“Saga’s” Alana and Marko, lovers from warring alien races, may always be on the run with their daughter, but the truly out-there science-fiction adventure was once again welcomed with open arms at the Eisner Awards.
Brian K. Vaughan’s and Fiona Staples’ Image Comics series continued to dominate in its second year as a contender, winning its second consecutive awards for continuing series and writer, and adding the painter prize for Staples.
Responsible for bringing the CBS show “Under the Dome” to television and also a former “Lost” producer in addition to his comics work, Vaughan told the crowd Friday night at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront’s Indigo Ballroom, “People always ask, ‘What have you learned working in film and television?’ I guess I’ve learned that comics are not an equal medium — that we are a vastly superior medium.”
Trying to be heard over thunderous applause, he added, “No offense to our sponsors.” (The ceremony was presented by Showtime.)
The 26th Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, presented along with the four-category Comic-Con International Awards, honored works that were unafraid to experiment, including writer Scott Snyder’s and artist Sean Murphy’s time-hopping, dolphin-featuring, ocean-monster mystery “The Wake” (DC/Vertigo), which won for limited series and penciller/inker, and an issue of an Avengers solo title told from the point of view of a pizza-loving dog.
Writer Matt Fraction, accepting the single issue (or one-shot) award for his and David Aja’s “Pizza Is My Business” story from “Hawkeye” No. 11, thanked everyone at Marvel who didn’t fire the team when they said, “The dog solves a crime.” He also thanked his wife, fellow writer nominee Kelly Sue DeConnick (“Pretty Deadly,” “Captain Marvel”), “who when we rescued a little mangy dog, decided it’d be OK if we kept it.”
It was a big night for Fraction, who also accepted Aja’s second consecutive cover-artist award for “Hawkeye” and shared the best new series prize for his and artist Chip Zdarsky’s Image Comics sex-comedy-adventure series “Sex Criminals,” about a couple whose orgasms literally stop time, a power they use to rob banks (for a good cause).
Fraction thanked “literally every retailer who was like, ‘Yeah, “Sex Criminals” — we mean the good one.’” Zdarsky (the comics nom de plume of Canadian newspaper cartoonist/columnist Steve Murray) thanked “my mommy” for teaching him to draw, adding, with the sense of humor so evident in the acclaimed series, that she “said to me back then, ‘you’re going to draw so many dildos.’”
Though “Saga” and “Sex Criminals” totaled four wins for Image, which exclusively publishes creator-owned titles, the company that won the most Eisners was IDW, with six: Two for Darwyn Cooke’s adaptation work on “Richard Stark’s Parker: Slayground,” and four for its archival work, including Dean Mullaney’s three – the night’s most for any individual – for his Library of American Comics imprint. IDW’s Scott Dunbier extended his winning streak in the comic books archival collection/project category to five years with his editing work on “Will Eisner’s The Spirit: Artist’s Edition.” Dunbier had three of the category’s five nominations.
Noting that a Will Eisner book was winning an Eisner Award, Dunbier said, “What could be more appropriate?”
Dark Horse won four Eisners, including its fifth total and third straight anthology victory with “Dark Horse Presents,” plus Aaron Conley’s Comic-Con International Award for most promising newcomer for his work on “Sabertooth Swordsman.” Fantagraphics claimed three awards, including one each for brothers Jaime Hernandez (writer/artist) and Gilbert Hernandez (short story), both for work in “Love and Rockets: New Stories” No. 6. The top two bestselling publishers, Marvel and DC, each won two awards — the two “Hawkeye” wins for the former, the two “The Wake” wins for the latter.
The ceremony featured two nods to early African American comics creators: “Black Comics: Politics of Race and Representation,” edited by Sheena C. Howard and Ronald L. Jackson II, won for scholarly/academic work, and comics historian William Foster gave an emotional speech in accepting a Hall of Fame award on behalf of Orrin C. Evans, who in Philadelphia in 1947 self-published “All-Negro Comics” No. 1, considered “the first comic book produced by African Americans for African Americans,” Foster said, adding that the 15-cent comic showed “a full range of characters” and was “a far cry from the overwhelming negative stereotypes that blacks in comics were mired in at that time.”
Foster wasn’t the only one to be overwhelmed on the dais. Faith Erin Hicks, whose “The Adventures of Superhero Girl” won best publication for kids, choked back tears and said, “I’m sorry — comics are very difficult for me to make, and this is proof that the work that I do is good.”
Jordie Bellaire won for perhaps the largest body of work – her coloring prize was for work on no less than 11 titles across seven publishers. Her partner, Declan Shalvey, accepted on her behalf, and in one of the show’s lighter moments, noted that “Jordie is my collaborator on a few projects, and also in the bedroom.”
Matthew Inman, who won the digital/Web comic statuette for “The Oatmeal,” got one of the night’s biggest laughs when he said, “I write jokes about bears that poop a lot, so it’s really great to get an award for that.”
Tom Lennon (“Reno 911!”) had some fun with Snyder, pointing out after the writer’s “The Wake” acceptance speech thanking his wife – a doctor who the “Batman” writer asks about possible injuries to Bruce Wayne – that Snyder should ask him, because he’s Batman’s doctor (as seen in “The Dark Knight Rises”).
