Some thoughts on the Eisner Awards

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oldreubens 300x277 Some thoughts on the Eisner Awards(National Cartoonist Society, Reuben Dinner, 1969)

Earlier, Heidi lamented that the Eisner Awards were not given more notice by the general public.

But there are ways. Why aren’t the Eisners a bigger deal? EVERYONE, it seems, has planned their party opposite the Eisners, and it’s understandable when the ceremony has evolved into such a chore even for the nominees. But that’s not how it should be. Why isn’t EVERY media outlet covering the Eisners? The ceremony is caught between the Old Ways and the Newfangled. It wants to be the last ceremony of the Olden Days with the Russ Manning award and Sergio and retailers — but it also wants to have nerdlebrities — Jane Wiedlin and stormtroopers. We say — make the studios pony up! If they want to keep competing with their poker pals to have the biggest display in the parking lot outside the Gaslamp Hilton, make ‘em spend some money to make the Eisners party the Governor’s ball! Make it THE place you have to be before you go off to your studio/agency soiree.

I typed a blazing rant in the comments box, but then decided to let the topic simmer.

So, here are my thoughts on the Eisners, and how to improve upon an awards program which has been running since 1988.  These are not recommendations, because nobody is paying me to think about this, nor do I possess any professional expertise in this topic.  I merely offer perceptions, and hope others will offer their opinions as well.

Here’s what I’d like to see in the future:

1)  An awards banquet. The Harvey Awards has followed this format for the past few years.  Attendees pay for a ticket, receive a gift bag from the event sponsors, and then are assigned a place setting.  Certain tables would be located near electrical outlets to accommodate journalists.  A secondary ballroom, sponsored, would be reserved for general attendees, and have a closed video feed to monitors.

For the Eisners, there could be a cocktail reception from 4 to 6 PM, allowing people to congregate, chat, and if necessary, pose on the red carpet for media.  Companies can purchase tables, and there can also be “open” tables for the general public.  A percentage of the ticket sales could be donated to charity.  The ballroom foyer bar remains open throughout the event, allowing attendees a venue for private conversations or other needs.

At 5:30 PM, the ballroom opens, allowing guests to find their seats.  At 6, the event starts with the usual festivities.  Dinner is served during the ceremony.

By 10 PM, the event is done.  The ballroom is cleared and an after-party is scheduled with a cash bar, preferably somewhere epic and picturesque, adding to the buzz and glamor of the awards.  It is open to all convention attendees.

40731270 Some thoughts on the Eisner Awards2)  Awards anthologies. Other literary awards publish anthologies.  These anthologies serve to promote the awards and the winners, generating exposure for both.  (This is the fundamental reason why awards exist.)  These anthologies are also an excellent introduction to the best of a specific category, format, or subject.

Some publishers are guarded when it comes to anthologies… they sometimes do not allow their stories to be published alongside that of other publishers.  This is understandable, but frustrating as well.  Why hasn’t ANY comics publisher issued their own Eisner Awards collection?  A few years ago, Warner Brothers Entertainment issued a DVD containing all of their Oscar nominees and winners for Best Animated Short.  Why does DC Entertainment not offer the same for their Eisner Award winners?

Comic-Con International could also license a general anthology, perhaps even including a clause in the rules allowing for republication of all nominees (with adequate compensation, of course).  With the Twenty-Fifth anniversary of the Eisner Awards approaching, CCI has an excellent opportunity to not only produce a beautiful history book of the Eisner Awards, but to also launch an annual “yearbook” of nominees and winners.  A Hall Of Fame series would also be worthwhile.

eisners seal lg 300x147 Some thoughts on the Eisner Awards3) Better advertising.  Most comics fans and professionals know about the Eisner Awards.  The general public?  They have no idea that comics earn awards.  Awards anthologies help, but an even simpler solution exists: place the awards seal on the cover of the winning graphic novel.  An awards seal, more than a review or author blurb, is a quick and effective way to tell a reader “THIS IS A GOOD BOOK YOU SHOULD READ”.

The awards seal also makes it easier for retailers to market award winners.  Instead of thumbing through twenty-two years of winners and nominees, retailers can, at a glance, pull and merchandise titles for special displays.  (Comic book shops are slowly evolving into specialty bookstores.  Many (most?) do not yet merchandise graphic novels with monthly displays, or even display the weekly New York Times bestsellers.)

