San Diego Comic-Con is less than one month away, and with it the 2019 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards. While they might lack the glitz and glamor that come with more popular (and lucrative) mediums like film or music, the Eisners remain the gold standard for critical recognition in American comics. Each year they collect a diverse set of judges to select nominees before inviting much of the comics industry to vote for the winners. It’s a method that regularly produces a great set of recommendations for readers, representing everything from superhero comics to indie darlings.
In order to help our own readers sift through the many categories and nominees, we’ve broken down the most significant awards from the show into three categories: Creators, Series, and Collections. In addition to providing lists like this one, we are also offering our own guide for expectations from our comic book review editor Chase Magnett. He is providing his take on who seems most likely to win and who he thinks ought to win in each category.
Be sure to keep an eye out for coverage on the weekend of San Diego Comic-Con though, as the Eisners are notoriously unpredictable and there are bound to be at least a few surprises. For now, be sure to check out the many accomplished comics and creators in each category, and consider reading a few more to root for when the Eisners arrive.
Femme Magnifique: 50 Magnificent Women Who Changed the World, edited by Shelly Bond (Black Crown/IDW)
Puerto Rico Strong, edited by Marco Lopez, Desiree Rodriguez, Hazel Newlevant, Derek Ruiz, and Neil Schwartz (Lion Forge)
Twisted Romance, edited by Alex de Campi (Image)
Where We Live: A Benefit for the Survivors in Las Vegas, edited by Will Dennis, curated by J. H. Williams III and Wendy Wright-Williams (Image)
Who We Think Will Win: Where We Live: A Benefit for the Survivors in Las Vegas
The editing and curation that went into both this collection and Puerto Rico Strong deserve special recognition. They both showcased incredible talent and were published in a very short period of time in order to benefit terrible tragedies. Where We Live displays a generally strong and thoughtful response to gun violence, one that will most likely be acknowledged by voters.
Who We Think Should Win: Twisted Romance
This four-part February tour featured a lot of new voices in comics and prose, delivering a who’s who of creators to watch for in coming years. Not only is each piece well-crafted, but they come together to compose four unique ruminations on specific themes of romance. This is anthology comics presented in its ideal form and the sort of endeavor we can only hope de Campi gets to tackle again.
Best Reality-Based Work
All the Answers: A Graphic Memoir, by Michael Kupperman (Gallery 13)
All the Sad Songs, by Summer Pierre (Retrofit/Big Planet)
Is This Guy For Real? The Unbelievable Andy Kaufman, by Box Brown (First Second)
Monk! by Youssef Daoudi (First Second)
One Dirty Tree, by Noah Van Sciver (Uncivilized Books)
Who We Think Will Win: Is This Guy For Real? The Unbelievable Andy Kaufman
This is a stacked category and Is This Guy For Real? is certainly one of the best comics to emerge form 2018. It continues Box Brown’s arc of merging comics storytelling with the narrative tradition of great historians to tell stories that clarify the past and reveal the present. Given Brown’s renown amongst creators, this may be a shoo-in.
Who We Think Should Win: Monk!
Youssef Daoudi was doing similar work with his biography of Thelonious Monk, a story that ranges across the musician's career to build a portrait of the man and his times that is suitably complex. Not only does this work of historical comics shed light on the evolution of jazz and one of its most prolific creators, but it brings music to life on the page, a tremendous feat in any year.
Best Graphic Album—New
Bad Girls, by Alex de Campi and Victor Santos (Gallery 13)
Come Again, by Nate Powell (Top Shelf/IDW)
Green Lantern: Earth One Vol. 1, by Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman (DC)
Homunculus, by Joe Sparrow (ShortBox)
My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies, by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (Image)
Sabrina, by Nick Drnaso (Drawn & Quarterly)
Who We Think Will Win: Sabrina
The widespread praise for Sabrina beyond comics made it a champion of the medium in 2018. Comics creators, editors, and retailers all love when a work breaks through and brings mainstream plaudits, and it will be no surprise if this incredibly detailed and thoughtful work also receives some love from the comics’ sphere.
Who We Think Should Win: Come Again
In a year featuring many great original albums, Nate Powell continued to prove himself as one of comics’ great auteurs. His stories always contain ample emotional resonance and Come Again is no exception. Powell’s linework is pushed further than in the past and his sense of empathy pours from every page. It rests in stark contrast to Sabrina and offers something, perhaps, a bit more universal.
Best Graphic Album—Reprint
Berlin, by Jason Lutes (Drawn & Quarterly)
Girl Town, by Carolyn Nowak (Top Shelf/IDW)
Upgrade Soul, by Ezra Claytan Daniels (Lion Forge)
The Vision hardcover, by Tom King, Gabriel Hernandez Walta, and Michael Walsh (Marvel)
Young Frances, by Hartley Lin (AdHouse Books)
Who We Think Will Win: The Vision hardcover
The Vision and Mister Miracle remain very popular topics of conversation and recommendations, even months or years after their completion. Both are set to remain evergreen titles and the comprehensive collection of The Vision shows just how much Marvel is willing to invest in ensuring this series becomes a classic.
Who We Think Should Win: Berlin
While Berlin might have a more narrow audience now, this collection spanning decades of work, seems more readily bound to the canon in the long-term. It is a story that is at once deeply embedded in specific characters and carrying a prescient, universal sense of warning. Whether or not Berlin wins an Eisner, expect to see it appearing in classrooms and libraries for decades to come.
Best Adaptation from Another Medium
Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation, adapted by Ari Folman and David Polonsky (Pantheon)
“Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley, in Frankenstein: Junji Ito Story Collection, adapted by Junji Ito, translated by Jocelyne Allen (VIZ Media)
Out in the Open by Jesús Carraso, adapted by Javi Rey, translated by Lawrence Schimel (SelfMadeHero)
Speak: The Graphic Novel, by Laurie Halse Anderson and Emily Carroll (Farrar Straus Giroux)
To Build a Fire: Based on Jack London's Classic Story, by Chabouté (Gallery 13)
Who We Think Will Win: “Frankenstein”
Junji Ito has broken through as a favorite mangaka in American circles over the past decades and his adaptation of Mary Shelley’s classic novel has provided yet another example of why he’s the modern master of horror in comics. It’s a stunning update that emphasizes crossover strengths like body horror, delivering a chilling tale that’s difficult to put down, even when you know exactly what happens next0comments
Who We Think Should Win: “Frankenstein”
Junji Ito and Frankenstein. ‘Nuff said.