The evening started with Maurice LaMarche (the voice of Pinky from “Pinky and The Brain”) invisibly welcoming the crowd and announcing awards administrator Jackie Estrada, who recognized Anne Eisner for her support of the industry. Host Bill Morrison made some (“There’s a little monitor by the stage and I can see myself. I look pretty good!” “By the applause I got, people must be thinking that I’m Grant Morrison …”) along with some personal anecdotes before bringing on Jane Wiedlin, wonderfully whimsical in an all black and ready to help … but sadly relegated to the back of the stage, by the table full of statuettes.
This year’s Eisner judges included Robin Brenner, Chris Reilly, retailer (and CBR columnist) James Sime, Jeff Vandermeer and USA Today blogger Whitney Matheson. Estrada suggested that the Eisners serve to give exposure to some of the finest works in the field where they may not get the notice otherwise.
Roy Thomas stepped on stage to accept one of two Bill Finger Excellence in Comics Writing Awards on behalf of Gardner Fox. Thomas talked about how Fox came in to fill in on many classic characters and never got the credit, and how Fox helped found Alter Ego. “He was not a bitter guy,” Thomas said. “He remained to the end one of the great gentlemen of comics.”
Presenters Paul Dini and Mark Evanier then brought up “Sabrina the Teenaged Witch” creator George Gladir, who’s written for Archie Comics for forty seven years. He gave the credit to his collaborators John Severin, Dan Decarlo and Stan Goldberg.
Neil Gaiman also took home the Bob Clampett Humanitarian Award, using a Jack Benny quote: “I don’t deserve this award … but I have arthritis, and I don’t deserve that either.”
Retailer Joe Ferrara was surprised when he came up to present the Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer Award, and the sound system was playing a song he’d actually recorded years before. As he stood there, shocked, a 31-year-old photo of Ferrara was shown, to which he replied, “We all looked like Frank Zappa!” The award went to Earth 2 of Sherman Oaks, CA.
Writer Gerry Duggan and comedian/actor Brian Posehn came up to present the first batch of awards. Duggan suggested that it was an honor just to be nominated, to which Posehn replied, “it sucks! The honor would be in winning. Not like I know!” Posehn then theorized nominees get all worked up at home about winning. “You’ve already got that sweet Eisner money spent! You’re gonna wear the trophy around your neck like a necklace, take it to Spearmint Rhino and be like ‘Hey Destinia — I’m an Eisner winner!'”
All jokes aside, the duo presented the Award for Best Publication for a Younger Audience to “Gumby” by Bob Burden and Rick Geary. They then gave the award for Best Digital Comic to Sam and Max by Steve Purcell. Purcell said in his speech that if you have to go back to your hotel to clean up before the Eisners and wanna make it back on time, and you take one of Gaslamp’s ubiquitous bike taxis, “you probably should ditch the hundred and five pound girl. You should go for the big burly guy.”
The award for Special Recognition was presented in Klingon by Posehn and translated into English by Duggan, although some fans felt like Posehn may have slipped into Huttese at one point. The award ultimately went to Hope Larson for “Gray Horses.”
Isotope Comics’ James Sime and Kristen Blaylock took over presenting, giving the best coloring award to Dave Stewart for “BPRD,” “Conan,” “The Escapists,” “Hellboy,” “Action Comics,” “Batman/The Spirit” and “Superman.” Todd Klein got the Best Lettering award for “Fables,” “Jack of Fables,” “Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall,” “Pride of Baghdad,” “Testament,” “Fantastic Four: 1602,” “Eternals” and “Lost Girls.” Bill Willingham came up to receive the Best Anthology prize, calling his artistic collaborators “authors” and naming them for recognition.
Steve Rude presented the Russ Manning Most Promising Newcomer Award to David Petersen, the writer/artist of “Mouse Guard.” Rude suggested Petersen walk off stage right to be escorted by Wiedlin, but he instead went the other way inexplicably. This is also where a series of technical issues started, as Rude did not receive a slip with the nominees names and their slides were not shown on the big screens.
It really went haywire when Whitney Matheson and Paul Pope stepped on stage to the sounds of Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl” (which got Wiedlin rocking out in the background). They presented the award for Best Archival Collection/Project – Strips to “The Complete Peanuts, 1959-1960, 1961-1962” by Charles Schultz. However, after that the computer running the slide show inexplicably went down, and Pope and Matheson were told to stall. “They’re passing us old jokes from the monologue,” Matheson said when host Morrison handed her an index card. “I know some palindromes,” she suggested, and then started an impromptu battle of wordplay with Pope, which she won handily. After another awkward moment, Matheson lamented, “I’m responsible for the downfall of the Eisners!”
