The 2016 Eisner award winners have been announced. I’m going to examine how well the winners match up with what is actually popular, as gauged by Comichron’s top 1000 2016 Comic Book Sales to Comics Shops.
|Award||Book||Rank in top 1000|
|Best Short Story||Batman Annual, by Tom King and David Finch (DC)||not in top 1000|
|Best Single Issue/One-Shot||Beasts of Burden: What the Cat Dragged In, by Tom King and David Finch (Dark Horse)||not in top 1000|
|Best Continuing Series||Saga, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (Image)||not in top 1000|
|Best Limited Series||The Vision, by Tom King and Gabriel Walta (Marvel)||not in top 1000|
|Best New Series||Black Hammer, by Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston (Dark Horse)||not in top 1000|
|Best Publication for Early Readers (up to age 8)||Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea, by Ben Clanton (Tundra)||not in top 1000|
|Best Publication for Kids (ages 9-12)||Ghosts, by Raina Telgemeier (Scholastic)||581|
|Best Publication for Teens (ages 13-17)||The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, by Ryan North and Erica Henderson (Marvel)||Vol. 1: 254
Vol. 3: 430
Vol. 4: 412
|Best Humor Publication||Jughead, by Chip Zdarsky, Ryan North, Erica Henderson, and Derek Charm (Archie)||not in top 1000|
|Best Anthology||Love Is Love, edited by Sarah Gaydos and Jamie S. Rich (IDW/DC)||not in top 1000|
|Best Reality-Based Work||March (Book Three), by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell (Top Shelf)||not in top 1000|
|Best Graphic Album—New||Wonder Woman: The True Amazon by Jill Thompson (DC Comics)||not in top 1000|
|Best Graphic Album—Reprint||Demon, by Jason Shiga (First Second)||not in top 1000|
|Best U.S. Edition of International Material||Moebius Library: The World of Edena, by Jean “Moebius” Giraud et al. (Dark Horse)||not in top 1000|
|Best U.S. Edition of International Material—Asia||The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, by Sonny Liew (Pantheon)||not in top 1000|
|Best Archival Collection/Project—Strips (at least 20 years old)||Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy, Colorful Cases of the 1930s, edited by Peter Maresca (Sunday Press)||not in top 1000|
|Best Archival Collection/Project—Comic Books (at least 20 Years Old)||The Complete Wimmen’s Comix, edited by Trina Robbins, Gary Groth, and J. Michael Catron (Fantagraphics)||not in top 1000|
|Best Writer||Brian K. Vaughan, Paper Girls, Saga (Image)||not in top 1000|
|Best Writer/Artist||Sonny Liew, The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye (Pantheon)||not in top 1000|
|Best Penciller/Inker or Penciller/Inker Team||Fiona Staples, Saga (Image)||not in top 1000|
|Best Painter/Multimedia Artist (interior art)||Jill Thompson, Wonder Woman: The True Amazon (DC); Beasts of Burden: What the Cat Dragged In (Dark Horse)||not in top 1000|
|Best Cover Artist (for multiple covers)||Fiona Staples, Saga (Image)||not in top 1000|
|Best Coloring||Matt Wilson, Cry Havoc, Paper Girls, The Wicked + The Divine (Image); Black Widow, The Mighty Thor, Star-Lord (Marvel)||Star-Lord: 863|
|Best Lettering||Todd Klein, Clean Room, Dark Night, Lucifer (Vertigo/DC); Black Hammer (Dark Horse)||not in top 1000|
|Best Publication Design||The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, designed by Sonny Liew (Pantheon)||not in top 1000|
To put the rankings in context, the best seller of any of the “winners” is The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. It‘s best selling issue, volume one, sold only 3434 copies. A book that sells less than 30000 copies is considered a failure. Most of the award winning books didn’t even make the top 1000 books sold in 2016. The 1000th ranked book on the list, Neil Gaiman’s “Creatures of the Night”, sold a mere 1234 copies.
What does this say about the Eisner awards? They are driven by an agenda. This is perfectly captured by the award winner for Best Academic/Scholarly Work:
Superwomen: Gender, Power, and Representation. I like Saga, but my biggest criticism of it is its occasionally preachy progressive politics. Wonder Woman is the latest darling of the progressive movement. And Squirrel Girl, a book about a immature teenager, is overtly progressive.
The Eisners are a lot like the Oscars or the Emmys. They are pushing a political agenda, rather than reflecting the actual merits of the books. As with movies, books made to win awards are generally inferior to those that have mass appeal. Genuine labors of love that are not being made to push an agenda or simply to cash in on a brand name are the books that people will be talking about years from now as the true classics.
One more thing of interest: Saga has not had a book in the top 1000 since 2014, but in that year, it held the number 1, 2, 4, and 10 slots in graphic novel sales, and in 2013, volumes 1 and 2 were ranked first and third. So, as is often the case for other awards, former greatness is being rewarded after a title’s popularity has faded. In fairness to the Eisners, Saga was recognized while it was popular, receiving awards in 2013 and 2014.