The 2009 Baltimore Comic-Con once again played host to the annual Harvey Awards. Named for comic book legend Harvey Kurtzman, the Harveys are the only award in the comic industry where the community of comic book professionals chooses the nominees and votes for the winners. Leading off the 22nd Annual Harvey Award ceremony was a cocktail hour and a crab cake dinner and any fan could tell the Harvey Award ceremony was a welcome break from the crowded show floor. Nominees and their guests were dressed to the nines for the event; a veritable Who’s-Who of comic book talent, including “New Avengers” writer Brian Michael Bendis, Baltimore Comic-Con Guest of Honor George Perez and this year’s Hero Initiative Humanitarian Award Winner, Neil Adams.
After opening remarks, the ceremony began with an animated short by Kris Straub (“chainsawsuit”) and Master of Ceremonies Scott Kurtz (“PvP”). The short was a variation on Alec Baldwin’s Oscar award-winning performance in “Glengarry Glen Ross,” with Prince Valiant taking the place of Baldwin, addressing a cast of comic strip characters including Dagwood from “Blondie,” Heathcliff, Garfield, and one of the cavemen from “B.C.” “A.B.C. – Always Be Cartooning,” proclaimed Valiant to the assembled throng – an appropriate theme to the evening as a whole.
Nobody was safe from the humor of Scott Kurtz during his time as Master of Ceremonies. Everyone from Diamond Comic Distributors (“I have just been informed that our attendance this evening did not meet Diamond’s minimum requirements and we have been dropped from their catalog. Too soon?”) to Wizard Magazine (“I have just been informed that Wizard Magazine has changed their name to ‘Megan-Fox-Tits-Wolverine.'”) and even to comic talent such as Chris Claremont (“The guy who looked at Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s classic X-Men and said, ‘Do you know what this needs? More. Words.'”).
“It was an honor [to MC the Harvey Awards],” said Kurtz. “I presented last year and winged it. I guess there was a big response from it, so they asked if I would MC this year. Since I was snarky during my presentation, I thought I would handle it as not quite a roast, but a let’s-poke-fun-at-ourselves. Mostly, my approach was ‘let’s make the award show bearable.’ Let’s laugh as much as possible because it’s hard to get through the award show ceremony sometimes. They’re long.”
While Kurtz was busy with his role as Master of Ceremonies, he still took time out to speak with the creators in the room, including this year’s Hero Initiative Humanitarian Award Winner Neil Adams. “”I think my favorite part of the ceremony was meeting Neil Adams, getting to meet him and his family,” said Kurtz. “That was just a huge honor.”
Adams was honored with the special Humanitarian award for his work on a six-page documentary comic about Dina Gottliebova-Babbit, an illustrator during the Holocaust. In exchange for sparing herself and her mother from the gas chambers, Gottliebova-Babbit did illustrations for Nazi death camp director Josef Mengele, known as “The Angel of Death.” The project was inked by Joe Kubert and contains an introduction from Stan Lee. Gottliebova-Babbit survived the Holocaust, along with her mother, and immigrated to the United States, eventually becoming an animator. She passed away on July 29 of this year, her paintings having not yet been returned to her by the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. Marvel has printed Adams’ story, and Disney will be turning the biography into a motion comic. During his acceptance speech, Adams praised the comic community for their continued support of causes such as Gottliebova-Babbit’s. “I don’t know anybody in the comic book business that, if I called upon them [to help with this project], they wouldn’t say yes,” said Adams. “That’s what I like about the comic book business.”
In addition to Adams’ Humanitarian Award, the Hero Initiative also presented a special award to Marc Nathan, BCC Coordinator, for his ten years of work in organizing Baltimore Comic-Con. “I’m usually good at figuring things out,” said Nathan, who took the stage completely surprised. “One of my staff mentioned that I knew every Harvey Award winner, but I didn’t know that!”
