Home Culture 2012 Hugo Award Nominations For "Graphic Story" Announced

2012 Hugo Award Nominations For "Graphic Story" Announced


By Todd Allen

The Hugo Awards have been cool with comics for longer than most non-comics-specific awards, so this is far from a new award.  This year, Phil Foglio and Girl Genius are not on the ballot.  Foglio has been the only winner in the category, sweeping it since the Graphic Story’s inception in 2009.

The 2012 Nominees are:

Digger by Ursula Vernon (Sofawolf Press)
Fables Vol 15: Rose Red by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham (Vertigo)
Locke & Key Volume 4, Keys to the Kingdom written by Joe Hill, illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW)
Schlock Mercenary: Force Multiplication written and illustrated by Howard Tayler, colors by Travis Walton (The Tayler Corporation)
The Unwritten (Volume 4): Leviathan created by Mike Carey and Peter Gross. Written by Mike Carey, illustrated by Peter Gross (Vertigo

It should be noted that Schlock Mercenary has been on the ballot every year since 2009.  Will webcomics continue to reign?  (In case you were wondering, Digger is also a webcomic.)

Speaking of webcomics, Mr. Randall Munroe (xkcd) is nominated in the “Fan Artist” category.  I’m curious how he happened to get classified as fan.

  1. Munroe is classified as a ‘fan’ because he doesn’t get paid for his work (he puts it up free on the internet).

    Yes, I know there are book collections of his work that he sells. Go figure.

    Schlock Mercenary has been on the ballot every year because every year the bloke who writes it basically whores out his eligibility to his readers so they all nominate him. It’s not the quality of the work that’s making it appear all these times, it’s that he’s doing a great job at exploiting the crossover between his readership and Hugo nominators. I wouldn’t be surprised if Digger has managed to do the same thing.

  2. It should also be noted that Girl Genius is not on because the Foglios specifically requested that they not be on it, so that someone else had a chance to win.

  3. I think Munroe’s work fits the fan artist category pretty well. He’s not really telling a science fiction story, but he’s got more science of more flavors in his stick-figure one-shots than most previous award winners put in their novels. It’s kind of amazing.

    The fan categories (fan writer, fan artist) are a little weird since professionals end up in those categories all the time. Jim Hines was nominated this year for fan writer, and he’s got what, close to a dozen mass-market novels in print? Scalzi won for his blog back in 2007. I’m sure there are other examples.

    Phil Foglio won fan artist twice back in the late 70’s IIRC, and declined further nominations because he’s a class act. Sure, he was working as a pro at the time, but the nominations were there on the strength of his non-pro stuff.

  4. Nick, as far as I know Ursula Vernon (Digger) has not leveraged her fanbase for the nomination. I don’t recall her ever even saying “hey Hugo noms are open”.

    As to Schlock, well, the Hugos have always been about popular vote. If Worldcon attendees think its the bee’s knees, then it’ll win. If his fans are a smaller group than the fans of other stuff…

  5. Digger is a great webcomic; Vernon has had print volumes available for purchase at her website. I’ve purchased some, wish I could afford more. Digger herself is such a cool character …

  6. Personally, I think Munroe is not eligible for Fan Artist (note: don’t get me wrong; I love xkcd). The Fan Artist and Writer categories are meant to recognize non-commercial work, and since he’s stated that xkcd is the cause of the majority of his income, I don’t believe xkcd qualifies him for Fan Artist (Pro Artist on the other hand…).

    Yep, the Fan Writer category has frequently been won by professional writers like John Scalzi, Dave Langford, and even a couple of years ago by 70 or so years as a pro writer Fred Pohl. But in each case, one could point at a reasonably substantial body of writing in fanzines, blogs, etc. for which they were not receiving any sort of substantial income (i.e. I don’t count making enough off banner ads to pay for the server costs as substantial).

    It’s somewhat complicated by 1) back in, I believe, 2009, Phil Foglio was nominated for Best Pro Artist in circumstances very similar, if not identical, to Munroe’s in terms of putting art up on the Web for free that resulted in the bulk of his income. Also, for the first X years of xkcd before it became his income cash cow, Munroe was acting as a Fan Artist.

