Eisner Awards showcase comics' diversity with Wonder Woman, Wayne Brady, Sonny Liew and 'Saga'

The message from Eisner Awards voters and winners was simple enough: Comics are for everybody, and can be made by anybody.

But it’s a complicated world.

Actor and comedian Wayne Brady, a surprise guest Friday at the Oscars of comics, recalled a Hollywood studio meeting at which a man was surprised he liked sci-fi because he was black.

“Then I had to proceed to school him on every comic book that I’d read since I was 8, and every show that I’ve watched, every bad Marvel show — remember back in the day the horrible version of Spider-Man they had on with the terry cloth suit … and the Hulk, Lou Ferrigno, the green washing off of his face … the Captain America film with the guy who used to be a football player and sells cars out in the Valley? Oh, I know my stuff.”

The “Let’s Make a Deal” host revealed he’s ready to tell comics stories of his own and is working on an imprint called Level Next with Michael Davis, who made great strides for minority superheroes in the 1990s with “Static Shock” and Milestone Media.

Several of the biggest winners at the 29th annual Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, presented as part of Comic-Con International at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront hotel, celebrated diversity. “Saga” artist Fiona Staples and writer Brian K. Vaughan’s bestselling Image sci-fi series about a couple from warring species won four awards. Writer-artist Sonny Liew’s visual-style-switching graphic novel “The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye” from Pantheon Books, set in culturally mixed Singapore, was the night’s most-nominated book with six, and it won three. The body image and comic trope-challenging Squirrel Girl proved unbeatable, “eating nuts and kicking butts,” as her Ryan Q. North-written and Erica Henderson-drawn Marvel series won for teen publication. “Love Is Love,” a charitable effort and comics community response to the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, Fla., co-published by DC and IDW, won the anthology award, and its curator, Marc Andreyko, received a humanitarian prize and dedicated it to the shooting victims.

In the first Eisners ceremony since the election, presenters poked fun at President Trump on occasion — new Mad Magazine executive editor Bill Morrison adopted Trump’s spontaneous oratorical style in announcing lettering winner Todd Klein (“so much great lettering, so many letters”), and a British pair of presenters, comedian Jonathan Ross and “Watchmen” artist Dave Gibbons, recited a profane bit about American vs. British words for body parts and presidents.

Wonder Woman also reigned in the medium where she was born, as the Gal Gadot-starring blockbuster about the Amazonian princess continues to collect box-office riches.

In accepting her third award of the night and her second for “Wonder Woman: The True Amazon,” writer-artist Jill Thompson dedicated the new graphic album prize to “every girl who might see Wonder Woman for the first time ... and [she] inspires them to be stronger, or inspires them to do something that might be difficult, or something they may have been told that they’re not supposed to do — because there is nothing that they’re not supposed to do, because they’re supposed to do everything.”

The artist who drew the superhero’s first appearance in 1941 and her comic covers throughout that decade, the late H.G. Peter, was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Underground comix legend Trina Robbins told the audience, “There would be no Wonder Woman as we know her without him.”

Robbins won an Eisner of her own, as one of the editors on the archival collection “The Complete Wimmen’s Comix.”

Despite the fortunes of films and TV shows based on them, comics are not an easy or easily profitable medium, and several winners talked about working through grief and hardship.

Writer Jeff Lemire, whose Dark Horse series “Black Hammer” with artist Dean Ormston won the new series prize, said, “A lot of you probably don’t know this, but about a week after finishing Issue 1, Dean had a stroke. We didn’t know if he would ever draw again — his right hand was numb. … Dean slowly recovered and kept working. … He’s a great person and great partner.”

“The Vision” writer Tom King, accepting the limited series award, said his and artist Gabriel H. Walta’s heartbreaking Marvel title about the synthezoid Avenger’s attempt to create his own family “was supposed to be about just superheroes. But my grandmother who raised me died halfway through. I made it instead about grief, and the main character, Virginia, is named after her.”

Winning the humor publication award for Archie’s “Jughead,” the absent Chip Zdarsky sent a speech via collaborator Ryan Q. North that included compliments for series artists Erica Henderson and Derek Charm and said, “They’re two of the best artists in the business … and every company should be showering them in money — ha, ha, just kidding, this is comics.”

