Welcome back to Coffee and Comics, our weekly discussion of the biggest talking points in comic books. This week we’re talking everything Eisner’s. The 2014 Eisener Award Nominiees were announced this last week and we wanted to get as many of our writer in on this one as possible. For any readers who might not know, The Eisner’s are to comic books as The Oscars are to movies. It is about as big of a deal as you can get in our industry and what better time than now to get our hopes, thoughts, and predictions than now? New to our round table this week is one of our newest contributors here at Capeless Crusader, Joshua Lazarus and our founder and publisher, Josh Epstein. The full break down of the nominations can be found right here.
Q: So, how do we feel about the list of nominees?
Jesse Quick: While I’m not familiar with all of the nominees it seems like there is a talented group picked this year. I appreciate that there is a mix of smaller publishers and bigger publishers in the nominations as well.
Asaph Bitner: I’m not particularly familiar with most of the nominees in most categories, but I’d be happy to see Saga win best continuing series. I’d also like Scott Snyder, Brian K. Vaughan or Matt Fraction to win Best Writer, Fiona Staples to win Best Artist, Chris Samnee or Sean Murphy/Jordie Belaire to win Best Cover Artist, and I really want to see Sex Criminals win Best New Series.
Mai Byers: Nothing particular. I don’t know a whole lot of the comics or people that are nominated. I mean, I’m excited for everyone involved with Pretty Deadly, Rat Queens, Lazarus, Saga, etc. but other than that, I just don’t know anyone.
Joshua Lazarus: I think the Best New Series category has some strong contenders. I haven’t read Watson and Holmes, but I’ve read all of the others, and they certainly deserve to be there.
Sex Criminals getting multiple nominations isn’t surprising. It’s a great comic that everybody is talking about. It’s fun, funny, charming, and manages to be sexy without being degrading to women (which seems to be rare in this medium).
Matt Fraction and Kelly Sue DeConnick are both nominated for Best Writer. There’s an obligatory joke about husband and wife both being up for the same award, but I’ll let someone funnier than I handle it. I’ll just say that theirs is certainly a creative household, and they’re both deserving of the win in that category. To be fair, the pool of writers is so strong this year that there’s a chance neither of them will win. I’m not familiar with Eric Stephenson’s writing, but Hickman, Brian K. Vaughan, and especially Scott Snyder have had stellar years. Kelly Sue DeConnick is writing these well-crafted comics that aren’t just good, but inclusive. People in comics always talk about appealing to non-traditional demographics in order to gain new readership. Kelly Sue isn’t just talking about it. With books like Captain Marvel and Pretty Deadly, she’s doing it. Look at how many young girls are cosplaying as Captain Marvel. It certainly helps that the Jamie McKelvie-designed costume is badass and iconic, but Captain Marvel is a real role-model that young ladies (and anybody else, for that matter) can look up to and be proud of.
The Best Coloring category is also a really strong one. If you look at the titles listed, they’re pretty much all books I read and adore. This batch of nominees makes a really convincing argument to include colorists on cover credits and royalties.
Alex Smith: Overall, it’s a really solid list. Anytime you have a big awards nomination, deserving parties will get left out. This is normal. But all of the nominees this year are all well-deserved. It looks like they went with the popular picks, but when the popular ones are so good, it’s hard not to.
Josh Epstein: Overall, I think that the nominations reflect a real broad sense of where the industry is headed. It’s very short on superhero work, and very long on the other genres that make up comics. This should be a good thing for the industry, as it really offers recognition the people and publishers who are doing the most to push the boundaries of what comics are and can be.
Mike Sains: Right from the start of the list, Best Single Issue has some strange choices. While I think “Pizza Is My Business” is an obvious choice, Dark Horse didn’t have a single nominee and none of the Image books or their strong One-Shots made the cut. But I have stronger feelings about the next question.
Q: Are there any snubs or flubs that stand out to you? Is anyone here that shouldn’t be? Who got left out?
Mai Byers: Noob here. I don’t know. Most of the people I like are on the list.
Jesse Quick: While not exactly a flub I really hope “Pizza is my business”by Matt Fraction doesn’t win best One Shot this year. I love Fraction and Hawkeye is one of the comics that I point to in defense of the big two but there is something that really bothers me about doing “silent” comics with mostly pictures and no words. I understand why this works as an exercise but to me it shouldn’t necessarily be encouraged too much in the industry. After all if someone were to do a comic with no pictures and just words I can’t imagine that would deserve to be put on a pedestal as one of the greatest comics of the year when it doesn’t access all that comics are capable of.
