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Picking the Winners: David vs. the Eisner Awards

So, here we are – it’s April 2010, the San Diego Comic Con is coming, and we’re on the cusp of another round of Eisner Awards. We saw the nominations announced last week, and in my opinion they’re sort of baffling in many cases, like the seeming complete shut-out of people like Matt Fraction, Jason Aaron, Kieron Gillen, Jonathan Hickman and Grant Morrison, who all produced hugely well-received work in 2009. So in the interest of forcing my personal taste on others — and attempting to predict which way the wind will blow — I think it’s time for: DAVID! VERSUS! EISNERS!

Best Single Issue (or One-Shot)
Brave & the Bold #28: “Blackhawk and the Flash: Firing Line,” by J. Michael Straczynski and Jesus Saiz (DC)
• Captain America #601: “Red, White, and Blue-Blood,” by Ed Brubaker and Gene Colan (Marvel)
• Ganges #3, by Kevin Huizenga (Fantagraphics)
• The Unwritten #5: “How the Whale Became,” by Mike Carey and Peter Gross (Vertigo/DC)
• Usagi Yojimbo #123: “The Death of Lord Hikiji” by Stan Sakai (Dark Horse)

This category returns after what appears to be a 2009 hiatus. Last time it appeared in 2008, the award went to two superheroes who couldn’t figure out which way was up. This probably should go to “Ganges”, since the amount of craft that goes into an issue of “Ganges” is greater than the majority of comics – which makes its nomination almost unfair; an Ignatz-format $8 yearly pamphlet is in a largely different class from an installment of a 22-page monthly title. Unfortunately, that disparity is made up for by momentum – while “The Unwritten” #5 would be my pick past Ganges, I think the more likely winner is “The Brave and the Bold” #28, a schmaltzy superhero morality play by J. Michael Straczynski and Jesus Saiz. I’m hoping I’m wrong on this one. Second most likely is “Captain America” #601, which could take the prize basically for being Gene Colan’s last comic. I admit I haven’t read “Usagi Yojimbo”, but while it’s a perennial nomination favorite, it hasn’t won any awards in a while.

Best Continuing Series
• Fables, by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Andrew Pepoy et al. (Vertigo/DC)
• Irredeemable, by Mark Waid and Peter Krause (BOOM!)
• Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys, by Naoki Urasawa (VIZ Media)
• The Unwritten, by Mike Carey and Peter Gross (Vertigo/DC)
The Walking Dead, by Robert Kirkman and Charles Adlard (Image)

I love “20th Century Boys,” and it’s my favorite title on this list, but manga’s never won before and it ain’t gonna start now. And while “Unwritten” and “Irredeemable” are both excellent, this category’s always gone to a series with some sort of… “star power.” This year, I think that’s the newly-AMC-optioned “The Walking Dead,” with “Fables” winning as a second option since it’s been nominated so many times.

Best Limited Series or Story Arc
• Blackest Night, by Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis, and Oclair Albert (DC)
• Incognito, by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (Marvel Icon)
• Pluto: Urasawa X Tezuka, by Naoki Urasawa and Takashi Nagasaki (VIZ Media)
• Wolverine #66–72 and Wolverine Giant-Size Special: “Old Man Logan,” by Mark Millar, Steve McNiven, and Dexter Vines (Marvel)
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by Eric Shanower and Skottie Young (Marvel)

While I think this should go to Naoki Urasawa’s absolutely sublime “Pluto,” I really think the dark horse candidate of Shanower and Young’s “Wizard of Oz” is going to take it. It’s well-loved, incredibly well-crafted and the kind of thing that’s disagreeable to absolutely nobody. “Incognito” is probably the second most likely, due to the popularity of the Brubaker/Phillips team, but “Old Man Logan” and “Blackest Night” are probably too polarizing to win, unless the latter’s vociferous supporters really turn out to the vote.

Best New Series
Chew, by John Layman and Rob Guillory (Image)
• Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Phillip K. Dick, art by Tony Parker (BOOM!)
• Ireedeemable, by Mark Waid and Peter Krause (BOOM!)
Sweet Tooth, by Jeff Lemire (Vertigo/DC)
• The Unwritten, by Mike Carey and Peter Gross (Vertigo/DC)

I think the huge amount of support behind John Layman and Rob Guillory’s “Chew” will see this one win, although “Sweet Tooth” is equally likely. This category is probably anyone’s guess.

Best Publication for Teens
• Angora Napkin, by Troy Little (IDW)
• Beasts of Burden, by Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson (Dark Horse)
• A Family Secret, by Eric Heuvel (Farrar Straus Giroux/Anne Frank House)
• Far Arden, by Kevin Cannon (Top Shelf)
I Kill Giants TPB, by Joe Kelly and JM Ken Niimura (Image)

While a lot of people liked “Beasts of Burden,” “I Kill Giants” is pretty much universally acclaimed and very well-regarded, and was successful enough to see a new deluxe hardcover just printed. It’s an excellent comic, and Joe Kelly will deserve it.