Amid all the awards for new projects, the ceremony also celebrated comics classics, including a Bill Finger Excellence in Comics Writing Award for late, legendary Marvel and DC creator Jack Kirby. Long known for his inventive designs, “Kirby krackle” and mind-bending art, this was, presenter Mark Evanier and Kirby’s family said, a long overdue honor for the writing half of his work.

As always, the ceremony had its informal charms — “Bird Boy” creator Anne Szabla, while accepting her second award accompanied by her leashed service animal, said, “I know you guys just wanted to see the dog again. That’s fine.” Graphic album reprint winner Jason Shiga accepted via a transatlantic cellphone call.

Repeat winners included husband-and-wife team Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover’s “Bandette,” which made off with the digital comic award for the third straight year. And Rep. John Lewis, Nate Powell and Andrew Aydin’s autobiographical third “March” book, about Lewis’ work in civil rights, won for reality-based work, as the second book did last year.

The Hall of Fame inductees included the Oxnard-raised “Love & Rockets” brothers Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez.

Both thanked their mother for introducing them to comics, and then Jaime went a step further.

“I also want to thank comics itself,” the younger Hernandez said, “for being there, for being the best artistic medium in the world.”

Below is the full list of nominees, with the winners in bold.

Short story

“The Comics Wedding of the Century” by Simon Hanselmann, in “We Told You So: Comics as Art” (Fantagraphics)

“The Dark Nothing” by Jordan Crane, in “Uptight” No. 5 (Fantagraphics)

“Good Boy” by Tom King and David Finch, in “Batman” Annual No. 1 (DC)

“Monday” by W. Maxwell Prince and John Amor, in “One Week in the Library” (Image)

“Mostly Saturn,” by Michael DeForge, in Island Magazine No. 8 (Image)

“Shrine of the Monkey God!” by Kim Deitch, in “Kramers Ergot 9” (Fantagraphics)

Single issue/one-shot

“Babybel Wax Bodysuit” by Eric Kostiuk Williams (Retrofit/Big Planet)

“Beasts of Burden: What the Cat Dragged In” by Evan Dorkin, Sarah Dyer and Jill Thompson (Dark Horse)

“Blammo” No. 9, by Noah Van Sciver (Kilgore Books)

“Criminal 10th Anniversary Special” by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (Image)

“Sir Alfred” No. 3 by Tim Hensley (Pigeon Press)

“Your Black Friend” by Ben Passmore (Silver Sprocket)

Continuing series

“Astro City” by Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson (Vertigo/DC)

“Kill or Be Killed” by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (Image)

“The Mighty Thor” by Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman (Marvel)

“Paper Girls” by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang (Image)

“Saga” by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (Image)

Limited series

“Archangel” by William Gibson, Michael St. John Smith, Butch Guice and Tom Palmer (IDW)

“Briggs Land” by Brian Wood and Mack Chater (Dark Horse)

“Han Solo” by Marjorie Liu and Mark Brooks (Marvel)

“Kim and Kim” by Magdalene Visaggio and Eva Cabrera (Black Mask)

“The Vision” by Tom King and Gabriel Walta (Marvel)

New series

“Black Hammer” by Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston (Dark Horse)

“Clean Room” by Gail Simone and Jon Davis-Hunt (Vertigo/DC)

“Deathstroke: Rebirth” by Christopher Priest, Carlo Pagulayan, et al. (DC)

“Faith” by Jody Houser, Pere Pérez and Marguerite Sauvage (Valiant)

“Mockingbird” by Chelsea Cain and Kate Niemczyk (Marvel)

Publication for early readers (up to age 8)

“Ape and Armadillo Take Over the World” by James Sturm (Toon)

“Burt’s Way Home” by John Martz (Koyama)

“The Creeps, Book 2: The Trolls Will Feast!” by Chris Schweizer (Abrams)

“I’m Grumpy” (My First Comics) by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm (Random House Books for Young Readers)

“Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea” by Ben Clanton (Tundra)

Publication for kids (ages 9-12)

“The Drawing Lesson” by Mark Crilley (Watson-Guptill)

“Ghosts” by Raina Telgemeier (Scholastic)

“Hilda and the Stone Forest” by Luke Pearson (Flying Eye Books)

