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Judges’ Comments on the 2017 Eisner Awards Process

The Eisner Awards judging panel met in San Diego in late April to go through over a thousand submissions to arrive at 5-6 nominees in each of 30 categories. The nominations were announced on May 2. Here is what several of the judges had to say about their experience. For more information on this year’s nominees, click here; for a complete list of 2017 nominees, click here.

2017 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards Judges

The 2017 Eisner Awards judges (left to right): Dawn Rutherford, Rob Clough, Alan Campbell, Martha Thomases, Robert Peaslee, and Jamie Newbold.


Rob Clough

Comics critic (,

Being a judge for the Eisners was the hardest fun thing I've ever done. Having each judge represent a different field related to comics (critic, retailer, librarian, academic, professional, voice of fan) gives the awards an immediate structure that not only helps assure a wide variety of tastes and experiences but also makes it possible to tackle the breadth of the categories.

Working with the other judges was an incredible experience. The teamwork, passion, and camaraderie regarding comics and our mission to celebrate excellence was palpable. Even when we disagreed, the group was always able to come to a consensus. I miss my fellow judges and I miss the experience itself.

This year's crop of comics was excellent. A number of favorites from my "best of” list didn't make it on the final slate of nominees, yet I'm still thrilled by the slate that we came up with. There were so many talented new voices in comics that made it onto the ballot, yet there were also a number of veterans who returned after an absence of some time. Overall, I saw that more time and effort are being put into comics now than ever before, and by a greater and more diverse population of creators.

Jamie Newbold

Owner, Southern California Comics, San Diego

Jackie asked me to write a little memoir about my Eisner judging experience, but it was already created when I was halfway through the experience. I was proud to be invited, I felt a kinship with the other judges, and I loved to be an "insider" at Comic-Con. Even though I own a comic book store, I still likely would never have read most of the material I was tasked with. I'm talking roughly two months of reading leading right up to the last day of judgment. Working in tandem with the others, I was so enveloped in the long process that I lost track of time. The level of energy and concentration involved for each reading submission was arduous, even daunting. My sense of responsibility to all the talented submitters deemed it necessary to give all their due and 100 percent of my attention; we all did. I would do it again in a heartbeat!

Robert Moses Peaslee

Associate professor and chair in the Department of Journalism & Electronic Media, Texas Tech University

Judging for the Eisners was one of the most enlightening, energizing, and exciting experiences of my professional life. Coming into the judging weekend, aside from being incredibly honored to have been asked, I was overwhelmed by the enormity of the task: how could a small group of people, no matter how carefully they’ve been chosen, truly come to any kind of consensus on the top five or six examples within dozens of worthy possibilities?

The answer, in part, was Jackie Estrada at CCI, who brought together a functional group of experts and laid out for them a manageable selection process. The other part of the answer was the enormous generosity shown among the judges. The truth is that we didn’t all like the same things. There were many books or stories that I loved that didn’t get nominated because someone else disliked them or the rest of the group was lukewarm toward them. But in a time when civility and respect appear to be endangered species, our process was always civil and respectful. I am deeply grateful to my fellow judges for that.

Although the process is inherently imperfect, I’m so glad the process exists. Let’s celebrate the fact that we have something called “the Eisners,” that we have a system for recognizing great work in the fields of comics and sequential art, that we have the opportunity and the support to celebrate the greatest of our creators, and that we have an organization in Comic-Con International that has championed this artform for decades. To have been even the smallest part of this incredible tradition is surely a gift.

Dawn Rutherford

Teen services coordinator, Sno-Isle Libraries, Washington State

It was such a tremendous honor and pleasure to be one of the Eisner judges this year. While I have been a huge comics reader for years, it was a satisfying challenge to get outside my comfort zone and read even more broadly across this booming industry. I loved discussing the works and artists with other experts and having meaty discussions about their strengths and nuances. It was a ton of very intensive reading, both leading up to the judging and during our encampment in the conference room. I don't think I had ever dreamed about reading comics before this! But if you have the passion and opportunity to be an Eisner judge someday, I highly recommend doing so.

Martha Thomases

Comics writer, columnist at

When Jackie called to ask if I would be an Eisner judge, I was sure she had made a mistake or that every other person in the world had already turned her down. I mean, I’m the sixty-something woman who still reads Superman comics regularly. (It feels like my regular call home to my parents.) Shouldn’t she be asking people with more artistic tastes?

As it turned out, she did. And, as it turned out, we brought our different tastes to a room full of comics and spent an entire weekend talking about them. We might have touched on politics and the weather and which snacks are the best, but mostly we talked about comics. I found books that were outside of my comfort zone and I loved them. I found books that should have been right up my alley that left me cold. 

It was glorious.

I don’t know what the rules are about being a repeat judge, and I would, intellectually, support having different judges every year. But I’d love to come back again. I mean, I found academics and librarians who loved super-pets as much as I do. That, alone, gives me reason to go on living.