With a theme of “The Magic of Comics,” the 20th Annual Will Eisner Comics Industry Awards, held July 25th during Comic-Con International in San Diego, got off to a rousing start with a keynote speech by comics creator/director Frank Miller. During the rest of the evening the audience was also treated to surprise appearances by Samuel L. Jackson and Gabriel Macht, stars of The Spirit, the film adaptation of Will Eisner’s classic comics series directed by Miller. The film, which will be released in theaters by Lionsgate and Odd Lot Entertainment this Christmas, was the title sponsor for this year’s awards.
Jackson and Macht were among the presenters who announced the nominees and recipients in 30 Eisner Awards categories. This year’s Eisner voters spread the wealth to recipients from nearly 20 publishers, with no creator or project earning more than two awards.
Of the publishers, Dark Horse recorded the most trophies with six, plus two shared. Dark Horse winners included Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Best New Series), Nicholas Gurewitch’s Perry Bible Fellowship collection (Best Humor Publication), Eric Powell’s The Goon (Best Writer/Artist-Humor, Best Painter), and Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba’s The Umbrella Academy (Best Limited Series, plus shared nods for Coloring and Cover Artist). Whedon also nabbed the Best Digital Comic award for his Dark Horse Presents online series Sugarshock! with artist Fabio Moon.
Brazilian brothers Ba and Moon were also on stage to accept the Best Anthology award for 5, a self-published anthology with Becky Cloonan, Vasilis Lolos, and Rafael Grampa. The boys from Brazil set the tone for the evening with their infectious enthusiasm for creating comics.
DC Comics, which has traditionally been the dominant publisher in the Eisners, this year had three winners and shared in two others. Two of those wins were for Brian K. Vaughan’s recently concluded Y: The Last Man: Best Continuing Series and Best Penciller-Inker team (Pia Guerra and Jose Marzan Jr.), published by Vertigo/DC. Guerra was on hand to accept both the awards.
Only two other publishers had multiple winners: Archaia Press, for David Petersen’s Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 (Best Publication for Kids, Best Graphic Album-Reprint) and Fantagraphics, for Fletcher Hanks’ I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets! (Best Archival Collection) and Jason’s I Killed Adolf Hitler (Best U.S. Edition of International Material).
Besides Powell, Ba, Moon, Whedon, Vaughan, and Guerra the only individual to score two trophies was James Jean (Best Cover Artist, Best Publication Design). Todd Klein took home his 14th Best Lettering award, while Ed Brubaker scored his second consecutive Best Writer trophy, giving Marvel Comics its only win. Two perennial alt-comics Eisner recipients also had 2008 wins: Dan Clowes, for “Mr. Wonderful” in the New York Times Sunday Magazine as Best Short Story, and Chris Ware as Best Writer/Artist for his self-published Acme Novelty Library #18. Newcomer Nick Abadzis took home the Best Publication for Teens award for Laika, his graphic novel about the first dog in space, while Chuck BB was given the award for Special Recognition for his art on Oni Press’s Black Metal.
The two big graphic novel awards went to critically acclaimed books. Rutu Modan’s Exit Wounds (published by Drawn & Quarterly) was named Best Graphic Album-New, while Best Reality-Based Work went to James Sturm and Rich Tomasso’s Satchel Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow (published by Hyperion).
The awards were handed out in magic-punctuated ceremony MC’d by Bongo Comics’ Bill Morrison, aided onstage by his actress wife, Kayre. Besides Jackson and Macht, presenters
included Jane Wiedlin of Go-Gos fame, accompanied by 10 Stormtroopers; TV celebs Tom Lennon and Ben Garant of Reno 911, who gave consolation prizes of George Forman grills to the losers in one category; SpongeBob SquarePants voice Tom Kenny; writer/director Paul Dini and his wife magician Misty Lee, who materialized on stage out of a box; nominees Gerard Way (better known as the lead singer of My Chemical Romance), Gabriel Bam and Ann Marie Fleming; actress Dana Wheeler-Nicholson (granddaughter of the Major); and Comic-Con special guests Len Wein, Joe Staton, Al Jaffee, and Rutu Modan.
Sergio Aragones once again presented the Hall of Fame awards. Douglas Wheeler-Nicholson, accepted the award for his father, Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, who published the first comic book with all-new material back in 1935. Cartoonist Mike Peters accepted on behalf of R. F. Outcault (The Yellow Kid, Buster Brown), Mike W. Barr accepted for DC writer John Broome, Jerry Robinson accepted for writer Arnold Drake, and Gary Groth accepted for artist Barry Windsor-Smith. On hand to accept his Hall of Fame award was writer Len Wein, co-creator of Swamp Thing and Wolverine.
Among the other awards given out over the evening were the Comic-Con’s Clampett and Manning awards. The Bob Clampett Humanitarian Award, presented by Bob’s daughter Ruth, went to DC Comics publisher Paul Levitz, who was visibly touched by the honnor. The winner of the Russ Manning Promising Newcomer Award was Cathy Malkasian, writer/artist of Percy Gloom (published by Fantagraphics).