Once retailers begin to promote Eisner Award nominees and winners, then customers will begin to realize the worth of the award.  Customers will then seek out nominees and winners, creating demand, which will then generate greater sales for publishers.  Everyone knows how much an Oscar nomination is worth at the box office.  Booksellers know that the Pulitzer, National Book Award, Newbery, and other well-known literary awards generate instant sales.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the same were true for the Eisner Awards?

CCI does offer book seals (since 2008), which can be pricey in bulk.  Do they also offer downloadable graphics?  Is there a style manual for designers to follow, so that there is a brand identity for the awards?  (I don’t see a trademark symbol on the book seals, or near any of the other Eisner Award graphics on the CCI website.)  How difficult is it for a publisher to use the Eisner iconography?  Is it simpler to just place a text blurb on the cover, which reduces the branding of the award?

Among comics awards, the Eisners are one of the oldest and most respected.  Celebrities participate, and every year, the selection process becomes more difficult as amazing works are published.  Wouldn’t it be marvelous if the Awards themselves were as amazing as the titles being honored?

Comments

  1. My family and I have attended several Eisners. We would like to see hall of fame awards given to artists who are still LIVING. It’s great to give an award posthumously, but why not give one when the artist is living??? I would like to see more winners/nominees show up….if not, skype them live. I would love to see them start and end early.

  2. EXCELLENT ideas, Torsten! I’m sure that Jackie Estrada and the convention staff will look into the possibilities of making at least some of these things happen.

  3. Randall Kirby says:

    I’d like to see the event simulcast over the internet.

  4. Wouldn’t it be great if G4 covered the event live?

  5. Why isn’t EVERY media outlet covering the Eisners?

    Because outside of our sub-culture of obsessives, and Hollywood looking for new material, no one cares about comics.

    And when they did care, it was because everyone thought you could stick them in plastic bags and make millions of dollars off of them twenty years later.

    We’re even on geek culture’s fringe. We’re never going to get the rest of the world excited about the Eisners.

  6. Nate Horn says:

    @William George

    Yep. We’re lower than model train collectors and stamp collectors. Comics is one of the least popular hobbies out there.

  7. ugggghhhhh.

    I thought the idea of an official award seal to put on books was great.

    William George and Nate Horn: miss me with that “nobody likes comics” talk. Self-defeated, simultaneously, self-absorbed, victimology, “poor me,” what. EVER.

  8. CitizenCliff says:

    Torsten has made some very sensible and exciting suggestions. I’d love to see his plan implemented.

    Award ceremonies and all-star games and other events that honored excellence all started off small at one time. It wasn’t until someone focused on the event and made it important that it became so. The Academy Awards didn’t start off as a huge, internationally viewed event (well, they didn’t have TV or satellites but that’s besides the point).

    My point is, if we say “this is import, this is a moment once a year where the comics industry, the comics community and fans stop what they are doing for one evening and acknowledge the efforts of the best and brightest, then I believe, over time this event could grow into a respected cultural event.

    If ESPN can have a televised star-studded evening of awards for the X-games, honoring people who ride skateboards and BMX bikes, I don’t believe it’s a fantasy that an evening of honoring comics writers and artists on a grand scale is asking too much.

  9. Serhend Sirkecioglu says:

    I can only recall one time i saw the Eisner Award sticker on a book, it was on later editions of Tekkonkinkreet. until we can get the Wal-Mart moms to buy comics or some more Twilight GNs, I think were still a niche market only to be adapted into hit-or-miss franchise films. I think comics will get bigger when we get that “IDKWTF it’s selling, but thank god it is!” Book(s) and it introduces the general public to comics and they re-establish the industry with their wallets. eh, hopeful thinking.

  10. Nate Horn says:

    @darrlyayo

    It’s not a victim mindset and it’s certainly not poor me. It’s just irrational to expect a widespread interest in comic awards. The Academy Awards and ESPYs are popular because most people like movies and sports. Most people don’t care about comics and pretending like they do isn’t going to make the Eisner Awards matter.

  11. The awards are for those that do care. If someone is looking for a Graphic Novel, they might take note of the fact that it won an award for excellence and take that into account.

  12. Love the awards seal idea

  13. Mr. Horn,

    Again: victim.

