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My Eisner Awards Diary: 2005
posted July 19, 2005

The following is from a running series of notes I made during the 2005 Eisner Awards ceremony, held July 15 in San Diego during Comic-Con weekend. They were ostensibly for a more serious article I would spring out of bed the morning of the 16th and write. Instead, I spent the morning of the 16th lying in bed watching Sportscenter trying to work up enough moisture to blink. I hope no one is offended by the cheeky tone, which is intended without harm for amusement's sake. Sketches in links by the artist Jesse Hamm.

8:32 -- No room at the Fanta table, so I set up camp in the third row, middle, on the aisle. Rory Root is nice enough when he sees me to walk over and tell me where the Fanta table is, so I must vocalize my seat-less status.

8:38 -- Do the people at the tables have a special bathroom they don't want the people in coach using? Because I would totally use that bathroom.

8:40 -- Security makes me put my shirt back on before I can finish shaving letters into my chest. I'll find some other way to cheer for multiple-nominee Johnny Ryan.

8:44 -- The evening begins with a professional-looking video of current comics professionals praising Will Eisner. The video includes Frank Miller, Dave Sim, Darwyn Cooke, Jeff Smith, Bill Sienkiewicz and Mike Mignola. Somehow my mind's eye picture of Sienkiewicz still includes spiky hair and a thin tie, so I don't recognize him right away.

8:47 -- Our host for the evening, Jackie Estrada, hits the podium. If anyone ever wondered what the Oscars would be like if Jack Valenti hosted them, comics has had your answer for years now.

8:48 -- We are introduced to Ann Eisner, who receives a standing ovation.

8:49 -- Ann Eisner speaks briefly. As is the case with the bulk of her late husband's better storytelling techniques, it's a lesson the artists that succeed her onstage largely choose not to follow.

8:50 -- Jerry Robinson gives out the first Bill Finger award, terrifying veteran audience members who flash back to the length of Robinson's Hall of Fame speech from last year.

8:53 -- The next day when I have dinner, someone will describe the Finger awards back to me as "you know, those awards for the people who were screwed over." I offer this up in case the Finger people would like to use it in their press material.

8:55 -- I start to send psychic messages to the industry pros at the tables for someone to run Mr. Robinson a glass of water.

8:56 -- I'm elated when Sergio crosses in front with a bottle of water, and crushed when he sits down before hitting the stage. Robinson starts coughing up small piles of yellow sand.

8:58 -- The first Bill Finger award goes to Jerry Siegel.

8:59 -- Joanne Siegel accepts. She mentions that Bill Finger used to try and borrow money from her husband in washrooms, bringing the magic of a life in the comics industry into keen focus for the younger generation in attendance.

9:03 -- Arnold Drake receives the second Bill Finger award.

9:04 -- Arnold Drake declares he's home. I'm more than a little jealous of Mr. Drake.

9:08 -- In what will prove to be the highlight of the evening, Arnold Drake sings a song in a wonderful bullhorn of a voice. The first verse goes something like

In San Diego
That Comic-Con Where They Go
A Hundred Thousand Folks stand in line
And that's fine

And although the future verses are like 30 times better, I'm too busy doing my Springtime for Hitler audience reaction shot impersonation (for awesomeness rather than awfulness I can't believe I'm seeing) to write anything down. Drake even takes a shot at Stan Lee for taking too much credit, which brings a kind of half-gasp and then applause from the crowd. Hooray for Arnold Drake.

9:11 -- Jackie gives a speech on how the Eisners work. I start to drift off when she gets to the part about stapling each book's Previews solicitation copy to color coded racing rats.

9:16 -- Denis Kitchen is introduced to give out the first few awards. He repeats one of Will Eisner's better-known phrases, roughly: "I didn't invent comics, I was simply there at the birth." You know, I like that quote, but I always wondered what Mr. Eisner was doing there at the birth. Because that could be a little creepy.

9:19 -- Eric Powell's The Goon wins Best Humor Publication.

9:21 -- Plastic Man wins Best Title for a Younger Audience.

9:24 -- Michael Chabon's Escapist wins Best Anthology. Michael Chabon asks those in attendance if they saw the McSweeney's, because it was pretty good, and they politely look up and say as one, "No, we didn't."

