For over 30 years now, the Eisner Awards (more formally the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards) have been presented each year at Comic-Con (formally Comic-Con International: San Diego – but if you’re an old timer like me, you got used to calling it San Diego Comic-Con and, to this day, just call it Comic-Con, with all other cons needing the identifier of their location or name).
But under whatever names, the Eisner Awards are arguably the most important, most lauded awards in the comics industry, bringing acclaim and attention to some of the best creators and publications in comics and graphic novels. Not just the winners, either. There’s enough prestige in the Eisner Awards that this is an award for which it truly is an honor to be nominated.
Just the source of the name for these awards should demonstrate the high regard people have for the Eisners. They’re named for comics writer-artist-educator-pioneer Will Eisner. It’s easy to point to Eisner’s classic character, The Spirit, and his comic which ran from 1940 through 1952, and with several revivals and reprints since then. But he was also noted for his experiments with form and content in comics and perhaps did the most to popularize the term “graphic novel” starting with such seminal works as A Contract with God. He also was a progenitor of serious scholarship about the comics medium, including his book, Comics and Sequential Art.
There are two flavors of Eisner Awards. Each year, Comic-Con selects a committee of half a dozen judges, made up of people representing the various aspects of the comics industry: a creator, a retailer, a scholar, a graphics novel librarian, a critic, etc. They select the nominees in a number of categories, like Best Writer or Best Limited Series, for works that came out in the previous year. Then, voting happens online and is open to all industry professionals.
The other flavor is the Will Eisner Comic Awards Hall of Fame. This, as you might guess, is for comics professionals who, for their entire career, have demonstrated great talent and ability and stand out as people whose work we can all admire. The judges name four people to the Hall of Fame each year and nominate a slate of others amongst whom the voters select four more people to go into the Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame includes people like Carl Barks, Sergio Aragones, Carol Kalish, Jack Kirby, Trina Robbins, Osamu Tezuka, and dozens of others.
The judges and the voters take their tasks seriously. They want these awards to mean something. And, because those up for the Eisners – of either flavor – are selected by well-established professionals with a full knowledge of the field and voted on by a large body of similar professionals, the results are respected and they are meaningful to the industry.
Honestly, we all have egos. We all like being told we’re wonderful. So, even an award presented by a high school comic book club with seven members makes our hearts feel glad. But, when you know the accolade is coming from such a body of voters, it holds real, lasting meaning. “I did something good.” To quote Sally Field at the Oscars, “You like me.” And it feels good.
We hope that Fanbase Press readers will join us on the road to the 2019 Eisner Awards, as we celebrate the sequential art medium and the dedicated individuals who make it as phenomenal as it is. Please visit Fanbase Press on May 29th for the first entry in our "Countdown to the Eisners" series or follow the hashtag #FPSDCC to follow our Eisner-related content on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
You can learn more about the Eisner Awards at the following links:
Writer/producer Craig Miller is a respected contributor in the entertainment industry. Having served as Director of Fan Relations for Lucasfilm from 1977-1980 and creating and overseeing the Official Star Wars Fan Club, Craig has worked on several films as a marketing consultant and writer for a number of television series since the 1980s. Additionally, he has written several dozen comics for DC Comics, Disney, and Viz Comics. Craig often serves as an expert panelist at many of the SoCal comic book conventions, including San Diego Comic-Con International and WonderCon.