    I care about comics. The readers of Beat, Comics Reporter, Comics Journal, Daily Crosshatch, Comic Book Resources, Comicon, Newsarama, Scans_Daily, Warren Ellis’s forums, LiveJournal and the thousands who just pick up their pull lists every week care.

    No one is saying that being on the same level of cultural awareness as “SPORTS” and “FILM” is the barometer of whether or not we should even bother. We SHOULD bother BECAUSE. WE. CARE.

    Comics’ low self-esteem is not sexy.

  14. To clarify:

    Comic Con International does offer awards seals. That’s where the above image came from:
    http://www.comic-con.org/cci/cci_eisners_seals.shtml

    Most people don’t care about comics?
    How many people read comic strips? How many people attend movies based on comic books and graphic novels?

    Stream the next Eisner Awards ceremony. Track how many sites and how many viewers bother to watch. Slice each award into a separate YouTube video and see who watches and comments.

    Like Comic-Con itself, some people might watch just to see a celebrity. But that’s not much different than have a celebrity endorsement in a commercial. Let the awards ceremony serve as a big commercial for the awards and the winners.

  15. Synsidar says:

    There is a problem with the Eisner Awards in that the awards don’t relate directly to what makes a given comic informative or entertaining. Awards such as “Best Cover Artist” and “Best Coloring” might cause the winners to rejoice, but they don’t influence buying decisions. In other cases, such as “Best Adaptation from Another Work,” won by Darywn Cooke, the award is good for Cooke, but it won’t lead readers who aren’t interested in Westlake’s “Richard Stark” novels to buy his adaptations. The awards are for work within the format, not within genres, while people generally buy material to read on the basis of the genre, the genre author, or other factors, not the format.

    Combine that lack of focus with the lower profiles of creators and the serialization of material, and there are problems. There are few enough movies produced during the year so that people can see many of them, assemble their “Best of” and “Worst of” lists, follow their favorite actors, etc. A comics reader can’t do that, and he’d have to spend time reading material he had no interest in, just for the sake of knowing about it.

    If comics were published primarily as OGNs in a variety of genres and as close-ended works, the awards would be as significant as they are elsewhere in publishing.

    SRS

  16. Karen says:

    I think the Eisner seal is a great idea. I had this exact conversation with someone at ALA, who claimed that it didn’t make sense because the people who buy comics won’t care about the seal. When I pointed out that my mom bought me every Newberry seal-bearing book available, the response was, “Yeah: it was your MOM buying the book based on the seal–not you.” The thought was that such seals only impress people who aren’t the actual target audience.

    But it seems to me that the target audience is the same for both seals: the people who are actually laying down the cash.

    And you know what? Why don’t we just TRY it for a year or two and see what effects it could have? I simply can’t see why blind nay-saying should be the default response.

  17. The Eisner nominee seal already appears on the latest printing of the “Irredeemable” trade, volume #1.

  18. I haven’t been to Comic-Con in awhile, but every year that I went, I attended the Eisners. It was my favorite event for the week. I remember they used to serve a dinner before the ceremony — with reserved tables and gift bags. It was nice. Did they stop doing that?

    Streaming the award show online would be great, especially for people like me who can’t make it to San Diego every year. I’d like to hear the speeches. And I want to know who skipped out.

    Also, the Eisners need a better “official site.” In this regard, the Harveys have the Eisners beat.

  19. Scott Rowland says:

    Good suggestions. The current ceremony just doesn’t work for me — too long for me to just sit there. Before the ceremony, I was bemoaning the fact that so few fans attend. Afterwards, I understood why. Reading Heidi’s blog was a much better use of my time to find out what happened and who won.

  20. What’s extra sad to me is that this is the first “Eisner Awards” article I’ve seen regarding ComicCon in the past week. It’s even overlooked withing comic news circles.

  21. I’ll be ordering “Nominee” seals for my book “Angora Napkin” ASAP! No kidding it’s an honor just to be nominated, I’m going to wear that title with pride the rest of my days!

    I had a great time at the Eisners, I don’t see what the fuss is about. 3 hours once a year isn’t much to ask to showcase some of the years best (and I’m saying that as someone who’s gone before as a fan just to clap loudly for those deserving people).

    In any case, anything can be improved upon and I’ve read some good suggestions here. Just keep it happening and keep drawing attention to it!

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