2009 Eisner Hall of Fame Nominees Announced

by Jeff

Comic-Con International (Comic-Con), the largest comic book and popular arts event in the United States, announced today that voting is now open for the Hall of Fame category of the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards.

To vote, you must be a professional working in the comics industry, whether as a creator (writer, artist, cartoonist, colorist, letterer), a publisher or editor, or a retailer (comics store owner or manager). Eligible voters can visit eisnervote.com to register and then select up to four picks in the Hall of Fame category. The deadline for voting is March 26. Further eligibility information is provided on the Eisner Voting page.

The 2009 Hall of Fame nominees are:

* Matt Baker
* Bill Blackbeard
* Alberto Breccia
* Reed Crandall
* Rudolph Dirks
* Russ Heath
* Jerry Iger
* Jack Jackson
* Paul S. Newman
* Bob Oksner
* Antonio Prohías

Judges’ Hall of Fame Selections for 2009

The judges have also selected two individuals to automatically be inducted into the Hall of Fame: Harold Gray, the creator of Little Orphan Annie, and Graham “Ghastly” Ingels, famed EC comics horror artist.

The 2009 Eisner Awards 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).

The judges were assisted by students at Vermont’s Center for Cartoon Studies, who made suggestions for Hall of Fame nominees and provided background information on the people they suggested. Eisner Awards administrator Jackie Estrada notes that the contributions of the students was very helpful and is looking forward to working with CCS instructor Steve Bissette and his students again next year.
About the Voting

The online voting process is being conducted by Mel Thompson and Associates, the official tabulators of the Eisner Awards. The rest of the categories will be available for online voting in mid-April. In addition, paper ballots will still be mailed out and a pdf version will be available for downloading; the paper ballots will be tabulated along with the online votes for the other categories.

The Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards are underwritten by Comic-Con, the nonprofit educational organization dedicated to creating awareness of and appreciation for comics and related popular art forms, primarily through the presentation of conventions and events that celebrate the historic and ongoing contributions of comics to art and culture.

Questions about the awards can be addressed to Jackie Estrada, 619-414-1020, jackie@comic-con.org

2009 Will Eisner Comic Industry Hall of Fame Nominees

Matt Baker
Golden Age artist

Matthew Baker (1921?1959) is best known as a master of “good girl” art. Baker started his career in the Iger Studio, working on titles for Fox, Fiction House, and Quality. He later went on to work for St. John and Atlas, as well as drawing the Flamingo newspaper strip. Although he drew a variety of western, romance, and adventure titles, he is best remembered for his work on the Phantom Lady series. Baker was the artist on the arguably first graphic novel, It Rhymes with Lust, by Arnold Drake and Leslie Waller. Unfortunately, his career ended abruptly in 1959, when he died at the young age of 37. He was one of the first major African American comic book artists.

Bill Blackbeard
Comics historian/archivist

Writer/editor/archivist Bill Blackbeard has contributed to over 200 collections of comic strips. The one that tops the list is The Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics, published in 1977, co-edited by Blackbeard. Since its release this book has been consistently referred to as the perfect introduction to comic strip art. In the 1960s Blackbeard formed a nonprofit organization called the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art. He began collecting discarded newspapers from California, later extending his rescue operation nationwide. The collection (now housed at Ohio State University’s Cartoon Research Library) consists of clipped comic strips, whole comics pages, and complete Sunday sections. The collection consists of over 2.5 million clippings and tearsheets. These archives have been used for award-winning collections of Popeye, Krazy Kat, Yellow Kid, and other classic newspaper strip reprints.

Alberto Breccia
South American comics artist

Alberto Breccia (1919?1993) was an Argentinean artist who worked from the 1940s through the 1980s. Starting out in commercial illustration for magazines, juvenile tales, and genre stories, Breccia’s initial adaptation of a highly detailed, realistic black and white art led to experiments in more impressionistic styles and techniques. His first major character, a detective named Sherlock Time, appeared in the late 1950 and was written by Héctor German Oesterheld, considered perhaps the most important comics writer from South America, who would become a long-time collaborator. Their “masterpiece” is considered Mort Cinder, produced from 1962 to 1964. Breccia worked with and was influenced by Hugo Pratt and was made a member of the “Venice Group” that Pratt and other European artists created. One of Breccia’s last works was a series called Perramus, a critique of life under dictatorship, that was begun when Argentina was still under the control of the dictatorship that was very likely responsible for the disappearing of writer Oesterheld. This act of artistic courage with such an intimate knowledge of the risks led to an award from Amnesty International in 1989.

