Eisner award nominees: Oscars of the comics world is no boys' club

Record number of female creators are on ballot and most of the comics in the best new series category feature female protagonists amid comics’ golden age

The nominations are out for this year’s Eisner awards – rightly dubbed the Oscars of the comics world – and the watchwords this year seem to be diversity and variety.

There are a record number of female creators on the ballot, and almost all of the comics in the best new series category feature female protagonists. The grip of industry leaders Marvel and DC seems to be slackening, with many more placings for independent and creator-owned titles including Image, Dark Horse, Oni and Monkeybrain.

The longlist is assembled by a five-strong panel and the nominations are voted on by industry professionals, with the winners announced at the annual Comic-Con in San Diego in July.

Heidi MacDonald, at the news site Comics Beat, quickly crunched the numbers when the nominations were made public Tuesday, writing: “Forty-nine women received a record 61 nominations, up from 44 last year, with female choices in 27 of the 30 categories. Seven categories include more female than male nominees.”

Among those women are the artist Colleen Coover, nominated for her work on the fun indie Bandette, Monkeybrain’s comic about a Gallic teenaged thief; Kelly Sue DeConnick, writer of the phenomenal Image Comics series Bitch Planet; and G Willow Wilson, writer of the Ms Marvel series.

While the Big Two do, of course, get a showing – Dan Slott and Mike Allred’s Silver Surfer is nominated for best single issue and best continuing series, and there are a smattering of nominations for DC’s mature readers line Vertigo – it’s looking very much like it’ll be Independents Day when the winners are announced at SDCC.

Long-standing indie publisher Fantagraphics – which brought the likes of Love & Rockets to the world 30 years ago – and Image, consistently one of the most boundary-pushing publishers in the market today, lead the nominations, with 17 and 14 respectively.

The nominations list as a whole pretty much torpedoes any notion of comics in the 21st century being some kind of boys’ club. Aside from the record number of women nominated, all the books in the best new series category feature female lead characters. The only outlier is Kaijumax, by Zander Cannon (Oni), and as its main cast consists of Japanese-monster-movie-style creatures, it can’t even be said to be keeping up the straight white male end of things.

There are 160 titles competing in the Eisners – named for Will Eisner, the creator of the legendary Spirit comic, who died in 2005. A whopping 30 categories honour all aspects of comic creation, from the writers and artists to colourists, letterers and designers.

The breadth and range of the titles and creators listed – and the judging panel seems to have taken a welcome attitude of giving as wide a spread as possible rather than allowing one or two big names to sweep the board – is a clear indication that comics are in something of a golden age at the moment.

Marvel and DC might top the bestseller lists and pack out the multiplexes with their legacy characters, but at the sharp end of comics, it’s the indies, with their very favourable terms that allow creators to retain rights and control over their work, who are driving what we can definitely now call a renaissance.


David Barnett

The GuardianTramp

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