Snyder himself got some laughs, including by refusing to read his collaborator Murphy’s text-messaged acceptance remarks: “I’m not going to say it because it’s awful,” the writer said, instead offering that Murphy is “one of the bravest, riskiest artists … one of the greatest world-builders, one of the most imaginative people out there.”
The show had its more somber moments too.
Former Marvel editor in chief Marv Wolfman accepted one of Comic-Con’s Bill Finger Excellence in Comics Writing awards – presented by Mark Evanier and, for the first time, Athena Finger – on behalf of Bill Mantlo. The writer, after co-creating characters including Rocket Raccoon and Cloak and Dagger, had segued into a career as a public defender before being permanently brain-damaged in 1992 when he was struck by a car while rollerblading; he lives under supervised care.
Wolfman said Mantlo “saved Marvel in the 1970s” with fill-in scripts done at a quick pace and high standard to avoid reprinting comics under new covers, and credited him with being unafraid to take on licensed comics of toy properties, turning “ROM: Space Knight” and “The Micronauts” into well-written hits.
The award, which recognizes under-appreciated writers, will be sent to Mantlo’s brother.
A full list of Eisner Award and Comic-Con International Award winners is below. All the Eisner nominees are listed here.
“Saga,” by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (Image)
“Sex Criminals,” by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky (Image)
“The Wake,” by Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy (Vertigo/DC)
“The Oatmeal” by Matthew Inman
Brian K. Vaughan, “Saga” (Image)
Jaime Hernandez, “Love and Rockets New Stories” No. 6 (Fantagraphics)
Penciller/inker or penciller/inker team
Sean Murphy, “The Wake” (DC/Vertigo)
David Aja, “Hawkeye” (Marvel)
Painter/multimedia artist (interior art)
Fiona Staples, “Saga” (Image)
Jordie Bellaire, “The Manhattan Projects,” “Nowhere Men,” “Pretty Deadly,” “Zero” (Image); “The Massive” (Dark Horse); “Tom Strong” (DC); “X-Files Season 10” (IDW); “Captain Marvel,” “Journey Into Mystery” (Marvel); “Numbercruncher” (Titan); “Quantum and Woody” (Valiant)
Darwyn Cooke, “Richard Stark’s Parker: Slayground” (IDW)
Graphic album – new
“The Property,” by Rutu Modan (Drawn & Quarterly)
Graphic album – reprint
“RASL,” by Jeff Smith (Cartoon Books)
Single issue (or one-shot)
“Hawkeye” No. 11: “Pizza Is My Business,” by Matt Fraction and David Aja (Marvel)
“Dark Horse Presents,” edited by Mike Richardson (Dark Horse)
“Vader’s Little Princess,” by Jeffrey Brown (Chronicle)
“The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story,” by Vivek J. Tiwary, Andrew C. Robinson, and Kyle Baker (M Press/Dark Horse)
“Untitled,” by Gilbert Hernandez, in “Love and Rockets: New Stories” No. 6 (Fantagraphics)
U.S. edition of international material
“… This War!” by Jacques Tardi and Jean-Pierre Verney (Fantagraphics)
U.S. edition of international material – Asia
“The Mysterious Underground Men,” by Osamu Tezuka (PictureBox)
Adaptation from another medium
“Richard Stark’s Parker: Slayground,” by Donald Westlake, adapted by Darwyn Cooke (IDW)
Archival collection/project – comic books
“Will Eisner’s The Spirit Artist’s Edition,” edited by Scott Dunbier (IDW)
Archival collection/project – comic strips
“Tarzan: The Complete Russ Manning Newspaper Strips, Vol. 1,” edited by Dean Mullaney (LOAC/IDW)
Publication for teens
“Battling Boy,” by Paul Pope (First Second)
Publication for kids
“The Adventures of Superhero Girl,” by Faith Erin Hicks (Dark Horse)
Publication for early readers
“Itsy Bitsy Hellboy,” by Art Baltazar and Franco (Dark Horse)
“Genius, Illustrated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth,” designed by Dean Mullaney (LOAC/IDW)
Comic Book Resources, produced by Jonah Weiland
“Black Comics: Politics of Race and Representation,” edited by Sheena C. Howard and Ronald L. Jackson II (Bloomsbury)
“Genius, Illustrated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth,” by Dean Mullaney and Bruce Canwell (LOAC/IDW)
Hall of Fame
Judges’ choices: Orrin C. Evans, Irwin Hasen, Sheldon Moldoff
Elected by voters: Hayao Miyazaki, Alan Moore, Denny O’Neil, Bernie Wrightson
COMIC-CON INTERNATIONAL AWARDS
Bill Finger Excellence in Comics Writing Award
Robert Kanigher; Bill Mantlo; Jack Mendelsohn
Bob Clampett Humanitarian Award
Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer Award
All-Star Comics of Melbourne, Australia; Legends Comics and Coffee of Omaha, Neb.
Russ Manning Most Promising Newcomer Award
[Updated 11:42 a.m., July 28: The winners list on this post has been updated to include the Eisners’ Hall of Fame inductees.]
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