The main awards of the ceremony were presented by some of the core talent at BCC this year including “Mouse Guard” creator David Petersen, Barry Kitson, Jim Valentino and Brian Michael Bendis.
“It was a good time,” said Bendis, who presented the final award of the evening. “I was panicky because I lost my voice. I had to present the last award. They kept making a big deal that the last one was going to be the funny one! I was like, ‘Oh, man, I can’t even talk! Don’t start saying that!’ It ended up working out okay.”
Also presenting was the humorous and hilarious Terry Moore, who won Best New Series for “Echo.”
“I’m going to go home and take a bath with it! It looks very clean,” said Moore when asked what he was going to do with his award. “It’s fantastic. The original idea for ‘Echo’ was my wife’s, and she thought of the title. I called her and let her know that she had won an award. It’s an incredible experience. I’ve never won a Harvey before. I thought I was going to have to steal one to get one into my studio, so I’m glad I didn’t have to.”
Though Moore’s Abstract Studios was only up for one Harvey, DC Comics took home three of the statues, two of them for Grant Morrison and Frank Quietly’s “All-Star Superman,” while Marvel took home two. Dark Horse also came away from the ceremony with two Harvey Awards, both for the critically acclaimed “Umbrella Academy” – one for Dave Stewart for Best Colorist and one for Gabriel Ba for Best Artist.
“It’s great. It’s really rewarding because Gabriel is an amazing artist. He’s really an inspiration for me, and I think he deserves all the awards he can get,” said Dark Horse Senior Managing Editor Scott Allie, who accepted both awards on behalf of the winners. “He was up for some Eisners this year and didn’t win, so it’s really great that he got to win this. He’s at a convention in Brazil right now and I can’t call him directly, but we’ve corresponded and he freaked out and was very excited he got the Harvey. Dave is another guy who I couldn’t be more assured of his deservedness. There’s no better colorist in the industry than Dave Stewart. To be able to go up and accept the award for both those guys felt great.”
Image also took two of the Harveys; “Comic Book Tattoo” won for Best Anthology, and Bryan J.L. Glass won for Best New Talent for his book “The Mice Templar.”
“The Harvey Awards to me are one of the most important institutions in the comic book industry,” said Image PR Guru Joe Keatinge, who accepted on behalf of the “Comic Book Tattoo” team. “The Eisners are chosen by a very qualified committee during one of our best conventions in the world, but the Harveys are selected by creators for creators, and that’s something that really needs to be well respected. We’re in full support of it. It’s a huge honor to Bryan Glass, who won Best New Talent, and the whole crew behind Comic Book Tattoo, who won Best Anthology. We couldn’t be prouder of them, and we’re thrilled to take part in the Harvey Awards.”
Glass was on hand to accept the award for Best New Talent. As he took the stage, he did a dive roll and said, “I want to campaign that this changes to ‘Breakthrough Talent,’ because I published my first written work in 1992. A friend of mine said, ‘Well, yeah you’ve been here for 20 years, but your talent has finally caught up!'”
“[It was] very unreal. I had talked myself into the fact that it wasn’t going to happen. I was sitting next to Brian Bendis and Mike Oeming,” said Glass after the ceremony. “They told me to get up on that stage. I got up there and I did a dive roll. As a kid, I said, ‘If I ever win a major award, I’ll roll on stage!’ After that, everything became blank. I came back to the table pretty shaken up. My wife Judy was there, she also edits my work. I cried in her arms for about five minutes. I was a wussie!”
“I’m honored more than I can possibly express to anyone,” Glass continued. “I know on ‘Mice Templar,’ there are a lot of folks on the team; support people who help out. If this award can in any way help those folks on the team, I want other folks to get as much mileage out of this win as possible.”
In total, there were 23 awards presented, with Nathan’s special surprise award closing out the festivities. While the award ceremony certainly achieved its goal of recognizing outstanding achievement in comics and sequential art, the ceremony truly exhibited the heart and humor of the industry with plenty of laughs and uproarious applause for all of the nominees and winners.