One of the things that I’ve complained about over the past several years has been that many comic-related awards that have recognized webcomics seem to lump webcomics and digital comics into the same category. Or make little distinction between them. Even though they’re both presented electronically over the internet, their development and, more significantly, the resulting reading experiences are different. Webcomics can be read by virtually any internet-connected device with a screen, typically in short installments, whereas digital comics are presented in much larger blocks through a dedicated reading platform, such as the comiXology app.
This year, I was pleased that the Eisners finally split the webcomics and digital comics into different categories, but as I noted back in May, they ended up not even abiding by their own distinctions and had some webcomics up for awards in the digital comics category and vice-versa. I discussed this at even greater length with Derek Royal over at the Comics Alternative podcast in June.
I don’t know if anything I’ve said over the past few months had any impact–probably not–but I was pleased to see that, in awarding the Eisners at San Diego Comic-Con this past weekend, the Best Digital Comic award went to Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover’s Bandette (one of the actual digital comics up for that award) and the Best Webcomic award went to Anne Szabla’s Bird Boy (one of the actual webcomics up for that award). I’d like to think that the Eisner judges recognized the difference themselves and made their judgements accordingly.
Now, whether any given webcomic or digital comic is submitted for either award is not at the discretion of the Eisner committee, of course. But it seems to me that whoever is in charge of letting nominations get through their vetting process to be presented to judges should prevent unqualified works from getting that far. You wouldn’t let a black and white comic through to be up for a Best Colorist award, right? Or a Best New Series award come through for a title that’s been running for a decade? So why let through a digital comic for a Webcomic award?
The Eisner categories have never been set in stone, and are updated as new forms and formats become available. Hopefully, the team will recognize the problems in some of the categorizations this year, and we’ll see some changes in 2018.