When this year’s Harvey Award nominations were announced, there was even more than the usual controversy. Primary among them was the nomination of two decade+ comics veterans in the “Most Promising Newcomer” category. But there was also the matter of Chip Zdarsky being nominated for the Special Award of Humor for Sex Criminals…a book which he quite rightly pointed out, was a collaboration with writer Matt Fraction.
It turns out that Zdarsky won the award, and he’s still bothered by it:
The fact that I was nominated for a humor award for SEX CRIMINALS without the writer of said series, my beloved chum, Matt Fraction, is wrong. On every level. I pointed this out to the Harvey Awards and told them I wished to have Matt on the ballot with me, or to remove me completely, and they declined to do either.
They said, and I quote; “We believe any collaborative process which the creators believe is equally divided makes this difficult. It’s unfortunate this is not a judgment call for us to make – but it’s not.”
Except for the fact that it is. They created a category designed to highlight individuals, sometimes out of a team, with no recognition of what has been contributed and by whom. The writer of our comic supplies 90% of the humor! This is the Harvey Awards’s category, so the ultimate judgement call is theirs.
Zdarsky has elected to decline the award; if he still gets it in the mail he’ll auction it off for the Hero Initiative.
The “We can’t help it we’re just the vessel here” response to Zdarsky from Harvey administrator Paul McSpadden mirrors his response to the newcomer controversy:
As with all Harvey Award categories, “Most Promising New Talent” and the “Special Award for Humor” are selected through the voting of the comics professional creative community exclusively. Beyond a publishing date in 2014, we provide no eligibility guidelines for works in these categories and, as such, we continue to rely on the judgment of our voters, and not impose arbitrary limits.
As in “we’re just an awards administrator here and we don’t know how you voters do it.”
While the Newcomer Awards was not won by Steve Bryant or Jen Van Meter, the two comics vets whose work was discovered by a whole new generation of voters just in time for the 2015 Harveys—the actual winner, Chad Lambert, is a self described “44 year old wannabe” who debuted in comics in 2011 but has a long history of prose writing. While his comics newcomer-worthiness seems vetted, it’s an…odd choice in many ways.
I know no one takes the Harvey Awards seriously, because of the tradition of ballot box stuffing, but these kind of unforced errors from McSpadden reduce the already shaky qualification system for the awards. Sure there may be “no eligibility guidelines for works in these categories” but how hard is it to say “Jen Van Meter was nominated for an Eisner Award in 2006 and she’s no newcomer”? Or at the very least change it to a “Talent Deserving Wider Recognition” Award, like the Eisners had for a while.
We shouldn’t lose sight of the many deserving winners in this year’s Harveys But I see that in 2008 I wrote a post called Can The Harveys Be Saved? (although it was just a link to someone else complaining.) Does anyone even care any more?
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.