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News: DC Dominates Eisner Awards
posted July 23, 2004

July 23 -- In an ceremony close to three hours in length on the Friday evening of the Comic-Con International in San Diego, DC Comics collected 14 2004 Eisner Awards to lead all publishers in a sometimes affecting and frequently strange, disjointed evening of grateful winners, touching moments and the occasional unidentified person tromping up on stage to say something into the microphone.

The most noteworthy individual winner was Craig Thompson, who broke out of the post-alternative pack by being named Best Writer/Artist and Best Graphic Album winner for his mammoth reminiscence about young love, Blankets, published by second generation alternative comic company Top Shelf. Other multiple winners were longtime Eisner favorites. Kyle Baker won two awards, Best New Series and Best Writer/Artist -- Humor, for his work on DC's Plastic Man and his own self-published title. Neil Gaiman accepted two awards for his hardcover collection The Sandman: Endless Nights. All three pairs of wins represented potential career turning points for their creators: Thompson's rise from mini-comics talent to alt-comics mainstay; Baker's balance between commercially driven comics projects, book publishing opportunities and self-publishing; and Gaiman's much-discussed 2003 return to the form that kick-started his writing career.

Designer Chip Kidd also accepted two awards, one for publication design on his Alex Ross art book Mythology, and one he co-accepted for Vertical's U.S. Edition of Foreign Material winner, Osamu Tezuka's Buddha Volume One, for which Kidd provided the design.

Although traditional alternative publishers Fantagraphics and Drawn and Quarterly were limited to one award between them, the presence of winners like Baker, Derek Kirk Kim (Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition) and James Sturm (writer of Best Limited Series winner Unstable Molecules) maintained a notable non-traditional-mainstream creator presence at the podium.

The ceremony itself was undercut by multiple no-shows, some from creators in attendance at the convention, and featured comic book dignitaries in levels of dress from barbecue-ready to fancy-evening-out. Many of the best awards speeches came from those who threw the spotlight on others who were not or could not be in attendance. Writer Neil Gaiman lauded his "Best Short Story" collaborator P. Craig Russell in elegant fashion. In accepting an award for a volume in the collected Krazy Kat series, Fantagraphics Publicity Director Eric Reynolds called for an industry-wide appreciation of comic strip archivist and historian Bill Blackbeard. Sergio Aragones accepted a Hall of Fame award for cartoonist Don Martin by explaining how meaningful Martin's idiosyncratic figure work and outsized grotesqueries were in helping him become accustomed to American comics. Derek Kirk Kim got the biggest laugh of the night, perhaps to his dismay, by stating that he couldn't take such awards for granted the way someone like the mega-successful Gaiman could.

Author Michael Chabon launched the evening with a well-received keynote speech challenging the conventional wisdom that keeps some publishers from pursuing childrens' comics more vigorously. Will Eisner was on hand to give out awards and congratulate winners, and gave an informal welcoming address in which he lauded Chabon's speech and criticized a recent New York Times Magazine article on cartoonists as unrepresentative of the medium's practitioners in general. In the latter half of the evening, CBLDF Defender of Liberty Award winner Jim Lee, who received his honor as part of the ceremony, surprised many in attendance by giving a no-nonsense, rousing talk on the dangers of government encroachment on personal freedom. Jerry Robinson, the only cartoonist on hand to accept a Hall of Fame induction, spoke forthrightly about his and other artists' claim to creator credit for aspects of the Batman franchise.

The evening ended with an impromptu duet from Sergio Aragones and guitar-strumming Atlantis Fantasyworld retailer Joe Ferrera, a song from The Three Caballeros that left some in the audience delighted and other staring in slack-jawed amazement at the unexpected and out-of-nowhere nature of the moment. It was that kind of night.

2004 Eisner Winners

Best Short Story: "Death" by Neil Gaiman & P. Craig Russell in The Sandman: Endless Nights (DC)
Best Single Issue (tie): Conan the Legend #0 by Kurt Busiek and Cary Nord (Dark Horse); The Goon #1 by Eric Powell (Dark Horse)
Best Serialized Story: "Half a Life," Gotham Central #6-10 by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark (DC)
Best Continuing Series: 100 Bullets by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso (DC)
Best Limited Series: Unstable Molecules by James Sturm and Guy Davis (Marvel)
Best New Series: Plastic Man by Kyle Baker (DC)
Best Title for a Younger Audience: Walt Disney's Uncle Scrooge (Gemstone)
Best Humor Publication: Formerly Known as the Justice League by Keith Giffen, JM Dematteis, Kevin Maguire and Joe Rubinstein (DC)
Best Anthology: The Sandman: Endless Nights by Neil Gaiman, Dave McKean, P Craig Russell, Miguelanxo Prado, Barron Storey, Frank Quitely, Glenn Fabry, Milo Manara and Bill Sienkiewicz; co-edited by Karen Berger and Shelly Bond (DC)
Best Graphic Album -- New: Blankets by Craig Thompson (Top Shelf)
Best Graphic Album -- Reprint: Batman Adventures: Dangerous Dames and Demons by Paul Dini, Bruce Timm and others (DC)
Best Archival Collection: Krazy & Ignatz 1929-1930 by George Herriman, edited by Bill Blackbeard (Fantagraphics Books)
Best US Edition of Foreign Material: Buddha Volumes 1-2 by Osamu Tezuka (Vertical Books)
Best Writer: Alan Moore, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Volume II, Promethea, Smax, Tom Strong, Tom Strong's Terrific Tales (DC)
Best Writer/Artist: Craig Thompson, Blankets (Top Shelf)
Best Writer/Artist -- Humor: Kyle Baker, Plastic Man (DC); The New Baker (Kyle Baker Publishing)
Best Penciller/Inker: John Cassaday, Planetary, Planetary/Batman: Night on Earth (DC) Hellboy Weird Tales (Dark Horse)
Best Painter: Jill Thompson, "Stray," The Dark Horse Book of Hauntings (Dark Horse)
Best Coloring: Patricia Mulvihill, Batman, Wonder Woman, 100 Bullets (DC)
Best Lettering: Todd Klein, Detective Comics, Fables, The Sandman: Endless Nights, Tom Strong, Promethea (DC); 1602 (Marvel)
Best Cover Artist: James Jean, Fables, Batgirl (DC)
Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition: Derek Kirk Kim, Same Difference and Other Stories (self-published)
Best Comics-Related Periodical: Comic Book Artist, Jon B. Cooke (Top Shelf)
Best Comics-Related Book: The Art of Hellboy, Mike Mignola (Dark Horse)
Best Publication Design: Mythology: The DC Comics Art of Alex Ross, Chip Kidd

Hall of Fame (Judges Choices): Otto Binder, John Stanley, Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima
Hall of Fame (Voters' Choices): Al Capp, Jules Feiffer, Don Martin and Jerry Robinson

Related Awards Given or Announced At Ceremony

Inkpot Awards (Given by Comic-Con International for Lifetime Achievement): Jack Adler, Tom Gill, Mike Mignola, Bruce Jones, Batton Lash, Harry Harrison, Frank Springer, Bill Plympton, John Totleben
Will Eisner Spirit of Retailing Award: ACME Comics (Iowa)
The Bob Clampett Humanitarian Award: Mimi Cruz Carroll
The Russ Manning Promising Newcomer Award: Eric Wight
Comic Book Legal Defense Fund Defender of Liberty Award: Jim Lee

The 16th Annual Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards were held at the Ballroom in the San Diego Convention Center. The evening's host was awards administrator Jackie Estrada and presenters included Dave Gibbons, Walt and Louis Simonson, and Bruce and April Jones.