Mark Evanier and Jerry Robinson presented the fourth annual Bill Finger Awards for Excellence in Comic Book Writing to two individuals: popular Warren/Marvel/DC writer/editor Archie Goodwin, whose award was accepted by Ann Murphy Goodwin, and Marvel writer Larry Lieber, who was on hand to accept for himself. Maggie Thompson (editor of Comics Buyers Guide) once again handled the special In Memoriam salute.
The Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailing Award was presented by Joe Ferrara, after a brief tribute to the late Rory Root (owner of Comic Relief in Berkeley, CA), who had been one of the first recipients of the award. This year’s winner was Brave New World Comics of Newhall, California, owned by Atom! and Portlyn Freeman.
In addition to Lionsgate as the title sponsorship, the major sponsor for the 2008 Eisner Awards is mycomicsshop.com. The principal sponsors are Century Guild, Comickaze, Diamond Comic Distributors, Gentle Giant, Isotope, and Lebonfon. Supporting sponsors are Alternate Reality Comics (Las Vegas), Atlantis Fantasyworld (Santa Cruz, CA), Comic Relief–The Comic Bookstore (Berkeley, CA), comicsunlimited.com, Flying Colors Comics & Other Cool Stuff (Concord, CA), and Golden Apple (Los Angeles, CA). Ballots were tabulated by Mel Thompson and Associates. Jackie Estrada is the Eisner Awards administrator.
Following is a complete list of the 2008 award recipients. More information on the awards can be found at www.comic-con.org/cci/cci_eisners_main.shtml .
Recipients, 2008 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards
Best Short Story: “Mr. Wonderful,” by Dan Clowes, serialized in New York Times Sunday Magazine
Best Single Issue (or One-Shot): Justice League of America #11: “Walls,” by Brad Meltzer and Gene Ha (DC)
Best Continuing Series: Y: The Last Man, by Brian K. Vaughan, Pia Guerra, and Jose Marzan, Jr. (Vertigo/DC)
Best Limited Series:The Umbrella Academy, by Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba (Dark Horse)
Best New Series: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 8, by Joss Whedon, Brian K. Vaughan, Georges Jeanty, and Andy Owens (Dark Horse)
Best Publication for Kids: Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 and Mouse Guard: Winter 1152, by David Petersen (Archaia)
Best Publication for Teens: Laika, by Nick Abadzis (First Second)
Best Humor Publication: Perry Bible Fellowship: The Trial of Colonel Sweeto and Other Stories, by Nicholas Gurewitch (Dark Horse)
Best Anthology: 5, by Gabriel Ba, Becky Cloonan, Fabio Moon, Vasilis Lolos, and Rafael Grampa (self-published)
Best Digital Comic: Sugarshock!, by Joss Whedon and Fabio Moon, http://www.myspace.com/darkhorsepresents?issuenum=1&storynum=2
Best Reality-Based Work: Satchel Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow, by James Sturm and Rich Tommaso (Center for Cartoon Studies/Hyperion)
Best Graphic Album–New: Exit Wounds, by Rutu Modan (Drawn & Quarterly)
Best Graphic Album–Reprint: Mouse Guard: Fall 1152, by David Petersen (Archaia)
Best Archival Collection/Project–Comic Strips: Complete Terry and the Pirates, vol. 1, by Milton Caniff (IDW)
Best Archival Collection/Project–Comic Books: I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets! by Fletcher Hanks (Fantagraphics)
Best U.S. Edition of International Material: I Killed Adolf Hitler, by Jason (Fantagraphics)
Best U.S. Edition of International Material–Japan: Tekkonkinkreet: Black & White, by Taiyo Matsumoto (Viz)
Best Writer: Ed Brubaker, Captain America, Criminal, Daredevil, Immortal Iron Fist (Marvel)
Best Writer/Artist: Chris Ware, Acme Novelty Library #18 (Acme Novelty)
Best Writer/Artist–Humor: Eric Powell, The Goon (Dark Horse)
Best Penciller/Inker or Penciller/Inker Team: Pia Guerra/Jose Marzan, Jr., Y: The Last Man (Vertical/DC)
Best Painter or Multimedia Artist (interior art): Eric Powell, The Goon: Chinatown (Dark Horse)
Best Cover Artist: James Jean, Fables (Vertigo/DC); The Umbrella Academy (Dark Horse); Process Recess 2; Superior Showcase 2 (AdHouse)
Best Coloring: Dave Stewart, BPRD, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Cut, Hellboy, Lobster Johnson, The Umbrella Academy (Dark Horse); The Spirit (DC)
Best Lettering: Todd Klein, Justice, Simon Dark (DC); Fables, Jack of Fables, Crossing Midnight (Vertigo/DC); League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier (WildStorm/DC); Nexus (Rude Dude)
Special Recognition: Chuck BB, Black Metal (artist, Oni)
Best Comics-Related Periodical/Journalism: Newsarama, produced by Matt Brady and Michael Doran (www.newsarama.com)
Best Comics-Related Book: Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What They Mean, by Douglas Wolk (Da Capo Press)
Best Publication Design: Process Recess 2, designed by James Jean and Chris Pitzer (AdHouse)
Hall of Fame: Judges’ Choices: R. F. Outcault, Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson; Voters’ Choices: John Broome, Arnold Drake, Len Wein, Barry Windsor-Smith