Friday, April 20, 2007

Lets Talk: Eisner Nominations 2007

The Eisner nominations have just been released for this year, and I wanted to dissect just a few of them, starting with an interesting list for the Hall of Fame:

Hall of Fame

Judges’ Choices: Robert Kanigher and Ogden Whitney

Voters will choose four from among:
  • Ross Andru & Mike Esposito
  • Dick Ayers
  • Bernard Baily
  • Matt Baker
  • Wayne Boring
  • Creig Flessel
  • Harold Gray
  • Irwin Hasen
  • Graham Ingels
  • Joe Orlando
  • Lily RenĂ©e (Peters) Phillips
  • Bob Powell
  • Gilbert Shelton
  • Cliff Sterrett
Now, each of the last couple years there have been a few complete no-brainers, ones the no one in their right mind with passing knowledge of comics could pass up for the Hall of Fame, but this year we've got more than a few open to interpretation and debate. Here are, for better or worse, my picks to vote for:

Cliff Sterrett - One of the true unacknowledged masters of the comic medium from the early 20th Century. Very few people seem to know about him, but the artwork on his strip Polly and Her Pals continues to delight me whenever I crack open any of my kitchen sink reprints. Not nearly as heralded as Krazy Kat or Nemo, and I agree that his work is a step below those masters, but I like it much better than many of his comtemporaries. Cliff gets my vote.

Matt Baker - Good Girl artist extraordinaire gets the next vote. The master of the Headlight Cover (Note to Heidi Meeley: We need to put up an old Matt Baker cover for your "Is it gratuitious?" feature) could really draw when he wanted to and that helps to get my vote. He had solid composition skills, even when his elements were pulchritude and created a true look, something that the better artists are able to do.

Harold Gray - All the debate over Harold's politics has washed away over time, which might allow us to take a better look at the quality of his comic strip. Since his strip was rooted in the times that it was being drawn, Little Orphan Annie had a great deal of social and political commentary, which invariably was something that predjudiced readers for or against him. (My two daughters have discovered the Annie movie musical, and I've not the heart to bring up the unlikelihood of a black female assistant marrying a rich white billionaire back in the 1930s, much less how Daddy Warbucks made his millions.) Harold was a shrewd observer of his times, and made no bones about using the strip to comment, skillfully, on what was happening around him. Annie's eyes may be vacant, but her head isn't. I vote Annie and Sandy in to the Hall of Fame. Harold was skillful enough to raise the hackles of people who disagreed with him.

Here is where it gets tough: there are any number of others who will have partisans in their corner, but it will be tricky to get a critical mass to actually vote for Ingels or Boring. I would disagree with Andru and Esposito being in the Hall of Fame for instance, or even Wayne Boring for that matter. Competence and longevity are not the things that should get you into the Hall of Fame, and that is where I place them. Gilbert Sheldon may have been unconventional, but he was a true trailblazer, and there are far more Furry Freak Bros. tattoos on stoners than their are Wayne Boring Supermen. My final vote would go to Sheldon or Joe Orlando.

Agree or disagree?


Danny said...

Totally disagree with your assessment of Ross Andru & Mike Esposito. Ross was far more than a mere competent artist and was held in very high regard amongst his peers. His attention to detail was incredible for one.

Also, what you have to bear in mind is that Andru & Esposito led the way in a lot of areas - they were the first artists to break away from the major publishers to form their own comic book company - MikeRoss Publishing. They did this a goog 18 months to 2 years before Simon & Kirby. They took the risks and paved the road for many others to follow.

The more I learnt about Andru & Esposito the more I came to appreciate them both as people and as artists. I believe, strongly, that both men (as a team) should in the Hallf Of Fame and it's sad that it's taken this long for them to get this far.

Going only on your choices I'd vote Andru & Esposito before I'd vote for Joe Orlando, Gilbert Shelton, Matt Baker and certainly Wayne Boring. You could almost argue that without Andru & Esposito going into publishing Shelton might never have gotten the chance to self-publish...

Believe me there's far more to Andru & Esposito than mere "Competence and longevity".

Kid Sis said...

I vote for Brian Fies! Oh, wait...

Pascal said...

I totally agree with Danny. Andru & Esposito have been underrated for too long. It's about time they get a much deserved recognition.
I vote for the best Spider-man artistic team ever !

Shamus said...

Hear, hear. Andru/Esposito will forever define Spider-man for me. They brought that character to life. I always wondered why Andru is not brought up as one of the great comic book artists. Aparo and Andru illustrated the best comics in the 70s in my opinion.