The nominees for the 2018 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards were announced today, and they make for a fascinating ballot!
The Eisners are the leading awards in the comic book and graphic novel industry. Established thirty years ago and given out each summer at San Diego's Comic-Con International, they've been organized by CCI's Jackie Estrada since 1991. The awards are voted on by industry professionals (this year's voting deadline is June 15). This year's winners will be announced in an awards ceremony at CCI on Friday, July 20.
This year's nominees were selected, as usual, by a judging panel representing various sectors and stakeholders in the comics business. The panel included Young Adult librarian and former YALSA President Candice Mack, journalist and podcaster Graeme McMillan, comics and pop culture retailer Tate Ottati, writer and comic book creator Alex Simmons, longtime Comic-Con and Cartoon/Fantasy Organization organizer William F. Wilson, and my esteemed colleague, scholar-teacher Nhora Lucía Serrano (with whom I've worked in the Comics Studies Society).
To me, the news of the Eisner nominations tends to be more exciting than the award results, because the ballot is such a cross-section of comics culture and always contains surprises. Every Eisner ballot documents a complex process of negotiation and compromise. I know how complex it can be, because in 2013 I served as a judge (along with Michael Cavna, Adam Healy, Katie Monnin, Frank Santoro, and John Smith). It's an experience I will not forget. Judging the Eisners entails reading many, many comics in a short time, then coming together with colleagues--smart, dedicated folks with diverse perspectives and interests--and working across differences to fashion a ballot that gathers up the various strands of long-form comics and represents a fair sample of outstanding work. The judges' final summit (typically a long weekend in April), at least as I experienced it, is about hours and hours of last-minute reading, and then, just as importantly, hours and hours spent around a table hashing out the ballot. Intense, exhausting, and delightful. I remember reading late into the night; I remember chatting and arguing; I remember a room that smelled like paper. Hats off for this year's judges--librarian, journalist, retailer, creator, organizer, and scholar--for their hard work, and for crafting a ballot that reflects exciting changes in the comics field.
Of particular interest to KinderComics are the young readers' categories:
BEST PUBLICATION FOR EARLY READERS (UP TO AGE 8):
BEST PUBLICATION FOR KIDS (AGES 9–12):
BEST PUBLICATION FOR TEENS (AGES 13-17):
These categories have become quite competitive, reflecting the surge in young readers' comics and the influence of children's and YA librarians, who have generally championed the graphic novel format. Notably, these are categories in which the final Eisner voting does not predictably follow popularity in the direct market (i.e. comic shops) but instead seems to reflect the interests of other communities. There have been strong winners in these categories over the past few years, and this year's nominees are a strong, exciting, varied group. Again, kudos to the judges for selecting such a wide-ranging, unconventional set!
Beyond the above categories, there are children's and YA comics-related nominees in others, such as Best Academic/Scholarly Work (Picturing Childhood: Youth in Transnational Comics, edited by Heimermann and Tullis); Best Comics-Related Book (How to Read Nancy: The Elements of Comics in Three Easy Panels, by Karasik and Newgarden); Best Digital Comic (Quince, by Kadlecik, Steinkellner, and Steinkellner); and Best Short Story (“Forgotten Princess,” by Johnson and Sandoval, Adventure Time Comics #13). Also, some of the above creators are nominated in individual categories: Lorena Alvarez for Best Writer/Artist, Isabelle Arsenault for Best Penciller/Inker, Ramón K. Perez for Best Penciller/Inker, and Federico Bertolucci for Best Painter/Multimedia Artist. In fact, this year may mark a new high point in individual nominations for creators of young readers' comics. The ballot gives me an exciting sense of children's and YA comics as emphatically mainstream and recognized for their artistry and daring as well as their accessibility.
It's such a strong ballot overall, with many startling inclusions. Beyond children's and YA comics, check out "A Life in Comics: The Graphic Adventures of Karen Green" (Best Short Story), or Pope Hats #5 (Best Single Issue), or the startling range of the whole Best Anthology category. Check out (wow) Small Favors in Best Graphic Album--Reprint, or Kindred in Best Adaptation from Another Medium. Or My Brother’s Husband in Best U.S. Edition of International Material—Asia. Among reprints, check out the two gorgeous Sunday Press books (Best Archival Collection/Project—Strips) and Conundrum's Collected Neil the Horse (Best Archival Collection/Project—Comic Books). There are many gutsy choices in this year's list—congratulations, judges, and happy reading, everybody!