More Eisner reactions from The Hooded Utilitarian, where Noah Berlatsky says,
So while the lack of manga at the Eisners isn’t a big deal for manga, I think it is maybe a big deal for the Eisners, and for the industry they represent. In short, it’s a sign of a a big, fat failure on the part of American comics. As is so often the case, a snub says more about the quality of the perpetrator than it does about the object of scorn.
You know, I have had the pleasure of knowing at least one of the Eisner judges every year for the past few years. In 2007 and 2008, the committee was graced with two librarians, Robin Brenner and Eva Volin, who read manga, appreciate its worth, and lobbied for its inclusion. Of this year’s committee, I have only recently met John Shableski but I have heard people speak highly of him for years. I believe that John gets the big comics picture. I have never met Andrew Wheeler or Mike Pawuk personally, but I regularly read and link to Andrew’s manga reviews on ComicMix, and Mike is a librarian who has written a book on graphic novels and manga. My point is, I don’t think this group is particularly inbred or anti-manga. On the other hand, in 2007 and 2008, many manga were nominated but few won. I think the true fault lies in the voters, who are not as well read as the committee and vote accordingly, and that comes back to what the Eisners are. People do tend to prefer one type of comics over another, and the Eisners speak to a more traditional crowd.
Take a look at the Best Continuing Series nominations: All Star Superman, Fables, Naoki Urasawa’s Monster, Thor, and Usagi Yojimbo. One of these things is not like the others; Monster is so different in format and concept that I would have a hard time comparing it to All Star Superman. Also, to be honest, manga readers can be as provincial as the Wednesday crowd; I try to branch out a bit, but I haven’t read any of the other series. In fact, Robin Brenner is one of the few manga folks I know who reads superhero comics at all. If the rest of us were handed an Eisner ballot, we would probably just check off the manga, just as the superhero guys would just check off their comics.
(And you know, it’s not entirely our fault, either. I used to read Thor when I was in high school, but when I went to the Marvel website just now to find an image of the nominated comic, I couldn’t make head nor tail of it. The “Browse by Family” feature was useless to me, and the brute-force search turned up nothing that was simply titled “Thor.” You would think that a publisher would want to make their website accessible to newcomers, and maybe even link to the catalog page of the nominated title in their press release, but… no. So here’s a Fables cover instead.)
What to do? I would love to see a separate set of manga awards, but while we wait for that to become a reality, I think the Eisner folks need to rethink the format a bit. The categories seem to be broken down very finely for the Western comics—I say this as a dunderheaded manga reader who can’t tell a good colorist or inker from a bad one—yet all of manga is lumped into a single category. Perhaps it’s time to tease that out a bit and look at awards for best writer, best artist, best toner, most creative monsters, most complicated clothing construction, whatever, for manga. This doesn’t have to be exclusive; there are manga that fit into the traditional categories, so by all means nominate them there, but also acknowledge that we are talking about a different format and mindset than monthly superhero comics and give the manga creators a place to shine. Because really, there’s a lot of great stuff out there, and frankly, I’d rather see anything from Deb Aoki’s list of manga that should have been nominated this year make the cut than yet another Yoshihiro Tatsumi manga.