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Stand up for your Harvey Nominees

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First, congratulations to all the Harvey Award nominees who were announced yesterday!

Now that that’s over with, let’s make some FRIENDS. Folks around the web seemed to be puzzled, irked and/or resigned by yesterday nominations. The Harveys noms are voted on by comics professional on an open ballot — you can write in whoever you please. Unfortunately, faced with the blank page, folks often decide it’s too onerous a task to remember the best of what came out in the previous year. Understandable. It’s unknown how many ballots are cast in the nominating process each year, but its suspected to be not very many because the results are invariably skewed by some voting bloc or another. The first well remembered example of this was 2002’s CrossGen showing. CrossGen’s Chris Oarr claimed he had merely distributed ballots at the company’s Florida campus/studio/sweatshop, and people had supported the home team, but it was a bit of a shock for many.

It was the first suggestion that a small voting bloc could make for a strong showing for a book outside the “usual suspects” of critical acclaim. (If you browse through the archives at this page, you’ll see that the nominees prior to 2002 — and most subsequent years — were quite respectable roundups of beloved cartoonists, many of them studied and reprinted and given other signs of mass critical acceptance.)

A few years ago Don Rosa and (later) Gemstone’s Disney comics began to show up regularly in the nominations. Once again, it seemed that a dedicated faction was getting together to represent their homeboy. It was kind of cheesy, but Disney comics are also beloved the world over, Don Rosa is a household name in Denmark, and, if it isn’t you cup of tea, at least there was some pedigree.

Unless, of course, you read Travis Seitler’s post here on the Beat that describes an organized ballot stuffing effort. Spurge calls for the Harveys to be ended , and Seitler’s whistle blowing may just be the last nail in the camel’s back — it’s going to be hard to take the Harveys seriously again.

It even makes you wonder about last year’s, strong showing for Abrams (represented again this year by Kyle Baker, Al Jaffee, and Jeff Kinney.) There’s no denying the Wimpy Kid author’s greatness, but Best Inker two years in a row is a bit of a head scratcher.

So what about this year’s nominees?

What of NASCAR HEROES #5? The equal of LOVE AND ROCKETS Volume 1? Or perhaps the equal of Al Jaffee?

Maybe no one set out to do something so embarrassing and amateurish to make the awards look even worse than they ever had. Maybe there was an organized effort…or maybe someone just handed out a lot of paper ballots locally (a lot of nominees are located around the Baltimore area, where the con is located) and the people filling out printed ballots are disproportionately represented.

The years I voted in the Harvey nominations, I had a paper ballot — a paper ballot is much harder to ignore than a link to a webpage, even if mailing it is harder. We take paper more seriously.

And before I say another word, the onus is on us. Anyone who didn’t vote in the Harvey nominations has only themselves to blame and can’t complain. That would include me, myself, the writer of this blog. I had every intention of voting in the Harvey nominations and had a paper ballot and all, knowing that this very thing could happen, and hoping my lone vote would carry some heft. But in the end I didn’t have time and I let you all down.

So…I can’t complain. I don’t know if Tom Spurgeon or Joe Keatinge or Evan Dorkin, one of the loudest complainers about the noms, voted or not. But the same strictures apply.

Are these questionable Harvey nominations bad for comics? Not really. The fact is that no one is voting is because the awards are gradually becoming something of a joke, just because of nominations like NASCAR HEROES #5. And the more things become a joke, the less people are like to vote. It’s a vicious cycle. And it is probably best to pretend none of this happened. Because people made some very very very odd choices here. Just to be clear, I’m not knocking the nominees. I’m knocking the people who VOTED for this year’s nominees. I would love to sit down and hear what they were thinking. For instance, let’s look at the nominations for Best Cartoonist…you know, cartoonist…the hallowed profession of Kirby, Takahashi, Clowes.

NOTE: The first version of this post had a long section of art sample from the Harvey nominated cartoonists followed by a lot of art samples of non-Harvey-nominated cartoonists but I decided that was kind of using a blunderbuss and have removed it. Suffice to say that if you REALLY THINK LAR DESOUZA IS A BETTER CARTOONIST THAN EDDIE CAMPBELL OR JILL THOMPSON OR SEAN PHILLIPS, then let’s talk about it. Be prepared to defend your answer. I mean really defend it.

There are a lot of puzzling choices on the Harvey ballot, choices that are odd at best and uninformed at worst. For instance, someone pointed out to me that Jamie Grant was nominated as both best colorist and best inker for ALL-STAR SUPERMAN…but as inker he is a “Digital inker” who merely digitally fixes the pencils to a point where they are clean enough to be reproduced. Is this actually inking? Did anyone who voted in this category know what inking actually IS and why people are good or bad at it?

Or take the SPECIAL AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN PRESENTATION category:

COMPLETE LOCAL: HARDCOVER EDITION, Ryan Kelly and Brian Wood, Oni Press
KIRBY: KING OF COMICS, Mark Evanier, Abrams Books
QUEEN AND COUNTRY: VOLUME 3, Greg Rucka, Mike Norton, Steve Rolston, and Chris Samnee, Oni Press
TALL TALES, Al Jaffee, Abrams Books
WONDERMARK, VOL. 1: BEARDS OF OUR FOREFATHERS, David Malki, Dark Horse Comics

Now, I like Al Jaffee and TALL TALES just fine and it was a swell book but it was really a pretty ordinary little hardcover book, very well designed and executed, but there was nothing about it that made me leap up and cry “My God! This deserves an award!” Not compared to any random book published by Drawn & Quarterly, to name just one company. (PS: if the Doug Wright book doesn’t sweep of categories of this kind in 2010 I will be forced to eat my copy.)

