give "best writer" to someone just based on having written one thing (sorry Kelly Sue). James Tynion seems like the pretty clear choice based on his breadth of high quality work last year. He had Something is Killing the Children, The Nice House on the Lake, Department of Truth, Batman, and more. SIKTC is a runaway hit and is the most talked-about horror comic since The Walking Dead. And I've already talked about how great (and relevant) Department of Truth and The Nice House on the Lake are. 

Best Penciller/Inker or Penciller/Inker Team: This is a STACKED category. I'm familiar with all of the artists, and have read most of the works. Each of Filipe Andrade, Phil Jimenez, Bruno Redondo, and Esad Ribic did spectacular work last year. But unlike best writer (where I cannot give it to someone who just wrote one issue), I DO feel good about giving this Eisner to someone who drew one issue. Because that one issue is Wonder Woman: Historia by Phil Jimenez, a comic that has some of the staggering art I've ever seen. I love the work of Andrade, Redondo, and Ribic. Their comics were among my favorites in 2021. But really nothing (for me) compared to Jimenez's work on this issue last year. It's just mind-bogglingly intricate and great. 

Best Cover Artist: Jen Bartel would be my favorite up-and-coming cover artist. She draws absolutely beautiful, stylish people looking beautiful. Those characters are sexy and fun and full of life. But my pick is the gold standard for covers, Alex Ross. Ross really did do some of his best work last year, on Iron Man, Immortal Hulk, and elsewhere. Ross' covers are simply iconic. His painted style makes his art look more real than actual reality. The detail, the color, all of it is absolutely iconic. 

Best Coloring: This is a tough award to give, and all of the nominees are worthy. But the people I want to mention were not nominated for this award, and I think that is a real shame. Mat Lopes colored the absolutely most beautiful pages I saw in a comic last year, in the pages of Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow. His renditions of the skies of an alien world will absolutely bring you to tears. Everything about his colors in Supergirl was pure perfection. Bilquis Evely is already an extraordinary artist, but she and Lopes together unlocked something truly special. Go read their Supergirl comic, you'll see what I mean. Also, I am sure he's won previously but any list of "best colorists" without Dave Stewart is not an accurate list. His colors in Echolands are the ultimate example to me of Stewart's mastery as a colorist. He might be drawing a page where there are characters from 20 different sorts of worlds, and each character is colored in a completely different style, and all of those styles are completely distinct and perfectly rendered. Stewart has the eye for detail and the range to do it all. He unlocked J.H. Williams' already-brilliant art. Not to mention the incredibly, mind-blowing work he did in Primordial.  

Best Lettering: Not a lot to say here, but I'll also say that I agree with Rob. Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou is one of the best letterers out there, and deserves more recognition. 

Best Comics-Related Book: So...the only book I read in this category was True Believer: The Rise and Fall of Stan Lee. But I can tell you that it's a fantastic read. This book was exhaustively researched by Abraham Riesman. Riesman definitely got some pushback from some older comic folks, and from people who seem really invested in the greater Stan Lee narrative. I have warm feelings towards Stan Lee as well, but he's clearly a complicated figure. And despite what you might think, it seems pretty clear that he was not nearly the creator of the Marvel Universe that he liked to portray himself as. Ultimately I found Lee to be a sad figure, notwithstanding all of the notoriety he experienced over the course of decades. If you are interested in a thoroughly researched book about Stan Lee (rather than a hagiography) then Riesman has a book for you. I hope he wins.