By Hannah Means-Shannon
The Ignatz Awards are known for their quick-fire pace and sense of humor but that doesn’t mean they downplay the often very personal extremes indie comics creators face in pursuit of publication. Jerzy Drozd acted as MC of the 2012 awards and crammed a lengthy shopping list of emotional highs and lows typical of comics production into a few brief moments of reflection. The circumstances he listed as typical were typical enough to be universal and recognizable to the audience. Comics creators work full-time jobs, Drozd said, jeopardize friendships and health, and give 5 years of their life and soul to a project, whose demands are immediately forgiven when a proejct finally reaches publication. Misunderstood by friends and family, the work often goes unread and “thrown in the trunk of a car”. Drozd’s fast-talking narrative reached its crescendo with a visual aid, a slide declaring “I AM GOD HERE” at SPX, a voice of triumph for professionals given one night, at least, on which to be understood. Drozd attested to his experience teaching comics that indie comics are “5 years ahead of the comics curve”, because they continue to “tell a story with singular vision” in a field full of “courageous people”. Drozd honored not just the Ignatz winners or nominees in his statement, but all the attendees engaged in the production of comics in many forms.
The award for “Outstanding Mini Comic”, was presented by Sally Carson who lauded minis produced with an “idea, some paper, and some courage”. It went to THE MONKEY IN THE BASEMENT AND OTHER DELUSIONS by Corinne Mucha, published by Retrofit Comics who had a very strong presence at SPX this year.
The award for “Outstanding Story” was presented by John Green who reminded us that comics creating is one of the few professions where you can “do it without pants” and the fact that you can “manage to make all these comics without wearing any pants” is remarkable. The category was thronged with worthies, but went to “Return to Me”, from LOVE AND ROCKETS NEW STORIES #4, by Jaime Hernandez and published by Fantagraphics. Jaime thanked voters for “breaking a perfect record of no awards this year”. The presence of the Hernandez brothers at SPX this year brought a great deal of energy, and often hilarity, and the Ignatz awards were no exception.
Mark Mariano presented the award for “Outstanding Comic” to Brendan Leach’s PTERODACTYL HUNTERS from Top Shelf. While the work seemed to be a fan favorite, the win was unexpected enough to prompt surprised and lengthy applause.
“Outstanding Anthology or Collection” went to Kate Beaton’s HARK! A VAGRANT, continuing her winning streak from the previous week’s Harvey Awards.
Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez presented the “Promising New Talent” award to Lale Westvind for her self-published comic HOT DOG BEACH. Having received her brick from the mighty Hernandez brothers, it’s not surprising that she declared “I’m going to do comics forever”.
The award for “Outstanding Online Comic” was presented by Ashley Quigg and Kasey Van Hise, and it went to SUPERMUTANT MAGIC ACADEMY by Jillian Tamaki, another win that prompted a great deal of affirmation from the floor.
Chris Hastings, presenting the award for “Outstanding Series” took a moment to challenge the attendees to “recognize exceptionalism” in comics in “a world where not necessarily the best things always happen”. For Chris, this was an opportunity to set the world to rights by handing the award to Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez for LOVE AND ROCKETS NEW STORIES from Fantagraphics. “See what happens when you keep doing comics”, the Hernandez brothers quipped, perhaps as much a warning and as an encouragement to comics creators.
Nick Abadzis presented the award for “Outstanding Graphic Novel” in his “comedy British accent”, and moved through a series of “funny voices” including a German intellectual and a radio announcer before handing it over to BIG QUESTIONS by Anders Nilsen, published by Drawn and Quarterly, with great aplomb.
There seemed to be a particular build-up to the final award for “Outstanding Artist”, only confirmed by its distinguished presenter, Francoise Mouly. The award went to Jaime Hernandez for LOVE AND ROCKETS NEW STORIES, published by Fantagraphics, and produced a definite high note in an already exuberant evening. That tallied a total of three wins for the Hernandez brothers, but their buoyant presence at SPX as well as all their signing and sketching for fans was just as much fun for attendees as seeing them accept their awards.
Tom Spurgeon also took the stage to present the first ever “Golden Brick Award” for lifetime achievement in the Ignatz Award’s 15 year history to Richard Thompson, who was also honored at this year’s Harvey Awards for CUL DE SAC as “Best Syndicated Strip”.
In a year already boasting record sales at SPX and the largest number of vendors ever accommodated on the expo floor, the Ignatz Awards also brought home the astonishing array of talented individuals currently working in independent comics setting and raising the bar on production. The ground-swell of support within the community at the expo and the awards also reinforced the truism that comics creators are also comics readers who have a voice in putting forward and supporting works that deserve to be recognized for, as Drozd put it, their “singular vision”.
Hannah Means-Shannon writes and blogs about comics for TRIP CITY and Sequart.org and is currently working on books about Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore for Sequart. She is @hannahmenzies on Twitter and hannahmenziesblog on WordPress.