The Eisner Awards are presented annually by Comic-Con International in San Diego, a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to creating awareness of and appreciation for comics and related popular art forms. This year's judging panel consists of Amanda Emmert (owner of Muse Comics & Games in Missoula, MT), Mike Pawuk (teen services public librarian for the Cuyahoga, Ohio County Public Library), John Shableski (Diamond Book Distributors sales manager), Ben Towle (graphic novelist and comics arts educator), and Andrew Wheeler (comics and manga reviewer at ComixMix.com). They have recently announced the award nominations for 2009. Two categories are of particular interest to us, so I've included them here:
Best Publication for Kids
* Amulet, Book 1: The Stonekeeper, by Kazu Kabuishi (Scholastic Graphix)
* Cowa! by Akira Toriyama (Viz)
* Princess at Midnight, by Andi Watson (Image)
* Stinky, by Eleanor Davis (RAW Junior)
* Tiny Titans, by Art Baltazar and Franco (DC)
Best Publication for Teens/Tweens
* Coraline, by Neil Gaiman, adapted by P. Craig Russell (HarperCollins Children's Books)
* Crogan's Vengeance, by Chris Schweizer (Oni)
* The Good Neighbors, Book 1: Kin, by Holly Black and Ted Naifeh (Scholastic Graphix)
* Rapunzel's Revenge, by Shannon and Dean Hale and Nathan Hale (Bloomsbury Children's Books)
* Skim, by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki (Groundwood Books)
Have any of you read those titles? I must admit I've not heard of or read any of the Best Publications for Kids nominees. As for the Teen category, I was unaware that Holly Black had been working on something new, but am very interested in Good Neighbors now that I know about it. I really enjoyed her urban fairytales for the YA crowd (Tithe, Valiant, and Ironside) quite a bit, as well as The Spiderwick Chronicles for younger readers. I am also a fan of P. Craig Russell's graphic novel adaptation of Coraline, as well as Mariko and Jillian Tamaki's debut work Skim. If you haven't picked up Skim, I'd certainly recommend it. It's the coming-of-age story of a goth girl attending an all-girl school in the early 90s. While the story itself is fairly understated, the pen and ink artwork is incredibly expressive. I'm pleased to see Jillian Tamaki has also been nominated in the Best Penciller/Inker category.
Also noteworthy in the Best Penciller/Inker category is Gabriel Bá's nomination for his work on The Umbrella Academy, published by Dark Horse. Bá has also been nominated as Best Cover Artist. This comic series is written by Gerard Way (frontman of pop-punk/emo band My Chemical Romance) and chronicles the reunion of a disbanded group of superheroes after the death of their father. The first six issues of the comic won a 2008 Eisner Award for Best Finite Series/Limited Series and their popularity among fans of the band and comic fans alike prompted a second series, The Umbrella Academy: Dallas to begin the same year. I've never read The Umbrella Academy, but the basic premise sounds like it could be interesting. It's nice to see something celebrated by the industry that appears to have been largely supported by music fans, many of whom are teens who may or may not have been comic book readers previously. Clearly many people have been captivated by it; Urbana Free Library's copy is always checked out!
Another treat for music fans that has appears on the 2009 nominations list is Comic Book Tattoo, which has been nominated for Best Anthology and Best Publication Design. This is an anthology I've spent time reading and have really enjoyed so far. The 480 page tome, edited by Rantz Hoseley and published by Image Comics, brought together over eighty artists and writers from the field and resulted in fifty-one individual stories, each inspired by a song from the repertoire of pianist and songwriter Tori Amos. (The anthology's title came from a lyric in her early song "Flying Dutchman.") Amos has long been connected with comics, having been friends with Sandman creator Neil Gaiman for many years, whom she often references in her music and who wrote the introduction to this collection. The collection isn't composed of literal interpretations of her songs in visual format; the artists were called upon to create a story based upon how a piece of music made them feel -- the moods and visuals it evoked. Artists self-selected the song with which they wanted to work, and the songs they chose spanned eight studio albums as well as b-sides. I've been a fan of Tori's music since I was a teenager myself and it's been fascinating to see the similarities and vast differences between the visuals conjured in my head while listening to these songs and those of the people who were part of this collaboration. To hear Tori's perspective on the project and her thoughts about comics, you can check out this video interview. It took place before the book's debut at last year's Comic-Con. I honestly would love to see more of this collaborative activity between musicians and comics creators, as music of all types has an uncanny ability to evoke visuals in the listener.