As dusk waned, creators and publishers from the comics industry gathered for the “Oscars” of the industry, the 28th Annual Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards on Friday, July 22, at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront. Administrator of the awards, editor, and publisher Jackie Estrada opened the ceremonies by explaining the voting and nomination process, followed by thanking sponsors and organizers of the event. Then, she introduced the special host of the evening, actor John Barrowman, known for his roles on Arrow and Torchwood, but who has also co-written with his sister Carole for Arrow: The Dark Archer (DC) and Torchwood (Titan). He was the perfect choice: representing both comics and Hollywood.
Barrowman amused the audience with a number of jokes, including a story of dancing naked with his Torchwood co-star while attending a popular culture event in Germany. After the punchline and the laughter subsided, he introduced Bill and Kayre Morrison and Anina Bennett, serving as presenter assistants.
Interspersed throughout the evening were special awards. The first was the Bill Finger Excellence in Comics Writing Award presented to Elliot S. Maggin and posthumously to Richard E. Hughes. Marv Wolfman discussed Hughes’ influence on his own life and the industry at large, while Maggin revealed that this honor caused him to be introspective of his past work, confessing “I’m not done” and stating that he was planning to bring back Miracle Monday.
The Bob Clampett Humanitarian Award was presented to Matthew Inman, cartoonist and creator of the website, The Oatmeal, for his fundraising efforts. Five comic book shops representing Ireland, Israel, Canada, UK, and the US were the finalists for the Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer Award. Atlantis Fantasyworld owner Joe Ferrara revealed Orbital Comics & Gallery based in London was the recipient of this year’s award.
Writer/editor Maggie Thompson introduced the “In Memoriam” presentation to remember those in the industry who had passed away in the past year. Cartoonist Eric Shanower had the honor to present The Russ Manning Promising Newcomer Award. Artist Dan Mora, who has worked on Hexed and Klaus (BOOM! Studios), was the recipient.
The Hall of Fame awards were presented by stalwart Sergio Aragonés. Of the nominees, two were selected for Judges’ Choice: Finnish illustrator Tove Jansson (Moomin books) and Golden Age of Comics artist Carl Burgos, accepted by his daughter Susan. Four others were inducted into the Hall of Fame this year, and they were Rube Goldberg, Jacques Tardi, Lynda Barry, and Matt Groening. Goldberg’s granddaughter described her grandfather’s detailed illustrations as a “parody of patience.” The announcement of Barry’s name was followed by resounding applause from the audience and resulted in Barry running up on stage to accept her award. Groening revealed that Barry had inspired him. Fantagraphics Associate Publisher Eric Reynolds accepted Jacques Tardi’s award and recognized the publisher’s translator Kim Thompson and stated that a new Tardi book was coming.
Highlights from the various acceptance speeches included Congressman John Lewis, who upon receiving the Eisner Award for Best Reality-Based Work, indicated March: Book Two was “a work of love” and was thankful to his collaborators, Aydin and Powell, “for making the words sing.” Moon and Bá, who received the award for Best Adaptation from Another Medium for Two Brothers, revealed they were cursed when working with editors; they had an editor retire, be fired, and one move on to other endeavors. Aaron, Best Writer recipient, provided a heartfelt speech in which he thanked his mother for encouraging him in comics to the point of reading Watchman, so Aaron would have someone to talk to about it.
Periodically, Barrowman returned to the stage in a cosplay costume that gave a nod to popular franchises and/or characters. His appearances provided comic relief and a short respite from award presentations. His first outfit was a Star Trek uniform in which he wore a short skirt and proceeded to bend over for the purpose of flashing one of the presenter assistants. As Squirrel Girl, he engaged in twerking and even got his bodyguards (two muscular men dressed in black) to dance, too! And Barrowman dressed as Harley Quinn to close out the evening. He was joined by Phil LaMarr and at one point; they took time out to play Pokemon GO.
And the awards went to:
Derf Backderf, Trashed
Jordie Bellaire, The Autumnlands, Pretty Deadly (Image), The X-Files (IDW)
Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover, Bandette (Monkeybrain)
Best Penciller/Inker or Penciller/Inker Team:
Cliff Chiang, Paper Girls (Image)
Best Painter/Multimedia Artist:
Dustin Nguyen, Descender (Image)
Best Publication Design:
Josh Beatman/Brainchild Studios’ Sandman Gallery Edition (Graphitti Designs/DC)
Best Comics-Related Periodical/Journalism:
Tom Heintjes, editor, Hogan’s Alley (Hogan’s Alley)
Best Comics-Related Book:
Bill Schelly, Harvey Kurtzman: The Man Who Created Mad and Revolutionized Humor in America (Fantagraphics)
Best Academic/Scholarly Work:
Frances Gateward and John Jennings, editors, The Blacker the Ink: Constructions of Black Identity in Comics and Sequential Art (Rutgers)
Best US Edition of International Material:
Asaf Hanuka, The Realist (BOOM! Studios/Archaia)
Best US Edition of International Materials, Asia:
Shigeru Mizuki, Showa, 1953-1989: A History of Japan (Drawn & Quarterly)
Best Adaptation from Another Medium:
Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá, Two Brothers (Dark Horse)
Best Publication for Early Readers (up to age 8):
Ben Hatke, Little Robot (First Second)
Best Publication for Kids (ages 9 – 12):
Pat McHale, Amalia Levari and Jim Campbell, Over the Garden Wall (BOOM! Studios/KaBOOM!)
Best Publications for Teens (ages 13 – 17):
Jillian Tamaki, SuperMutant Magic Academy (Drawn & Quarterly)
Best Archival Collection/Project, Strips:
Héctor Germán Oesterheld and Francisco Solano Lòpez, The Eternaut, edited by Gary Groth and Kristy Valenti (Frantagraphics)
Best Archival Collection/Project – Comic Books:
Craig Yoe, editor, Walt Kelly’s Fairy Tales (IDW)
Best Humor Publication:
Kate Beaton, Step Aside, Pops: A Hark! A Vagrant Collection (Drawn & Quarterly)
Jason Aaron, Southern Bastards (Image); Men of Wrath (Marvel Icon); Doctor Strange, Star Wars, Thor (Marvel)
Bill Griffith, Invisible Ink: My Mother’s Secret Love Affair with a Famous Cartoonist (Fantagraphics)
Best Cover Artist:
David Aja, Hawkeye, Karnak, Scarlet Witch (Marvel)
Best Short Story:
Adrian Tomine, “Killing and Dying” in Optic Nerve #14 (Drawn & Quarterly)
Best Single Issue/One Shot:
Dan Slott and Michael Allred, Silver Surfer #11: “Never After” (Marvel)
Tom Devlin, editor, Drawn & Quarterly: Twenty-Five Years of Contemporary Cartooning, Comics, and Graphic Novels (Drawn & Quarterly)
Best Reality-Based Work:
John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell, March: Book Two (Top Shelf/IDW)
Best Graphic Album – Reprint:
Noelle Stevenson, Nimona (Harper Teen)
Best Graphic Album – New:
Peter Kuper, Ruins (SelfMadeHero)
Best New Series:
Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang, Paper Girls (Image)
Best Limited Series:
Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, The Fade Out (Image)
Best Continuing Series:
Jason Aaron and Jason Latour, Southern Bastards (Image)
Please check out Fanbase Press’ SDCC photo gallery, where you will find photos from the Eisner Awards, as well as from the con.