Asaph Bitner: I think FCO Plascencia has been doing great work on Batman, I wish he was nominated for best colorist, and I would have said that the letterer from Saga deserves to be nominated, but it turns our Fiona Staples is the letterer on Saga, and she was nominated for best painter/multimedia artist, so no snub there.
Joshua Lazarus: I’m very surprised Copra isn’t anywhere on this list. Michel Fiffe’s critical darling is such a great example of singular creative vision. The guy writes, draws, colors, letters, and sells his own book. That’s a Herculean task in the comics world, and deserves to be recognized.
Brian K. Vaughan is nominated for Best Writer, but only for Saga. Not including The Private Eye feels to me like a snub for going outside “approved comics channels” to sell a great book. Innovative thinking in the medium should be rewarded, not ignored.
Greg Capullo has drawn almost every issue of Batman since the New 52 started in September 2011. He’s doing the work of his career, and Batman: Zero Year has been the cherry on the awesome sundae. With visual direction in stark contrast to the seminal Batman: Year One, yet with homages subtle (and not-so-subtle) to Year One and The Dark Knight Returns, Capullo is an extricable part of the reason Batman is DC’s best title month after month. His exclusion from the Best Penciller category is, in my opinion, inexcusable.
Josh Epstein: The case could be made for a title like Mercenary Sea to have been included under Best New Series, but it was released so late in the “season” that it hasn’t had a chance to really find its footing yet, at least compared to titles which have a full trade’s worth of issues under their belt. I wonder how much consideration publishers give to the Eisner’s when it comes to release schedules. Similar to when film studios choose to release films which could be considered Oscar Bait, it really seems like most of these publishers put their heaviest hitters out at a time which optimized their advantage in a very wide field of competitors.
Mike Sains: I am shocked that Mind MGMT wasn’t nominated for Best Continuing Series, Best Single Issue, or Best Writer / Artist. To not get nominated in one of the categories would make sense, but all of them? That is an injustice to the medium, if you ask me. Matt Kindt has continually put out one of the best comic books on the shelf and has, creatively speaking, done it all on his own.
Best New Series, I was surprised to see neither Black Science nor Jupiter’s Legacy. But the amount of Image books in these categories are pretty staggering. The same with Dark Horse in the Limited Series category. Overall, in each of the categories, I’m looking at them and wondering to myself, Where are Marvel and DC?
Q: Do you have any predictions for any of the categories?
Mai Byers: I feel like Sex Criminals will pretty much win at everything they are involved in. It’s been so popular and is branching out to non-comic readers too
Jesse Quick: Matt Fraction and David Aja will probably win for Hawkeye because they deserve it (see I do love them). I think they will also win because what they are doing is good for the industry as a whole and it should be encouraged by the academics.
Asaph Bitner: I don’t know really how the Eisner’s work, so it would be tough to predict, but I’d say Sex Criminals will probably win Best New Series, just because it seems to be a huge hit with both fans and critics.
Joshua Lazarus: I would be surprised if Sex Criminals didn’t win Best New Series. It’s a great comic, and it’s had an impact in the comics fandom that these other books haven’t had.
I think either Jordie Bellaire or Matt Hollingsworth could win Best Coloring. I do see that Bellaire isn’t nominated for Moon Knight, as the first issue wasn’t out when nominations were being taken. I think that if Moon Knight were included, it’d certainly be another point in her column.
Josh Epstein: This is a really hard one to handle. Having not read absolutely EVERYTHING which has been nominated, it’s hard to say, but I’ll give my thoughts on the places I do know.
Best Single Issue
While it probably won’t win, the experimentation that Matt Fraction showed in “Hawkeye #11” was something far outside of the ordinary range for superhero books. That alone is likely what merited it’s consideration, but given Fraction’s heavy representation elsewhere in the nominations, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this one go to someone else.
Best Continuing Series
I’d be surprised to see Saga win twice in a row. Not because it’s not brilliant, but because everyone knows its brilliant already. I know its uncomfortable to say so, but these awards serve just as much to draw attention to quality work as they do to recognize it. Now, the same could be said of books like Hawkeye and Sex Criminals (when you’re on the cover of TIME, I think your name recognition is pretty high). Nowhere Men, I think, could be a real contender, but the recent news about its status may hamper it a bit. You don’t really want to see an award for best CONTINUING series go to a book which may never hit the presses again.
Really any of these books could win. I’m excited to see which one actually does.
Best New Series
I think this one is a three-way race between Rat Queens, Lazarus, and Sex Criminals. Rat Queens may get edged out just because both of the other two feature simply next-level art (no offense to Roc Upchurch). Really too close to call there.
