This week, the Eisner Awards judges announced two women to be inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Awards Hall of Fame as well as sixteen additional nominees that other comic professionals will vote on. Of no surprise, of course, is that all eighteen names are/were incredible talents and powerful forces in comics. That’s the whole point of a Hall of Fame after all. Check out the list of talent here: Carol Kalish and Jackie Ormes (the two inductees), Charles Addams, Jim Aparo, Gus Arriola, Karen Berger, Howard Cruse, Carlos Ezquerra, Dave Gibbons, Paul Levitz, Tarpé Mills, Francoise Mouly, Thomas Nast, Lily Renée Peter Phillips, Posy Simmonds, Rumiko Takahashi, John Wagner, and S. Clay Wilson.
You might note that many of these people have sadly passed. But that somewhat stands to reason as a Hall of Fame by its nature is intended to celebrate those who have had a lasting impact on the industry, and that is frequently accomplished over a long period of time. Often an entire lifetime. So it’s no surprise that you don’t generally see the names of whoever the hot, new talent is or, indeed, anyone who hasn’t put in several decades of work.
Which is, I think, primarily why we haven’t seen any webcomic creators on put up for nominations yet. However talented you might think Eisner Award Winning cartoonist Noelle Stevenson is, her first “professional” work was only in 2012. It’s long-term impact cannot be judged because it simply hasn’t been around long enough yet.
What’s interesting, though, is that Where the Buffalo Roam—generally credited as the first true webcomic—began in 1992, scarcely over twenty-five years ago. We are just now starting to get to the point where webcomics can start to be seen in the rear view mirror and their significance recognized.
Does that mean, the Hall of Fame nominees in five years will consist entirely of webcomikers?
Probably not. In the first place, there are still plenty of historical creators who haven’t received their due yet. Peyo (The Smurfs), Keiji Nakazawa (Barefoot Gen), Bill Watterson (Calvin & Hobbes), and Rose O’Neill (Kewpies) to name a very, very few note-worthy creators have yet to make it into the Hall of Fame. In the second place, as I’ve alluded to in other columns, the judging organization is a little slow to identify new and different categories or recognition. “Best Webcomic” only just became it’s own category last year. I suspect that, in looking for potential nominees in the future, it will take some time for judges to turn their collective eye towards webcomics as source of industry influence.
But whenever they do start pulling Hall of Fame nominees from the ranks of webcomikers, it will most definitely signal a final (and likely overdue) recognition of the impact the digital medium has had on comics at large.