Expanding on my initial trawl a few weeks ago, I’ve been having a look around the less mainstream parts of the list - here are a few highlights:
Richard Stark’s Parker: Slayground (IDW) - Best Adaptation from Another Medium. The fourth of Darwyn Cooke’s Parker adaptations is as good as the others, (which is significant praise, if you’re wondering). Handling the adaptation and art, Cooke has taken this series of 1960s crime thrillers and given them an impressive new life. Parker is not a cuddly protagonist, being a career criminal with a tendency to murder the people who piss him off, and Cooke does an outstanding job of conveying the seediness of his life and world. Crime comics can be hit or miss, but each of the Parker adaptations has clearly been a hit, and Cooke seems inspired by the source material to be producing some of the best work of his career.
Solo: The Deluxe Edition (DC) - Best Graphic Album - Reprint. There’s more Cooke in here, as DC reprint the twelve issues of their Solo series in one package. Solo was an interesting idea: each issue focused on the work of a single artist, free to use the page count to tell whichever stories they wanted, in whichever genres, and using DC’s stable of characters as they wanted to. They could work with writers if that was their preference and most did, but some, including Cooke and Paul Pope, wrote their own material. So this collection is essentially an anthology of anthologies, and as such it’s inevitably a mixed bag of styles, genres, storytelling techniques and of course artistic styles. Fortunately DC settled on an interesting and high quality set of featured artists, so even across this spectrum the quality is generally pretty high. Cooke’s issue was nominated for an Eisner itself, as was the series as a whole at the time.
High Crimes, by Christopher Sebela and Ibrahim Moustafa (Monkeybrain) - Best Digital/Webcomic. Since the Eisners embraced digital publication, the medium has been moderately well represented across the categories, but it still feels relevant to draw attention to the space specifically with this award. This year’s nominations are an interestingly mixed bag, running from the strip-based The Oatmeal through to something more like the traditional comic format like High Crimes. I mentioned above that crime comics can be a bit hit or miss - this is another hit. Set in the Himalayas, where the series’ lead works as a climbing guide, the story quickly gets grim and mysterious as her sideline in looting dead climbers’ bodies takes her into a conspiracy and chase in one of the deadliest environments on earth. I get a thematic vibe between this and Greg Rucka’s Whiteout stories from this, even though the protagonists and plots are very different.
The Adventures of Superhero Girl, by Faith Erin Hicks (Dark Horse) - Best Humor Publication. Faith Erin Hicks has been producing comic strips since her well-regarded Demonology 101 began in 1999 and having independently produced Superhero Girl originally as a weekly online and newspaper strip, Dark Horse became the publisher for this collected edition. This is one of those concepts that you can pretty much get from the title. The strips are a balance of stand-alone stories with ongoing developments which make this collection a great way to digest it, as the through-lines are far clearer than they were when read weekly. As well as being funny and worth reading if you like superheroes, it would also be a great book to get someone into comics.
Terry Moore, Rachel Rising (Abstract Studios) - Best Writer/Artist. This category draws entirely from the smaller publisher end of the market, where singular visions tend to have most chance to thrive, and Terry Moore is a master of those. Acclaimed for his long-running Strangers in Paradise, a few years ago Moore returned with a new self-published black and white series, Echo, which took him into the new territory of science fiction. Following the conclusion of Echo, his next new venture was Rachel Rising, a creepy, frequently shocking horror story about the title character's adventures after she rises from a shallow grave with no memory of how she got there how how she died. The two series have a lot in common; black and white, with central female protagonists and an unconventional structure which does away with the typical monthly cliffhanger to create a more flowing and organic narrative, though Rachel Rising has done better in establishing its world and a broad range of characters in it. Terry Moore’s track record is generally outstanding, but he’s noted that sales on this series aren’t great, so it would be nice to hope that this recognition might help.