9:25 -- Unfortunately for Mr. Chabon, three Eisners in a row accepted by creators opens a tear in reality that sucks in and kills the award-winning author.

9:26 -- Jill Thompson is introduced.

9:29 -- Dave Stewart wins Best Coloring.

9:31 -- Todd Klein wins Best Lettering. When I edited the Comics Journal, I always wanted to interview Klein, just in the hopes he would agree to letter it.

9:32 -- Sean McKeever wins Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition, which is a neat award because it helps to solve the problem it presents in its title.

9:33 -- I dream of an entire awards show designed along the same, utilitarian lines as the previous award, like "Artist Most in Need of Something Small to Place on a Desk."

9:34 -- Someone named I believe Barry Short takes the mike. Comics is in a down cycle for Barrys, and I think it shows.

9:36 -- The Russ Manning Promising Newcomer award goes to Chris Bailey, who wisely decided to watch his son's baseball game rather than hit the strip at Nerd Vegas. Man, kids play late into the evening these days!

9:37 -- If a powerful publisher were to show up at the Eisner awards right at this moment and have one lifetime contract to offer one artist, do you think it would go to the promising newcomer or the talent deserving of wider recognition?

9:38 -- Jackie tells us where the globe part of the award comes from, making a great joke about it having something to do with the international flavor of the awards. The guy sitting in front of me swears that isn't a joke, but I don't believe him.

9:40 -- Scott McCloud tells a story that gets points for complimenting Will Eisner in a way I hadn't heard yet (as a forward-thinker willing to accept new things) but loses a couple of points for its partial third-person reference to "McCloud and Eisner."

9:41 -- Which Saturday Night Mystery Movie was "McCloud and Eisner" again?

9:42 -- Buddha Volumes 3-4 wins Best US Edition of Material Not Found in 98 percent of Comic Shops.

9:43 -- An amusing lady in a cute dress makes a speech about Eisner being in the "Comic-Con in the sky" with Osamu Tezuka. If the Comic-Con in the sky is anything like the one down here, I'm worried Mr. Eisner might still be in the pro registration line.

9:48 -- Mom's Cancer wins Best Digital Comic. The cartoonist may have spoiled the story by saying he planned on bringing his Mom to the ceremony, but I guess that could be his wife's mom or something.

9:50 -- The Complete Peanuts wins Best Publication Design, and a never-introduced Eric Reynolds accepts in understated fashion. Would it kill someone up there to say who the people are taking the stage?

9:51 -- I take it all back if Eric scores free stuff because someone thinks he's Schulz's kid.

9:52 -- Joss Whedon is introduced. Unfortunately, his jokes go over more like Storm in the X-Men movie than Xander in Buffy seasons 2-3.

9:54 -- John Cassaday and Frank Quitely tie for the Penciler/Inker award. Cassaday says of Laura Martin, "Not only is she talented, but she puts up with me," causing more than fifty women in attendance to sigh and imagine a difficult but rewarding work relationship with the artist.

9:56 -- Teddy Kristiansen wins the Best Painter/Multi-Media award, and some mystery person I didn't happen to work with for five years accepts by doing an impersonation of Kristiansen. The cool thing about that is that we have no choice but to think it was a pretty good impersonation.

9:58 -- James Jean wins the Best Cover Artist award and makes us imagine him in bed with his wife.

9:59 -- It sounded sweet when he said it.

10:00 -- Joe Ferrara is introduced, and tells the evening's second heart-warming story of cartoonists and restrooms.

10:04 -- Night Flight wins the Spirit of Comics retailing award. I love comic shops pretty unconditionally, but the slideshow of storefronts is slightly terrifying.

10:10 -- The Inkpots given out during the Con are listed quickly. According to my notes, this was the point in the evening I became much too lazy to write down a series of names.

10:11 -- Michael Uslan introduced.

10:12 -- Comic Book Artist wins Best Comics Publication.

10:13 -- Am I the only person who thinks Jon Cooke looks like Ian Holm?

10:15 -- Men of Tomorrow wins the Best Book About Comics award.

