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2015 Eisner Awards Judges' Comments

2015 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards Judges

(Left to right):  Carr D’Angelo, Maggie Thompson, Richard Graham, Susan Kirtley, Sean Howe (on screen), and Ron McFee.


The nominations are in, and the judges have spoken! The 2015 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards are now in the hands of professionals, who vote until June 1 (click here to see if you’re eligible) to decide the winners. The judges met in San Diego in early April for a long weekend of reading, genteel arguing, minor cajoling, and finally deciding this year’s nominees. Here are their comments about their individual experiences as Eisner Award judges. Click here for a complete list of the 2015 nominations.

Carr D’Angelo

Comics Retailer (Earth-2 Comics, Los Angeles, CA)

Being on the judging committee for the Eisners this year was an incredible experience. As a retailer, I was superficially familiar with a lot of the material, as I have unpacked it from boxes and and stocked it on my shelves. The judging, however, gave me the opportunity to look at a lot of the current comics and graphic novels, and books about comics in a whole new light. It was great to read so many stories with so many different points of view and to be able to just really enjoy the art and design of the various submissions. It seems every year somebody runs a "death of the comics industry" piece, but when you really take the time to look at all the material being published and see it is of such wide variety and high quality, it's pretty clear that comics have matured as a true artform and are getting better every year.  

Richard Graham

Librarian/educator (University of Nebraska–Lincoln)

Being chosen as a judge for the Eisner Awards was an honor and unforgettable experience. The sheer amount of reading, coupled with the responsibility of “getting it right” made it the toughest job I’ve ever loved. Despite our varied backgrounds in or with the comics world, as well as diverse tastes and appreciations, we judges had fun and immensely warm discussions on rewarding innovation, challenging the status quo, and defining excellence. We also had incredibly difficult decisions to make in several categories, with my own heart breaking on a couple of occasions as I watched a beloved title or name fall off the final ballot. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have been so immersed in a year’s worth of high-quality comics publications and have gained an even greater appreciation for the ninth art.

Sean Howe

Eisner Award­–winning author (Marvel Comics: The Untold Story)

It was an honor to serve as a judge for the Eisner Awards; that should go without saying. I've been following the Eisners since their inception, thanks to the subscription to the Comics Buyers Guide that my parents renewed for me throughout the 1980s. The fact that one of my fellow judges was former CBG editor Maggie Thompson was a thrill of a twist.

What a rush, and an education, to consume so many fine works of comic art. For the last couple years, I've mostly been entrenched in (noncomic) research materials for my next book and haven't allowed myself the luxury of reading for sheer pleasure. And so many of these books, books that I might have otherwise missed, provided the visceral jolts that don't come from other kinds of reading. As it turned out, the five or six works to which I responded most emotionally were all ones that would have escaped my vision if I hadn't been jumping in with both feet. There was no shortage of worthy nominees, but to my surprise the whittling-down process was relatively painful. Easy consensus can be a warning sign, a flag that everything's getting a little too agreeable, but in most of the categories, I think there really were some obvious top-tier choices that took our collective breaths away. And when it did come time for the knock-down drag-out fights ... well, persuasive campaigning changed my mind a couple times, and I'm not sorry for that one bit either.

Susan Kirtley

Educator (Portland State University), Eisner Award–winning scholar (Lynda Barry: Girlhood Through the Looking Glass)

When I was a little girl, I imagined heaven would be a room full of comic books and snacks. I can now say that paradise is real and it is located in a nondescript hotel meeting room. Unfortunately, this magical place appears but once a year, a sort of mystical comic book Brigadoon, and very few are lucky enough to reach it. This year I had the great honor of serving as one of the judges for the Eisner Awards, thus procuring for myself a special key to what I took to calling the “Room of Requirement,” an enchanted haven for comic book lovers and the site of the Eisner judging process.

After several days of delirious reading and eating in the room, the judging began. My fellow judges were an amazingly congenial and frighteningly knowledgeable group. While we often disagreed on the merits of specific comics, we remained collegial throughout. The ongoing dedication, integrity, and goodwill of the judges would have made for an incredibly boring reality show. At one point we considered staging an altercation to liven things up, but there was simply too much work to do for even a faux fight.

That doesn’t mean that there wasn’t debate, and readers might wonder why x, y, or z wasn’t nominated. In all honesty, there are things that I would have liked to see on the ballot that just didn’t make it, and I’m sure my fellow judges feel similarly. However, rather than focus on all of the incredible work that wasn’t nominated (and there is a great deal of it), I choose to celebrate what I do see: an astonishing list of titles representing the wide range of what comics can do as a medium. For example, in the Short Story category we have a delightful online comic ruminating on motherhood, an ethereal horror story, and fully realized, entirely engaging superhero narratives. The nominations reveal a superbly diverse group of creations, and I think that would please the late, great Will Eisner. We had an embarrassment of riches this year, and I think we can all be proud of that.

After the nominations process was completed, I watched wistfully as the Room of Requirement and all of those glorious books were packed away. I stuffed my pockets with apple tarts for the ride home, knowing I’d visited the wonderland of my dreams, and that, although I could never come back, I will return to the list of Eisner nominees every year and remember and rejoice in the best of the comics community.

Ron McFee

Comic-Con International committee member

Serving as a judge for the 2015 Eisner Awards is an experience that is hard to condense. It was a lot of work and focus but the experience was one I would not trade. Nearly two thousand submissions for Eisner nominations were received, and each had to be given equal consideration. Submissions spanned a wide range of quality and merit. The task of narrowing down those submissions was daunting, yet somehow we managed to do what seemed to me, “the impossible”: we selected 5 to 6 candidates for 29 categories!

Each category had many more meritorious works than available nomination slots. Each of us had to see projects we felt strongly about fail to make the list of finalists and others emerge as clear winners. This made for an ongoing mix of emotions—feelings of victory, disappointment, excitement and in the end exhaustion. In all the years I’ve witnessed Jackie Estrada administrating the Eisner Awards, I never truly understood all that was involved, until now.

I have a new respect and appreciation for what the Eisner Awards represent, and it was an honor being part of the team of intelligent, fun, and fair-minded people who made up the judging panel.

Maggie Thompson

Writer/editor (Comic-Con’s Toucan blog, Diamond’s Scoop newsletter)

I’d been reading comics for more than 65 years and had thought that nothing about them could surprise me. That meant that I was astonished by the range, volume, and incredibly high quality of the stacks of books and magazines and online output that confronted us. We’d all worked with comics in depth before our final experience together, of course—but the excellence produced in the artform in 2014 was extraordinary.

On a more personal note: In the course of the judging process, I came up with a stack of additional “must-buy” items for my own collection. Within the month that followed, I’d spent more than $500—and I’m not done yet. Moreover, because we as judges brought a variety of appreciations to the task, several of my purchases are for publications that I found outstanding but that didn’t make the final ballot. We live in a true Golden Age of Comics.

For more info on the 2015 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards nominations, please click here.