Eisner action climax!!!

Hey, look!  Awards!  Handed out Friday, as reported by The Pulse!  We all like awards!  I will comment like this.  You can also get the full list of noms here.  As a special bonus, you'll find out that I really haven't read as many comics as I should have.  I'll try to be helpful anyway. 

2004 Eisner Award winners:

Best Short Story - "Death," by Neil Gaiman and P. Craig Russell, in The Sandman: Endless Nights (Vertigo/DC)

I sort of liked this one when I first read it, but the two plots really shouldn't have literally met by the end.  It would have been a stronger story if the 'past' and 'present' stories had been allowed to comment on each other on a strictly philosophic level.  Bringing them both together felt forced, even contrived.  I recall Russell's art being very nice, though, and it was certainly one of the stronger stories in the anthology, for what it's worth.  Lapham's "Matrix" story was the only other nominee I'd read.  It was pretty decent for that particular anthology, which leaned very heavily toward ALL OUT ACTION RARGH.  Ironically, I thought Gaiman's (prose) story was the best in that book, being one of the few to actually explore some of the more interesting possibilities within the Matrix, in a direction I wish the film sequels had gone in.  And I just know I'm gonna regret holding off on "Same Difference and Other Stories"...

Best Single Issue (or One-Shot) - TIE - Conan The Legend #0, by Kurt Busiek and Cary Nord (Dark Horse), The Goon #1, by Eric Powell (Dark Horse)

"The Goon" is now an award-winning comic.  That is wonderful.  It's great fun, with each issue delivering gory action and good humor, with often splendid art.  I'd have gone with issue #5 myself, which, for a special surprise, featured no ads and tied many of the seemingly random plot threads together, but hey, might as well go with the introduction.  That thinking may have gone against fellow nominee "Giant THB 1.v.2" which was neat, but was part of a lengthy continuing story.  I really ought to start reading "Finder", which everybody seems to like...

Best Serialized Story - Gotham Central #6-10: "Half a Life," by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark (DC)

I have managed to read none of the nominees here.  Yes, not even "Mother Come Home", although I've read issues #1 and #5 of "Forlorn Funnies" (loved the former, heavily mixed on the latter).

Best Continuing Series - 100 Bullets, by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso (Vertigo/DC)

Best Limited Series - Unstable Molecules, by James Sturm and Guy Davis (Marvel)

Nope.  Didn't like this one at all.  It felt like an attempt to cram each and every shopworn 1950's cliche into a huge sack, which was then beaten about the head and neck of the FF.  Some of the insights were pretty good (Invisible Woman as the unseen housewife) but they were conveyed through only the most oft-retold era highlights possible (Sexual repression!  Youth rebellion!  Science serving the shady government!  Racism!  Yipes!).  It made an interesting essay, but not a very involving story.  And the only other nominee I kind of read was "Global Frequency", which had a nice issue #1, and then steadily declined in unassuming action-movie quality until I dropped it following #4. 

Best New Series - Plastic Man, by Kyle Baker (DC)

I also haven't read "Sleeper".  I am a sinner of great volume.

Best Title for a Younger Audience - Walt Disney's Uncle Scrooge, by various (Gemstone)

Good ol' "Uncle Scrooge".  Not much into the newer stuff, but the Barks material is timeless stuff.  And don't get me started with Floyd Gottfredson's "Mickey Mouse" stuff, which hooked me on comics forever at a tender age.  I had no idea the stuff was half a century old.  Does this book have Barks in it?  I don't know.  I do know that "Peanutbutter and Jeremy's Best Book Ever!" was damn fun stuff as well.

Best Humor Publication - Formerly Known as the Justice League, by Keith Giffen, J. M. DeMatteis, Kevin Maguire, and Joe Rubinstein (DC)

I am so poorly read.  Soooooooooooo poorly read.

Best Anthology - The Sandman: Endless Nights, by Neil Gaiman, Dave McKean, P. Craig Russell, Miguelanxo Prado, Barron Storey, Frank Quitely, Glenn Fabry, Milo Manara, and Bill Sienkiewicz; co-edited by Karen Berger and Shelly Bond (Vertigo/DC)

But the anthology itself was a mixed bag, aside from the almost-there Death story and a pretty rad Despair story which a bunch of people hated, but I found to be a nice kick-in-the-gut, aided tremendously by Storey's art and McKean's arrangements.  The rest of the book wasn't quite there.  Dream was fun for fans, I guess, although it felt more like a taste of future 'past Endless' stories than a story itself.  A lot of it was just 'meh', although the art was quite good throughout, and the book was handsomely designed (by McKean).  I'd maybe give the two Dark Horse books a slight advantage, although both varied wildly in quality (as most multi-writer anthologies do, granted).  Now "D&Q 5", I've been meaning to get to... 

Best Graphic Album - New - Blankets, by Craig Thompson (Top Shelf)

Ok.  I'd have given it to "The Fixer" or "Persepolis" myself, both of which I found to be far more absorbing, but not too much to say here.

