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A Little Normality; I’ll Take It

It took all day to find a story that didn’t make me want to despair, but the Eisner nominating committee came through with this year’s nominations. Let’s talk webcomics and indie comics presence, which we’ve seen spreading way outside the two official (and increasingly nebulous) web-adjacent categories. As they’ve been out for less than an hour as I write this, it’s going to be initial impressions, and we’ll go back and revisit in future as warranted.

First thing I noticed: The web is where you find short comics; the five nominees for Best Short Story are dominated by established web properties (Matt Inman at The Oatmeal, Miriam Libicki at The Nib) and places that include comics, but are general-audience magazines (Mira Jacob in Believer, Emma Hunsinger in The New Yorker). Only one of the nominees is in an actual comic comic, Ebony Flowers (Promising New Talent, 2019 Ignatzen) for Hot Comb, which was all over best of lists for last year and which is my pick to take the category.

Second thing I noticed: The category for Best Single Issue/One-Shot is entirely indie producers, with Zainab Akhtar’s Shortbox taking two of the five (Minotäar, by Lissa Treiman and Sobek by James Stokoe). The others are Coin-Op No. 8: Infatuation, by Peter and Maria Hoey, The Freak, by Matt Lesniewski, and Our Favorite Thing Is My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, where the ubiquitous-in-2019 Emil Ferris told a few last stories about My Favorite Thing Is Monsters. Gotta give this one to Treiman or Stokoe, as those are the two I saw last year and they’re both great.

Third Thing I Noticed: The competition in Best Publication For Kids is going to be fierce. It’s got Raina’s latest, of course, but also last year’s Dog Man by Dav Pilkey (the dude’s a machine), New Kid by Jerry Craft, This Was Our Pact by Ryan Andrews, Akissi: More Tales of Mischief, by Marguerite Abouet and Mathieu Sapin, and The Wolf in Underpants, by Wilfrid Lupano, Mayana Itoïz, and Paul Cauuet. Haven’t seen the last one, but the others are all excellent and I do not envy the judges their task.

Fourth Thing I Noticed: The repeat nominees have been cleaning up earlier awards (particularly the Ignatz last fall), with Hot Comb also nomindated in Best Publication For Teens, alongside Kiss Number 8 (Colleen AF Venable and Ellen T Crenshaw), Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me (Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Vallero-O’Connell), Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass (Tamaki again, and Steve Pugh), and Penny Nichols (MK Reed, Greg Means, and Matt Wiegle). For the record, I absolutely could not choose between Kiss and Laura Dean, both of which I adore. Also, one may note that Venable appears as the model of a character in MK Reed’s The Cute Girl Network because excellent people feed off each other’s creativity.

Fifth Thing I Noticed: Comics types not only feed off each other creatively, they sometimes become a hive mind. Best Humour Publication include Sobek and Minotaär, Death Wins A Goldfish (Brian Rea) and The Way Of The Househusband, Vol 1¹ (Kousuke Oono, translated by Sheldon Drzka), but also two very handsome hardcovers by a couple of dudes that last time I saw them, were throwing Stan Lee impressions at each other at warp speed — David Malki ! (Friends You Can Ride On), and Los Angeles resident Dave Kellett (Anatomy Of Authors). David, Dave, love you guys, but I can’t choose between you. I’ll have to give it to Househusband to preserve our friendships.

Sixth Thing I Noticed: Aside from individual stories at The Nib getting all sorts of nominations all over comics awards for the past several years, the print magazine is starting to get notice; issues 2 through 4 (Matt Bors and about five dozen other people) are collectively nominated for Best Anthology.

Seventh Thing I Noticed: If you put together a few zillion pages of comics in a half dozen years, you’re gonna get really good at it; if you were already really good when you started, you’re going to get amazing. Tillie Walden scored three nominations for the magnificent Are You Listening?, for Best Graphic Album — New, Best Writer/Artist, and Best Lettering. I cannot say enough good things about that book, it’s entirely remarkable. And since we’re here, we should note that Raina, Jacob, and Stokoe are also nominated for Best Writer/Artist. That’s gonna be a tough category.

Eighth Thing I Noticed: Original graphic novels sharpen your chops like nobody’s business. Best Writer includes Tamaki again, alongside Reed and Means.

There’s more, I know I’ve missed stuff but it’s getting late and I need to post this. I also know I haven’t talked about the Digital and Webcomic categories because once again I can’t figure out the distinction, but we’ll come back and do that after I’ve had more time to digest.

As a reminder, all comics industry professionals are eligible to vote on the Eisners; results will be announced in July at a time to be announced.

SM20 Countdown for 4 June 2020:

¹ About the meanest member of the yakuza, who gives it up to keep house for his wife.

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