Johanna Draper Carlson already has a post up on how to “fix” the Harveys. Seitler’s organized ballot stuffing exposé may increase calls for increased vigilance, but really, it’s up to us. Unless the people who this kind of thing irks actually get off our duffs and participate, the nominations will still be easy to game. And at this point, I’m not even sure anyone cares enough any more. Maybe Tom is right, and it’s just time to shut the thing down.

  1. Ah, I well remember voting for the Harveys at CrossGen in 2002. It was the first time I had done so, mostly because I’d never seen or received a Harveys ballot during my previous decade in the biz. Not at DC, Vertigo, Crusade or Valiant. If DC distributed them to staffers, I can’t remember.

    Anyhow, Chris Oarr made ballots available to anyone who wanted to participate. I suppose having run the CBLDF gave him greater awareness of the Harveys. There was no pressure to vote for Crossgen. I seem to remember voting for Brian K Vaughan a lot. But I’m sure there was a natural tendency for the folks there to recognize good work being done by certain studio-mates like Laura Martin, Steve Epting, Frank D’Armata, Steve McNiven, Jim Cheung, John Dell, Justin Ponsor, etc.

    In the ensuing shit-storm over how we ruined the awards, I remember thinking that all we’d really done was care enough to actually participate. Not a mistake I’ll ever repeat. I was also pretty pissed off at anyone who suggested Chris had intentionally subverted the system. Chris Oarr became one of my closest friends while at CrossGen. He’s good people. And while I’d previously thought of the Harveys as somehow better or more artistically pure than the Eisners, I was just as disabused of that notion as anyone else out there who wondered how anything from CrossGen could sully the ballot.

    Hrm. And here I thought that experience stopped bothering me long ago…

  2. Spurgeon is right on many fronts but I don’t see the awards ending in the way same way advocacy groups that mostly win their battle just set the bar lower so they have a reason to keep raising funds. So, how do you fix them? First, the quickest and easiest fix is that any ballot should include who you can vote for or the award administrators should take it upon themselves to offer that info somewhere. Publishers would likely supply a list of books they published if asked. Second, in order to make them matter you need to make them different- no award named after Harvey Kurtzman should have categories for Best Inker, Best Colorist and Best Letterer- these are the things that belong in a Wizard magazine reader poll and not an award named in honor of a legendary cartoonist. Last, consider cash awards- comics awards don’t matter because they don’t affect sales so the person winning them may as well get some reward and this might also provoke people into taking the nomination process seriously instead of voting for their pals (if money’s tight they could limit the honors to only one or two cartoonists of merit). We all know cartoonists often aren’t well compensated for their work and this could help- I’m sure many people would even donate to a cause like that if they knew the money was helping creators who deserved and needed it.

  3. Tony’s recollection of the “CrossGen flap” is the same as mine. Chris Oarr handed out ballots, hung an envelope on his office door, and mailed in the ballots that were put in said envelope. That’s it. Yet even now, it’s Chris Oarr “claimed he had merely distributed ballots” in our “sweatshop.” Nice.

    Anyway, seems to me all the annual pissing and moaning comes down to, “It’s not what I would have picked.” Well, you know what? It’s a pretty democratic process. Just fill out the ballot that’s mailed to your doorstep. You can even do so online, I believe. If your nose it out of joint because a NASCAR comic got a nom, maybe you should have taken five minutes to fill out a ballot … instead of wasting an hour bitching about it after the fact.

  4. The thing about Crossgen and the Harveys is that almost all of the artists and writers of the comics were in one place. If Crossgen had been a typical comics publisher, Chris may have mailed or emailed ballots to all the freelancers with an entreaty from them to send them in, but as it was, it was really easy for him to personally distribute the ballots, and easy for the writers and artists to sit around and chat about their votes. No conspiracy at all, just the fact that we were all there in one place.

    The problems with the Harveys is 1) too few qualified professionals receive ballots, 2) those that receive them don’t always return them, and 3) it’s hard to remember everything that was published in the previous year.

    I don’t know an easy way to get around these problems. It means that almost any company that makes sure all its artists get ballots and a list of titles they published last year can get a nominations. In any case, that’s basically what Chris did–and it unfortunately fed into the ever-present (but ridiculous) rumors of “sweatshop” and “cult”. (And I was at Fantagraphics during the years that Fantagraphics was always accused of manipulating the awards–when what actually happened is that Kim Thompson made sure that everyone in his Rolodex got a ballot.)

  5. Tony and Ron: since everyone is coming clean here, I am forever more removing the “claimed” part of this story. Seriously. I know Chris is a good guy and a comics lover and I believe that what you say is true.

    BTW, Tony, when we worked at DC, I seem to remember a stack of printed Harvey ballots in the “giveaway area.” Pretty sure I voted then, too.

    >>>>Second, in order to make them matter you need to make them different- no award named after Harvey Kurtzman should have categories for Best Inker, Best Colorist and Best Letterer- these are the things that belong in a Wizard magazine reader poll and not an award named in honor of a legendary cartoonist.

    FWIW, I strongly strongly disagree on the Lettering and Coloring fronts, at least. Kurtzman was a student of the craft of comments and paid much attention to his own lettering and the coloring available at the time and I think he would have supported the artistry and legacy of these very honorable trades.

