Given that the Eisner Awards were announced this past weekend, I took the opportunity to ask our reviewers about their thoughts on the winners, the recognition an Eisner brings a title, and how much Eisners count in their ordering and collection development.  I prompted everyone with the following questions:

  • Do you specifically collect Eisner Award winners in your library?
  • Do you see an impact (in terms of circulation, name recognition, etc.) when a title/creator wins an Eisner among your patrons?  Fellow librarians?
  • If you don’t keep an eye on the Eisner Award winners, what would make the award more significant in your work?

Read on for everyone’s thoughts!

Jennifer W.: My director sometimes buys things off award lists for the adult collection, so some of the Eisners might show up at our library that way, but they don’t affect us otherwise. Our adult collection is very small – less than two shelves. I’ve never had anyone mention them or ask for them. But, to put that in perspective, I think I’ve had many one kid in four years ask for a Newbery winner on their own (not as part of an assignment) so…I really liked Anya’s Ghost and it’s circulated quite a few times. We don’t own any of Kochalka’s work and I have to admit that I’ve never seen the appeal.

Brazos: Snap judgement. Daredevil by Mark Waid must be really good (and I loved the previous Bendis and Brubaker runs) because 20th Century Boys is one of my favorite comics ever.

Allen: Happy to see Darwyn Cooke get such a high honors! Now I really need to pick up the Martini Edition!

Sheli: I try to make sure we have a lot of Eisners. I can make recommendations to the adult comics collection, but I run kids and teens. We always have as much Eisner stuff as I can buy.

My community reads comics, but they’re not really aware of comics news. I think it would take a lot of combing to find one that knows what an Eisner is. So their announcements don’t make much of an impact. It’s when other sources- New York Times, Scholastic, Summer Reading Lists, or a movie is made- see that something has won an Eisner and then recommend it, that the stats for a volume go up. That doesn’t happen as often as I’d like, but I don’t need to worry about Eisner purchases that much since they’re usually part of what I consider core. Unlike other comics that under-preform and get booted, Eisners are protected. So whether or not the patrons appreciate their status, they have many lauded comics available, and I think that’s a fair compromise.

Eva: Knowing that, for collection development purposes, it’s the Eisner nominees that matter, much more so than the winner, I always buy the nominees for the categories I collect (early readers, kids, some of the teen titles), so I’d already put the books available in graphic novel format on my list. While I rarely, if ever, hear from my patrons about the awards (kids don’t pay that much attention to the Oscars, let alone the Eisners), the books do circulate, some incredibly well (like all the James Kochalka books — Johnny Boo FTW!)

Snow: I tend to be a bit jaded on the Eisner winners, ever since my first year attending the awards (2007) and sitting there dumbfounded as Gumby (!!!) won in the kids’ category and Old Boy triumphed over other, IMO better, manga. That’s when I realized that the award, at that time, was something of a popularity contest. But this was the first year where I had read and loved almost all of the titles nominated in all three of the kids categories (and had heard such good things about the ones I haven’t gotten to read yet), so I was going to be okay with whoever won there. As for the others, well, I’m going to go with “what Brazos said” as my response.

Russ: Is it me, or do the Eisners always seem to choose a rather literary work for their manga winner?  Just for once I’d like to see one of the more YA-friendly titles win.  And if my fanboy favorite Dave Kellett (Sheldon)’s collected coffee strips had to go down to someone, I’m glad it’s Evan Dorkin’s Milk & Cheese.  I had some of those original issues way back when, and always felt so subversive reading them.

Robin: Well, I think what Snow said is accurate in that the Eisners are a bit of a popularity contest among the voters, and like the Academy Awards, it’s important to remember that the voters are the US comics industry.  To me, the manga winners don’t so much reflect a literary bias but, to be blunt, an adult male reader bias and a bias toward recognizable publishers.  So far, all the manga that have won are guy manga, this year’s winner included.  Not that Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths doesn’t deserve the nod, and especially also Drawn & Quarterly for their beautiful editions, but the manga category doesn’t seem to reflect the diversity of manga out there primarily because, I fear, the voting pool doesn’t actually reflect the diversity of manga readers.  I think both A Bride’s Story and Wandering Son are just as deserving, in different ways, but won’t appeal to the voters nearly as much.

Just to chime in myself, I was pleased to see Anya’s Ghost take home the win, although that category was packed with great titles, and the same goes for the kids 8-12 category.

I was also pleased to see Craig Thompson be honored for Habibi, as it was a glorious, heartfelt piece of work.

Andrew: Going along with what everyone else has said: I feel more or less the same way about the Eisners as I feel about the Oscars. Or, rather, how I would feel about the Oscars if I paid more attention to movies. The nominees and winners are almost always things I’ve read about or looked at, if not read all the way through, and usually seem like reasonable if not particularly exciting picks. It’s nice to see a book you love or respect get a big award, but for me it’s always more exciting to have someone point out a fantastic comic I’ve not even heard of.

Because there are so few dark horse upset winners I often have already purchased them all. Some years I’ve made bookmarks or signs listing the winners but I’ve not seen a particular jump in circulation.