Best Graphic Album - Reprint - Batman Adventures: Dangerous Dames and Demons, by Paul Dini, Bruce Timm, and others (DC)

Wha?!  Ok, I'm gonna have to defer to The Beat here, and agree that "The snob vote got split".  I haven't read "Batman Adventures" and I'm sure it's a very nice book, but there is no way it's better than a full decade's worth of Jim Woodring's stunning wordless work, or the staggering emotional force (and perhaps a more focused force) of "Quimby the Mouse" (and people accuse Ware of being chilly and detached, hiding himself behind a wall of style... the scene with Quimby slowly disassembling the bed had to be one of the most intense moments I've read in last year's comics).  Those two alone make for a formidable choice.  And "Palomar" is another huge collection of years and years of often fine work.  And "Louis Riel" is reportedly a fine historical series.  But... that's the problem, isn't it?  I can't choose only one of those.  Not easily.  And I bet the judges couldn't either, and when push came to shove, very few Batman votes took down the other divided factions. 

Best Archival Collection/Project - Krazy and Ignatz, 1929–1930, by George Herriman, edited by Bill Blackbeard (Fantagraphics)

No argument.  I adore "Krazy Kat".  It's Fantagraphics' other great classic strip project.  You need to hear Krazy's voice.  The strip's got a killer learning curve.  But once Krazy can talk to you as you read him/her, it fucking sings. 

Best U.S. Edition of Foreign Material - Buddha, vols. 1 and 2, by Osamu Tezuka (Vertical)

A very big project, and I like what I've seen, although I'm behind (missing Vol. 3 and 4).  I think it's a solid choice.  Clearly some would say "Persepolis" is a more significant work, but I think Tezuka's wild brew of history and adventure and sometimes jarring comic energy will prove to be quite vital itself over its 8 volumes.  Certainly "Phoenix" has not let me down (well... Yamato was sort of weak, I'll concede).

Best Writer - Alan Moore, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Promethea, Smax, Tom Strong, Tom Strong's Terrific Tales (ABC)

Given the nominees here, I think Moore's "LOEG 2" (an improvement on the original in every way, save for pacing, with some truly surprising character evolutions and an even darker sense of satire for the era's fictional universe) and "Promethea" (a wildly self-indulgent but equally entertaining work, finally ushering Moore's career-length fascination with the revisitation of story archetypes to its logical conclusion - nothing less than a spiritual worldview based on tellings and retellings of countless layers of tales) easily qualify him for this year's prize.

Best Writer/Artist - Craig Thompson, Blankets (Top Shelf)

Best Writer/Artist - HumorKyle Baker, Plastic Man (DC); The New Baker (Kyle Baker Publishing)

I don't know.  I flipped through the new "Plastic Man" series and it didn't grab me at all.  Is "The New Baker" more interesting?  I know "Bone" never quite reached the heights of its first few years, but it was always a beautiful book, and the story never felt really bad, just a bit tired.  I liked the final issue a lot, but that stuff couldn't be factored in for this year's awards anyway.  Ah hell.  I'd hand it to Tony Millionaire, whose new "Sock Monkey" issues were smoking fuck good.  Especially Vol. 4 #1, which was funny and cute while being so deeply, deeply sad.  And that doll, sinking, sinking... but that's just me.

Best Penciller/Inker or Penciller/Inker Team - John Cassaday, Planetary, Planetary/Batman: Night on Earth (WildStorm/DC); Hellboy Weird Tales (Dark Horse)

Best Painter/Multimedia Artist (interior art) - Jill Thompson, "Stray," in The Dark Horse Book of Hauntings (Dark Horse)

Best Coloring - Patricia Mulvihill, Batman, Wonder Woman (DC), 100 Bullets (Vertigo/DC)

Best Lettering - Todd Klein, Detective Comics( DC); Fables, The Sandman: Endless Nights (Vertigo/DC); Tom Strong, Promethea (ABC); 1602 (Marvel)

So the last issue of "Cerebus" was March 2004, which would make next year's awards the one where they give Sim the gold watch, right?  He'll deserve the award, though, since he's probably the best letterer anywhere.  Some of the sound effects in those 2003 Last Day issues were beyond belief... 

Best Cover Artist - James Jean, Batgirl (DC), Fables (Vertigo/DC)

Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition - Derek Kirk Kim (writer/artist, Same Difference and Other Stories)

Yep, I gotta check this book out...

Best Comics-Related Periodical - Comic Book Artist, edited by Jon B. Cooke (Top Shelf)

Best Comics-Related Book - The Art of Hellboy, by Mike Mignola (Dark Horse)

I was gonna throw out a question as to the validity of sketchbooks in competition with prose books about comics, but you know what?  I'm not sure if anything good would come of it.  The Best Graphic Album Reprint category is almost as big a jumble with recently collected miniseries going up against decade-spanning collections.  I'll just say that I found the "Acme Novelty Datebook" to be a very telling book on the creation of Chris Ware comics, and I value that a lot.  Each judge will differ, of course. 

Best Publication Design - Mythology: The DC Comics Art of Alex Ross, designed by Chip Kidd (Pantheon)

Against the gaudy foil map of Quimby?  No Sir!

Judges’ Choices: Otto Binder, John Stanley, Kasuo Koike and Goseki Kojima

Voters selection: Al Capp, Jules Feiffer, Don Martin, Jerry Robinson

Sigh.  No Floyd Gottfredson.  I mean, the others deserve it too, but Floyd's close to my heart, man...