January 25, 2012
How I Voted For The Eisners Hall Of Fame This Year And Why
I urge everyone to take the time to vote for the Eisner Awards Hall of Fame
. This is available for you to do now, long in advance of the voting for the rest of the awards this Spring. If you don't know if you're qualified to vote or not, I suggest trying to register and vote; put it on them to disqualify you.
I know that a lot of people out there don't feel a connection to awards programs generally, and perhaps this awards program specifically. The way I look at it, a Hall Of Fame is a cultural document that has a chance of surviving decades into the future when things like our on-line text jeremiads and late-night hotel room conversations about what's valuable in the medium will have long faded from memory. It's worth having whatever small input one can have on something like that, particularly as time will also drive any objections we have from relevance. Besides, it takes next to no time to do something like this, and given the way that economics both accidental and practiced seem determined to obliterate anything that might connect two or more comics people for more than a few seconds, these kinds of courtesies matter a bit more than they do when everything's healthy.
I like the slate of nominees this year, and I'd be happy to see them all eventually go into a Hall Of Fame with the Eisners' comic book focus. I'm also personally enthusiastic about the work of the vast majority of the slate the judges have put in front of the voters. So I think no matter what happens, this will likely be a decent class.
* Bill Blackbeard
* Howard Chaykin
* Richard Corben
* Carlos Ezquerra
* Lee Falk
* Bob Fujitani
* Jesse Marsh
* Tarpé Mills
* Mort Meskin
* Dennis O'Neil
* Dan O'Neill
* Katsuhiro Otomo
* Trina Robbins
* Gilbert Shelton
I voted for Bill Blackbeard, Jesse Marsh, Mort Meskin and Gilbert Shelton.
Bill Blackbeard's candidacy I've talked about before a bunch, here and in other places. The archivist and historian is partly responsible for one of the three most influential comics publications of the last 50 years, The Smithsonian Collection Of Newspaper Comics
. He should get consideration just for that; comic books as a whole would be vastly different now without that volume. Blackbeard's work collecting and archiving innumerable runs of comic strips has increased our knowledge of what was done and how in a past to which we'd have extremely limited access without him, and has led to a huge percentage of the thriving comic-book publisher and comic-book shop business in terms of strip collections and archival volumes. I think if you walked into an elite comic book shop, Blackbeard would have a hand in more books you'd find there than would be true of any other person, with the possible exception of Jack Kirby. I think we should honor him with a place in every Hall Of Fame for which he's eligible, starting with this one.
Jesse Marsh and Mort Meskin are great beneficiaries of this era of comic-book reprints -- both formally, like the Dark Horse Tarzan
hardcovers featuring some of Jesse Marsh's best work, and informally, on-line, as is the case with Ger Apeldoorn's attention to Mort Meskin
and artist Jesse Hamm's various essays on Marsh
. Marsh has started to receive his just due because of our broadened appreciation of what constitutes great art in comics-making, an idea which in the 1970s and 1980s careened dangerously close to being specifically identified as an art style favored by a half-dozen superhero comics illustrators rather than as a series of aim and aspirations for what happens on the page. Meskin has benefited just by having more of his work that's not superhero material seen and subsequently appreciated. Meskin's inclusion would be particularly sweet in the year after one of his great champions, the late Dylan Williams
, was lost to the comics community.
I think Gilbert Shelton -- despite his low profile in standard comic-book circles -- is one of the divine talents of the underground era, and a crucial publishing figure besides. It's almost like the relatively smooth path of his career works against him in a way, as well as there may exist some lingering biases about humor and its importance as a component of art. He's a humorist in the same basic phylum as Matt Groening
and Peter Bagge
, that rare combination of broad appeal and refined taste. There are underground comix makers I may personally love a little bit more, but other than Crumb I can't think of someone whose work is more representative of that era in ways it's almost impossible to appreciate because Shelton nailed it so hard the first time. Saying someone's work became the standard against which others are compared is a cliché, but I think it's true for Shelton. You read one of his comics and you can sort of understand the rough outline of what the underground was all about, and there's maybe only one or two other figures through which a reader can do that for any era. He's foundational.
posted 4:00 pm PST
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