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GLAAD Announces Nominees for Outstanding Comic Book 2011

Batwoman and Kevin Keller are among the nominees for Outstanding Comic Book at the 23rd Annual GLAAD Media Awards. GLAAD, The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, is an LGBT media monitoring organization, and its annual awards honor “outstanding media images of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community that inspire change.” The comics category has featured in the awards for most of their 23 year history, and past winners include Fun Home, Buffy, Green Lantern and Pedro & Me.

This year’s nominees for Outstanding Comic Book are:

Avengers: The Children’s Crusade, by Allan Heinberg (Marvel)
Batwoman, by J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman (DC Comics)
Secret Six, by Gail Simone (DC Comics)
Veronica Presents: Kevin Keller, by Dan Parent (Archie Comics)
X-Factor, by Peter David (Marvel Comics)

It’s a strong line-up, but none of the nominees are new to the GLAAD awards. Secret Six was nominated two years ago and X-Factor won last year. The Children’s Crusade was nominated last year and is a continuation of a previous winner, Young Avengers, while Batwoman is a continuation of Detective Comics, which won the 2010 award. Even Kevin Keller was nominated last year for his appearance in Veronica.

It’s also a very mainstream list, but GLAAD favors the mainstream by design; the organization’s focus is on media representations with reach and impact. Since 2003, the Outstanding Comic award has been limited to comics published by Dark Horse, DC, Image, and Marvel, plus any book that “achieves a level of visibility and impact similar to a mainstream publisher.”

A non-Big Four book has made the shortlist almost every year since the rule was introduced, and three have won the award; Luba (Fantagraphics), Strangers in Paradise (Abstract) and Fun Home (Houghton Mifflin). This year Archie Comics’ Kevin Keller is the only exception to the Big Four rule, and as an all-ages book with cross-generational appeal it is arguably the most mainstream nominee.

All five of this year’s nominees feature a gay lead character or a gay character in the core ensemble, which is not unprecedented, but it does mark a change from the days when GLAAD nominated books on the basis of one issue, one arc, or one supporting character. The Flash won the first ever award back in 1992 because of the presence of Pied Piper, and Supergirl won twice thanks to the character Comet, a horse that turned into a lesbian. (It was a Peter David comic, so I’m sure it was better than I’ve made it sound.) Most of the nominees this year feature characters in same-sex relationships, except Kevin Keller.

DC has won the Outstanding Comic Book award nine times, and has received at least one nomination every year for the last fourteen years, and multiple nominations in thirteen of those years. In total, DC has received 45 nominations across its various imprints, placing it well ahead of its peers.

The only other publisher to win more than once is Marvel, for Young Avengers in 2006 and X-Factor in 2011. Marvel has received nine nominations across seven years. This is only its fourth nominated year in a row, and only the second time it has received more than one nomination. Although the X-Men family of books has always been thematically pro-diversity, only two X-Men books have ever been nominated; X-Factor (three times) and X-Statix (once).

Dark Horse has been nominated four times; three times for Buffy and once for Neil Gaiman’s Murder Mysteries. Image has never been nominated.

GLAAD announces the winners of its awards at three events in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The Outstanding Comic Book award is usually given out at the New York event, which this year takes place on March 24th.

Kevin Keller seems like the plausible favorite to take home the prize, as Archie Comics has not only put a gay lead character in an all-ages book but has also thrown its marketing weight behind it. That shows a level of courage and commitment that outshines anything currently being done by the Big Four.

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