    “Inking” is a much more subjective idea, as this year’s strange mix of nominees shows. It was created as part of the “sweatshop” approach to comics, so perhaps there is more wiggle room there.

  6. I fill out an ballot every year by hand. Don’t know if it’s counted or not, but I assume it is, and I look forward to the process because it’s such a funny, fussy pain in the ass.

    That said, I totally reject the notion that you’re not allowed to complain about something unless you participate in the process. This isn’t Sesame Street, and filling out ballots has a low moral compulsion point in general. You can take a shot at that person for not participating, particularly if their complaint is results-based, but it doesn’t invalidate what they’re saying.

  7. Suggestions:
    Limit participation to creative people, perhaps just writers and artists. 100 pages of actual published story to qualify.

    Use the Diamond Previews data as the initial source of what and who is eligible. Allow publishers to submit corrections until the end of February of the award year.

    Limit the number of categories. Include “newcomer” awards to celebrate the independent spirit of Harvey Kurtzman (material published in the past five years, one win or five nominations remove an individual from future consideration). Consider an editing award. As a creator-driven award, every category should celebrate individual creativity, so “Best Reprint” and the like should be eliminated.

    Eliminate any reprints from consideration. Any nominee must be original work. Any book must contain 66% or more new material.

    All publishers should be encouraged to allow reprints of nominees and winners in an anthology collection. Publishers should also be encouraged to print their own Harvey anthologies.

    All bylaws, procedures, rules, and regulations should be posted on the Harvey Awards website. Nomination and final vote totals shall be publicized one month after the awards ceremony.

  8. Tom; The fact that I didn’t vote and still complained shows that it’s more of a guideline than a firm rule, but still…IF the awards continue — and I think that may be a big if — everyone complaining needs to put their pen to paper and participate.

  9. “3) it’s hard to remember everything that was published in the previous year.”

    Solution: some kind of “for your consideration” thing, much like the Oscars, where all the comics companies remind people what they’ve had out that year that’s eligible and good enough to vote for. If it works for the Oscars…

  10. I fail to see the value of being able to vote on the nominations, as opposed to a juried selection a la the Eisners–this is one thing I think the Eisners get really right: a rotating panel of judges selected from across the industry. I often disagree with the outcome of both the Harveys and the Eisners, but more because my taste differs from most comics readers’ than I think there is something intrinsically wrong with the awards (outside of this sort of thing).

  11. Torsten:

    I pretty much like your suggestions, but to nitpick a little:

    “Limit participation to creative people, perhaps just writers and artists. 100 pages of actual published story to qualify. Use the Diamond Previews data as the initial source of what and who is eligible. Allow publishers to submit corrections until the end of February of the award year. ”

    The Harvey Awards are *already* limited to creative folks, but if you want to argue that voiting eligibility should be further limited, that’s fine. But whatever other standard you chose to add–X number of pages of published work; listing in Diamond Previews; etc.–that’s really beside the point. It sounds as if what you’re really asking for is that the Harvey’s be more credible in verifying voters’ eligibility. The Harvey Awards *already* have basic standards to determine voter eligibility–the ballot asks for respondents to list their professional credits that would indicate they are indeed a “creative” type able to vote. If you feel that the Awards somehow is deficient in reviewing/administering the eligibility guidelines it already has, then the solution isn’t likely to be changing the eligibility guidelines. (Changing the eligibility guidelines may be a good idea for other reasons, but it might not solve the problem you may perceive here.)

    If you’re talking about using the Diamond list as a starting point in maintaining some sort of massive running list of eligible work, that goal is laudable, but relying on Diamond Previews data as even an initial source of what’s eligible is likely to be controversial/problematic since (1) that presupposes you can easily get Diamond data–drilled down to include individual creator names–which may not be the case; (2) that wouldn’t help at all with certain categories like the web-based ones. But if you can get past that–particularly that first hurdle which I suspect is non-trivial, I suppose it could work more or less as you’ve outlined.

    As for “Nomination and final vote totals shall be publicized one month after the awards ceremony.”–I understand the appeal and need for transparency, but realistically, I wouldn’t expect *any* awards to publicize their final vote totals. It’d be great, I agree, but more realistically, I could see an Awards announce the number of voters in their voting body (“This year, the Awards received ballots from so-many-hundred voters”) even if they wouldn’t provide individual vote breakdowns like CNN’s election maps do.

  12. “I understand the appeal and need for transparency, but realistically, I wouldn’t expect *any* awards to publicize their final vote totals.”

    The Hugo Awards do.

  13. ““I understand the appeal and need for transparency, but realistically, I wouldn’t expect *any* awards to publicize their final vote totals.”

    The Hugo Awards do.”

    I stand duly chastized and impressed.

    And, having surfed around the Hugo site, I am all the more impressed that the Hugos can be as transparent as they are and be as prestigious to their field as they are, with only several hundred submitted ballots.

    I still don’t necessarily expect that any comics award could/would get to the same level of transparency, but perhaps I should raise my standards and expectations.

    Learn something new every day, you do…

  14. I’m inclined to favor shutting down the Harveys awards program. When a program’s credibility has been damaged so badly, regaining the lost credibility will be difficult. Simply increasing participation wouldn’t fix the problem with voters not really knowing what to consider “best.”

    It might be useful to survey other publishing awards programs and see what systems they use. The ForeWord Magazine awards program has been criticized for requiring entrants to pay a per title fee, but the Independent Publisher Book Awards program also requires a per title fee. The two programs might have the same ultimate corporate owner, but in any case, would requiring entrants into the program to pay a fee, even a small one, per title entered for consideration be a valid way of limiting the titles considered?

