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Eric: The decline and fall of Esteem: why the Eagle Awards depress me.

I have three core "favorite comic books of all time." I went through a stage where I read a ton of comics each month (I'm almost completely out of comic books now, I should mention. If it ain't online, it's not likely to hold my attention), but there are three that had me, held me, and to this day I revere to the point of psychopathic obsession.

The first is the Legion of Super Heroes. Which means I'm one of those bitter people who still refuses to buy the 'Legion' they put out now, with the snake wearing Jeckie's powers and the dead "leviathan" and all the rest. The forthcoming rereboot of the Legion has me no happier. My Legion died at the end of the Magic Wars, and my desperate hopes that the corpse would reanimate ended at Zero Hour when they finally put a bullet into the Legion's brain and cut off the head.

The second is the Green Lantern Corps version of Green Lantern (though I dearly love Alan Scott and I think Kyle Rayner could have been handled well. He just wasn't). Maybe it's that part of me that loves Space Opera. Or maybe it's because I desperately want a power ring. But I've just adored the Silver Age Green Lantern, and while I think trying so hard to wipe away the last twelve years and bring Hal Jordan back is just plain stupid, I can hope it means a Corps will rise again. I might even buy that comic.

I loved the above two. But neither of them can claim to be my all time favorite comic. No, there's just room for one at the top, and that one is absolutely clear. The Micronauts.

The Micronauts.

I loved loved loved the Micronauts the way only an eleven year old could love anything. They were grand and majestic -- and yeah they were based on toys, but so what? I owned those toys. And the toys were the leaping off point for the series. They were epic, cosmic space opera. Baron Karza was a kind of evil Doctor Doom only dreamed of. Commander Arcturus Rann was the epitome of heroes, and his embodiment of the mysterious Enigma Force produced the kind of reaction in me that five or six years before fans of Darkseid and Kirby's Fourth World felt when they read his stuff. I was passionately in love with Princess Mari/Marionette, I thought Michael Golden's art was the best stuff ever (and became a dedicated Pat Broderick fan -- an opinion that carried me through his runs on Firestorm and Captain Atom later on -- when he took it over), and as for Bill Mantlo's writing? The man grokked space opera, simple as that.

The Micronauts never got to be rockstars at Marvel, though. They were also rans, after Spider Man and the Avengers (this was all in the years before X-Men hit it big and wiped away the Stan Lee era pretty completely, mind). Eventually, they were one of three "more sophisticated" books to go direct-sales only (along with Moon Knight and Ka-Zar), which proved to be as fatal for them as it was for the New Titans and to a lesser extent to the Legion over at DC (In effect, Marvel tried it with their lower-selling books, and DC tried it with their top selling books. It wasn't until the speculator craze hit that comic book stores took off enough to make direct-only workable.) So, I always felt like the Micronauts weren't getting their due.

And then one day, emblazoned across the top of the cover, just under Marvel Comics Group, was a banner. "WINNER OF THE EAGLE AWARD FOR COMICS EXCELLENCE," it read, or something like that, with the Eagle-in-a-Circle logo of that award.

I was thrilled.

Thrilled.

Someone got it. Someone got that Micronauts was good good stuff. And, because I agreed with the award, I raised the Eagle up to tremendous heights in my estimation.

Well, I haven't heard of the Eagles for years. But now, PvP is up for one. And I was thrilled -- not only were the Eagles still out there, but by God, they were adapting with the times. So I clicked on the link that was in Scott Kurtz's news post on the item, and followed it along to the ballot.

Dear God, what a disappointment.

There are three nominees from each category, chosen by "professionals." These nominees seem typically to be a mainstream fan favorite, an independent/alternative favorite, and something alternately obscure or mainstream-but-borning. Ho-fucking-hum. Take "Favorite Colour (Sic -- this was British, originally) Comicbook." The nominees are Fantastic Four, Planetary and the Ultimates. Is it really possible that Fantastic Four, Planetary and the Ultimates deserve a one in three shot at this award, above all others? Looking back over Dave Van Domelen's reviews, it sure doesn't look like those are the cream of the crop before all others. But I wanted to be sure, so I asked him. And, in his words:

FF is good, but not great. Planetary has its lovely moments, but there's other stuff I like more. Ultimates can bite me. Of the three, Planetary is least out of place. If it came out a little more often, I might even consider it for inclusion in my own top three. But when held up against stuff like Neotopia that comes out on schedule AND is lovely....
Or the Manga selections: Battle Royale, Blade Of The Immortal, and O! My Goddess, which don't strike me as anywhere near the top of the current Manga listings. (Shaenon Garrity might correct me on that, but I sincerely doubt she will.) Or "Favorite Comic Character," which gives us Batman, Hellboy, and Jessica Jones of Alias (mainstream, independent and obscure, respectively).

