Earlier, Heidi lamented that the Eisner Awards were not given more notice by the general public.
But there are ways. Why aren’t the Eisners a bigger deal? EVERYONE, it seems, has planned their party opposite the Eisners, and it’s understandable when the ceremony has evolved into such a chore even for the nominees. But that’s not how it should be. Why isn’t EVERY media outlet covering the Eisners? The ceremony is caught between the Old Ways and the Newfangled. It wants to be the last ceremony of the Olden Days with the Russ Manning award and Sergio and retailers — but it also wants to have nerdlebrities — Jane Wiedlin and stormtroopers. We say — make the studios pony up! If they want to keep competing with their poker pals to have the biggest display in the parking lot outside the Gaslamp Hilton, make ‘em spend some money to make the Eisners party the Governor’s ball! Make it THE place you have to be before you go off to your studio/agency soiree.
I typed a blazing rant in the comments box, but then decided to let the topic simmer.
So, here are my thoughts on the Eisners, and how to improve upon an awards program which has been running since 1988. These are not recommendations, because nobody is paying me to think about this, nor do I possess any professional expertise in this topic. I merely offer perceptions, and hope others will offer their opinions as well.
Here’s what I’d like to see in the future:
1) An awards banquet. The Harvey Awards has followed this format for the past few years. Attendees pay for a ticket, receive a gift bag from the event sponsors, and then are assigned a place setting. Certain tables would be located near electrical outlets to accommodate journalists. A secondary ballroom, sponsored, would be reserved for general attendees, and have a closed video feed to monitors.
For the Eisners, there could be a cocktail reception from 4 to 6 PM, allowing people to congregate, chat, and if necessary, pose on the red carpet for media. Companies can purchase tables, and there can also be “open” tables for the general public. A percentage of the ticket sales could be donated to charity. The ballroom foyer bar remains open throughout the event, allowing attendees a venue for private conversations or other needs.
At 5:30 PM, the ballroom opens, allowing guests to find their seats. At 6, the event starts with the usual festivities. Dinner is served during the ceremony.
By 10 PM, the event is done. The ballroom is cleared and an after-party is scheduled with a cash bar, preferably somewhere epic and picturesque, adding to the buzz and glamor of the awards. It is open to all convention attendees.
2) Awards anthologies. Other literary awards publish anthologies. These anthologies serve to promote the awards and the winners, generating exposure for both. (This is the fundamental reason why awards exist.) These anthologies are also an excellent introduction to the best of a specific category, format, or subject.
Some publishers are guarded when it comes to anthologies… they sometimes do not allow their stories to be published alongside that of other publishers. This is understandable, but frustrating as well. Why hasn’t ANY comics publisher issued their own Eisner Awards collection? A few years ago, Warner Brothers Entertainment issued a DVD containing all of their Oscar nominees and winners for Best Animated Short. Why does DC Entertainment not offer the same for their Eisner Award winners?
Comic-Con International could also license a general anthology, perhaps even including a clause in the rules allowing for republication of all nominees (with adequate compensation, of course). With the Twenty-Fifth anniversary of the Eisner Awards approaching, CCI has an excellent opportunity to not only produce a beautiful history book of the Eisner Awards, but to also launch an annual “yearbook” of nominees and winners. A Hall Of Fame series would also be worthwhile.
3) Better advertising. Most comics fans and professionals know about the Eisner Awards. The general public? They have no idea that comics earn awards. Awards anthologies help, but an even simpler solution exists: place the awards seal on the cover of the winning graphic novel. An awards seal, more than a review or author blurb, is a quick and effective way to tell a reader “THIS IS A GOOD BOOK YOU SHOULD READ”.
The awards seal also makes it easier for retailers to market award winners. Instead of thumbing through twenty-two years of winners and nominees, retailers can, at a glance, pull and merchandise titles for special displays. (Comic book shops are slowly evolving into specialty bookstores. Many (most?) do not yet merchandise graphic novels with monthly displays, or even display the weekly New York Times bestsellers.)
Once retailers begin to promote Eisner Award nominees and winners, then customers will begin to realize the worth of the award. Customers will then seek out nominees and winners, creating demand, which will then generate greater sales for publishers. Everyone knows how much an Oscar nomination is worth at the box office. Booksellers know that the Pulitzer, National Book Award, Newbery, and other well-known literary awards generate instant sales. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the same were true for the Eisner Awards?
CCI does offer book seals (since 2008), which can be pricey in bulk. Do they also offer downloadable graphics? Is there a style manual for designers to follow, so that there is a brand identity for the awards? (I don’t see a trademark symbol on the book seals, or near any of the other Eisner Award graphics on the CCI website.) How difficult is it for a publisher to use the Eisner iconography? Is it simpler to just place a text blurb on the cover, which reduces the branding of the award?
Among comics awards, the Eisners are one of the oldest and most respected. Celebrities participate, and every year, the selection process becomes more difficult as amazing works are published. Wouldn’t it be marvelous if the Awards themselves were as amazing as the titles being honored?