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Yesterday, Comic-Con International released the list of nominees for the 2016 Eisner Awards. The broad field, encompassing every sort of release in the comic book industry, included creators from nearly every publisher in the business. Most notable, though, was the near-total exclusion of work from the comic book industry’s two largest players in DC and Marvel Comics.
Out of a possible 158 nominations, only 15 were handed to work or creators working on Big Two titles. Of the two major publishers, Marvel fared better than the “distinguished competition”, due in large part to the out-of-the-box work of Ryan North (The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl) and the socially-relevant and timely work of G. Willow Wilson (Ms. Marvel). North’s adventures of Doreen Green was the only mainstream title nominated for best new series, and Wilson received a nod in the Best Writer category for her work on Ms. Marvel. The House of Ideas also contributed to Jason Aaron‘s nomination in the Best Writer category, which also included his work on Southern Bastards for Image. Aaron is the prohibitive favorite to win the category, having the largest body of work over the year of any of the nominees.
The bigger story, though, is that what was once an award group dominated by the financial titans of the industry has shifted dramatically over the last several years. DC and Marvel have seen their share of award nominations diminish as independent publishers have become the bastions of fresh ideas and fresh talent. It should come as no surprise to anyone who has paid attention to the rise of creator-owned content and the relative stagnation of the traditional powers that the best new work, as well as the best ongoing work, is being done in the independent sphere.
This continuing trend is obviously something being noticed in the proverbial halls of power at the major publishers, given DC’s recent announcement of an offshoot imprint called Young Animal, run by Gerard Way. The imprint has a mandate to develop new talent and strange ideas outside of the mainstream super-hero fare the company is known for.
So, what is the real reason for this shift? It’s simple: the audience for comic books is changing.
As comic book demographics have skewed away from preteen and teenage males toward an older, more diverse audience, the sort of books which readers gravitate towards has shifted as well. An audience which is invested in the medium as an art form wants to consume work which is geared toward their more mature sensibilities. This audience wants to consider comic books as a valid form of literature, not just pop-culture pablum for the masses. Paired with ever-increasing top-down control at the Big Two publishers, this change in the demand from the marketplace has given rise to a strong independent sector which caters to them.
If the Eisners are looked at as the creme de la creme of the industry, then it is obvious that the best work, as well as the best creators, are in the world of indie comics.
FOR THE COMPLETE LIST OF EISNER NOMINEES, CLICK HERE.