    SRS

  15. We can learn a lot from the Hugo Awards. This past year, the Hugo committee made a dedicated effort to publicize the awards across the industry and get out the vote. It put out a voter packet to help voters make informed choices, including offering many of the nominees as free ebooks. The Hugo website includes extensive information on the awards and near-complete transparency. (Why shouldn’t we know how many people voted for a comic-book award? We know how many people voted for the President of the United States. Is the Harvey for Best Inker more of a sacred trust?)

    The results? Well, here are this year’s Hugo nominees in the “Graphic Fiction” category:

    The Dresden Files: Welcome to the Jungle. Written by Jim Butcher, art by Ardian Syaf (Del Rey/Dabel Brothers Publishing)
    Girl Genius, Volume 8: Agatha Heterodyne and the Chapel of Bones. Written by Kaja & Phil Foglio, art by Phil Foglio, colors by Cheyenne Wright (Airship Entertainment)
    Fables: War and Pieces. Written by Bill Willingham, pencilled by Mark Buckingham, art by Steve Leialoha and Andrew Pepoy, color by Lee Loughridge, letters by Todd Klein (DC/Vertigo Comics)
    Schlock Mercenary: The Body Politic. Story and art by Howard Tayler (The Tayler Corporation)
    Serenity: Better Days. Written by Joss Whedon & Brett Matthews, art by Will Conrad, color by Michelle Madsen, cover by Jo Chen (Dark Horse Comics)
    Y: The Last Man, Volume 10: Whys and Wherefores. Written/created by Brian K. Vaughan, pencilled/created by Pia Guerra, inked by Jose Marzan, Jr. (DC/Vertigo Comics)

    There are some nominations with which I might quibble (it seems like anything with Joss Whedon’s name attached gets an automatic wave-through in all nerdy awards, regardless of merit), and I’m not about to proclaim these the top sci-fi and fantasy comics published in 2008, bar none. But it’s a solid, respectable list. It covers an admirably varied range of styles and formats, including two webcomics (one of them a daily gag strip), and no one artist or publisher dominates.

    This is a list of nominees for a science-fiction award, not a comics award; we can safely assume that many of the Hugo voters knew little about comics. Yet they still came up with a stronger list than any given category of this year’s Harveys.

    And yeah, I voted on the Harvey nominations, so I get to complain.

  16. I note one thing about everyone who is complaining about NASCAR Heroes #5 being nominated – I’ve yet to hear anyone say that it was a bad comic. Or that it was a good comic, for that matter. They don’t know, they haven’t read it.
    Now I’m in the contextually odd position of having actually read that issue, but that’s not important to what I have to note here: there’s an inherent problem because there are so few people who will actually be conversant with most of what’s out there. This isn’t 25 years back, where one might reasonably sample every new commercially distributed title. There are probably more longform reprints being issued this week than in all of 1984. Back then, even if it wasn’t your cuppa, you likely knew about a title, probably gave it a look. But those were in the days of much thinner catalogs. Now, I don’t know of anyone whose time and financial resources outstrip the availability of comics to spend them on. There are enough comics aimed at you that you don’t need to read everything. Used to be, you heard something was well-done, you checked it out, even if a book about a sword-wielding aardvark or a world of beans didn’t sound like your thing. Now? How good would you have to heard that something called NASCAR Heroes was before you tried it? If you heard it enough, you might get to believe that it was of interest to people into both NASCAR racing and superheroes, but unless you live in that particular overlap yourself, would you think it was for you?
    So when it comes time to fill out the nomination ballots, do you feel you even know what the Best 5 Stories were of last year? I don’t assume that I read them; the best I could possibly put forth is the My Favorite Five From The Percent Or Two Of Issued Comics That I Read. This is a dilemma that the Eisner awards does a good job of working around… but even then, the final ballots come out, and I find it’s largely a practice of “Here’s five books in this category, one of which you read, pick the best one!” Perhaps other find a larger percentage of their reading in there, but that is more a reflection of sales popularity than of quality. If NASCAR Heroes 5 made it onto the Eisner ballot, people still haven’t read it and aren’t likely to hunt it down to vote on it.
    But the good thing is, it doesn’t matter. “Best Graphic Novel” is so inherently subjective anyway that it’s meaningless… which is not to say that trying to find it through some means is useless. The very process brings attention to books that, while they may not actually be the very best, are good enough examples of what they are to be worth the attention. It gets us talking about what’s good in comics, thinking about it, and finding excuses to point people to our favorites. And that, not pristine accuracy, is the real value of such awards.

  17. Heidi, I’m sure DC did make ballots available, and I just walked right past. And I hope you didn’t feel I was directing my frustration your way, cuz I love ya, girl!

  18. I can’t remember if I’ve ever voted for the Harvey’s, and I don’t know much, if anything about the whole voting problems and whatnot. I didn’t even read Nascar #5, but I did read the first issue, and I have to say, that while it may not have been the best thing I ever read, it was also not that bad. It’s just that I never saw many issues at my lcs after the first, but it’s something that I would have recommended to someone who may like that sort of thing.

    My main complain was that I wondered if the actual paper and cover were oil based as i don’t think that would be very environmentally friendly.

  19. I’m amused by the reactions I’ve seen other places on the net with comics nerds mocking the entire idea of a NASCAR comic. Nothing better than seeing people in subcultures throw stones. It’s like wrestling fans making fun of people that read comics.