Best Humor Publication
• Drinky Crow’s Maakies Treasury, by Tony Millionaire (Fantagraphics)
• Everybody Is Stupid Except for Me, And Other Astute Observations, by Peter Bagge (Fantagraphics)
• Little Lulu, vols. 19–21, by John Stanley and Irving Tripp (Dark Horse Books)
• The Muppet Show Comic Book: Meet the Muppets, by Roger Langridge (BOOM Kids!)
Scott Pilgrim Vol. 5: Scott Pilgrm vs. the Universe, by Brian Lee O’Malley (Oni)

While this probably should go to Roger Langridge’s Muppet work, for some reason Bryan Lee O’Malley’s actually pretty depressing “Scott Pilgrim” volume five is here, and will win because for God’s sake it was so good it needs to win SOMETHING. I’m honestly utterly baffled by Pilgrim’s inclusion here (and shutting out from the other categories) – while there were certainly moments of levity, the “Scott Pilgrim” series has largely become as serious as a heart attack, and far more of an adventure story than a “humor publication.”

Best Digital Comic
• Abominable Charles Christopher, by Karl Kerschl, www.abominable.cc
• Bayou, by Jeremy Love, http://zudacomics.com/bayou
• The Guns of Shadow Valley, by David Wachter and James Andrew Clark, www.gunsofshadowvalley.com
• Power Out, by Nathan Schreiber, www.act-i-vate.com/67.comic
Sin Titulo, by Cameron Stewart, www.sintitulocomic.com/

Where the hell is Achewood? That said, this will probably go to Cameron Stewart’s excellent “Sin Titulo,” an ongoing sort of magical-realist noir mystery. It’s great stuff, and debuts Stewart’s considerable writing chops alongside showing his already fairly appreciated artistic talent. In retaliation, I expect the equally talented Karl Kerschl will play some sort of studio prank we will hear about on Twitter.

Best Adaptation from Another Work
• The Book of Genesis Illustrated, by R. Crumb (Norton)
• Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species: A Graphic Adaptation, adapted by Michael Keller and Nicolle Rager Fuller (Rodale)
• Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury, adapted by Tim Hamilton (Hill & Wang)
Richard Stark’s Parker: The Hunter, adapted by Darwyn Cooke (IDW)
• West Coast Blues, by Jean-Patrick Manchette, adapted by Jacques Tardi (Fantagraphics)

Yeah, this one’s going to “Parker” because the other major nominee (Crumb’s “Book of Genesis”) is really, really boring.

Best Graphic Album-New
Asterios Polyp, by David Mazzucchelli (Pantheon)
• A Distant Neighborhood (2 vols.), by Jiro Taniguchi (Fanfare/Ponent Mon)
• The Book of Genesis Illustrated, by R. Crumb (Norton)
• My mommy is in America and she met Buffalo Bill, by Jean Regnaud and Émile Bravo (Fanfare/Ponent Mon)
• The Photographer, by Emmanuel Guibert, Didier Lefèvre, and Frédéric Lemerier (First Second)
• Richard Stark’s Parker: The Hunter, adapted by Darwyn Cooke (IDW)

There are a lot of great nominees here, but Mazzucchelli’s “Asterios Polyp” is a career-defining masterpiece and a virtuosic use of the medium and basically everybody knows it.

Best Writer
Ed Brubaker, Captain America, Daredevil, Marvels Project (Marvel) Criminal, Incognito (Marvel Icon)
• Geoff Johns, Adventure Comics, Blackest Night, The Flash: Rebirth, Superman: Secret Origin (DC)
• James Robinson, Justice League: Cry for Justice (DC)
• Mark Waid, Irredeemable, The Incredibles (BOOM!)
• Bill Willingham, Fables (Vertigo/DC)

This is a doozy. First off, it’s interesting to see what these guys are nominated for and what they aren’t – for instance, Ed Brubaker’s credits incorporate everything he wrote in 2009, while Geoff Johns’s ignores “Green Lantern” and the end of his “Justice Society of America” run. James Robinson is only nominated for the highly controversial “Cry for Justice,” not his work on “Superman,” and Waid’s work on “Amazing Spider-Man” and “The Unknown” is apparently inferior to his work on “Irredeemable” and “The Incredibles.” Willingham wrote “Justice Society of America” in addition to the nominated “Fables” as well, but it’s been fairly terrible, so I can understand why that one was left out.

As for who’s going to win? Since it’s a jury of peers, I’d guess probably either Willingham (“Fables” is a perennial favorite, and he won last year) or Ed Brubaker, again (he also won 2007 and 2008), who’d get my vote if I were anything resembling a qualified Eisner voter. I’d imagine Johns and Robinson are too polarizing, but perhaps a groundswell of support will push one to the forefront; Mark Waid, truth be told, has had stronger years, and as good as “Irredeemable” is I don’t see it pushing him past the existing Eisner bias for Willingham and Brubaker.

