Tillie Walden’s Are You Listening? (First Second), a magical and emotional story of the friendship and grief shared by two young women, was awarded the 2020 Eisner Award for the Best New Graphic Novel, during an online version of the annual awards ceremony that was streamed the evening of July 24.
Indeed the 32nd Will Eisner Comics Industry Awards ceremony, which honors the best comics and graphic novels of the previous year, was pre-recorded and held as part of Comic-Con@Home, a virtual recreation of the in-person San Diego Comic-Con International, which was canceled this year due to the pandemic. Nevertheless, the show must go on and this year’s event was hosted by longtime Eisner guest host and voice-actor Phil LaMarr who spoke to the audience via the Comic-con YouTube channel; and he was accompanied by Eisner awards administrator Jackie Estrada.
“We’re still here to highlight and celebrate artists and their works,” LaMarr said. The move online was not without problems. Estrada noted that the entire judging process was upended and delayed by the pandemic. And this year’s Eisner voting was also delayed by a technical glitch on the Eisner voting platform that forced Comic-Con International to suspend voting for a time and restart the process. Nevertheless, the virtual show went on.
“Usually we’re in a big hall and everybody can get dressed up,” said LaMarr, who encouraged the winners to post a photo of themselves online. He also joked that there’s one advantage to an online Eisner ceremony since the in-person event usually lasts for three hours or so: “at least the show will be shorter this year.”
A complete list of all the winners is available on the San Diego Comic-Con website.
Eisner winners also included actor George Takei (with Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott, and Harmony Becker) for his graphic memoir They Called Us Enemy. Raina Telgemeier’s Guts (Graphix) won the Eisner for Best Kids Graphic Novel; writer Mariko Tamaki and artist Rosemary Valierio O’Connell’s Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me (First Second) was awarded the Eisner for Best Graphic Novel for Teens; and Ivan Brunetti’s Easy as ABC (Toon Books) won the Eisner for Best Publication for Early Readers.
Acclaimed sci-fi novelist Nnedi Okorafor and artist Tana Ford won Best Reprint Graphic Novel (the Eisner awards consider works collected from periodicals to be reprints) for LaGuardia (Berger Books/Dark Horse), an allegorical sci-fi indictment of U.S. anti-immigration policy. And Paco Roca’s The House (Fanatagraphics) won an Eisner for Best US Edition-Europe; and there was a tie for winner of the Eisner for Best US Edition-Asia: Cats of the Louvre (Viz) by Taiyo Matsumoto (trans. by Michael Arias), and Witch Hat Atelier (Kodansha) by Kamome Shirahama (trans. by Stephen Kohler).
Other book-format Eisner winners included Drawing Power: Women’s Stories of Sexual Violence, Harassment, and Survival (Abrams), edited by Diane Noomin, for Best Anthology; Lynda Barry’s Making Comics (D&Q) won an Eisner for Best Comics-Related Book; and Qiana Whitted won for Best Scholarly Work for EC Comics: Race, Shock, and Social Protest (Rutgers).
This year’s inductees to the Will Eisner Hall of Fame include cartoonists Nell Brinkley (1886-1944), creator of the Brinkley Girls comics, and E. Simms Campbell (1906-1971), first Black cartoonist to be published in Esquire, the New Yorker and other magazines of the period. Also inducted into the Hall of Fame are cartoonists Alison Bechdel, Howard Cruse, Stan Sakai, comics editor and writer Louise Simonson, editors Don and Maggie Thompson, and Bill Watterson. All the living inductees (except of course, reclusive Calvin & Hobbes creator Watterson) appeared during the streamed ceremony via video clips to offer acceptance speeches and gratitude for their induction.
And the Hero Initiative, creators4comics, and The Comic Book United Fund, which all “provided economic relief to comic creators and retailers impacted by Covid-19,” were awarded the annual Bob Clampett Humanitarian Awards for their service to the medium and industry.