Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Eisner Awards

There have been several attempts to organize an industry wide set of awards for comic books. It was the Eisner Awards that managed to stick and become regarded as the highest award that could be offered in the field. It is also the award winners that I am diving into next.

The Eisners are handed out each summer at Comic-Con International (formerly known as the San Diego Comic Con). Nominees are selected by a five person nomination panel and selection is done via a vote of comic book professionals. That selection and voting process succeeds in bringing many fine but lesser known works forward but it's also limited since comic books as a medium tend toward self-referential loops.

Astro City is a perfect example of this problem. It has been a darling of the awards winning twelve Eisners over the course of its run and it is a very well done series. However it mainly exists to homage the superhero genre; it's something that a reader would have to be familiar with the conventions of superhero comics to even understand. It resonates with the Eisner voters because they're comic book professionals but I wouldn't hand it to someone who wasn't already familiar with superheroes.

(In fairness to the Eisner Awards this is a problem with the comic book industry in general. The complications of an industry dealing with a shrinking insular fan base sustaining it are complicated enough that it could be a blog of its own. A lot of nerd institutions such as SF magazines are facing down the same problems...)

The reason I chose the Eisners as my next project rather than one of the remaining major SF awards is that I was looking for something a bit lighter to work on. Reading all of those novels was time consuming and I made it too much into work when I started this process for fun. I can read most Eisner winners in a couple of hours. Also I already own a significant number of the books. When I started reading the Hugos I had some free shelf space; I've since added three more book cases and I've overflowed them. So not having to buy more shelving is a definite plus.

The Eisners have been awarded in more than fourty different categories and there's a lot of cross over in the awards. A single issue might be connected to four or five awards. In addition some of the books that I do not have are very difficult to acquire (sorry guys, as much as I want it I'm not spending $300 on a The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck). So for the Eisners I am going to be skipping around quite a bit. I'll be bouncing around as the mood strikes me and the format is going to be looser. I may do several years at once when a series won repeatedly or multiple books as part of a writer or artist award. I'm going to try to mix up the takes on superhero material that would only appeal to comic book nerds like myself with things that connected to a broader audience.

In the next few days I'll be adding the list of winners and next week the reviews will begin. And much like when I worked through the other award winners I'm looking forward to giving myself an excuse to read some good stuff that I haven't gotten around to before. This should be fun.