“Rikki” adapted by Norm Harper and Matthew Foltz-Gray (Karate Petshop)

“Science Comics: Dinosaurs” by MK Reed and Joe Flood (First Second)

Publication for teens (ages 13-17)

“Bad Machinery, vol. 5: The Case of the Fire Inside” by John Allison (Oni)

“Batgirl” by Hope Larson and Rafael Albuquerque (DC)

“Jughead” by Chip Zdarsky, Ryan North, Erica Henderson, and Derek Charm (Archie)

“Monstress” by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda (Image)

“Trish Trash: Roller Girl of Mars” by Jessica Abel (Papercutz/Super Genius)

“The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl” by Ryan North and Erica Henderson (Marvel)

Humor publication

“The Further Fattening Adventures of Pudge, Girl Blimp” by Lee Marrs (Marrs Books)

“Hot Dog Taste Test” by Lisa Hanawalt (Drawn & Quarterly)

“Jughead” by Chip Zdarsky, Ryan North, Erica Henderson and Derek Charm (Archie)

“Man, I Hate Cursive” by Jim Benton (Andrews McMeel)

“Yuge! 30 Years of Doonesbury on Trump” by G. B. Trudeau (Andrews McMeel)

Anthology

“Dada” (S! Baltic Comics Magazine No. 26) edited by David Schilter and Sanita Muizniece (kus!)

Island Magazine, edited by Brandon Graham and Emma Rios (Image)

“Kramers Ergot 9” edited by Sammy Harkham (Fantagraphics)

“Love Is Love” edited by Sarah Gaydos and Jamie S. Rich (IDW/DC)

“Spanish Fever: Stories by the New Spanish Cartoonists” edited by Santiago Garcia (Fantagraphics)

Reality-based work

“Dark Night: A True Batman Story” by Paul Dini and Eduardo Risso (Vertigo/DC)

“Glenn Gould: A Life Off Tempo” by Sandrine Revel (NBM)

“March (Book Three)” by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell (Top Shelf)

“Rosalie Lightning: A Graphic Memoir” by Tom Hart (St. Martin’s)

“Tetris: The Games People Play” by Box Brown (First Second)

Graphic album—new

“The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye” by Sonny Liew (Pantheon)

“Black Dog: The Dreams of Paul Nash” by Dave McKean (Dark Horse)

“Exits” by Daryl Seitchik (Koyama)

“Mooncop” by Tom Gauld (Drawn & Quarterly)

“Patience” by Daniel Clowes (Fantagraphics)

“Wonder Woman: The True Amazon” by Jill Thompson (DC Comics)

Graphic album—reprint

“Demon” by Jason Shiga (First Second)

“Incomplete Works” by Dylan Horrocks (Alternative)

“Last Look” by Charles Burns (Pantheon)

“Meat Cake Bible” by Dame Darcy (Fantagraphics)

“Megg and Mogg in Amsterdam and Other Stories” by Simon Hanselmann (Fantagraphics)

“She’s Not Into Poetry” by Tom Hart (Alternative)

U.S. edition of international material

“Equinoxes” by Cyril Pedrosa, translated by Joe Johnson (NBM)

“Irmina” by Barbara Yelin, translated by Michael Waaler (SelfMadeHero)

“Love: The Lion” by Frédéric Brémaud and Federico Bertolucci (Magnetic)

“Moebius Library: The World of Edena” by Jean “Moebius” Giraud et al. (Dark Horse)

“Wrinkles” by Paco Roca, translated by Erica Mena (Fantagraphics)

U.S. edition of international material—Asia

“The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye” by Sonny Liew (Pantheon)

“Goodnight Punpun, vols. 1–4” by Inio Asano, translated by JN Productions (VIZ Media)

“Orange: The Complete Collection, vols. 1–2” by Ichigo Takano, translated by Amber Tamosaitis, adaptation by Shannon Fay (Seven Seas)

“The Osamu Tezuka Story: A Life in Manga and Anime” by Toshio Ban and Tezuka Productions, translated by Frederik L. Schodt (Stone Bridge Press)

“Princess Jellyfish, vols. 1–3” by Akiko Higashimura, translated by Sarah Alys Lindholm (Kodansha)

“Wandering Island, vol. 1” by Kenji Tsuruta, translated by Dana Lewis (Dark Horse)

