A Librarian’s Guide to the Eisner Winners

At San Diego Comic-Con this past Friday evening the winners of the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards were announced and as always the winners provide an interesting snapshot of what’s hot, what’s great, and what’s making fanboys hearts pitter patter this year.

For those not familiar with the ins and outs of the industry, here’s a run down of the not-to-miss winners and a guide for selectors of titles that are (or will soon be) in high demand.

First, the easy part: a number of the winners this year are no-brainers.  You should already have them on your shelves, and if you don’t, shame on you.  Now’s the time to get them!  David Mazzucchelli and his acclaimed Asterios Polyp walked off with three awards, including Best Graphic Album (the equivalent of the Best Picture Oscar) and Best Writer/Artist.  Robert Kirkman picked up another Eisner for the acclaimed The Walking Dead for Best Continuing Series.  This series is already popular, and the new TV series arriving from AMC is adding even more buzz.  Scott Pilgrim Volume 5, Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe won Best Humor Publication, and creator Bryan Lee O’Malley was presented with the award by no less than the cast of the Scott Pilgirm movie due out in just a few weeks.  Ed Brubaker, one of the hardest working and best writers in the business, took home his third Eisner Award for Best Writer for his work on Captain America, Daredevil, Marvels Project, Criminal, and Incognito. Brubaker’s work on Captain America and Daredevil has reminded readers how compelling superheroes can be in the right hands.

Artist J. H. Williams III deservedly won for his gorgeous work on Detective Comics, the flagship series from DC Comics, launched in 1937, that currently has Batwoman as its tantalizing focus. The hardcover edition rocketed on to the NYT Graphic Best Seller list and has stayed there. Jill Thompson is well known in the comics industry but sadly not as recognized outside of it, so it’s lovely to see her gaining two awards: Best Publication for Teens for Beasts of Burden and Best Painter/Multimedia Artist (Interior Art) for both Beasts of Burden and Magic Trixie and the Dragon. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by Eric Shanower and Skottie Young, is beloved by comics fans and young readers alike, and Young’s art in particular shines.

A few pleasant surprises improve this year’s list of winners from past years. In recognition of the plethora of adapted works, the Eisner Judges created a new category this year to recognize creations from outside source material, and Darwyn Cooke’s brooding Richard Stark’s Parker: The Hunter handily took home that honor. I cheered to see Emmanuel Guibert’s gripping The Photographer take home the Best U.S. Edition of Foreign Language Material award, and overjoyed to see A Drifting Life and Yoshihiro Tatsumi win not only for Best Edition of Foreign Material – Asia but also for Best Reality-Based Work. Personally, I’d hoped that Naoki Urasawa might finally have his year for winning, with both Pluto and 20th Century Boys in the running, but it’s no shame to lose out to Tatsumi’s epic memoir.

One final note: Marian Churchland won the distinguished Russ Manning Most Promising Newcomer Award for her critically acclaimed Beast. Past winners include Scott McCloud, Eric Shanower, Jeff Smith, and Eleanor Davis, so this award is a solid predictor of talent. Sadly, Beast is very difficult to locate from the usual vendors, and Image Comics has allowed it to go out of print, but there are a few copies still available via Amazon, so if you can get your hands on a copy, snap it up.

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