The Webcomic Overlook 2011 Eisner round-up
Another year, another Eisner award ceremony.
Last year, I commented that the nominees up for the Best Digital Comic Award were a pretty strong bunch. I’m very happy to say that this year’s selections continue the tradition. The nominees come from far flung fields, stretching from political commentary to kid-friendly shenanigans, from a big hairy monster to little hairy gangsters to a humble high fantasy hero straight out of the Campbellian tradition.
You know what I find incredibly surprising, by the way? Almost all of the nominees can be defined as a black-and-white comic. In fact, two of them show up in the Best Black and White nominations of the Webcomic List Awards. Yes, I am totally patting myself in the back for being of the judging panel for the category that — like the Original/Adapted Screenplay awards at the Oscars — may be one of the boldest predictors to this year’s Eisner winner.
But who wins the Eisner? It’s time to dust off the SugarShock-o-meter and find out. It’s running 66% now. It correctly predicted a win for Joss Whedon in 2008 and a win for Cameron Stewart in 2010. It flubbed the 2009 pick though, selecting Vs. by Joe Infurnari over Finder by Carla Speed MacNeil. The Webcomic Overlook blames poor maintenance and crossed wires for that one. Several staff of Webcomic Overlook Central had to endure hours of re-education and savage beatings to ensure such an egregious mistake would never happen again.
How will the SugarShock-o-meter fare this year against the democratic vote of “comics creators, editors, publishers, and retailers”? Who takes home the award this July?
The webcomic in brief: the Chosen One, as predicted by prophecy and legend, goes on an epic quest to save the world… without the help of chocobos.
Pros: The beasties are original, the character interactions are well written, and there’s a very good chance that voters might confuse this with Larry Marder’s Beanworld.
Cons: The art is the least polished of the five nominees, and there’s little indication that is going to be any different from the standard Tolkien template … which has been imitated a thousand times already.
Sugarshock-o-meter: 73/100. An uphill battle, to be sure. The Bean was the one title that people were shocked to see on the ballot in the first place. It’s not a bad comic, but it does lack that extra oomph that you envision for an award winner. It’s in the same spot that Master and Commander: The Far Side of The World was at the Academy Awards: it’s a decent enough genre piece, but there’s little chance it’s winning the award.
The webcomic in brief: what happens if you cross Dennis the Menace with Niles Crane?
Pros: It’s a very sweet, very fun, and very cute comic. Having Max overact like a prissy theater major was pretty inspired.
Cons: Calvin & Hobbes did it!
Sugarshock-o-meter: 85/100. Caanan Grall is sort of not unknown among voters who follow the output of the print publishers only, as his Celadore did come out of DC’s Zuda imprint. But, then again, Bayou came from there too, and it failed to snag the big award last year. The obvious Academy Award comparison, by the way: Toy Story 3.
The webcomic in brief: A woman and her son navigate the minefield of Iranian politics to try to find a man who has been missing since the Green Revolution.
Pros: Amil and Khalil bring the streets of Iran to visceral reality… which is key in educating the Western public on the sometimes unclear situations in Iran.
Cons: It’s a political comic. While I think it presents its side reasonably there’s always going to be a sense of vilification from those whose beliefs run contrary to the comics’. The nature of politics means that not everybody in the world feels the same way about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ali Khamenei.
Sugarshock-o-meter: 90/100. As the only political comic in play, Zahra’s Paradise may be the choice for voters who believe that comics are at their best when they carry a message. (See also: Maus.) However, the political nature can cause other voters, who might not think comics the appropriate medium to approach such a delicate subject, to stay away. Academy Award comparison (which was totally called by Max Overact‘s Caanan Grall): Schindler’s List.
Lackadaisy (reviewed here)
The webcomic in brief: Cute little cats carry tommyguns and do horrible things to each other.
Pros: Out of all the nominees, the art for Lackadaisy is the most eyecatching. It’s ridiculously full of period detail, the cats look like cats and not people with animal heads, and the facial expressions are top notch.
Cons: The story moves very slowly. While the pacing will not matter to our Eisner voters (they will likely read the whole story with one sitting), Lackadaisy is still only barely out of its set-up phase. It feels like it hasn’t progressed as far into the story as the other four nominees.
Sugarshock-o-meter: 91/100. I’m putting a lot of faith that once the voters lay their eyes on the sumptuous artwork, they’ll have a hard time putting the comic down … or whatever the equivalent expression is for webcomics. Academy Award comparison: Lord of the Rings. (But wait… shouldn’t The Bean be Lord of the Rings? I’ll let you think about it for a while.)
The webcomic in brief: the adventures of a big, hairy baby and his animal pals.
Pros: It’s impossible not to want to pinch this comic in the cheeks and make baby noises. Everything’s just too gosh-darned adorable. Oh, sure, there’s stuff about a Moon Bear, and some pop culture riffs … but everyone knows the main attraction are the cute widdle aminals.
Cons: This comic might be too cute. Irascible comic types like to grumble that people don’t understand that “Comics aren’t for just kids anymore,” and The Abominable Charles Christopher might just undo all that they have worked for.
Sugarshock-o-meter: 93/100. Karl Kerschl is a comic book vet, and he’s done work on things like Adventures of Superman, The Flash, and Teen Titans. The Abominable Charles Christopher is his masterwork, though: even his Wikipedia page is essentially a TACC synopsis….
Wait. Why does this sound so familiar? Oh, right. I just copied and pasted my analysis of TACC from last year. It’s the only repeat nomination this year… and I don’t think it’s happened before, either. The difference: Cameron Stewart, whose become something of a comic superstar now, wasn’t standing in the way. Granted, this one isn’t near the home run that Sin Titulo was. Kerschl’s name isn’t as well known among the voters. Stewart worked on some very high profile books, including the Grant-Morrison-penned Batman & Robin, The Other Side, and … erm … the Suicide Girls comic.
Still, double nomination, a work record with the Big Two publishers, AND a legitimately great 5-star webcomic? The Sugarshock-o-meter thinks that that’s a trifecta that’s hard to beat.
So there you go, ladies and gents. If the Sugarshock-o-meter’s aim is true, then your 2011 winner is Karl Kerschl of The Abominable Charles Christopher.
Incidentally, while I’ve mentioned before on this site how the Eisner Awards have yet to gain any reputation of a Gold Standard to even the comic reading public, I do love how the nominees for the Digital Comics award have made it feel like a very big deal. Travis Hanson of The Bean read through all of his competitors’ comics and shared his thoughts. (On Lackadaisy: “My kids are a huge fans of Tracy’s work which puts them in a pickle on who to vote for, she got a good book as well. Hats off to her for helping bring webcomics up several notches.”) Caanan Grall’s reaction was the most aesthetic. He provided a fantastic illustration of each of the award winners as if they were at a physical ceremony:
Then he went on to checkout the competition, which he praised abundantly. I especially like his comment about pitting Zahra’s Paradise vs. Max Overacts: “This is like putting Chicago and Schnidler’s List in the same category at the Oscars. How do you compare?”
Who I wish would win: Long time readers of this site probably know already who I’m rooting for. It’s the webcomic that I gave 5 stars to … twice. It’s a very sentimental favorite, as it’s the only webcomic on the list I’ve known about since I started this site back in 2007.
I’m talking, of course, about Lackadaisy.
Granted, if the SugarShock-o-meter is right and Karl Kerschl takes home the Best Digital Comic award, it will be well deserved. But if Lackadaisy wins? My happiness for Tracy J. Butler would be immeasurable. And I don’t doubt that there are plenty of webcomic fans out there that would feel the same.
She’s one of OURS.