Despite an amazing field, I really think this one will wind up going to Matt Fraction. His work is everywhere on the list of nominations and he is consistently brilliant. That’s not to take anything away from the other nominees, but Fraction has been producing at the highest level of his entire career in the last year. You’ve got a brilliant writer doing his best work across multiple publishers and showing up huge in sales on titles which no one would expect it from. That should be a sure-fire recipe for a win.
To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of this list of nominees. They’re all great, but none of them have been producing what I’d call breakout work. This is also one area where I feel the nominations’ tendency to steer clear of Big Two work really hurts them.
Best Cover Artist
Let’s face it, this is probably going to Fiona Staples. There’s just no beating covers which everyone wants on their wall. Or their body. Or both. *whispers* Sagaaaaa *whispers*
I see this is likely a two-horse race between Jordie Bellaire and Dave Stewart. Both do wildly experimental things with palettes and shading and both are working on terrific titles. Bellaire might carry it due to the name recognition on some of his titles, but either would be deserving.
Mike Sains: I’m going to follow the same format as Josh and go with a full-on list of predictions:
Best Single Issue
“Hawkeye #11.” The “silent issue” format combined with the folk-hero levels of admiration that Pizza Dog ascended to seems to make this the clear choice for winner. I do not know how I feel about those two things being enough to win a comic book an Eisner its competition. But it seems obvious.
Best Continuing Series
If we’re being technical I’ll reserve my Sex Criminals win for New Series. This category is strictly reserved for the Titan that is Saga.
Best Limited Series
The Wake. Hands down this is my favorite.
Best New Series
Like I said, Sex Criminals is the obvious choice here. It is a huge critical success and has managed to make lists like TIME Magazine and USA Today. You don’t see that kind of traction for a lot of comic books these days.
Best Publication For Teens (13-17)
This one is all about Paul Pope’s Battling Boy. If you don’t know, you better ask somebody.
Best Reality-Based Work:
March. No way this book doesn’t win. At least in my opinion.
Kelly Sue DeConnick. This is her year.
Best Artist Best Penciller and Best Cover Artist
Sean Murphy. His work needs all of the awards.
Q: Who do you want to win these categories?
Mai Byers: I want Emma Rios to win for best penciller / inker. Her art is crazy good and so unique. I also want Rat Queens to win in every category it’s in. It’s just a great series and I’ve never found anything else I can just geek out with to that level other than it.
Jesse Quick: I would love to see March win as I think it is a very important comic written by an important person. I was really surprised at how humanely it tackled a subject that could have been a polemic. If there were more comics like this the world would be a better place, period.
Asaph Bitner: I’ve kinda already said in question 1…but I would like to say that I don’t mind if some of my favorites lose to newcomers. For instance, Saga won best continuing series last year, and I wouldn’t mind if the Eisner’s spread the love around to other series and creators that haven’t won in the past.
Joshua Lazarus: I love Sex Criminals, but I hope Lazarus gets the Best New Series win.
Josh Epstein: Just going back through the areas I touched, in order: “Hawkeye #11, Sex Criminals, Sex Criminals, Matt Fraction, Nick Dragotta, Fiona Staples, and Dave Stewart.
Mike Sains: From the categories I listed, in order: Hawkeye, Saga, The Wake, Rat Queens, Battling Boy, March, Jonathan Hickman, Sean Murphy for EVERYTHING. Oh and one I didn’t cover in the predictions is Best Graphic Novel. For that category I am rooting for The Thrilling Adventure Hour. That is a graphic novel about a podcast of the same name. It has been one of my favorite podcasts of the last few years and the graphic representation was wonderful. Maybe now with this book getting the proper recognition it deserves I’ll get the The Andy Daly Podcast Pilot Project graphic novel I’ve been dreaming of.
Q: What stands out to you about the list of nominees this year? A publisher who dominated? A change in tone or variety of nominees? Anything at all?
Mai Byers: I noticed lots of Image but that’s probably because I know a lot of those titles.
Jesse Quick: Well Matt Fraction is getting some of the love he deserves which is nice and the fact that his Sex Criminals is getting taken seriously is wonderfully hilarious considering how raunchy it is. I was most surprised to see the Oatmeal comic nominated for best short story as online comics tend to stay in their own category. I also liked that March wasn’t just nominated for best reality based comic but also best comic for teens as that is a book I can see taught in a high school class students would enjoy.
Asaph Bitner: Other than in the categories of best writer and best cover artist, not a huge presence by Marvel, and an even smaller presence by DC.