And then we get to categories I know quite a lot about, these days. In order:

Favourite Newspaper Strip: Maakies, Mutts, Spooner

Okay, first off? I like Spooner. I've always liked Spooner. But Spooner hasn't been in newspapers for well over a year, and last I knew he wasn't drawing new strips for his website (which itself expired on August 31, and seems like he's not that interested in reviving). Maakies -- eh, if you like it, you like it. Mutts, the same....

Those are the three they could come up with for Newspaper Strip? An independent strip, a low-to-moderate circulation King's Features and a retired strip? No Boondocks, no Foxtrot, not even fucking Dilbert? 99% of the newspaper reading public won't even have heard of those three strips. But that's what they get to choose from for their "favorites?"

Internet: Favourite Comics E-Zine: Newsarama, The Pulse, Sequential Tart

A little better. I like all three sites, and if Sequential Tart were up against sites I frequented more often, it'd probably still get my vote. But still, there's a feeling like their "professionals" googled and put up whatever they found....

And then, my favorite....

Favourite Web-Based Comic: Marc Hempell's Naked Brain, Mike Snart, PvP

...what... the... Fuck?

Okay, I like Marc Hempell just fine. But does anyone seriously think he's had an impact of any kind on the Web? I didn't know he had a webstrip. Googling for it turned up a home page but no links to any actual strips. It sure as Hell didn't seem like a webcomic to me. Googling Mike Snart, on the other hand, turned up nothing but notices that Mike Snart was nominated for an Eagle. It didn't turn up any site, any links to a site, any reference to a site -- anything that suggested that maybe, just maybe this thing was somewhere on the Internet. Hell, I still don't even know what it is, and I write a webcomics blog with some obscure tendencies!

Who were the "professionals" they consulted for this piece of crap? I promise you Scott McCloud wouldn't have suggested Naked Brain or Mike Snart. Why in God's name didn't they consult with Chris Crosby, Scott Kurtz, Joey Manley, Wednesday White, Pete Abrams, Gabe and Tycho, the Comixpedia folks, the Sequential Tart folks -- people with some basis of understanding what the Hell webcomics are about? Jesus Christ.

I encourage everyone reading my words to go in and vote. Vote for PvP. It actually deserves consideration for an Eagle in Webcomics. In fact, it deserves to be up there among worthy peers, fighting it out with Sluggy or Narbonic or Penny Arcade. As it is, landslide Kurtz's ass. Send as clear a message as you possibly can that it is unacceptable to put up "nominees" the webcomics community has never fucking heard of, and if they're going to include Webcomics at all, they have to put some fucking effort into it. They have to find professionals in the Webcomics community to do the nominating. If you're going to acknowledge the form, acknowledge it. Otherwise, we webcomics fans don't need you to do us no favors.

Kurtz deserves this award, this year. Overwhelm them with votes for him. And maybe next year they'll actually nominate a full field of creators, including Kurtz. That'll give him an award he can truly be hungry for.

I hate these people for making me wonder if, all those years ago, the Micronauts only won their Eagle because it was the one choice people had heard of in a group of nobodies. I want them to suffer. FLY MY PRETTIES! FLY!

Oh, sorry. I forgot. My name is Mr. Burns. So instead -- release the hounds!

(And if you really want to see me froth about awards, ask me about the Origins, sometime.)

Posted by Eric Burns-White at September 29, 2004 1:43 PM

Comments

Comment from: John Bankert posted at September 29, 2004 4:29 PM

Go Go GadgetSnark!!!

I voted last night, and spent a lot of time going huh? Then again, I freely admit to being out of touch with the comic scene.