    I don’t believe this is the case, but what if this was a book sold not through Diamond but sold at NASCAR events and had phenomenal sales numbers? Would people still mock it?

  20. mark –

    There was a Nascar book put out years ago that sold well and was sold at Nascar events. I believe Vortex, of all places, published it. Nobody mocked it because nobody ever heard of it. And it wasn’t voted as best comic in a screwed-up awards program. You know I loves ya Mark, but since when does selling well mean you can’t mock a project? Liefeld’s anything? Spawn? The Goddamned Batman?

    Yeah, everyone’s beating up on this Nascar comic they haven’t seen or read. A lot of folks, myself included, are judging a book by it’s name. Sometimes there’s good reason. I haven’t seen year One, okay, but it if popped up on the Academy Awards list for best film, I’d say WHAT THE FUCK? Because we have brains and yeah, we generalize, but NASCAR COMIC BOOK, no matter how well done, doesn’t strike me, or many others, as representative of the BEST we collectively made, sold and bought last year. Michael says it was “not that bad”. That’s the best I’ve seen about it so far. NOT THAT BAD. Awesome. We can argue all we like, but come on. Let’s be realistic here.

    And if it was just that, and let’s say I’m a jerk about the Nascar comic, and I lose that argument completely — and it was simply a matter of a fluke nom, or several flukes, because awards are flukey — this would be only about the Nascar comic. Which it isn’t, and which is shouldn’t be. It sidetracks the rest of the WTF nominations — there are two reprint books which garnered nominations in “new” categories. I think that’s kooky. Does this mean from here on in us poor bastards have to compete against Tezuka every year because he’s been reprinted? Kirby? Gaiman? Spiegelman? Los Bros? Morrison? Brubaker? Cooke? Winsor McCay? CHARLES SCHULZ –? Etc? Really? You think so? Then why is Al Jaffee — god love him — and Kyle Baker — major g-damned talent — up for best art and best writer etc when the work they did is years old? In Jaffee’s case, decades old. God help us all if this is the case, because I’m voting for Kirby and Schulz et al every year over all of us.

    As Heidi and others have pointed out, the best cartoonist category is super crazy. Better than Jeff Smith was? Richard Thompson? Gilbert Hernandez? Jaime Hernandez? Insert name here? Yes, yes, my opinion. But again, let’s be serious, let’s be realistic, let’s talk like we’re at the convention bar, not the way we have to talk online and in public. I don’t relish the idea of seeming like I’m shoveling dirt on a bunch of projects and cartoonists, despite my reputation for vitriol. I’m not mad at any of the nominees, not even friggin’ Nascar. I’m mad at the program, it’s a trainwreck, and has been chugging down this broken track for some years. ANd I’m depressed as well, because I used to be involved with the Harveys as emcee for four years, and contributed ideas and whatnot early on in my relationship with the award. I’ve won four Harveys, I’m not jealous or whining for attention. I used to really admire and respect the award, and it’s just fallen down and has never gotten back up. The ceremony got nicer, they made statues instead of plaques (I liked the plaques, personally), and they have power point or whatever and nice imagery from the nominees and Kurtzman’s life. What they never got was people voting. The mainstreamers used to knock the Harveys b/c it was seen as the “Fantagraphics award” for years, rightfully or not (not, imo). The publishers ignored the award, as did many others. It wasn’t part of SDCC, it has been batted around for years. Nominees don’t show up at the ceremony. And the voting has been skewed to the point where now everyone is arguing about it and some are saying the award should end.

    I dunno if they can fix it, they’ve never had sufficient funds and from what i understand, the MOCCA Harvey event (my last, and unfortunately not my best showing) was a pretty decent financial bust. I think the award hangs on by tenacity and momentum and a desire on the promoters to keep it going for the sake of Harvey Kurtzman’s name and legacy. I understand that.

    But I have this feeling, based on nothing but Kurtzman’s work and satirical bent and apparent character garnered through interviews, that he’d be kind of unhappy about what’s been happening to the award named after him. Because it’s Humbug, it’s Mad, the promoters have Trumped the process, and apparently no one can Help fix this mess. I don’t think people will flock to vote for change. And I don’t think the Harveys will be able to dent the industry and make headway towards involving more creators and publishers to take them seriously. I echo what Tom SPurgeon said recently, I don’t what purpose the Harveys serve anymore. I’m not happy about this, kids. I’m really not.

    My 22 cents, take it for what it’s worth.

  21. I’m amused by the reactions I’ve seen other places on the net with comics nerds mocking the entire idea of a NASCAR comic.

    The issue isn’t whether NASCAR could be suitable subject matter for a comic book; it’s whether that subject could be substantial enough for a comic book about it to possibly be the “best” book of the year. I doubt that very much.

    Since the biggest problem with the Harveys might be that no person or small group of people has enough familiarity with what comes out in a given year to rate the quality of the books, aside from the problem with judging the quality of an issue that’s part of an arc, the solution would be finding some way to limit the number of comics to be judged. Viewed in that context, entry fees are quite reasonable. If a publisher thinks his books are good enough to win awards, he’ll pay the fee. Given the number of (comic) books published annually, limiting the number of entrants through fees might be the best way to run an awards program in the industry, whether you’re talking about comic books or small press text books.

    SRS

  22. Weirdly enough, I read NASCAR Heroes #5 all the way to the end, which is definitely not what I expected when I opened the damn thing. On the other hand, the idea that it belongs on a “best-of” list is laughable.