Reed Crandall
Golden/Silver Age artist

Reed Crandall (1917-1982) started with the Eisner/Iger Studio, where he worked primarily on titles for Quality Comics, including Hit, Crack, Smash, and Uncle Sam (which became Blackhawk), where he drew such features as “The Ray,” “Dollman,” and “Firebrand,” as well as some terrific covers. When Quality scaled down their line, Crandall began doing work at EC. He drew everything from science fiction to suspense to horror. When EC folded comics production in 1955/56, he did occasional work for Atlas/Marvel and Classics Illustrated. In 1960 he landed a contract with Treasure Chest Comics and drew stories for them for twelve years. Then in 1964 he began working for Warren and delivered some of the best work of his career for Creepy and Eerie. His last contribution to comics was published in 1973.

Rudolph Dirks
Pioneer comic strip creator

Rudolph Dirks (1877?1968) was working for the New York Journal in 1897 when his editor asked him to create a strip that could compete with the popularity of The Yellow Kid by Outcault, published in a rival newspaper, The New York World. Dirks came up with The Katzenjammer Kids, one of the first strips to use a permanent cast and a frame sequence. It also featured speech balloons, in which Dirks made use of German slang (for instance, “Katzenjammer” means hangover). In 1912, Dirks wanted to go to Europe to devote himself to painting, and his strip was taken from him by the publisher, William Randolph Hearst. A legendary court battle followed, after which Dirks regained the right to draw his characters, but the use of the title remained the sole right of the newspaper. The result was that a different cartoonist continued The Katzenjammer Kids in the New York Journal, while Dirks resumed the strip in the New York World under the title Hans und Fritz, later renamed The Captain and the Kids. Dirks retired in 1958.

Russ Heath
Golden/Silver Age artist

Born in New York in 1926, Russ Heath joined Timely in 1946, where he began drawing for several different genres but particularly westerns, including Arizona Kid, Two-Gun Kid, and Kid Colt Outlaw. Heath went on to draw science fiction stories for Avon, romance stories for Lev Gleason, and Plastic Man for Quality. In the early 1950s, he worked on such EC titles as Mad and Frontline Combat for editor Harvey Kurtzman, with whom he also worked on Trump. During the 1950s, he worked for DC/National, where he drew for the full range of adventure features, such as “Golden Gladiator” and “Robin Hood” in Brave and the Bold. But he was particularly noted for drawing war titles such as Sea Devils, Our Army at War (Sgt. Rock), and G.I. Combat (“The Haunted Tank”). From 1981 to 1984, he worked on a revived version of The Lone Ranger for the New York Times Syndicate. In 1991 he drew the official adaptation of the movie version of The Rocketeer. Since then, Heath has spent most of his time in the animation industry.
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Jerry Iger
Golden Age writer/artist/entrepreneur

Jerry Iger (1903?1990) had no formal art training, but in 1925 he broke into the field as a news cartoonist for the New York American. In the early 1930s, he was involved in the creation of such features as The Flamingo and Inspector Dayton for Editors Press Service. He soon became one of the first people involved in the comic book business, founding his own Phoenix Features Syndicate. His strips “Bobby,” “Peewee,” and “Happy Daze,” published in Famous Funnies, are among the first ever produced especially for comic books. Iger was the editor of Wow! What a Magazine in 1936 and published the first work of Bob Kane, Dick Briefer, and Will Eisner. With Eisner, he formed the S.M. Iger Studios in 1937, which eventually became known as the Eisner-Iger Shop. Under Iger’s guidance, the shop produced a large amount of comic books, for which Iger often provided the scripts. Titles included Jumbo, Jungle, Planet, and Wings for Fiction House, and series like “Shark Brodie,” “Neon,” “Firebrand,’ and “Sheena.” When Eisner left in 1939, the studios continued as the Iger Shop. A true comics factory, the studios worked for such companies as Fox, Quality, Harvey, Holyoke, MLJ, Crown, EC, and Farrell. He closed his studio in 1955 and went to work as an advertising artist, teacher, and editorial director at Ajax.

