Monday, July 9, 2007

06/07 Eisner Snubs

The Eisner nominations for the best of the best in comics of 2006 came out this past April and I'd like to go over what I think are some serious omissions. I think Jackie Estrada who administers the Eisners and selects the judges is great, but this year's judges seem to have gone for nominating uber niche, obscure books I'm thinking so that those works get recognition, not for truly celebrating the best of the medium which is what I think was the foremost reason for the Eisners. The judges change every year and usually they are a very diverse group of people and I'm not saying that this years judges aren't also diverse, but if we look at the category of best original graphic novel and the selected nominees it certainly looks like they had an agenda other than recognizing the best of 2006. I understand that selecting the best of anything is largely subjective, but I think that if we could somehow gather three other groups of five judges all three of those groups would come up with a more reflective representation of the best original graphic novel of 2006 than what we have presently.

The biggest omission for best original graphic novel of 2006: Lost Girls by Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie (see photo). Lost Girls is about the sexual escapades of Dorothy (from Wizard of Oz), Alice (from Alice In Wonderland), and Wendy (from Peter Pan) and is very pornographic, while at the same time being very literary and artistic. The shared sexual experiences of the three girls is certainly the main focus of Lost Girls, but Lost Girls, like Moore's other great works (V For Vendetta, Watchmen, From Hell, and Promethea, to name a few) is a multi-layered creation and will be regarded as one of his greatest works. Lost Girls has done really well on the sales front especially for a book that is $75.00 (it's three 110 page hardcover books in a slipcase with superb production values) and it has been a critical success as well. One could argue that it doesn't need the Eisner nomination as much as the other nominees, but again I thought the Eisners were about the year's best and if Lost Girls isn't considered a best I think there's something wrong.

A couple of other specualations as to why Lost Girls wasn't nominated: the explicit sexual content. Certainly Lost Girls turns it up to eleven in its portrayal of the girls' sexual adventures. Now I don't know this year's Eisner judges so I can't state that they didn't nominate Lost Girls because of that and surely this book isn't for everyone even though there exists bodies of writing that deal with the sexual subtext underlining Alice In Wonderland, Peter Pan, and Wizard of Oz so Alan Moore isn't the first writer to approach these stories in that light. Another criticism that Lost Girls gets largely from those who haven't read it, but have heard what it's about, is that it's merely fan fiction and Moore is doing unspeakable things to the characters. Do those same people regard the Eisner award winning Fables (and Jack of Fables) as fan fiction?

Other omissions from this year's best graphic novel category: Fate Of The Artist, by Eddie Campbell, We Are On Our Own by Miriam Katin, and American Splndor; Ego & Hubris by Harvey Pekar. I was really surprised that Pride of Baghdad wasn't in this category, even though I don't think it's Vaughan's best work, I'd argue that it merits inclusion over Ninja, Billy Hazlenuts, and The Ticking, three of the books in this category. I've enjoyed works by Chippendale, Millionaire, and French, but I don't think their books last year are true examples of the greatness of this medium as Lost Girls, Fate Of The Artist, We Are On Our Own, and Ego & Hubris are. Some people that read this post may think that what I think should have been included were selected on the basis of them being "important", but rather I'd just suggest that they are lasting creations and have more impact on their readers than Ninja, The Ticking, and Billy Hazlenuts (again I know this arguement falls under the subjectivity header and on many levels it's even odd to compare a book like Billy Hazlenuts with Lost Girls, but that's the nature of awards).

Two other omissions / inclusions that stand out to me as being odd are The Escapists not being nominated in the best limited series category (the Sock Monkey that's included in this category isn't Millionaie's best) and Young Avengers being incuded as best on-going series (while it was a really good superhero title when it was coming out, I think only one or two issues at the most came out last year with no issues at all this year).

I was sure that even if Lost Girls was nominated that it wouldn't win which brings me to the main problem of the Eisners (and this is probably true of most awards) which is the people who vote for the Eisners. While the comic stores that carried Lost Girls did really well with the book, I'd guess that only about 30% (at the most) of all comic stores even carried it. The voting body of the Eisners consists of anyone in the comics industry so that includes everyone who works on comics, people in the distribution system, and comic store retailers. I'm going to present my educated guess that most retailers (and even creators and people in the distribution system ) have zero awareness of Ninja, Billy Hazlenuts, and The Ticking so it's curious as to what they'll vote for in that category. Hopefully the winner will be the excellent Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, but although that book has done well it's only done well with comic stores that carried it (I'm thinking Fun Home even sold more outside of comic stores) I'm glad that Pride of Baghdad wasn't nominated because that would have won just because that was from Vertigo and most of the Eisner voting body knows what that is even if they haven't read it. Again, I think Lost Girls wouldn't have won because most of the voting body of the Eisners, while they may have heard of it, they won't have read it.

Basically I think all awards are popularity based. I don't have an idea of how the Eisners (or any awards) could be done better because at the end of the day the awards are supposed to be voted on by people who should have the greatest knowledge of what the best of the best is, but sadly a lot of people in any group won't bother finding out what those other selected works even are. I think Promethea (especially artist JH Williams III who has been nominated several times) being overlooked in Eisners of years past is a great example of how a lot of the voting body couldn't be bothered with reading this challenging, rich work because it was a title that often couldn't be read in a leisurely fashion.

I'm not here to say the Eisners (or other award presentations) are worthless and shouldn't be done because they're faulty, I just wish the winners actually were the best of the best. Most years I actually think the Eisner winners are more "on" than "off" especially compared to other awards which are even more populist. Its just when I see people like JH Williams or Carla Speed McNeil or a seminal book like Lost Girls not even being nominated that I end up typing way too many words in sadness.

On Friday, July 27th (the night the Eisner winners are announced), if you hear a high pitched girly scream in anger that'll mean that Fun Home didn't win. Any other omissions I omitted (last year was a great year for comics, especially original graphic novels) and or anyone think I should just read Yotsuba or The Spirit to put me in a happy place?


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jhw3 said...

hey there ralph
some very interesting comments indeed. i always await the eisners every year with trepidation. and not always because of my status in the awards circuit when it comes to me being nominated, though it is always nice to garner that kind of recognition. rather that so many really good books go by without anyone blinking twice. and your feelings about lost girls is dead on the money. it is an absolute work of beauty and genius and should have been nominated and then win. and i must thank you for your very kind sentiments about my standing in the awards circuit.

Scott Johnson said...

I agree 100% with you Ralph, I'm always amazed by the Eisners noms. This year though three of the books I thought were a lock for nomination were not on the list. Pride, Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall, and Lost Girls. Lost Girls was one of the best books I'd read in a long time. (in any genere) And, for it to not even be mentioned is a crime.

Happy New Comics Wednesday 7/18/18 - Life of Captain Marvel, Magic Order #2 (we still have #1 too!), conclusion of Infinity Countdown, Justice League edition!

 Hope all of my friends going to the San Diego Comic-Con this week have a GREAT time!