  23. Evan, Stephen:

    This is comics. This is a medium where we can judge a Toth Hot Wheels story to be a classic, where a publisher can put an Atari Force story in their Best Of The Year anthology and yes, it belonged there, not because there was nothing else good but because creative folks can find something to do within that context. We can express our admiration for an aardvark-oriented Conan parody. We give awards to works like “hey, what if Mr. Hyde, the Invisible Man, and that gal from Dracula all teamed up to fight crime?” Yeah, we gave League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen the award in the same year we gave one to Dork, and gave one to Jaime Hernandez, who likes to do stories about professional wrestling.
    Was NASCAR Heroes #5 the best comic of the year? Not to my tastes. But that’ s not because it was a NASCAR comic book. There are plenty of topics that the comics form has done great, good, and lousy stories about.
    To assume that a NASCAR comic book couldn’t be any good because it’s a NASCAR comic is like assuming a comic book can’t be any good because it’s a comic book. It something that one can say with a sneering tone and thus skip having to say anything intelligent.

  24. Hey you know what, the corporate proaganda manga PROJECT X: CUP NOODLE is one of my favorite manga and it doesn’t sound like it’s a worthy book but …guess what! It was nominated for an Eisner! So maybe Nascar Heroes #5 is a really great comic and those who voted for it are on the right track.

    I wish one of the actual VOTERS would speak up and exlain his/her choice.

    Be prepared to defend your answer.

  25. Here’s some of what I nominated:

    BEST WRITER
    WRITER TITLE
    1. Ed Brubaker Captain America
    2. Danielle Corsetto Girls With Slingshots
    3. Jermey Love Bayou
    4. Kevin Colden Fishtown
    5. Johnathan Levitt Backstage

    BEST CARTOONIST

    1. Danielle Corsetto Girls With Slingshots
    2. Dean Haspiel Street Code
    3. Kevin Colden Fishtown
    4. Dean Haspiel Fear My Dear
    5. Joe Infurinti Ultra Lad

    BEST COVER ARTIST
    1. Drew Raush Sullengrey
    2. Drew Raush The Dark Goodbye
    3. Kevin Colden Fishtown
    4. Dean Haspiel The Alcoholic
    5. James Jean Fables

    As you can see, not many of those choices actually made the final list.

    But, for BEST NEW SERIES and BEST ONLINE WORK, you better believe I nominated several of my peers from Zuda – but I also nominated Danielle Corsetto, Molly Crabapple, Kevin Colden, and others. I’m proud of the work my peers in webcomics are doing at Zuda, on Act-I-Vate, or on their own – and it’s a shame I could only nominate a few of them.

  26. Hmmm. Weighing in a little late on this one.

    I haven’t seen many reax specifically aimed at Zuda, but several of my esteemed compatriots seem to (rightly) be taking personal issue with the negative vibes, so I’m a little fixated on that.

    I was pleased to see 3 Zuda strips nominated, not only for Best Online, but Best New Series. I’ve been saying (and some would argue, proving) for years that digital media is the future of serialization in comics. Ask any indie creator, or even many larger publishers if they make money on floppies. Odds are the answer is that they make bupkuss.

    The only way for comics to survive as a medium is to adapt to a changing world, and guess what? The general public wants their entertainment a.) available at hand and b.) as cheap as possible. And with smartphone devices and the like becoming the norm, it’s now possible to implement a controlled, profitable system like LongBox or several other projects that you will be hearing about shortly. Add in a color Kindle on the way and there aren’t many nails left to be laid to that coffin.

    But I digress. What the Zuda noms mean is not necessarily that the ballots were stuffed but rather that maybe – just MAYBE – logic is finally taking hold and the general PTB and readership have accepted the fact that the medium of delivery does not diminish the quality of the work.

    Not sure that the awards need to be changed at all; just that everyone who cares anough to take the noms to task needs to VOTE next time. Words mean diddly-squat without action.

    (sidenote – to David G., thank you for your ever-solid support, but you and I both know I am never, ever going to win any popularity contests ;)

  27. A couple of observations and facts:

    – In reviewing the blogs/webpages/Tweets of the nominees out of curiousity yesterday, I found that I’d guesstimate 75-80% of the ones that had active pages had posted a “Hey, I got nominated for a Harvey! Cool!” type of message, if not a much longer exposition (all of our thoughts are with you, Rich Faber). While it might not mean something to some vocal on-line members of the community, it did to the nominees. It is unbelievably insensitive to the nominees and irresponsible to the community for those of you spewing animosity instead of congratluations to the nominees and offers of assistance to the Harvey Committee.

    – A lot of the work nominated is very familiar to me. A lot of the work nominated is vaguely familiar to me. A handful of the items nominated are alien to me. But those in the “alien” category just moved up to the “vaguely” category for me, and I’m apt to say to myself of anything I’m not very familiar with, “Well, some not insignificant number of the creative community nominated this as worthy of seeing, so I’m curious why.” That’s money in your pockets, creators/publishers.

    – If you review the nominees for the past few years (and I’d guess many years in the past as well), there are always some odd ducks that sneak into the nomination process. It is rare that these end up winning the final awards. HEY CREATOR, YOU DON’T LIKE NASCAR COMICS #5? VOTE FOR SOMETHING ELSE ON YOUR FINAL BALLOT SUBMISSION.

    – I have no insight as to how many creators submit ballots, but I have seen numerous creators posting here, Newsarama, Bleeding Cool, CBR, etc. and some have posted their ballot choices, so I know that, while maybe some of you are not participating, many others are, enough so that the nominees listed on those who posted didn’t get selected because others had more nominations.

