In one of the liveliest Eisner ceremonies in recent years, Peter Kuper’s Ruins (SelfMadeHero), a graphic novel about love and social ferment set in Oaxaca, Mexico, won the Eisner award for Best New Graphic Novel. Civil Rights legend John Lewis’ memoir March Book Two (Top Shelf) won for nonfiction, and, to the delight of the audience, acclaimed cartoonists Lynda Barry and Matt Groening were voted into the Will Eisner Hall of Fame. The awards ceremony was held on Friday night in conjunction with Comic-Con San Diego.
Besides the emotion and sheer excitement of Rep. John Lewis winning an Eisner (Lewis bounded from his seat and ran to the stage at the announcement), the Congressman and his co-creators Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell were also surprise presenters and received a standing ovation at last night’s ceremonies. Former college classmates and old friends, Lynda Barry and Matt Groenig also received some of the bigger ovations of the evening. Barry was grateful and emotional when she was inducted into the hall of fame; and the audience roared again when Groening followed her to the stage after his induction was announced, and when he said that Barry was his biggest influence.
Overall, Image authors took home seven Eisners, followed by Drawn & Quarterly with five and Fantagraphics and IDW/Top Shelf with three. A complete list of 2016 Eisner winners is available here.
In other the Eisner Award book categories, last year’s National Book Award nominee for Young Peoples Literature, Nimona (HarperTeen) by Noelle Stevenson, won the Eisner for Best Graphic Novel Reprint (the Eisner jury considers periodical serialization to book edition a reprint). Ben Hatke’s Little Robot (First Second), the charming story of little girl and a robot teaming up, won the Eisner for Best Book for early readers. Jillian Tamaki’s SuperMutant Magic Academy (D&Q), a deft and funny sendup of teen and superhero tropes, was named best publication for teens.
In other book-related Eisner awards, the late manga artist Shigeru Mizuki won for Best International Material Asia for Showa, 1953-1989: A History of Japan, part of Mizuki’s multi-volume autobiographical history of Japan. The Brazilian twin brothers Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba won the prize for Best Graphic Novel Adaptation for Two Brothers (Dark Horse). The Blacker the Ink: Constructions of Black Identity in Comics and Sequential Art (Rutgers University Press), edited by Frances Gateward and John Jennings, won for Best Academic Work. The Eternaut (Fantagraphics) by Hector German Osterheld and Francisco Solano Lopez, an acclaimed political allegory about the repressive 1950s Argentine government written as SF, won for Best Archival collection. And Zippy the Pinhead creator Bill Griffith’s memoir, My Mother’s Secret Love Affair with a Famous Cartoonist (Fantagraphics), won for Best Writer/Artist.
Popular cartoonist Kate Beaton also received a raucous ovation when her book, Step Aside, Pops: A Hark! A Vagrant Collection (D&Q), the latest volume in her series of riffs on history, won Best Humor Publication. Beaton said she was particularly pleased to win the award at a time, “when there are still articles asking whether women are funny.”
Besides the sheer excitement in the hall over this year’s slate of winners, there were a few moments of controversy. Elliot Maggin, winner of the Bill Finger Award, for unsung creators, used his time onstage to call for eliminating Work for Hire payment agreements, a longtime and contentious practice in the comics industry. Also controversial were D&Q publisher Peggy Burns’ forceful declarations from the stage that not only was D&Q the best publisher, but that D&Q also gave its artists the best publishing deals, appeared to spark a beef with Image Comics. When writer Ed Brubaker accepted his Eisner for The Fade Out, published by Image, he was quick and pointed in challenging her claims and said that, in fact, it was Image Comics that had the best deal and the most supportive environment for creators in comics publishing.
However, it is the acceptance speech of Rep. Lewis for March Book Two that will be best remembered. Lewis praised his collaborators, co-writer Andrew Aydin and artist Nate Powell, for their work in getting “the boy from Troy [Alabama],” the words, Lewis said, that Martin Luther King used to describe him when they first met, “to write a comic book.”
Correction: IDW/Top Shelf also received Three Eisner awards