Fran, Jim Woodring’s “hypnotic and subliminal” wordless graphic novel, has been awarded the Lynd Ward Prize for Graphic Novel of the Year for 2014. Named after Lynd Ward, who created six acclaimed wordless graphic novels between the years 1929 and 1937, the prize is awarded each year by the Penn State University Libraries and the Pennsylvania Center for the Book.
Woodring will be presented with a $2,500 cash prize and the Library of America’s boxed two-volume collection of Ward’s six novels at a presentation ceremony to be held at Penn State in November 2014. Fran is published by Fantagraphics Books.
In addition to Woodring’s prize, the Lynd Ward Graphic Novel Prize jury awarded honor book awards to Gene Lueng Lang for Boxers and Saints, a two-books-in-one historical work of fiction about China’s Boxer Rebellion (First Second), and to Zander Cannon for Heck (Top Shelf), a graceful work of memory, amnesia and morality, inspired by Dante’s Inferno.
Steven Herb, director of the Center of the book, told PW the award was announced at a ceremony at Penn State along with a speech from cartoonist Joyce Farmer. Herb said the Center for the book brings in speakers to highlight the award as well as the growth of the graphic novel category. The Lynd Ward Prize for Graphic Novel of the Year debuted in 2011 and last year’s winner was Chris Ware for Building Stories (Pantheon). During a phone interview with Herb, he said that the Pennsylvania Center for the Book will mark the five year anniversary of the Lynd Ward prize in 2015, and said to look forward to more events around the prize in November when this year’s prize will be formerly presented to Woodring during a ceremony at Penn State.
The Lynd Ward Graphic Novel Prize is chosen by a selection jury comprised of faculty from Penn State academic departments that make use of comics and the graphic novel in their teaching or research. Jurors also include Penn State alumni and students with expertise in graphic novels. This year’s jury included chair and librarian/illustrator J. Harlan Ritchey, professor of art education B. Stephen Carpenter II, Ph.D candidate Michelle N. Huang, assistant professor Benjamin Schreier, and senior undergraduate in creative writing Kaity Watts.
In its comments on Fran, the jury called Woodring’s pen and ink technique “staggeringly lush and absorbing,” and described the wordless graphic novel as a “bizarre world vibrating with psychedelic energy.” The jury said: “Hypnotic and subliminal while entertaining and compelling, Fran’s dream world is at once familiar and unsettling, a conduit to mental states that, in many ways, only the graphic novel can achieve.”
The Lynd Ward Graphic Novel Prize was founded to highlight his work and his influence on the development of the modern graphic novel. The prize was established by Ward’s daughters, who donated an archive of Ward’s wood prints, illustrations and other graphic works to the Penn State University Libraries.