Also, I voted for websnark in the write category, 'cause hey, you're my main source now.

Comment from: Wednesday posted at September 29, 2004 4:30 PM

Goodness. I certainly don't rank with the others in that sentence (except inasmuch as I'm "Comixpedia folk"); you just keep *flattering* me.

That said: yyyyyeah. What the fuck? Who? Snart? Ape? What?

As for the manga, I'm going to beat Shaenon to the noncorrective punch and start screaming titles like Happy Mania and Short Cuts at the top of my lungs now. Paradise Kiss 5 came out not long ago; what of that? Or What's Michael? Battle fucking Royale?! Did they just go down to the shops and pick whatever wasn't Chobits? (Which would be a shame, because that'd technically rule out Tsubasa and -- granted, a couple steps removed -- xxxHolic, and both of those are incredibly engaging so far in a way that ... okay, Battle fucking Royale?!

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at September 29, 2004 5:46 PM

Weds--

Hardly flattery. I'm inordinately impressed with your brain. So are others whose opinion I value. The combination is sufficient. And yeah, I bounced those titles off of a person hight G. Cogman, who is well versed in these matters. Her response was that this was the group of titles they could remember that wasn't Dragonball Z.

Mr. Bankert--

Thank you, as always. However, if I were awarded an Eagle for any reason, it would be absolute proof that the Eagles are irreparably broken and require heavy revision.

Think of me next year when the Webbies come up, though. ;)

Comment from: Maritza Campos posted at September 29, 2004 5:47 PM

It is really SAD how the average comic book creator/fan doesn't even know what webcomics are.

Sad for them, of course... they don't know what they're missing...

Maritza

CRFH.net

Comment from: John Bankert posted at September 29, 2004 6:04 PM

Mr. Burns,

You're welcome, as always. As for the odds of you winning, they are, slim to none, I admit. Writing in websnark was more of a 'I am because I can' sort of thing. I figured you'd get a kick out of it.

Comment from: Wednesday posted at September 29, 2004 6:43 PM

My brain a 'splode. Anyhew:

:: I bounced those titles off of a person hight G. Cogman

Can't parse this bit. They really couldn't think of anything other than those three and DBZ? What, are they living in a hole? I can walk into a Virgin Megastore here and find a better selection than that. That's incredibly depressing.

So, tell us about the Origins. I quite like their sensitive skin and Make A Difference ranges.

Comment from: Dave Van Domelen posted at September 29, 2004 7:08 PM

"hight" is an archaic term meaning "named". G. Cogman has written some RPG books based on manga and anime, so is a reasonably good source for Eric to tap.

Comment from: Wednesday posted at September 29, 2004 7:47 PM

Ah! Thanks. Proof of low brain: I thought that G. Cogman was really short, and therefore it was easy to bounce things off of the person's head.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at September 29, 2004 8:52 PM

Mlle. Cogman is not particularly short, no. She is, however, very cool. And knows much of the sequential art of other lands. Including France.

Comment from: Shaenon posted at September 29, 2004 10:45 PM

Yeah, these are pretty random nominations. However, I hasten to add that "Maakies" and "Mutts" both deserve far more recognition than any of the newspaper strips you cited as alternatives. And I like those strips.

The manga titles were chosen because they've been available in English for years and, therefore, comic-book professionals who have no interest in manga have kinda sorta heard of them. Except for "Battle Royale," which people heard was a good movie, so the comic-book adaptation must be good, too, right? This is the system used to nominate manga for all comics industry awards. We've gotten used to it.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at September 29, 2004 11:11 PM

I don't disagree RE Maakies and Mutts, Shaenon. At the same time, to nominate three strips for casual fans to choose from, and have the first two be alternative/relatively low circulation and the third a couple of years out from actually appearing in newspapers... well. I guess I don't see the point of it.

If they actually polled comic strip professionals, they'd end up with three strips that I'm pretty sure I'd agree with. As it is, they're asking (some random group of) comic book pros to make their picks, and I'm not buying them as representative.

(If we're going to go with alternative/independent newspaper strips, I for one would vastly rather see Waylay or Bob the Angry Flower than Maakies. That's personal preference, though. As for Mutts... I'm afraid I have to admit I never cottoned to it. The phrase I've heard to describe it is "twee," and there is definitely some element of that.)

