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A Great First Step—a Short Note on the Eisners and Webcomics
posted March 20, 2005

imageThe comic book industry's Eisner Awards announced this week they would be accepting potential nominees for a Best Webcomics category -- although off-line as I am, I'm pretty sure they don't call it that, they call it something like "Best Digital Comics" or something. It isn't exactly a done deal. As I understand the way the Awards work, the judges not only have the power over which nominees are named, they also have a fair amount of leeway when it comes to selecting which categories they wish to honor. Although a best webcomics-style category would seem like a no-brainer to me, and perhaps you, the Eisners often portray themselves as industry award and it wouldn't totally surprise if a panel decided that webcomics existed outside of the industry's normal confines.

Still, this is a big step, and one that should be applauded and encouraged. The Eisners will likely never be the Oscars of comics, at least until the Academy Awards starts being overrun by studio executives in golf shits picking up trophies saying "I know Adrien Brody is around here somewhere; kick his ass if you see him in a bar later on." But I believe it's the comic book industry awards show now. The Ignatzes would work great as a festival award; as a general award they're kind of that sad thing on cable where David Duchovny and 80 percent of the audience has an air of artistic superiority that would never keep them from accepting a job that got them on the red carpet the next evening. The Harveys suffer from about a decade of administrative problems that for one thing among many has resulted in an historical inconsistency that makes them much too susceptible to a bum rush -- you can point at surprising nominations and almost sense who it was that Xeroxed ballots or got the word out at which company. The awards given out at the Festival in Angouleme are much too French, and now even some of the French cartoonists are mad at them. I would say definitely in terms of public perception and the opportunity for a historical snapshot the Eisners, for all some of the predictable choices make me want to shriek in horror, acts as a "1a" to the comics strips' Reubens' traditional #1.

So adding a webcomics category is a potentially significant thing. It may make the sometimes excruciating awards ceremony last a little longer, it may add some administrative hassle, and it may set up the Awards for some relentless politicking and subsequent complaints from a previously silent majority. But every hassle is worth it when worthy work has a chance of being honored and put out in front of more eyes. Now if the Eisners would only get rid of its non-comics categories and grant comic strips the same honor as work on the web, then we all might be getting somewhere.