Archival collection/project—strips (at least 20 years old)

“Almost Completely Baxter: New and Selected Blurtings” by Glen Baxter (NYR Comics)

“Barnaby, vol. 3” by Crockett Johnson, edited by Philip Nel and Eric Reynolds (Fantagraphics)

“Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy, Colorful Cases of the 1930s” edited by Peter Maresca (Sunday Press)

“The Realist Cartoons” edited by Paul Krassner and Ethan Persoff (Fantagraphics)

“Walt & Skeezix 1931–1932” by Frank King, edited by Jeet Heer and Chris Ware (Drawn & Quarterly)

Archival collection/project—comic books (at least 20 years old)

“The Complete Neat Stuff” by Peter Bagge, edited by Eric Reynolds (Fantagraphics)

“The Complete Wimmen’s Comix” edited by Trina Robbins, Gary Groth and J. Michael Catron (Fantagraphics)

“Fables and Funnies” by Walt Kelly, compiled by David W. Tosh (Dark Horse)

“Trump: The Complete Collection” by Harvey Kurtzman et al., edited by Denis Kitchen and John Lind (Dark Horse)

“U.S.S. Stevens: The Collected Stories” by Sam Glanzman, edited by Drew Ford (Dover)

Writer

Ed Brubaker, “Criminal 10th Anniversary Special,” “Kill or Be Killed,” “Velvet” (Image)

Kurt Busiek, “Astro City” (Vertigo/DC)

Chelsea Cain, “Mockingbird” (Marvel)

Max Landis, “Green Valley” (Image/Skybound); “Superman: American Alien” (DC)

Jeff Lemire, “Black Hammer” (Dark Horse); “Descender,” “Plutona” (Image); “Bloodshot Reborn” (Valiant)

Brian K. Vaughan, “Paper Girls,” “Saga” (Image)

Writer-artist

Jessica Abel, “Trish Trash: Roller Girl of Mars” (Papercutz/Super Genius)

Box Brown, “Tetris: The Games People Play” (First Second)

Tom Gauld, “Mooncop” (Drawn & Quarterly)

Tom Hart, “Rosalie Lightning: A Graphic Memoir” (St. Martin’s)

Sonny Liew, “The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye” (Pantheon)

Penciller-inker or penciller/inker team

Mark Brooks, “Han Solo” (Marvel)

Dan Mora, “Klaus” (BOOM! Studios)

Greg Ruth, “Indeh” (Grand Central Publishing)

Francois Schuiten, “The Theory of the Grain of Sand” (IDW)

Fiona Staples, “Saga” (Image)

Brian Stelfreeze, “Black Panther” (Marvel)

Painter/multimedia artist (interior art)

Federico Bertolucci, “Love: The Lion” (Magnetic)

Brecht Evens, “Panther” (Drawn & Quarterly)

Manuele Fior, “5,000 km per Second” (Fantagraphics)

Dave McKean, “Black Dog” (Dark Horse)

Sana Takeda, “Monstress” (Image)

Jill Thompson, “Wonder Woman: The True Amazon” (DC); “Beasts of Burden: What the Cat Dragged In” (Dark Horse)

Cover artist (for multiple covers)

Mike Del Mundo, “Avengers,” “Carnage,” “Mosaic,” “The Vision” (Marvel)

David Mack, “Abe Sapien,” “BPRD Hell on Earth,” “Fight Club 2,” “Hellboy” and “The BPRD 1953” (Dark Horse)

Sean Phillips, “Criminal 10th Anniversary Special,” “Kill or Be Killed” (Image)

Fiona Staples, “Saga” (Image)

Sana Takeda, “Monstress” (Image)

Coloring

Jean-Francois Beaulieu, “Green Valley” (Image/Skybound)

Elizabeth Breitweiser, “Criminal 10th Anniversary Special,” “Kill or Be Killed,” “Velvet” (Image); “Outcast” by Kirkman & Azaceta (Image/Skybound)

Sonny Liew, “The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye” (Pantheon)

Laura Martin, “Wonder Woman” (DC); “Ragnarok” (IDW); “Black Panther” (Marvel)

Matt Wilson, “Cry Havoc,” “Paper Girls,” “The Wicked + The Divine” (Image); “Black Widow,” “The Mighty Thor,” “Star-Lord” (Marvel)

