In an awards ceremony dominated by women, creators of color and LGBTQ-themed works, Emil Ferris’ surprise bestselling hit, My Favorite Thing is Monsters (Fantagraphics), won three Eisner awards including Best New Graphic Novel. And writer Marjorie Liu and artist Sana Takeda’s Monstress (Image), an epic fantasy work about a teenage girl with a monstrous demonic power, won a total of five Eisner Awards, among them best writer, best multimedia artist and best work for teens.
The 30th annual Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, honoring the best works of the comics medium, are held each year at the San Diego Comic-Con International. A complete list of Eisner Award winners is available on the Comic-Con website.
Written and drawn by Ferris, My Favorite Thing is Monsters, the story of a ten-year old girl in 1960s Chicago who is queer and loves monster movies, also received Eisner awards for best artist and best colorist.
Accepting the first of her three Eisner awards, Ferris, a completely unknown artist who had to overcome a terrifying bout with West Nile Virus that left her paralyzed and unable to draw, drew laughter and cheers when she thanked her artist/art-loving parents for “getting jiggy on the roof of [Chicago’s] Art Institute,” and conceiving her. And in a series of emotional acceptances for her multiple awards, she warmly thanked Fantagraphics’ publisher Gary Groth, who she said, embraced the book after it was “rejected by 48 publishers.”
Liu accepted Eisners for herself (for best writer on Monstress, in an unusual tie with Batman and Mister Miracle writer Tom King) and for her co-creator artist Sana Takeda. Takeda was in Japan but eventually was able to connect and acknowledge the ceremony during a facetime call from the stage, after Monstress won its fifth Eisner late in the evening.
The entire evening was an emotional tribute to diversity, inclusion and the ongoing transformation of the comics industry (and comics fandom) by an influx of creators from a range of backgrounds long absent from the comics industry.
Other female and queer winners included Tillie Walden’s Spinning (First Second), a graphic memoir of her life as an elite figure skater and growing up as a lesbian, won Best Nonfiction Graphic Work; Katie O’Neil’s Tea Dragon Society (Oni), a fantasy work with LGBTQ themes, won Eisners for best middle grade graphic work and for best webcomic. Taneka Stotts’ Elements: Fire, A Comic Anthology by Creators of Color, a Kickstarter-funded work of queer creators, won an Eisner for Best Anthology. And My Brothers Husband Vol. 1 (Pantheon), a manga for young readers about being gay in Japan, won an Eisner for Best International Work from Asia.
The celebration continued with Damian Duffy and John Jennings’ graphic adaptation of Kindred (Abrams Comic Arts), novelist Octavia Butlers classic work of speculative fiction set in the American slave era, which won for Best Adaptation. And the Eisner Award for Best Academic/Scholarly work was presented to Frederick Luis Aldama for Latinx Superheroes in Mainstream Comics (University of Arizona Press).
And a highpoint of the Eisner ceremony was the induction of Jackie Ormes, the first black female syndicated newspaper cartoonist, into the Will Eisner Hall of Fame (along with another female pioneer, Karen Berger, founding editor of DC/Vertigo, as well as the late Marvel sales manager Carol Kalish). Ormes was best known for the 1930s comics character Torchy Brown in her syndicated comics strip Dixie in Harlem. The HOF induction award was accepted by Ormes’ great grandniece Lisa Jackson Zelznick, along with Nancy Goldstein, the author of Jackie Ormes: The First African-American Woman Cartoonist (Univ. of Michigan).