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Countdown to the Eisners: 2020 Nominees for Best Comics-Related Book & Best Academic/Scholarly Work

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 Comics-Related Book

Best Comics-Related Book is one of those categories where the Eisners move past the surface expectation of the word “comics” and shine a light on works that explore different facets and permutations of the form. Whether surveying early twentieth-century newspaper strips or blazingly modern cover logos, these volumes shine with the obvious TLC their respective authors put into them.

Here are the 2020 Eisner Award nominees for Best Comics-Related Book:

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The Art of Nothing: 25 Years of Mutts and the Art of Patrick McDonnell (Abrams)

With a few notable exceptions, for the general reading public, most newspaper comic strips are thought of as “disposable” entertainment. Abrams Books shows here why they deserve a more thorough examination as the art form they are. Mutts — the adventures of Mooch the cat and Earl the dog — is syndicated in several hundred US newspapers, and now readers can peek not only under the hood at the origins and development of the strip but inside the mind of its creator, McDonnell.

Click here to purchase.

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The Book of Weirdo by Jon B. Cooke (Last Gasp)

Even with R. Crumb’s name so well known in underground comics — and comix — lore, less remembered is his 1980s humor magazine, Weirdo. Author and curator Cooke is here to correct that via this loving, exhaustive retrospective not only of the magazine but the era in which it flourished. History as entertainment and vice versa.

Click here to purchase.

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Grunt: The Art and Unpublished Comics of James Stokoe (Dark Horse)

A book for art fans to get lost inside of. If you’re unfamiliar with Stokoe’s work, the man brings a level of detail and “lived in-ness” to even his most fantastical compositions — a wide sampling of which are on display here. Doom Rocket says that “Stokoe’s imagination is a fierce resource that could power rockets… What makes him such a modern legend is that he is mad, yes, but he has the skill and patience to show us clearly what those frightening visions of his are.”

Click here to purchase.

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Logo-A-Gogo: Branding Pop Culture by Rian Hughes (Korero Press)

Even if you don’t know Rian Hughes’ name at first glance, you’ve definitely seen the many, many famous comic logos he’s designed over the past two decades. This book isn’t only a tour through recent pop art history, but also a graphic design master class and an inside look at the creative struggles of brand creation. It’s deservingly nominated for a Best Publication Design Eisner this year, as well.

Click here to purchase.

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Making Comics by Lynda Barry (Drawn & Quarterly)

For those unable to take Barry’s university courses in comics making, this book is the next best thing. While in-person learning compressed into book form may not sound particularly engaging on the surface, all one has to do is peek inside to see the author’s magic in full bloom. Publishers Weekly calls this “an instructional book that doubles as a work of art” that’s “a synthesis of theory, practice, memory, imagination, and ‘a certain sort of unlearning.’”

Click here to purchase.

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Screwball! The Cartoonists Who Made The Funnies Funny by Paul Toomey (Library of American Comics/IDW)

The Comics Journal calls this work, “Indispensable to anyone wanting to learn about American humor in the 20th century.” Between the covers, readers can find some of the most important cartoonists of American history like E.C. Segar and George Herriman sharing space alongside now-mostly-forgotten names like Gene Ahern and Milt Gross. Each artist gets the same loving treatment from author Toomey, and any reader will close the book knowing much more than when they opened it.

Click here to purchase.

Best Academic/Scholarly Work

The Academic/Scholarly nominees this year honor the art, history, and global impact of comics. A reader could open one of these works and find themselves following the history of Israel… or the flourishing world of women’s cosplay in Singapore… or the business of nineteenth century American newspaper strips. Those hungry to learn about stories — both real and fantastical — set outside our modern comics industry, look no further.                 

Here are the 2020 Eisner Award nominees for Best Academic/Scholarly Work:

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The Art of Pere Joan: Space, Landscape, and Comics Form by Benjamin Fraser (University of Texas Press)

Spanish artist Pere Joan is one of those creators who’s been producing work for decades, yet remains unknown to the majority of the reading public. Fraser’s comprehensive book seeks to rectify that, presenting not only an overview of a singular voice but a crash course on the Spanish comics industry — and how a creator’s geography can feed their work.

Click here to purchase.

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The Comics of Rutu Modan: War, Love, and Secrets by Kevin Haworth (University Press of Mississippi)

Writer-artist Modan has already been a part of Eisner history through the award-winning graphic novels The Property and Exit Wounds. Here, author Haworth tells two interconnected stories: the history of a creator, and the history of Israel via an art form. The words “in depth” don’t do justice to this rich, layered work.

Click here to purchase.

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EC Comics: Race, Shock, and Social Protest by Qiana Whitted (Rutgers University Press)

For most fans, the name EC Comics likely conjures images of wild, gruesome 1950s horror comics. Dig deeper, though — as author Whitted has done masterfully — and there’s a whole other layer to be found. As it turns out, the company that ignited the wrath of Congress due to its gory content was also pumping out progressive, socially conscious stories that still have impact even when seen through modern eyes.

Click here to purchase.

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The Peanuts Papers: Writers and Cartoonists on Charlie Brown, Snoopy & The Gang, and the Meaning of Life edited by Andrew Blauner (Library of America)

What else is there to be said about Peanuts? Prepare to be surprised, as over thirty contributors to this anthology approach Charles Schulz’s timeless comic through a person lens. Poetry, essays, and comic strips all coexist in a collection Kirkus Reviews calls “essential reading for Peanuts fans and an appealing collection of personal writing for any reader.”

Click here to purchase.

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Producing Mass Entertainment: The Serial Life of The Yellow Kid by Christina Meyer (Ohio State University Press)

Newspaper cartoon characters the Yellow Kid may be considered a relic of a bygone age, but in nineteenth century America, he was omnipresent across different media. Today, such popularity is more commonplace; author Meyer makes the case that the Kid was a trailblazer for the pop culture icons we know, love, and can’t escape.

Click here to purchase.

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Women’s Manga in Asia and Beyond: Uniting Different Cultures and Identities edited by Fusami Ogi et al (Palgrave Macmillan)

If anything, the title of the book makes the content sound too limited. A collection of work from the Women’s MANGA Research Project in Asia (WMRPA), this is simultaneously a broad and deep survey of female-influenced manga all across Asia — not to mention Australia, France, the UK, and the United States. Each chapter offers a different perspective on the intersection of art, culture, and identity; even longtime manga fans may be surprised at what a big world is out there.

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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