    Basically, enough people nominated him under Fan Artist to put him on the ballot, and the Hugo Administrator (who’s strongly encouraged to be a “weak” administrator, ruling only on matters of clear and pure fact (i.e. a 5,000 word short story ain’t ending up in Best Novel no matter how many idiots nominate it there)) didn’t overrule it, even though a fair number of people do think he’s ineligible under the definition of “Fan Artist”.

  7. Oh, and a likely reason the Foglios withdrew for this year is that they’ve won this category every year it’s existed…and that might cause it not to exist after this year. Y’see, the category was voted in with a specification that at this year’s Worldcon business meeting it’d have to be voted in again, or else it goes away. If voted in, it stays until someone mounts an active campaign to remove it. Having only one item win it every year it’s been in existence is an argument to some folk that the category isn’t getting a strong enough field to warrant continuation.

  8. Re: Randall Munroe and “Best Fan Artist”… brace for some Rules lawyering! Enumerated items come from the relevant section of the WSFS constitution. My comments are inserted.

    1) 3.3.11: Best Professional Artist. An illustrator whose work has appeared in a professional publication in the field of science fiction or fantasy during the previous calendar year.

    XKCD.com and Randall’s books do not, to my understanding, currently qualify as professional publications. If his comics graced the cover of (for instance) “Shadow War of the Night Dragons” then he’d certainly be eligible.

    2) 3.3.9: Best Professional Editor. The editor of any professional publication devoted primarily to science fiction or fantasy during the previous calendar year. A professional publication is one which had an average press run of at least ten thousand (10,000) copies per issue.

    Here’s the sticky bit — The 3.3.9 I cited is the only example I can find in the constitution in which “professional publication” is defined, and it is not an active section. It’s supposed to go back into place if some changes made at LA Con IV are repealed. I’m sure SOMEBODY has a working definition of “professional publication” that they’re using. It might be the definition of “qualifying markets” that WSFS uses as membership criteria. I don’t know.

    3) 3.3.15: Best Fan Artist. An artist or cartoonist whose work has appeared through publication in semiprozines or fanzines or through other public display during the previous calendar year.

    Note the specific inclusion of “cartoonist” here, as differentiated from “illustrator” in 3.3.11. Cartoonists and illustrators alike might take issue with the distinction, but this is the way the constitution is currently worded.

    Note also (and more importantly) the difference between “through other public display” (which would certainly include XKCD.com) and “professional publication.”

    4) 3.3.6. Best Graphic Story. Any science fiction or fantasy story told in graphic form appearing for the first time in the previous calendar year.

    This is a story award, not a person award. XKCD does not appear to have garnered enough votes to make the ballot, so the argument as to whether or not it qualifies as a “story” is irrelevant for now. Could Randall pick up a Hugo in this category in some future date? There’s no rule saying he couldn’t.

    Summing up: Per 3.3.11, Randall’s work doesn’t qualify him for “Best Professional Artist” even though he is, in fact, a pro. Per 3.3.15, his work’s publication on XKCD.com qualifies him for “Best Fan Artist.” Finally, Randall’s work could conceivably qualify for “Best Graphic Story,” but that’s not what the members of the convention nominated him for.

    Are the rules great? I don’t think so. Are they being adhered to? Yes. Am I voting for Randall Munroe for Best Fan Artist? ALMOST CERTAINLY.

  9. Well, Howard, ‘fraid I’ll be countering your vote; like last year (where Randall only lost by one vote in the final round), I’ll be ranking him below No Award on my ballot.

    You’re correct that technically Randall is eligible as a Fan Artist…but that’s because the technical definition given for Fan Artist doesn’t eliminate anyone. Everyone in Pro Artist, for example, is eligible as Fan Artist if you disregard the word “Fan” in the title and what that’s traditionally (and in common English as well) meant.

    It’s also complicated by the rules not keeping up with market changes (see the 10K bit you mentioned); it used to be pro art could be defined as “sold as a book cover” or “sold to a professional publication for cover or interior art”.

    If Randall had a body of non-xkcd work that was also non-significant income generating, great, I’d have no problem with a Fan Artist nomination (as noted, I love xkcd). But the decades long intent of the Fan awards is not to reward work that makes up a significant part of one’s income. I’ve got some language I want to try to amend the Fan categories with to clarify things, but I’ll need to find a strong co-sponsor since I’m likely to be too busy working the con to attend a substantial part of the Business Meeting.

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