When the computer did come back, there were font and typographical errors on the screen which soon were mostly resolved. They moved on to present Neil Gaiman’s “Absolute Sandman,” Vol. 1 with the award for Best Collection Project – Comic Books. “We got lucky because we were the biggest, the heaviest, the most likely to kill you,” Gaiman said of the win.
Sergio Aragones was on stage next to present the Hall of Fame winners. “This is normally at the end of the show,” Aragones said, “but I told them I was on deadline and had to work back at the hotel.” Awardees included Ramonda Fradon (who was unable to attend last year), Paul Levitz accepting for Robert Kanigher (Levitz had to correct Roy Thomas in that Kanigher created Black Canary, which Thomas had attributed to Gardner Fox, as well as Egg Fu and the Metal Men, which were created in a weekend as an assignment when another editor dropped the ball). Odgen Whitney, Daniel Herman accepting for Ross Andru and Mike Esposito (a forty year partnership), Mike Carlin accepting for Wayne Boring, Levitz again for Joe Orlando (with a handwritten note from his wife, who could not attend)
Alison Bechdel and Ellen Forney came up to present, and did an homage to the Madonna/Britney Spears clip by kissing to honor the largest number of female nominees in Eisner history, and the rise in gay-friendly material.
They presented the award for Best Penciler/Inker Team to Mark Buckingham and Steve Leialoha of “Fables.” “Thank you so much for this excellent contract renewal opportunity,” Buckingham said. Bechdel and Forney presented the award for Best Cover Artist to James Jean for “Fables,” “Jack of Fables,” and “Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall.”
The night took a turn for the unusual when Eric Powell and Dwight Albatross took the stage, presenting not only awards but their Nashville-born ideas to “spice up” the Eisners (including a half time show with the Eisneretttes” and ditching statues in favor of wrestling championship-styled belts). Powell also opened his shirt to reveal he had shaved the hair on his torso into the shape of an “E.”
Roy Thomas returned to the stage to accept the Best Comics-Related Periodical/Journalism Award for “Alter Ego,” (Powell and Albatross had a faux wrestling belt ready for Thomas, prompting Comic Relief’s Allen S. Gordon to shout from the crowd, “strap it on!”), Stephan Nelson accepted the Best Comic-Related Book Award for “The Art of Brian Bolland” edited by Joe Pruett and Paul Levitz returned to accept the Best Publication Design award for “Absolute DC: The New Frontier.”
Married creators Jill Thompson and Brian Azzarello presented the award for Best Writer to Ed Brubaker, who was surprised, asking “Are you sure this isn’t for you, Bill?” to “Fables” writer Willingham in the audience. Paul Pope returned to the stage to accept for Best Writer/Artist
Voiceover actors Maurice LeMarche and John Di Maggio presented next (“trying to work the room here!” Di Maggio said as he made a joke of a broken Eisner statue and). Tony Millionaire stepped up to take the award for “Best Writer/Artist – Humor” saying simply, “It is such an honor for you to present me with this award — thank you!”
Fables called it another win when Willingham and Jean returned to the podium to accept Best Short Story honors for “A Frog’s Eye View” in “Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall.” Jeph Loeb came to the stage to accept the Eisner for Best Single Issue for “Batman/The Spirit” #1, and Bob Burden returned for “Flaming Carrot Comics” to take the award for Best Humor Publication.
After a memorial presented by Maggie Thompson for comics figures who died in the last year (including Dave Cockrum), “Reno 911’s” Ben Garant and Tom Lennon did some funny jokes (“… those Hollywood douchebags coming down here like they know anything about comics!”) and gave another Eisner to Ed Brubaker for “Criminal” as Best New Series and to Paul Pope for Best Limited Series in “Batman: Year 100” (note: the latter was the aforementioned broken statuette). Bob Shreck then accepted the Best Continuing Series Eisner for “All-Star Superman.”
Neil Gaiman and Jonathan Ross presented onwards, and Ross felt the need to qualify his comics fandom in a thick English accent. “Comics have brought me more joy than anything else, including masturbation,” Ross said. And I love masturbation, ask Neil! He’ll tell you!” To further prove his love for comics, he said, “What’s my son’s name? Harvey Kirby Ross! Any f***er could be named Harvey!” Ross also riffed on the Bechdel and Forney presentation by kissing Neil Gaiman on the mouth.
Speaking of Bechdel, she was on stage to accept the Eisner for Best Reality-Based Work for her project “Fun Home.” “Absolute DC: The New Frontier” was a winner again for Best Graphic Album – Reprint, and the Bay Area’s Gene Luen Yang took home Best Graphic Album – New honors for “American Born Chinese.”
The entire show ran almost four hours. “I don’t understand it,” Morrison said at one point. “Last year I brought it in a half hour early, this year there’s more time than there is between issues of All-Star Batman!” He also said at one point, “I’ve been handed news that hour four of the 2007 Eisner Awards has sold out. Tickets are still available for hour five!” The event shut down a bit before midnight.