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Lauren Davis: The Eisner Digital Comic Category needs to be expanded already

Over at Comics Alliance, Lauren Davis opines that the Digital Comics category at the Eisners needs to get opened up some:

Each year when the Eisner Award nominations are announced, I rush to my computer to see who was nominated for the Best Digital Comic category. Just like fans of print comics, I have my favorites: creators who really rocked this year; workhorses who have turned out solid comics every week for years; innovators who are doing exciting new things with the format.

But each year, I find that I’m inevitably disappointed. It’s not that the nominees aren’t good; they’re usually great, in fact. It’s just that they don’t really encapsulate the rich landscape of webcomics. Sometimes the Eisner committee honors digital comics that I’d hesitate to call webcomics at all. The problem is that the definition of digital comics is just too wide for one tiny category to contain them. If the Eisner panel truly wants to honor the diversity and innovation of webcomics, it’s time for them to offer more digital categories.

Well, the Eisners have plenty of very specific categories for print: Best Black-and-White series, Best Continuing Series, Best Album and so on, because we understand that reading comics with different formats results distinct experiences. Reading a long-running webcomic, even one whose art is formatted in much the same way as a print comic, is also a distinct experience from reading a similar comic in print.

Some webcomic creators are masters of suspense, making their Friday update the most tantalizing one of the week, leaving their audience to squirm until Monday. Some use the mouse-over text to add secondary jokes. Many make news posts or comments in their forums with each update, discussing their thought process and discarded jokes as they go along. Some use tricks that only work on the web, like the occasional animated gif or the infinite canvas. Andrew Hussie’s MS Paint Adventures was, for a time, interactive, mirroring the experience of playing a text adventure game, but communally. Randall Munroe played an April Fool’s prank on his xkcd readers this year, showing different readers different comics based on their geographic location, browser and even window size.

Webcomics are not print comics that happen to appear on the web. They’re a distinct animal, offer a distinct reading experience, and should be evaluated accordingly.

… the latest crop of nominees exposes another wrinkle in the Best Digital Comics category. Josh Neufeld’s Bahrain is a short, timely autobiographical piece; Battlepug and Delilah Dirk are long-form fantasy adventures; Meconis’ Outfoxed and Ryan Andrews’ Sarah and the Seed are short fantasy stories, with Andrews making use of the web’s infinite canvas. There is more that separates these stories than what connects them. You might discover them through the same online avenues, but they’re extraordinarily different types of work.

I’m not asking that the Eisner panel offer as many awards to digital comics as they offer to print comics. Print is, after all, the heart of the Eisner Awards. But I can’t help but feel that, with this single category, the Eisners pay lip service to digital comics rather than invite them to the table. Webcomics would be better honored with three categories in lieu of one: Best Continuing Digital Series, Best New Digital Series and Best Digital Short Story.

All valid points. I’m kinda partial to the notion of webcomics having their own awards — a little like the Webcomic List Awards I helped judge some time back. Something to separate the new wave of cartooning from the stodginess of the Reubens and the more entrenched traditions of the Eisners, but those never seem to take off. They probably won’t unless there’s a physical ceremony (as opposed to purely online) where you get an excuse to be all dolled up and stuff.

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Posted on April 17, 2012, in webcomics. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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