    – Remember http://comicsindustryforobama.ning.com/? Remember how you guys HATED Bush and wanted to mobilize for change? We know you can move past the self-loathing apathy and be effective, because we saw it all over the web, all over the Convention circuit, and in some books. GET OUT AND VOTE! Not sure how? http://www.harveyawards.org/. IT AIN’T HARD.

    – The Harvey ballots get posted on every major (and some minor) vaguely comics-oriented webpage. The Harvey ballots are brought in hard-copy to some publishers so they can pass them along to their creative staff. The Harvey ballots are e-mailed directly to thousands of members of the creative community. IF YOU ARE ELIGIBLE TO AND DIDN’T VOTE AND DON’T LIKE THE RESULTS, YOU CAN AFFECT CHANGE IN THE FINAL AWARDS THIS YEAR OR IN BALLOTS IN FUTURE YEARS.

    -Figuring out how to contact the Harvey staff to offer assistance is like finding water at the beach — just look for it. It’s all over the ballot. It’s all over the announcements of the ballot posted to all of those news sites. It’s all over the Harvey website. I believe it’s even on the Baltimore Comic-Con website. How many of you that have offered words of condemnation have picked up the phone and called Paul McSpadden? Or took the time to e-mail to say, “Hey, I’m frustrated with what I saw this year, and I’d like to help fix it moving forward?” Calling for the awards to end is like asking Apple to stop making computers after the Lisa didn’t sit well in your stomach. Where would the comics industry be without Apple?

    These awards are designed to enable the creative community to choose what they would like to see rewarded. If the non-apathetic members of the community who have a preference for certain peers or titles to be rewarded go out and make that happen, the apathetic members of the community who didn’t do so have no one to be angry with but themselves. To blame it on the very open and easy process is myopic.

  28. Industry awards are a nice way to expose and acknowledge outstanding efforts. With that in mind, I take the Eisner’s, Ignatz, and Harvey’s as seriously as I can afford to [I wish the Kirby’s would return…I’d kill for a Kirby. Perhaps an eventual online award will be dubbed The McCLoud?].

    With desktop and digital publishing and the world wide web at our fingertips, it’s become the onus of the independent and freelance creator to hype their own wares. I did my best to alert folks about my stellar 2008 year of output on my blog: http://man-size.livejournal.com/410480.html and cross-posted this link on FaceBook, MySpace, and via private email. I thought I had a pretty good chance at getting some kinda Harvey nomination. Alas…

    Thanks to David Gallaher for your nominations and thanks for championing webcomix. Big ups to your genre-bending HIGH MOON nomination with Steve Ellis. Also, a high-five goes to the Timony Bros for THE NIGHT OWLS. Between, ACT-I-VATE, Transmission X, Zuda, et al, webcomix are a force to be reckoned with and will continue to penetrate all comix categories as format and distribution lines blur between print and digital.

  29. For those interested, here’s a preview of the NASCAR comic from Free Comic Book Day. Not the comic in question but can we assume the writing style is similar?

    Actual dialogue from one page:

    “This is incredible! I can use my mental powers to see the road seconds before I see it with my eyes!”

    “Uh-oh! The guy in front of me is about to spin out!”

    “I’d better get out of the way!”

    http://www.freecomicbookday.com/pdf_spreads/StarbridgeMediaFCBD09_CONSUMER.pdf

    Listen, can everyone just stop playing devil’s advocate for a second? We all like to teach the little kids that you can’t judge a book by it’s cover but let’s call a spade a spade: I know a NASCAR comic isn’t going to be good the same way I know a WAL-MART comic isn’t going to be good. You can call me ignorant if you’d like, I’ll take the shot. But then you have to go out, read it, and write an honest review. Deal?

  30. Steven R. Stahl wrote: I’m inclined to favor shutting down the Harveys awards program. When a program’s credibility has been damaged so badly, regaining the lost credibility will be difficult. Simply increasing participation wouldn’t fix the problem with voters not really knowing what to consider “best.”

    Similar things have happened with the Hugo and Nebula Awards over in SF fandom. The Nebulas, particularly, are easy to game; something needs only 10 votes to make the prelim ballot. That’s how a Star Trek fan film landed on the Nebula ballot last year. Then there’s the outcry over Harry Potter on the Hugo ballot a few years back.

    It’s people gaming the system, taking advantage of the cracks in the plaster. Yes, it’s a tempest now, but the solution isn’t to end the system. Or even to game the system next year because now you know you can. The solution is to mend the system.