Joshua Lazarus: Image Comics has really completed its transformation from new creator proving ground to a place where the biggest names in comics can go to do their thing. If you told me a few years ago that Image’s books would be both critical and commercial successes with reliable publishing schedules, I’d have laughed in your face. IDW has become legendary for its artist editions, and with three out of the five nominations for Best Archival Collection/Project belonging to them, the legend continues.
Alex Smith: The big categories all seem to belong to Image. We’ve seen their meteoric rise this past year, and the pile of Eisner nominations just confirm that. It’ll be interesting to see if this keeps up. I sure hope so.
Josh Epstein:Image absolutely dominated and mainstream publishers are almost nowhere to be found. Marvel shows up here and there thanks to Jonathan Hickman and Matt Fraction, both of whom are indie darlings. DC’s only representation is from Scott Snyder. Unlike last year, the Batman is completely absent other than Snyder’s nomination.
Mike Sains: Much like the other writers, I can not help but notice how hard the independent publishers dominated every single category. Image, in particular stands alone as the newly minted Eisner’s Favorite. This brings me so much joy. When I was a little kid, if you told me Image Comics would be the King of Comics, I would have thought you meant jokes. This is a new era.
Q: Do you have any dark horse picks for any of this year’s categories? Not the publisher, silly. Picks that could play the role of spoiler for a favored nominee?
Alex Smith: Here’s a few choices, similar to an Academy Awards prediction; who will win, should win, and any dark horses.
Best Single Issue
Will win: “Hawkeye #11”
Should win: “Hawkeye #11”
This one seems like a no-brainer. Brilliant, unique and charming, the saga of Pizza Dog is a masterpiece of comics writing. Not to mention it simultaneously captured the hearts of old fans while bringing a massive contingent of new ones.
Best Continuing Series
Will win: Sex Criminals
Should win: Saga
Seeing as how Sex Criminals is listed in the New Series nominations, I think that it should take that one. Saga has proved to be continually great throughout its longer run, but the SC fanbase might be too large to turn down..
Best New Series
Will win: Sex Criminals
Should win: Sex Criminals
Dark horse: Rat Queens
This is Sex Criminals’s award to lose. It’s so vital to both genders, so welcoming to everyone, and too perfectly realized to not get this one. It will win, and it should win. It’s amazing. I love Rat Queens (and think Lazarus is great), but it would be a massive shocker to see it pull an upset over the Brimpers.
Will win: Matt Fraction
Should win: Matt Fraction
Dark horse: Scott Snyder
It’s hard to pick against any of the formidable writers that were nominated, but Fraction has aced every series he’s on. His is the name we cheer when a new series is announced. From Hawkeye and FF to Sex Criminals, the man is on an unstoppable, well-earned roll. Scott Snyder also seems to amaze on every book he writes, but I think this is truly the year of Image.
Best Penciller / Inker
Will win: Emma Rios
Should win: Emma Rios
Dragotta and Murphy are fantastic, but crack open any page of Pretty Deadly and prepare to be blown away. Seriously. It’s gorgeous, and Emma Rios deserves every bit of praise she’s received so far.
Best Cover Artist
Will win: Fiona Staples
Should win: Everyone
Cop-out answer, I know. Fiona will most likely win (every cover of Saga drops jaws), but every single artist nominated produces the best covers in the industry. Aja and Samnee are amazing for Marvel, as are Rios and Murphy for their respective books. Such a hard choice.
Will win: Matt Hollingsworth
Should win: Jordie Bellaire
Dark horse: Dave Stewart
Matt Hollingsworth is the bigger name and probably takes this for his phenomenal work on Hawkeye and Daredevil. I’ve always been a champion of Jordie’s work though, and think it’s about time she won an Eisner. Quality is always expected on anything she does, and that’s incredibly hard to do considering her work load. It’s giant!
Best Limited Series
Will win: Trillium
Should win: The Wake
Both are near the top, but The Wake brings the sci-fi horror like very few ever have. It’s illustriously written, drawn, and lettered by the best names in the business. I expect the collected graphic novel will be around for a long, long time.
My last pick is a special shout-out to The Oatmeal, a Seattle-based webcomic. Funny and painfully true, it deserves the Eisner without a doubt.
What did we miss? What did we get right? How about what we got wrong? What are your picks for the 2014 Eisner Awards? Be sure to include them in the comments section below!
Mike Sains is a Writer, Interviewer, and the Editor of the Reviews Department for Capeless Crusader as well as other outlets online. He is also a podcaster and an avid collector of vinyl records and collectibles.