Best Writer/Artist
• Darwyn Cooke, Richard Stark’s Parker: The Hunter (IDW)
• R. Crumb, The Book of Genesis Illustrated (Norton)
David Mazzucchelli, Asterios Polyp (Pantheon)
• Terry Moore, Echo (Abstract Books)
• Naoki Urasawa, Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys, Pluto: Urasawa X Tezuka (VIZ Media)

Someone better release the kraken, because this is a clash of the titans! Okay, I can’t defend that. Still – in a year where Terry Moore is probably the least likely to win, it’s been a pretty great year for comics. Everyone on this list is a master, but like I commented before, there’s really one masterpiece that rose above the others this year, and that’s Mazzucchelli’s “Asterios Polyp.” Since writer/artists tend to produce work more slowly, each nominee really only has a single work qualifying them this year, with the exception of Naoki Urasawa whose “20th Century Boys” and “Pluto” are being released simultaneously in the United States, despite coming out at different times in Japan.

Best Penciller/Inker or Penciller/Inker Team
• Michael Kaluta, Madame Xanadu #11–15: “Exodus Noir” (Vertigo/DC)
• Steve McNiven/Dexter Vines, Wolverine: Old Man Logan (Marvel)
• Fiona Staples, North 40 (WildStorm)
J. H. Williams III, Detective Comics (DC)
• Danijel Zezelj, Luna Park (Vertigo/DC)

Everyone here did good work, but I think we all know J.H. Williams III blew the doors off this year, and while everyone else on this list did solid to excellent work, Williams innovated and pushed the language of superhero comics. I will be absolutely flabbergasted if he doesn’t take this award home.

Best Cover Artist
• John Cassaday, Irredeemable (BOOM!); Lone Ranger (Dynamite)
• Salvador Larocca, Invincible Iron Man (Marvel)
• Sean Phillips, Criminal, Incognito (Marvel Icon); 28 Days Later (BOOM!)
• Alex Ross, Astro City: The Dark Age (WildStorm/DC); Project Superpowers (Dynamite)
J. H. Williams III, Detective Comics (DC)

Williams, again, same reason as before.

Best Coloring
• Steve Hamaker, Bone: Crown of Thorns (Scholastic); Little Mouse Gets Ready (Toon)
• Laura Martin, The Rocketeer: The Complete Adventures (IDW); Thor, The Stand: American Nightmares (Marvel)
David Mazzucchelli, Asterios Polyp (Pantheon)
• Alex Sinclair, Blackest Night, Batman and Robin (DC)
Dave Stewart, Abe Sapien, BPRD, The Goon, Hellboy, Solomon Kane, Umbrella Academy, Zero Killer (Dark Horse); Detective Comics (DC); Northlanders, Luna Park (Vertigo)

This is a hard pick, actually. It’s difficult to compare the work Mazzucchelli does on “Polyp” to what the other nominees do – the coloring in “Polyp” was an intrinsic part of the storytelling, of a piece with the lettering, linework and dialogue. Artists like Dave Stewart and Laura Martin, on the other hand, add a layer of coloring on top of the work of others, which is a very different discipline. I’m hard-pressed to figure out which will gain more votes – the insanely talented Stewart’s won the award for the past few years, so that might tip the balance. I’m also never going to understand the appeal of Alex Sinclair’s coloring – seriously, those posterized skies in “Batman and Robin?” Those are Eisner-worthy?

Best Lettering
• Brian Fies, Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow? (Abrams ComicArts)
David Mazzucchelli, Asterios Polyp (Pantheon)
• Tom Orzechowski, Savage Dragon (Image); X-Men Forever (Marvel)
• Richard Sala, Cat Burglar Black (First Second); Delphine (Fantagraphics)
• Adrian Tomine, A Drifting Life (Drawn & Quarterly)

Since he’s still in the industry, I’m convinced Todd Klein’s omission from this year’s list of nominees must be some sort of cosmic conspiracy, because since when is Todd Klein not nominated for the award understandably joked about as the Todd Klein Award? In any case, I imagine this one will go to Mazzucchelli, whose differing lettering styles for basically every character in “Polyp” elevated lettering from a part of production to an integral storytelling element.

Best Comics-Related Periodical/Journalism
• Alter Ego, edited by Roy Thomas (TwoMorrows)
ComicsAlliance, www.comicsalliance.com
• Comics Comics, edited by Timothy Hodler and Dan Nadel (www.comicscomicsmag.com) (PictureBox)
• The Comics Journal, edited by Gary Groth, Michael Dean, and Kristy Valenti (Fantagraphics)
• The Comics Reporter, produced by Tom Spurgeon (www.comicsreporter.com)

We’re up against some pretty stiff competition here, but I’ve got faith we can make it through. It should be fairly obvious who I’m rooting for.

Who do you think will (or should) take home the trophies at the Eisners?

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