10:17 -- I black out for 107 seconds.

10:19 -- Michael Chabon survived the rip in reality to be introduced as the next presenter.

10:22 -- Peanuts wins Best Archival Collection project. At this rate, in a few years Mr. Schulz may have as many Eisner wins as the guy who did those armless statues.

10:26 -- Bone: One Volume Edition wins the Best Graphic Album -- Reprint award. Jeff Smith invents the word "globey" to describe the new awards.

10:28 -- The Originals wins Best Graphic Album -- New. The couple in front of me who didn't know each other before the show began is now expecting their first child.

10:30 -- Maggie Thompson brings out the dead in a powerpoint presentation that's actually sort of attractive. They are: Doug Miers, Irwin Donenfeld, Bob Haney, Harry Lampert, Irv Novick, Frank Thomas, Gene Hazelton, Bernie Lansky, Dale Messick, Kelly Freas, Bruce Hamilton, Byron Preiss, and Bill Liebowitz.

10:31 -- I make a mental note to get Frank Thomas the heck off my fantasy baseball roster.

10:39 -- Maggie concludes her memorial by reminding us that Jack and Roz are still dead. After the show I will have to explain to two different industry outsiders why this was noted.

10:40 -- I would have lost a lot of money betting Christopher Reeve would be in there.

10:41 -- Introduction of Pia Guerra

10:43 -- Brian K. Vaughn wins Best Writer.

10:44 -- Paul Chadwick wins Best Writer/Artist. I'm filled with a sudden desire to see the four pages of wonks talking about population control he claims to have left out of the latest Concrete mini-series, because it would seem really exciting right about now.

10:47 -- Kyle Baker wins for Best Writer/Artist Humor and confuses the crowd with actual humor.

10:48 -- Dave Gibbons Introduced.

10:50 -- "Unfamiliar" wins the Eisner for Best Short Story, and the Spurgeon for "Best Eisner Powerpoint Slide." I try to write down what Jill Thompson says but all I can read now is "I have no dogs."

10:53 -- Fables #19-27 wins Best Serialized Story. I think Bill Willingham is the only person all evening to take the stage in a suit.

10:55 -- Eightball #23 wins Best Single Issue.

10:56 -- Greg Ketter is introduced

10:58 -- Denis Kitchen wins the Defender of Liberty Award and gives a great, growly, dour speech that ends with the upbeat image of multiple hangings.

11:07 -- Jeff Smith is introduced.

11:10 -- Ex-Machina wins Best New Series.

11:11 -- Tony Harris says "I got one of these in '97 and I cried like a bitch." Why is he not writing his own material?

11:14 -- The New Frontier wins Best Limited Series. DC immediately cuts the soft-cover's promotional budget by two thirds.

11:16 -- Jeff Smith says "peeps."

11:17 -- The Goon wins Best Continuing Series.

11:20 -- The Bob Clampett Humanitarian Award goes to George Perez, and I fall into a trance, mesmerized by the giant Bob Clampett head cartoon.

11:22 -- When I snap out of it and ask who accepted the award, I'm told that it was a friend of George Perez posing with two floor models. So I say, "All right, don't tell me then."

11:23 -- Sergio Aragones introduced. Now there's a man who has never flown coach.

11:25 -- Lou Fine makes the Hall of Fame.

11:27 -- Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo make the Hall of Fame.

11:29 -- Adele Kurtzman accepts for Johnny Craig explaining what a nice man he was. Later I'm reminded the nice-guy testimony came while the powerpoint screens showed a picture drawn by Craig of a ghoul with an axe in its head.

11:30 -- Sergio accepts for Hugo Pratt. Would anyone really object to Sergio accepting everyone's awards at next year's show?

11:31 -- Nick Cardy makes the Hall of Fame. A dozen men in the audience aged 48-52 fondly recall Wonder Girl's butt.

11:34 -- Gene Colan makes the Hall of Fame.

11:38 -- Show ends.


Joe Casey re: 9:56 entry -- "That would be IT'S A BIRD writer Steve Seagle. And I'm sure it was a pretty spot-on impersonation."

Jackie Estrada gives some notes.