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2018 Eisner Awards Judges’ Comments

The 2018 Will Eisner Comics Industry Awards judges share their thoughts on the judging process and on the works submitted from 2017.

Click here for a complete list of the 2018 nominations!


2018 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards Judges

The 2018 Will Eisner Comic Industry Award Judges (l to r): Nhora Serrano, Tate Ottati, Candice Mack, Graeme McMillan, Alex Simmons, and William Wilson. Photo: Jackie Estrada

Candice (Wing-Yee) Mack (librarian, Los Angeles Public Library)

Congratulations to all of the nominees and many thanks to all who submitted for your fantastic art and stories! With so much great and diverse work published last year, you made our task super difficult! 

The experience was one of the most challenging yet blissful things I’ve ever had the great fortune to do in my life. Even though I had read, read, and read some more leading up to our deliberations, it was not enough (it’s never enough, people)—it’s like a four-day marathon that you run with your mind. Honestly, though, having too many great works to choose from was a wonderful problem to have. As a SoCal native who first attended Comic-Con as a teen myself, the opportunity to be a member of this esteemed jury was a dream come true. Having the chance to help narrow down the terrific work in the kids and teens categories was particularly meaningful to me both personally and professionally, and something I never would have imagined I would get to do.  

Graeme McMillan (comics reviewer/journalist)

There is, it should be noted, nothing that can prepare you for the experience of being an Eisner judge. From the moment I accepted the invitation (as surprised, humbled, and flattered as I was, and convinced that I was just seconds away from getting an email that read, “Oh, no, wait, we made a mistake and were thinking of someone else, never mind”), I was filled with a mixture of excitement about the honor, responsibility for what lay ahead, and downright fear for the amount of material I’d be reading over the following months. All of that remained true throughout the entire process, but nonetheless, I had underestimated how much of everything lay ahead. (Especially the amount of things to read.)

If there was one single highlight to the whole experience—besides discovering so many amazing comics and creators I had never heard of and now find myself raving about to friends and strangers alike, that is—it was the other judges. The idea of being essentially locked in a room with anyone for four days, even to talk comic books, should be horrifying, but every single fellow judge was a joy to be around, funny and smart and charming and with far better taste than me.

And thrillingly, the entire experience left me even more excited: About what is being published, what is happening in the medium and the industry right now, and what lies ahead for any number of creators, publishers, and comics as a whole. I’m honestly unsure what I went into the Eisners expecting, but I came out of it with an even stronger love for comics. 

Tate Ottati (owner, Tate’s Comics, Lauderhill, FL)

When I was first asked to be an Eisner Judge I was very excited! It is quite an honor and I thought it would be an interesting and valuable experience. but then I got the first list of books and I was like “What did i get myself into!?” The sheer volume and quality of submissions were overwhelming. I had no idea how hard the Eisner committee works to make this all happen. Running a comic book store for 25 years and reading comics and graphic novels on a weekly basis only somewhat prepared me to actually judge them. It was difficult to whittle down the massive list, because so many of them were exceptional.

Being an Eisner judge is one of the highlights of my comic retailing career and I am very honored to be a part of it. It opened my eyes to a great many new comics and graphic novels that I did not know existed. It helped me rethink how to order and display all these wonderful books in my store. I also really enjoyed getting to know the other Eisner judges. It was interesting to spend so much time in a room reading with people from all over the industry. They are all nice, awesome people!

Nhora Serrano (comics scholar, Hamilton College, Clinton, NY)

What a sincere honor, thrill, and privilege it was to have served as a judge for the Eisners 2018. Jackie Estrada and my fellow judges are phenomenal people with whom I am so lucky to have shared this experience.

Being an Eisner judge was exhilarating because it offered the opportunity to read comics nonstop for many months. In preparation for the long April weekend with my fellow judges, I relished every available moment to read comics in digital form and in print—joyful, inspiring, and delightful is how I would sum up my reading preparation.

2017 was undeniably an extraordinarily great year of writing, drawing, inking, pencilling, and coloring punctuated by many refreshing refashionings of past characters and stories as well as new stories from North America and abroad. Equally impressive was the vitality of continuing characters, styles, artwork, and stories. It was indeed an embarrassment of riches before my fellow judges and myself. Jackie Estrada kept us on task throughout the long weekend and very, very long nights. Moreover, with sincere respect to one another and to the comics before us, my fellow judges and myself engaged in such a wonderful exchange of ideas, aesthetics, and opinions, and with humor no less. We enjoyed each other’s company and respected each other’s extremely differing opinions. In the end, the ballot is an eclectic one that accurately reflects the many, many thoughtful conversations amongst us, the myriad of comics experiences that we each brought to the table, and, more important, the extraordinarily great comics production in 2017. Thank you to the awesome 2017 comics creators for making our task an enriching, challenging, and fulfilling venture.

Alex Simmons (comics writer/artist/educator)

What was it like to be charged with the task of choosing the works that would be placed before the world of comic book professionals to be voted as The Best of the Best? It was a responsibility, an honor, and a challenge and a half. Because we were not only trying to apply our intellect to the task, but also portions of our artistic opinions, personal taste, a certain degree of fairness, as well as a large degree of open-mindedness. Many of these were not books that I gone to the store to purchase. Certainly I am not a fan of every genre, format, or art style I viewed. But in looking at the work I found that I was literally trying to judge the work on its own merits—on the ability exhibited to tell a good story, to make clear the concepts, to illustrate the tale in such a way that it was engaging or compelling or humorous. Always the question was: Is this the best it could be? And then, how does it hold up against like material by other artists and writers? To come to that decision as an individual you have to be fair and really look at it for the effort and quality that was put into that particular creation.

In working with the other judges I found we were all reasonable human beings. We weren't there with an agenda, or some inflated sense of our own importance. We are there as lovers of the medium and as people who respected the amount of time and effort that had been placed in each property we were given to review. I especially enjoyed the fact that we were able to discuss any questions, confusions, and differences of opinion that came up. We were able to work together to accomplish what we hope would be a respectful and honest end result. I think we accomplished that. And I would happily work with these people again on pretty much anything.

William F. Wilson (longtime Comic-Con volunteer)

The four-day intensive Eisner judging would tax even the most diehard fan. We found a variety of material being produced way beyond what the public thinks of as "comic books." I've been attending Comic-Con since 1971 and am best know for promoting Japanese animation and international comics. Comics as produced in America have reached throughout the world, with Japan, Korea, the African nations, and India producing their own versions of comics. (This may necessitate rethinking the International category as more outstanding material becomes available on a global scale.)

This year's judging committee was a diverse mix of male and female; white, African American, Latino, and Asian; pro, fan, and academic; East Coast, Midwest, and West Coast; gay and straight. We didn't always agree, but we agreed to disagree and came up with a ballot that reflects excellence in the medium for this year.

I feel privileged to have contributed to this year's Eisner nominations and look forward to the awards ceremony at Comic-Con in July.