(Oh, and for the record? I really liked Spooner back in the day. I just don't see how it's relevant.)

Comment from: Shaenon posted at September 30, 2004 1:55 AM

Are you saying that awards shouldn't nominate anything that fans haven't heard of, anything that might make them seek out new stuff they haven't tried before?

If so, I disagree utterly. As far as I'm concerned, that's one of the major functions of this type of award.

The randomness of the nominations makes me wonder if it's set up like the Harveys, where tradition dictates that a comic can only win once, so after a few years the obvious choices get winnowed out and the nomination pool is left with a miscellaneous assortment of runners-up. I could look it up and find out, but I'm lazy and my mother is showing up to visit in a few minutes.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at September 30, 2004 2:18 AM

No, I'm absolutely not saying that. I'm all for pushing the fans to seek out new things, and nominating the less known.

My reaction to the Newspaper strips was far more personal opinion than my reaction to the Webcomics or Manga or even the "Favorite Comic Book" detritus. The Webcomics nominations were downright insulting to the medium, showing a near-total lack of effort and understanding made by the 'professionals' they got to make the nomination. The Manga nominations look like pure "oh -- I've heard of these and none of them have Sailor Scouts in miniskirts or tentacle monsters! So let's toss these out."

But the newspaper strips simply seemed... odd, to me. I don't actively feel Maakies or Mutts shouldn't be considered for an award, but to have those two plus Spooner (which isn't being drawn and hasn't been drawn for years) and not to have anything mainstream represented smacks of elitism. Which is perfectly fine, except the Eagles strives to be a "professionals nominate, fans vote" award, which implies "fan favorite" strips should probably at least have a nod.

All that being said, I've probably overstated my case, on Newspaper Strips. When I saw that entry, my reaction was 'bwah?' It wasn't 'You've got to be kidding me!' My reaction to the Webcomics nominees was closer to the latter, with certain liberal applications of the word Fuck.

I'm rambling. It's after two in the morning. So I ramble. Clearer?

Comment from: Phalanx posted at September 30, 2004 9:36 AM

So, anyone find the actual URLs for the other two comics listed yet?

Comment from: Shaenon posted at September 30, 2004 12:50 PM

I still disagree with you. Professionals are under no obligation to kowtow to the crummy tastes of fans. And I wouldn't call Mutts an elitist kind of strip. But I'm such a comic-strip snob that I'd want to see only alternative weekly strips in the nomination lineup.

The Ignatz is the only industry award that seems to get webcomics at all. It comes up with better nominees than the friggin' Webcomics Choice Awards, for pete's sake.

Manga gets similarly shafted.

Comment from: Paul posted at September 30, 2004 12:51 PM

I think Mike Snart is supposed to be Ralph Snart. Do a google for that.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at September 30, 2004 1:37 PM

Shaenon -- Nolo contendere. And yeah -- Manga gets similarly shafted, with even less justification. When the top selling sequential art in the country is manga, then it should be treated with more respect by the cartooning and comics industry.

Paul -- it crossed my mind that Mike Snart is supposed to be "Ralph Snart," but I rejected it, on the grounds that if they can't even get the name of one of their nominees close to right, it's even worse and there was just so emotional I was willing to get about an issue that, honestly, doesn't affect me in the least.

Comment from: Robotech_Master posted at October 10, 2004 11:52 AM

Shaenon: Saying nothing about the merits of the particular newspaper comics in question█none of which I've ever so much as heard of, by the way█I find I have to agree with Eric.

From what's been said, I gather that the award is supposed to be some sort of thing where experts pick comics, then people in general vote for which one they prefer.

If very few people have even heard of the nominees, how can the award have any meaning? It's like blind people voting on their favorite color, or asking a deaf person what he thought of last night's rock concert. People will either pick an entry at random, or vote for the one entry they've heard of even though it may be nowhere near as good as the other two that they haven't.

Of course, this is the sort of thing that happens to awards that are voted on by the masses█they turn into popularity contests instead of merit contests. (For instance, the 2001 Hugo for Best Novel went to a certain popular children's fantasy novel. Why? Probably because more people at the convention had read it than had read any of the other nominees█so they voted for what they knew.)

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