Jack Jackson
Underground comix pioneer

Jack Jackson (1941?2006), aka “Jaxon,” while a student at the University of Texas created, wrote, drew, and self-published what comics historians and scholars acknowledge as one of the first underground comix, God Nose. He was there from the beginning of the underground comix movement as art director at Family Dog (producing rock posters, many now considered classics of that form) and co-founder of Rip-Off Press (with Gilbert Shelton, Dave Moriarty, and Fred Todd). As a cartoonist he contributed works to such premiere underground anthology titles as Skull, Slow Death, and Tales of the Leather Nun. With his short pieces in the later issues of Slow Death, specifically “Nits Breed Lice,” Jackson introduced historical comics to the underground movement, which he expanded upon in his next phase of work, the innovative Comanche Moon series (1975-78) for Last Gasp. With that series he adopted a longer-format commitment to the medium via his historical nonfiction works. He continued delineating his home state’s history via graphic novels El Alamo, Los Tejanos, Indian Lover: Sam Houston and the Cherokees, and Lost Cause.

Paul S. Newman
Golden/Silver Age writer

Credited in the Guiness Book of World Records as the most prolific comic book writer, with more than 4,100 published stories totaling some 36,000 pages, Paul S. Newman (1924?1999) is otherwise best known for scripting the Turok comic book series for 26 years, as well as the Lone Ranger newspaper strip for 14 years. Newman broke into comic books in 1947 with DC’s teen humor series A Date with Judy. He went on to script for Avon Comics, Fawcett, Hillman, St. John, Ziff Davis, and Timely, just to name a few. At Marvel he wrote Patsy Walker and other teen titles. In the Silver Age he wrote hundreds of Gold Key comics and co-created Dr. Solar. Well into the 1980s he was still writing comic books for DC (GI Combat, House of Mystery) and such offbeat titles as Darkwing Duck.

Bob Oksner
Golden/Silver Age artist

Bob Oksner (1916?2007) was a rare artist who could draw both superhero material and humor comic books. His early work included creating the second version of Marvel Boy in 1943 for Timely Comics. He went on to write and draw the syndicated newspaper comic strip Miss Cairo Jones (1945?1947), after which DC editor Sheldon Mayer hired him as an artist on comics adapted from other media. After a short time he moved from adventure strips to teen-oriented strips, most notably Leave It to Binky. And when DC began taking on the publication of comics based on comedians and TV sitcoms, Oksner found himself in natural element, drawing Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis, The Adventures of Bob Hope, Dobie Gillis, and Sgt. Bilko, Over the years he also produced romance comics as well as Angel and the Ape, Stanley and His Monster, Lois Lane, and Shazam.

Antonio Prohías
MAD cartoonist

Antonio Prohías (1921?1998) is best known for his 30 years of work with Mad magazine on his comic feature Spy Vs. Spy, which continues to this day (currently drawn by Peter Kuper). Spy Vs. Spy has been adapted into a series of animated shorts, several video games, a series of live-action television commercials, and a Sunday strip. Prohías’ two feuding spies stand among the handful of comics characters with an immediate, globally recognized iconic meaning. In the late 1940s Prohías began drawing cartoons for the prestigious Cuban newspaper El Mundo. His wordless material enjoyed international appeal, and by the late 1950s he was the president of the Association of Cuban Cartoonists. On May 1, 1960, just three days before Castro gained control of El Mundo and the rest of Cuba’s free press, Prohías fled Cuba for New York City. He has stated that the premise of black-and-white spies forever plotting to kill each other came from his frustration over the radical polarization that occurred in his homeland, where everyone who was not enthusiastically in support of the new regime was seen as a dangerous enemy.

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