Cold Cut Comics Distribution

"The Eisners: Why They're Biased"


Published as an article in the September 1997 issue of the Cold Cut Bulletin, musings on why the Eisner Awards are biased, but why the Eisner nominations are much more meaningful.


The 1997 Eisner Awards were presented at the Comic-Con International in San Diego in July, honoring the best work produced in the industry during the previous year. Once again, a number of independent works and self-published creators were honored with nominations in nearly all of the categories.

It has been said that the Eisner Awards are not based on popularity, but on the quality of the work itself, and in most ways that is true. The nominations for each category are made by a group of five industry professionals who are charged with reading and evaluating every work submitted for each category, and selecting the best group of five or six to be submitted to the voting members for the final election.

"But by the very nature of large-scale awards elections like this, the awards necessarily favor large publishers"
But by the very nature of large-scale awards elections like this, the awards necessarily favor large publishers with wide distribution. Eisner Award Voters are all industry professionals, including retailers, publishers, artists, writers, and more. Collectively, there are nearly 7,000 people eligible to vote for the Eisners; there is no way that every nominated work could have been seen by every eligible voter.

Works which are published by large companies, works which sell well, works which are available in all comic shops necessarily are more visible to Eisner voters than smaller-circulation works. Since no one will vote for a work which they haven't seen, the number of potential voters for any small-press or independent publication is naturally smaller than the number of potential voters for books done by DC, Marvel, Dark Horse, or Image. Many independent books have entire print runs of 3,000 or less - it simply isn't possible for even half of the Eisner voters to have seen them.

This factor is most plainly seen in the Eisner for "Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition" - since the nominees are by definition people who do not currently have much recognition (and thus, not much circulation), hardly anyone has seen any of their works - thus, the award tends to go to the artist who has been published by the largest publisher.

There does not seem to be any way around this dilemma - in order to involve the greatest number of professionals in the process (always a good thing), Eisners are voted upon by thousands of people. It simply is not possible that a book whose circulation is only 1,000 or 2,000 can have even been seen by the majority of voters.

"We here at Cold Cut feel the Eisner nomination itself is the most significant award"
But, since the nomination process is truly egalitarian - requiring that the nominating committee look at every work - we here at Cold Cut feel the Eisner nomination itself is the most significant award.

Therefore, to honor this year's Eisner nominees, we've identified each work and creator throughout the Bulletin this month indicating the catgeory or categories for which the work was nominated. Every nominated book is near the top of its craft, and deserves extra focus.

Also, we'd like to recognize the two independent publishers who won Eisner awards this year. When a nominated independent creator manages to overcome their innate disadvantage to win the Eisner, it is truly a feat of amazing proportions!

Congratulations to Charles Vess, winner of the "Best Penciller/Inker" Eisner for Book of Ballads & Sagas and Sandman #75, and kudos to David and Maria Lapham for winning the Eisner for "Best Graphic Album - Reprint" for the Stray Bullets HC (now out of print until the TPB is done this spring).

We'd also like to especially point out the self-publisher nominees for the Eisner for "Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition" - since truthfully, all of these creators deserve more recognition:

Special thanks go to the Eisner Nominating Committee, who had the daunting task of reading literally hundreds of submitted works and narrowing each category down to the select few who were really the best in the field. Committee members for 1997 were: Joe Field, Paul Grant, Janet Hetherington, Tony Isabella, and Jesse Leon McCann.

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