This year’s Harvey Award nominees were announced earlier this week. Let’s take a quick look…
- Albert the Alien, by Trevor Mueller and Gabriel Bautista
- Battlepug, by Mike Norton
- Bloom County 2015, by Berkeley Breathed
- Oh Joy Sex Toy, by Erika Moen and Matthew Nolan
- Zombie Boy, by Mark Stokes
Now, as I noted about last year’s Ignatz Awards and the Eisner Awards before that, the broad category of “online comics” really doesn’t make much sense. Two gag-a-day comedies, a fantasy story, an all-ages science fiction story, and an education/sex toy review site. All good works, but coming from such disparate vantage points that it’s almost impossible to fairly judge one against another. I won’t belabor that point again here.
But it’s worth taking note of another problematic issue here. Namely, a very distinct lack of diversity. Everyone on the list is Caucasian, and all but one of them are men.
One of the benefits of webcomics that I’ve been touting for at least a decade now is the low barrier to entry means that the traditional gatekeepers who make it unnecessarily difficult for women and minorities to enter print comics are gone, and it’s therefore much easier for their voices to be heard. And sure enough, there’s a much greater degree of diversity among webcomics compared to their print cousins. But we don’t see that represented here.
What’s especially troubling is that Harvey nominations are selected by “the full body of comic book professionals.” That is, everyone who works in comics has the ability to nominate a work, and after the final nominees are tallied, vote on them. So the lack of diversity we’re seeing is no direct reflection of the Harvey organizers themselves, but the comic book professional community at large. Or, more accurately, the comic book professional community that bothered to submit nominations.
Given that most of the awards are for print materials, it stands to reason that most of the people doing the nominating are more vested in the print world. Which in turn means that their nominations are going to reflect the same biases inherent in the print industry—namely, in overwhelming favor of white men. By the sheer volume of webcomics out there, there could well be more professionals creating webcomics than print comics (this would be almost impossible to accurately count, I think) and that could potentially equalize the balance but you would, of course, need webcomikers to get involved in an award process that clearly finds webcomics as something of an afterthought.
As I’ve said many times before, there are any number of fantastic creators out there making brilliant webcomics. Including the ones nominated this year! But by looking at this list, you’d have no way of knowing what a brilliant breadth of voices and ideas were out there.