Jenny: Since we have centralized buying in our system, I asked our Collection Services department if we made an attempt to keep up on the Eisner nominees / winners.  They replied that we look at them but don’t automatically pick them up, though we do end up with quite a few of them each year.  If they’re part of an ongoing series, the earlier volumes of which we don’t have or may not be able to easily get for our patrons, we may skip them.  But we do have a small handful of comics-industry-following patrons who’ll ask for them, and we buy about 80% of what our patrons request.  Also, for winners who already have a large fan base, like Craig Thompson or the late Harvey Pekar, we’re more likely to snag their work.

As you all have already mentioned, the manga field was pretty well-stocked this year and I would have been happy with most any of them (though the quite pleasant Drops of God seems more intellectually entertaining fluff than meaty literature and I can’t comment on Stargazing Dog, as I haven’t read it yet).  I hadn’t considered the fact that the judges were less than representative of the reading public (including my 30-odd-year-old female self), however, and now that the idea’s in my head I can’t easily ignore it….

Personally, I’ve only paid attention to the Eisners in the last year or two. Since I don’t read a lot of western titles (though I’m broadening my knowledge base little by little!) and don’t read floppies anymore, I’m not always familiar with many of the nominees beyond perhaps name recognition.  This year, I was happy to see favorites Anya’s Ghost, The Unwritten, and Usagi Yojimbo among the nominees (and in Anya’s… case, the winners).  And I, too, do very much like 20th Century Boys, so I’ll have to take their word for it that Daredevil‘s swell until I get around to reading it and deciding for myself.  While the unquestionably impressive Habibi is clearly beautiful and complex, as a woman it makes me cringe just a wee bit; but having read none of the competing titles, I can’t say it didn’t deserve the win.  And having just recently finished Beasts of Burden, I’m excited that Dorkin’s Milk & Cheese scored a win and I look forward to reading it, though I’d also like to take a peek at the other humor nominees–again, none of which I’ve read.  *sigh*

Hmm, I like the idea of comparing the Eisners to the Oscars (which I also kind of ignore these days).  Nominations or wins are nice because they help us promote the titles to patrons who pay more attention to such things than I do, who (as do I) feel a little intimidated by the all the choices out there and appreciate the whittling, or who just react to laurel wreaths of any sort whether they know what they are or not.  But in the end, we enjoy the things we enjoy, regardless of whether they make it to the big lists, and so I rely more on word-of-mouth, reference interviews, and savvy shelf marketing to get them into readers’ hands.

Sheli: If we are comparing the Eisner Awards to the Oscars, this article that made a lot of people reconsider Oscar voting earlier this year.

Any movie buffs in the NFNT circle probably saw it. It sparked a pretty big conversation, and many other blogs followed up with greater breakdowns of the stats presented. There’s a lot in the article, but if you want an idea about how non-representative Oscar voters are:

A Los Angeles Times study found that academy voters are markedly less diverse than the movie going public, and even more monolithic than many in the film industry may suspect. Oscar voters are nearly 94% Caucasian and 77% male, The Times found. Blacks are about 2% of the academy, and Latinos are less than 2%.

Oscar voters have a median age of 62, the study showed. People younger than 50 constitute just 14% of the membership.

That’s just the tip of the ice berg.

I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Eisner’s breakdown in a similar fashion. Just another institution we’ll have to work on diversifying. Sadly, manga always seems more like obligatory category than one the comics community is hyped about.

For anyone wondering, Daredevil is swell (I need to read the rest of the category to see if it’s the swellest). I can’t wait for Samnee to get his inks on that book.

Traci: I usually do a display of nominees leading up to the Eisners, and then a display of the winners afterwards.  But, I’ve never had anyone ask me about the Eisners, and the display doesn’t get picked at any more than any of my other displays, to be perfectly honest.  I think people are taking stuff maybe because they haven’t seen it before.

I was really disappointed that New York Five didn’t win because I’ve really enjoyed that series, so that was my one let down.  I thought all the younger reader and teen nominees were great, and they were things I had already bought for my library and are seeing good circ records – I’ve been forcing Dragon Puncher on some of my kiddos at the library, and they’ve been loving it!  And, Anya’s Ghost is going to be one of the recommended books on the inaugural Graphic Rave that I’m working on for OYAN (the YA chapter of the Oregon Library Association), so that was nice to see.

Like others have said – the comics readers that I’m hand selling items to aren’t so impressed by Eisner winners/nominees, but books that I’ve read and loved and thought that specific patron might like – that’s what has really stood out to them.

  • Robin B.

    | She/Her Teen Librarian, Public Library of Brookline

    Editor in Chief

    Robin E. Brenner is Teen Librarian at the Brookline Public Library in Massachusetts. She has chaired the American Library Association Great Graphic Novels for Teens Selection List Committee, the Margaret A. Edwards Award Committee, and served on the Michael L. Printz Award Committee. She is currently the President of the Graphic Novels and Comics Round Table for ALA. She was a judge for the 2007 Eisner awards, helped judge the Boston Globe Horn Book Awards in 2011, and contributes to the Good Comics for Kids blog at School Library Journal. She regularly gives lectures and workshops on graphic novels, manga, and anime at comics conventions including New York and San Diego Comic-Con and at the American Library Association’s conferences. Her guide, Understanding Manga and Anime (Libraries Unlimited, 2007), was nominated for a 2008 Eisner Award.

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