Lettering

Dan Clowes, “Patience” (Fantagraphics)

Brecht Evens, “Panther” (Drawn & Quarterly)

Tom Gauld, “Mooncop” (Drawn & Quarterly)

Nick Hayes, “Woody Guthrie” (Abrams)

Todd Klein, “Clean Room,” “Dark Night,” “Lucifer” (Vertigo/DC); “Black Hammer” (Dark Horse)

Sonny Liew, “The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye” (Pantheon)

Comics-related periodical/journalism

The A.V. Club comics coverage, including Comics Panel, Back Issues, and Big Issues, by Oliver Sava et al., www.avclub.com

Comic Riffs blog by Michael Cavna and David Betancourt, www.washingtonpost.com/new/comic-riffs/

Critical Chips edited by Zainab Akhtar (Comics & Cola)

PanelPatter.com edited by Rob McMonigal

WomenWriteAboutComics.com edited by Megan Purdy and Claire Napier

Comics-related book

“Blanc et Noir: Takeshi Obata Illustrations” by Takeshi Obata (VIZ Media)

“Ditko Unleashed: An American Hero” by Florentino Flórez and Frédéric Manzano (IDW/Editions Déesse)

“Krazy: George Herriman, A Life in Black and White” by Michael Tisserand (Harper)

“The Life and Legend of Wallace Wood, vol. 1” edited by Bhob Stewart and J. Michael Catron (Fantagraphics)

“More Heroes of the Comics” by Drew Friedman (Fantagraphics)

Academic/scholarly work

“Brighter Than You Think: Ten Short Works” by Alan Moore, with essays by Marc Sobel (Uncivilized)

“Forging the Past: Set and the Art of Memory” by Daniel Marrone (University Press of Mississippi)

“Frank Miller’s Daredevil and the Ends of Heroism” by Paul Young (Rutgers University Press)

“Pioneering Cartoonists of Color” by Tim Jackson (University Press of Mississippi)

“Superwomen: Gender, Power and Representation” by Carolyn Cocca (Bloomsbury)

Publication design

“The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye” designed by Sonny Liew (Pantheon)

“The Complete Wimmen’s Comix” designed by Keeli McCarthy (Fantagraphics)

“Frank in the Third Dimension” designed by Jacob Covey, 3-D conversions by Charles Barnard (Fantagraphics)

“The Realist Cartoons” designed by Jacob Covey (Fantagraphics)

“Si Lewen’s Parade: An Artist’s Odyssey” designed by Art Spiegelman (Abrams)

Webcomic

“Bird Boy” by Anne Szabla, http://bird-boy.com

“Deja Brew” by Taneka Stotts and Sara DuVall (Stela.com)

“Jaeger” by Ibrahim Moustafa (Stela.com)

“The Middle Age” by Steve Conley, steveconley.com/the-middle-age

“On Beauty” by Christina Tran, sodelightful.com/comics/beauty/

Digital comic

“Bandette” by Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover (Monkeybrain/comiXology)

“Edison Rex” by Chris Roberson and Dennis Culver (Monkeybrain/comiXology)

“Helm” by Jehanzeb Hasan and Mauricio Caballero, www.crookshaw.com/helm/

“On a Sunbeam” by Tillie Walden, www.onasunbeam.com

“Universe!” by Albert Monteys (Panel Syndicate)

Hall of Fame inductees

Judges’ choices: Milt Gross, H.G. Peter, Antonio Prohias, Dori Seda

Eisner voters' choices: Gilbert Hernandez, Jaime Hernandez, George Perez, Walt Simonson, Jim Starlin

The ceremony also included the 2017 Comic-Con International Awards. Those winners are:

Bill Finger Excellence in Comics Writing Award

Living recipient: William Messner-Loebs

Deceased recipient: Jack Kirby

The Bob Clampett Humanitarian Awards

Joe Ferrara, for his efforts against prostate cancer

Marc Andreyko, for curating the “Love Is Love" anthology

Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer Award

Comicazi of Somervile, Mass.

The Russ Manning Promising Newcomer Award

Anne Szabla, writer-artist of “Bird Boy”

blake.hennon@latimes.com

Twitter: @blakehennon

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