As you may know by now, our book Nelson has been nominated for an Eisner in the best anthology category (see here). It’s widely held that the Eisners are comics equivalent of the Oscars. I’m pleased for Blank Slate and for editors Rob Davis and Woodrow Phoenix who, along with more than fifty top British comics creators, brought this beast of a book to reality.
I also want to appeal to comics professionals to vote for the book; that means all you artists, writers, inkers, letterers, colourists, shop owners and retail managers. All of you in the comics industry are able to vote and can register here.
Normally, I’m not a great follower of awards; they are open to all sort of bias, groupthink, vagaries of jury and voters. They often reward something people love right now but in time may seem less worthy than others passed over – often raised are Citizen Kane losing out to How Green is my Valley or Raging Bull to Ordinary People. What they do, however, is attract attention to winners, which can have a great commercial value and certainly, for a short time at least, give the nod of artistic merit.
In an English-speaking comics world, the USA is almost monopolistically dominant on a publishing level. Our creators have, of course, done well, with Nick Abadzis, Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely, Sean Phillips and more winning in recent years, but UK comics publishers have been almost invisible. Only Fanfare have had 3 or 4 nominations, on each occasion for a translation of Japanese material. It could be that Nelson is one of the few comics that you can feel the British stamp on from creator, through subject matter to publisher. A British comic nominated in the most important English-speaking awards.
There isn’t much poetry in commerce; it’s more often than not about promotion irrespective of artistic quality, and winning an award and moreover wanting to win one, as I do, is often more about commerce than art. I think for Nelson though, the impetus to vote for those of us in the UK industry is much more worthy. To those yet to read it, Nelson may appear as just another anthology of comics stories on one level, but on another it’s more – it’s a calling card for a whole industry wanting to come into being as legitimate and sustainable. With no native awards to give our books credence – the once relevant Eagles having dissipated their impact in too many years of disorganisation and the sometimes wild results of an open popular vote – UK comics have had no way of making a book something that could be promoted just as hard as Habibi or the latest Clowes.
Should Nelson win this award, the industry will have that chance.
Given that Nelson is a showcase for the talent of over 50 artists, a win here is something that could help each of those artists – and the building of a comics-making field in the UK – move onwards and upwards. I’m sure all the other nominees are worthy but I would doubt that any is quite as important to as many people as Nelson is, might be, could be.
So, if, like me, you rarely bother to vote, I’d ask you to think again. If you have friends in comics, encourage them to read the book, encourage them to vote for something that is a proxy for voting for the whole of UK comics, A win for Nelson is also a win for NoBrow, SelfMadeHero, Fanfare, Accent UK and others; a win for all the artists involved in the book but also for all those who aren’t. Sometimes that first foot through the door is all you need for the door to swing wide open.
We’ve all been out here waiting, waiting for a long time for a moment to come. Never quite able to bring it into focus, always knowing there will be something that could change things but never able to grasp it or recognise it. We’ve been Joseph Cotton standing alone in the fog of a New York City park waiting for Jennifer Jones to grow up, to change from that childlike sketch into a Portrait of Jennie. It could be UK comics Jennie moment – as she says “I was hurrying, hurrying to grow up” – with your vote cast in the Eisner’s we can all take that next step towards maturity.
Some Nelson reviews: