Saturday’s Harvey Awards ceremony got me thinking about the auspicious Best New Talent category. This year’s recipient is Rob Guillory for Chew, which is fairly apt given Guillory’s unique style and ability for this book to catch on the way many have failed.
But back to the award itself. In some industries, the idea of a Best New Talent award is the kiss of death for artists just breaking onto the scene — giving them too much attention too early in their career, akin to a child star trying to grow up in the entertainment industry. But as it turns out for the Harvey Awars’ Best New Talent, they’ve picked some winners. Here’s a list of the winners since the category’s inception in 1990:
Jim Lee (1990): Not bad for a first pick. But you have to remember, at the time Jim Lee was still trying to shrug off being “the guy from Punisher War Journal who replaced Marc Silvestri” on Uncanny X-Men. This is a couple months before the new X-Men series came out.
Julie Doucet (1991): This one is a big change from the previous year’s Jim Lee; Doucet at the time had only done her self-published comic Dirty Plotte and a feature in Robert Crumb’s Weirdo. She did several books after winning the award, but has retired from long-form comics apparently.
Joe Quesada (1992): Long before Quesada was Marvel’s editor-in-chief, or even an editorial figure at Marvel Knights or his own Event Comics with Jimmy Palmiotti, he was an up-and-coming artist working for Valiant. Although he did several books there, it’s his work on Ninjak with the Mucha-inspired linework that really got me to sit up and take notice.
For 1993-1995 the Harveys did away with the category, unexplicably. Is it commentary on the lack of new talent in those three years, or just different priorities? As Marvel would say, “U-Decide!”
Adrian Tomine (1996): The people have a keen eye and noticing talent just coming up. Tomine had just segued his mini-comic into a full-fledged series at Drawn & Quarterly, but hadn’t yet hit the “Summer Blonde” arc that really got people’s attention.
Jessica Abel (1997): Abel had been doing comics for a couple years before she got the Harvey, but around ’97 it all started coming together; she won a Xeric grant for Artbabe, which brought the attention of Gary Groth and the beginning of a long relationship with Fantagraphics. Abel fans should track down her 1999 collaboration with This American Life’s Ira Glass, Radio: An Illustrated Guide.
Steve Weissman (1998): Weissman burst onto the scene under the wing of Jeff Mason’s Alternative Comics with Tykes and the follow-up Yikes! He won the Harvey in 1998 for Best New Talent after being nominated but losing the Ignatz award of the same name to Debbie Drechler.
Kevin Smith (1999): I remember eyes being agog over this one; Smith was one of the first major talents from the film industry who came into comics, and one of Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti’s inspired choices to write Daredevil once they were given the reins to the Marvel Knights line. Besides Daredevil, he was doing some Clerks comics for Image and Oni.
Craig Thompson (2000): This one was a no-brainer; Goodbye Chunky Rice hit the comics scene with considerable thunder, and the Harveys took notice. His 2003 follow-up Blankets cemented it all.
Michel Rabagliati (2001): Probably one of the oldest people to win a Harvey for New Talent, Rabagliati waited until his 40s to jump into comics, but he acted like he’d been doing it for years. His series of “Paul” books is something to behold.
Jason (2002): This award was deserving, but probably came a year or two late — but Mjau Mjau was hard to get a hold of in the States at the time.
Nick Bertozzi (2003): There are several instances where both the Harveys and the Ignatz nominate the same people for Best New Talent — that’s not a problem, though, as they both seem to have good taste. But Bertozzi did the hat trick in 2003 at the Harveys, winning both Best New Talent and Best New Series for Rubber Necker, beating out Fables, Y: The Last Man, X-Statix and others.
Derek Kirk Kim (2004): 2004 was Kim’s year, winning both at the Eisners and the Harveys for his first graphic novel — and also the first time a webcomic artist had won, I believe.
Andy Runton (2005): Runton has become one of Top Shelf’s top tier of cartoonists with his series Owly, which was one of the first widely successful modern “all ages” books in the graphic novel age.
TIE – Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and R. Kikuo Johnson (2006): Let me admit — I hate ties. At the time, the playwright Aguirre-Sacasa was working on Marvel’s second ongoing Fantastic Four series, while Johnson was the ordained new “master class” with his Night Fisher graphic novel from Fantagraphics. Fast forward to now, and they haven’t done much published comics — let’s bug them for more.
Brian Fies (2007): The webcomic comes of age in the eyes of the Harveys, with Brian Fies’ Mom’s Cancer getting several awards this year, and a book collection from Abrams.
Vasilis Lolos (2008): Lolos was, and still is, a relatively unknown commodity in comics. His graphic novel series Last Call at Oni was good, but I remember him most for his mini-comics and the issue of Northlanders he did with Brian Wood. Someone should collect his mini-comics and put them out (hint-hint).
Bryan J.L. Glass (2009): Glass is a talent, no doubt, but my worn copy of Ship Of Fools from the early 2000s says he’s a little late for Best New Talent. He won this on the strength of his Mice Templar series with Michael Avon Oeming, but it was so successful it made people forget about his earlier work, unfortunately.
Rob Guillory (2010): I love it when an artist with an unconventional style gets recognition and approval — from critics, as well as the readers who pay the bills. Guillory’s staked out a unique turf in the pages of Chew, down to the little hidden messages he puts in every issue. Well deserving, and another feather in the cap for Chew.