  31. Nat — whatever you say, man. Honestly. I think we’re gonna get nowhere continuing this, because I am not going to concede that Nacar #5 is potentially incredible singular work any more than I’ll concede World’s Funnest should have won Best Single Issue in 2001. I appreciate that Harvey in my house, but I don’t believe in it. As for Nascar # 5 — the cover alone is a piece of facile, slick, generic junk. Beyond that, I’m making what I think is a reasonable judgement based on my brain, my experience looking at stuff, the title, the cover, what I’ve read about it from folks who’ve read it, and a gut feeling it is, at best, professional, mediocre, generic comics. Sorry if that’s lame or rash or insidious. I’m crazy, I know, but that’s sometimes how I do things. Maybe others, do, as well, despite the light and reason in the dark shouting, “You fools! Nascar #5 could be incredible! Better than Rasl! Better than Love and Rockets! Better than Morrison!” I haven’t read Tarot, either, but I’ll put my house up on the betting block against that one, as well. This despite Heidi’s anecdote — because the Eisner nominations can be weird, as well, if a judge simply loves something and everyone agrees to let him or her have their way so they can have theirs on another issue. Three Geeks three nominations, anyone -? Also, I think it’s a bad comparison, because the title alone of the noodle manga might sound silly and insipid, but isn’t it a sort of truthful telling of how they invented instant cup ramen noodles, and about one of the biggest motherhumping corporations in Japan? A sea change in the way many people there — and elsewhere — now eat? I assume there’s some social crap and character exchange and histroy there. It strikes me, crazy me, to be a bit more than the apparent goals of a licensed car racing comic that is apparently not about Nascar’s beginningas, or impact on certain aspects of American culture, or whatever. Yes, I said apparently. Send the arrows, I’m going to continue to speak like a human being. Nascar #5: No. Sorry. No.

    And not everyone thinks Toth’s Hot Wheels books are classics. Or the hot roid stuff. It’s wonderfully drawn sorta fun goofball comics. Like Toth’s Black Canary or Batman or almost anything. Yeah, my opinion. There’s a reason people emulate Toth’s art and don’t study his comics for their writing, I’m sorry.

    And again — it isn’t just the goddamned Nascar book, fer chrissakes. That’s one pile of embers in the housefire. Cripes almighty.

    Flame away if you must.

    Sad — are you 16? I realize that’s mean-spirited, insensitive and perhaps even irresponsible, sorry, but I hate being lectured, especially by someone who doesn’t seem to have a sense of history or knowledge about what they’re discussing. It’s a little hard to separate your “observations” from your “facts”, Edward R. Murrow, in your enthusiastic, well-meaning but overall terribly naive post. “I have no insight” and “guesstimate” don’t shore up to well as facts, and the information you pass along that aren’t labeled as “Um, I think this is true” seem pretty shaky to me as well as the straight dope. I’m sorry if people are being mean. Maybe folks like myself are being insensitive to other creators. I think they can take it, if they even know about it, I’m not saying they suck or deserve nothing, I’m saying there’s a problem here, a major problem, with the award they’re up for. Should it be ignored to be nice to people? Should folks wait a few days to be sweet, and let the situation lapse? I’m sorry, I don’t believe that. I’ve benefited from folks “being nice” vis a vis awards programs, and I’ve complained about the problems, even when I’ve won them, even when I’ve emceed the awards. And I’ve complained about the Eisners, and the Ignatzes. And I’ve voted against myself when I thought my nomination was charity, or worse, bullshit. I’m not as good as Jaime Hernandez, as well as tons more, I couldn’t vote for myself in certain categories and instances knowing that. And that’s one of several times over several years.

    So, anyway, I’m sorry, I’m not going to congratulate everyone for getting to ride a leaky boat. I haven’t fired flaming arrows at them, either.

    And your comment about being “irresponsible to the community” is such a ridiculous teen-agey piece of team comics horsehockey I could type another hour about why I disagree with it, and in fact find it depressing. The community doesn’t need half-assed anything, it doesn’t need platitudes, it doesn’t need awards that have become meaningless. What the field and industry needs is to get more of it’s act together, to grow up, and to take better care of itself and whatever the hell the “comics community” is.

    On a personal note, regarding your “did you vote” cliches, did you read some of my qualifications for criticizing the Harvey awards and their process and history? I was involved with the awards for much of five years and hosted them for 4. Feel free to continue prattling your know-nothing condemnations. And I vote almost every year, even if it seems pointless.

    Dean — We know you’re a nice guy, thanks for reminding us. Peace out. The Harveys are still fucked up.

  32. I probably shouldn’t knock someone for lecturing when I probably sound like I’m lecturing. Never said I wasn’t a jerk. But jerks can be right sometimes, too. And jerks better get back to work, because I’m acting pretty stupidly spending my time here on something I’m proposing doesn’t matter anymore.

    Congrats to everyone, we’re all awesome. Yay, team comics.

  33. It’s always hard to figure out a way to both encourage participation in awards programs with public voting — and at the same time figure out how to handle effective campaigns by people who participate within the rules. There was that year in the CBG Fan Awards when a Carl Barks Duck story swept all sorts of categories, partially due to ballots being distributed at Disney offices. It wasn’t something anyone predicted, nor were we sure afterward how it should have been handled differently.

    As to writing off the potential of various subject matters for making good comics, that’s certainly up to the individual — but we might think about those film reviewers who once dismissed comic books out of hand as being source material for potentially good movies. As with anything else, execution matters — as well as what else the story is about. I don’t speculate many Oscar voters are big boxing fans, but I can think of at least three boxing movies that got best picture nominations — including two that won.

  34. Evan, thanks for your insightful input. Since your opinion is right, everyone else’s must be wrong. And since you don’t like the taste of vanilla ice cream, it must be bad.

    I stand by my initial statements. In truth, I don’t love the Harveys specifically, and I certainly don’t love the past few years’ ballots (I had a 30 minute rant this year with some of the staff before any of you did), but it’s not their fault that the creative community didn’t vote.

    I’ll reiterate the underlying theme in my previous post: http://www.harveyawards.org/ — go vote (and encourage your peers to do so as well) if you want results.

  35. I think my favorite take on this whole thing was Tweeted by Scott Kurtz last night:

    (paraphrased) If the Harvey nominations are a joke, what does it say about you that you didn’t even get nominated.

    Nyah.

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