Our series on the Eisner Awards was never meant to be predictive of who would win — quite the contrary, we were only trying to profile some of the nominated titles, because they’re all worth reading. But obviously some titles had to win, and some had to lose, and now that the ceremony is over, we can take a second look at some of the winners.
The big winner this year was unquestionably Southern Bastards, by Jason Aaron and Jason Latour. The book won Best Continuing Series and Jason Aaron also picked up a Best Writer award, reinforcing the esteem in which this book is held in the comics community. Southern Bastards is a title we’ve been reviewing for a while here on Sequart, and we never fail to sing the praises of this deep and challenging profile of a peculiar and fascinating part of American society. It does the South the favour of taking its culture seriously, and while some characters may appear cartoonish, they all have twists and shades that defy easy generalizations. There are equally great books in publication (Manifest Destiny and Invisible Republic, for example), but that in no way takes away from Southern Bastards’ great night.
Another notable winner is Brian K. Vaughan’s Paper Girls, which picked up its award for Best New Series. Paper Girls is exciting, funny, compelling, just complex enough and touches enough nostalgic notes to be almost the epitome of a successful modern comic. Focusing on the adventures of a gang of female newspaper delivery agents in 1989, in the most recent issue, the series has found new notes to touch, bringing a 14-year-old face-to-face with the disappointed 40-year-old version of herself. It has created a world and a setting with enough convolutions to open up many fascinating narrative paths, so as it continues, no doubt readers will continue to be surprised. The artist behind Paper Girls, Cliff Chiang, was also recognized with a Best Penciller/Inker, and there’s certainly no question that his innovative use of shade and shadow, combined with expressive characters, only serve to enhance this promising and enjoyable comic.
One of our favourite books, Descender, won Dustin Nguyen an award for Best Painter/Multimedia Artist, and it’s surely richly deserved. Nguyen’s art, which has evolved over the course of the run, finds fresh ways to render a science fiction epic with a human touch, which is perfect for Jeff Lemire’s touchingly human story (ironically mostly about robots). It’s interesting that Lemire wasn’t recognized for his writing, but of course, that doesn’t mean there’s any lack of respect for him in the comics community. At the end of the day, there can be only one winner in each category, and that cold fact makes it necessary to make sometimes difficult choices.
A wonderful book we profiled here, March: Book Two by Rep. John Lewis, telling the story of his involvement in the civil rights movement, won for Best Reality-Based Work. Comics are such a powerful storytelling medium that when they take on a story that has inherent power, the results can be breathtaking.
One final observation: three of the titles we just mentioned, Southern Bastards, Paper Girls and Descender (along with The Fade Out, which won for Best Limited Series) are published by Image Comics. That’s an impressive haul of awards for one label. Marvel, by contrast, took home only a handful of awards, and DC even fewer (only one, and a shared one at that, for Sandman), for all their thousands of titles and millions of readers. That’s one thing that distinguishes the Eisners from the Oscars: it’s not a popularity contest. The most interesting and daring comics, with the best storytelling, are actually honoured. Sure, there were books that I, personally, would have noted (Invisible Republic in particular), but just like we mentioned in our profile of the nominees, all of the winners are worth reading, and all deserve a hearty congratulations.