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Countdown to the Eisners: 2020 Nominees for Best Archival Collection/Project (Strips) & Best Archival Collection/Project (Comics)

Fanbase Press’ coverage of the 2020 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards continues with the “Countdown to the Eisners” series. From June 22 through July 14, 2020, Fanbase Press will highlight each of the Eisner Awards’ 31 nomination categories, providing comic book industry members and readers alike the opportunity to learn more about the nominees and their work. Stay tuned for Fanbase Press’ continued coverage of the Eisner Awards, including live coverage of the ceremony at San Diego Comic-Con in July 2020.

Best Archival Collection/Project (Strips)

Starting in 2006, the Best Archival category was split into separate awards for comic books and comic strips. Since then, some of the honorees have included Peanuts, Bloom County, Calvin & Hobbes, Mickey Mouse, and Tarzan. This award truly transcends the world of comics to honor pieces of our shared cultural history.

Here are the 2020 Eisner Award nominees for the Best Archival Collection/Project (Strips) category:

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Cham: The Comic Strips and Graphic Novelettes, 1839-1862 by David Kunzle  (University Press of Mississippi)

Of all of the books on the year’s list of nominees, this one may best epitomize the category’s reach. Artist Cham (a.k.a. Count Amédée de Noé) is a name unfamiliar to the general reading public today, but readers during the years covered by the book might have well come across the work of one of the trailblazers of the illustrated form.  According to the publisher, the volume “concentrates on [Cham’s] mastery of the important newcomer to the field of caricature, which we call comic strip, picture story, and graphic novel.”

Click here to purchase.

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Ed Leffingwell’s Little Joe by Harold Gray; edited by Peter Maresca and Sammy Harkham (Sunday Press Books)

While Harold Gray is best known for Little Orphan Annie, he wasn’t a one-trick pony. This strip swings in a completely different direction than its more famous sibling, presenting an amalgam of the Old West and modern (at the time) Art Deco. The Comics Journal says that “it’s terrific to see these strips reproduced so crisp and clear and at their intended size” and goes on to praise Sunday Press’ offerings as “a great gift to comics history and comics currency.”

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The George Herriman Library: Krazy & Ignatz 1916-1918; edited by R.J. Casey (Fantagraphics)

While Krazy Kat was a mainstay in American newspapers for decades, its artistry has never been fully captured in archival form until this full-sized collection by Fantagraphics. Three years’ worth of Sunday strips can be found here, revealing a craft and language fully (to use a cliché) ahead of its time. The A.V. Club calls this “one of the greatest works of comic art ever created… that should form the foundation of any good collection.”

Click here to purchase.

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Krazy Kat: The Complete Color Sundays by George Herriman; edited by Alexander Braun (TASCHEN)

And speaking of Krazy Kat, for a more comprehensive taste of how Herriman’s work evolved over time, collectors can find nine years’ (1935-44) worth of strips in this oversized volume by the kings of oversized volumes: German publisher TASCHEN.

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Madness In Crowds: The Teeming Mind of Harrison Cady by Violet and Denis Kitchen (Beehive Books)

Despite Cady’s abundant cartooning work in the first half of the 20th century, in-depth appreciations of the man have been rare before now. Publisher Beehive calls the artist “a master of creatures, contraptions and crowd scenes,” and this hardcover collection presents a wide array of his vivid work alongside a well-researched biography by the Kitchens.

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Pogo Vol 6: Clean As A Weasel by Walt Kelly; edited by Mark Evanier and Eric Reynolds (Fantagraphics)

Fantagraphics’ Pogo collection continues to receive well-deserved Eisner love. This sixth volume covers the years 1959-60, and include an election year storyline that provides especially rich reading in our current world climate. Those who have never read any of what The Washington Post says may be “the best comic strip ever drawn in this country” should really rectify that.

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Best Archival Collection/Project (Comics)

The Comic half of the Archival category has been honoring all-time classic runs like Jack Kirby’s New Gods, Will Eisner’s The Spirit, and Jack Cole’s Plastic Man, along with more modern titles like Akira and Sandman. IDW’s magnificent Artist Editions have certainly dominated lately, and this year the publisher is back among the nominees once again.

Here are the 2020 Eisner Award nominees for the Best Archival Collection/Project (Comics) category:

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Alay-Oop by William Gropper (New York Review Comics)

New York Review Comics — an imprint of the New York Review of Books — has already done a valuable service to the public with some of the material they’ve presented. The winning streak continues here with Gropper’s “silent” graphic novel about a love triangle between an opera singer and two circus acrobats. Broken Frontier describes Alay-Oop as “a masterful piece of graphic narrative; one that communicates motivation, emotion and perspective through the purest form of comics without need for dialogue or exposition.”

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The Complete Crepax Vol 5: American Stories; edited by Kristy Valenti (Fantagraphics)

The fifth in Fantagraphics’ library editions spotlighting the work of Italian comic creator Guido Crepax, this book takes its title from the subject matter of the tales inside — from Bonnie and Clyde to boxer Joe Louis. If you’ve never seen the man’s work, prepare for a revelation. As artist Paul Pope says about Crepax, “Every page is a stunning invention, and his influence is still being felt.”

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Jack Kirby’s Dingbat Love; edited by John Morrow (TwoMorrows)

Even diehard Kirby fans might find something previously unseen in this labor of love. Three 1970s titles — Dingbats of Danger Street, Soul Love, and True-Life Divorce — unlike pretty much anything else “The King” was doing at the time, or in the case of the latter two, had done at all since his early romance comics. A history lesson, an entertaining read, and an obvious labor of love (no pun intended) by TwoMorrows.

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Moonshadow: The Definitive Edition, by J.M. DeMatteis, Jon J. Muth, et al. (Dark Horse)

One of the darlings of 1980s comics, the fully painted science fiction/fairy tale Moonshadow has bounced from Marvel to DC to its current home, Dark Horse. And the publisher has in turn given fans the gift of this new hardcover edition. The art alone — by Muth, Kent Williams, and George Pratt — is reason enough to dive in, but beyond that there is so much joy to be discovered (or re-discovered) here. It’s both a time capsule of comics in the 1980s and a timeless tale of awakening.

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Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo: The Complete Grasscutter Artist Select by Stan Sakai; edited by Scott Dunbier (IDW)

While IDW’s Artist and Artifact Editions are primarily designed to let readers appreciate the nuts and bolts of comic book construction, this book delivers an added bonus: the full “Grasscutter” storyline that originally ran across several issues of Usagi Yojimbo. 400+ pages of comic storytelling magic, presented as if one is reading it right over the Sakai’s shoulder.

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That Miyoko Asagaya Feeling by Shinichi Abe; translated by Ryan Holmberg; edited by Mitsuhiro Asakawa (Black Hook Press)

Black Hook Press presents a short story collection originally published during the 1970s, and just now appearing in an English translation. Abe channels his own personal struggles into the material here, deploying linework that looks like nothing else in contemporary comics; even readers familiar with manga will have their perceptions challenged. Ripe Mangoes calls Abe “one of the first artists to fully explore the darker moments of living through quasi-autobiographical means.” Not an easy read, but an unforgettable one.

Click here to purchase.

Stay tuned to the Fanbase Press website each day as we continue our “Countdown to the Eisners” coverage! Plus, follow Fanbase Press’ Facebook, Twitter (@Fanbase_Press), and Instagram (@fanbasepress) with the hashtag #FPSDCC to stay up to date on our SDCC and Eisner Awards updates, including a live-tweet of the 2020 Eisner Award Ceremony!

Kevin Sharp, Fanbase Press Contributor



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