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    A Night At The 2015 Harvey Awards (With Commentary) (Updated)

    By | September 28th, 2015
    Posted in News | 3 Comments

    The Harvey Awards

    Through a series of serendipitous events, I found myself at the 28th Annual Harvey Awards this past weekend, held at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Baltimore during the Baltimore Comic-Con. Hosted by “The Fifth Beatle” writer Vivek Twary, the ceremony lasted almost three hours and still moved along at a decent clip. There were laughs, applause, and a tugged heartstring or three. What follows are the list of award winners with recollections from that evening, followed by a few thoughts I have regarding the Harvey Awards as a whole.

    (Special thanks to Hannah Means-Shannon & Chris Miskiewicz for helping set this up.)

    Art by Harvey Kurtzman & Mark Wheatley

    Twary’s speech re-presented his comic bonafides to the audience, as well as stressed the importance of Kurtzman’s influence on both his own life and what these awards mean to those working in comics, and the responsibility creative professionals had to live up to those standards.

    The first three awards were presented by Charles Kochman, Editorial Director at Abrams Publishing. One of the recurring themes of the night was an award recipient not being present to accept that award. Tom Orzechowski (who I wasn’t aware was even at the show) went to the stage three times in the service of other people. Some awards were accepted him or other individuals, while others were accepted by Baltimore Comic-Con as a whole. Those awards accepted by the actual recipients are marked with an asterisk.

    BEST LETTERER

    • Aubrey Aiese, LUMBERJANES, BOOM! Box (BOOM! Studios)
    • Deron Bennett, HACKTIVIST, Archaia Black Label (BOOM! Studios)
    • Ed Dukeshire, THE WOODS, BOOM! Studios
    • Jack Morelli, AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE, Archie Comic Publications
    • Josh Reed, DAMSELS IN EXCESS, Aspen

    BEST COLORIST

    • Elizabeth Breitweiser, VELVET, Image Comics
    • Jordie Bellaire, MOON KNIGHT, Marvel Comics
    • Laura Martin, ARMOR HUNTERS, Valiant Entertainment
    • Dave Stewart, HELLBOY IN HELL, Dark Horse Comics
    • Matthew Wilson, THE WICKED + THE DIVINE, Image Comics

    BEST SYNDICATED STRIP or PANEL

    • DICK TRACY, Joe Staton and Mike Curtis, Tribune Media Services *
    • DILBERT, Scott Adams, Universal Uclick
    • FOX TROT, Bill Amend, Universal Uclick
    • GET FUZZY, Darby Conley, Universal Uclick
    • MUTTS, Patrick McDonnell, King Features Syndicate

    Following Kochman as presenter for the next three awards was artist Franchesco Francavilla. Twary mentioned he briefly toyed with having a drinking game of the night be for everyone to take a drink when a book Francescho had worked on or done a cover for was mentioned, but then realized everyone would have passed out by midway through the evening.

    BEST ONLINE COMICS WORK

    • ALBERT THE ALIEN, Trevor Mueller and Gabriel Bautista, albertthealien.com
    • BATTLEPUG, Mike Norton, battlepug.com
    • GIRLS WITH SLINGSHOTS, Danielle Corsetto, girlswithslingshots.com
    • SPACE MULLET, Daniel Warren Johnson, space-mullet.com
    • THE PRIVATE EYE, Brian K. Vaughan, Marcos Martin, and Muntsa Vicente, panelsyndicate.com

    BEST AMERICAN EDITION of FOREIGN MATERIAL

    • BEAUTIFUL DARKNESS, Drawn & Quarterly
    • BLACKSAD: AMARILLO, Dark Horse
    • CORTO MALTESE: UNDER THE SIGN OF CAPRICORN, EuroComics/IDW
    • THE COLLECTOR, Archaia/BOOM! Studios
    • THE KILLER OMNIBUS VOL. 2, Archaia/BOOM! Studios

    BEST INKER

    • Roger Langridge, JIM HENSON’S THE MUSICAL MONSTERS OF TURKEY HOLLOW, Archaia/BOOM! Studios
    • Danny Miki, BATMAN, DC Comics
    • Mark Pennington, ARMOR HUNTERS: BLOODSHOT, Valiant Entertainment
    • Joe Rivera, THE VALIANT, Valiant Entertainment
    • Wade Von Grawbadger, ALL NEW X-MEN, Marvel Comics

    Danny Miki’s award was accepted by someone from DC Comics who was supposed to have a statement from Miki but never actually got it, so he just added a simple “Thank You”. Either that or Tom Orzechowski not having the right type of glasses to read one of the statements printed out for him was the highlight of the evening on that score.

    Following Francavilla was former First Comics editor Mike Gold. After reminding the assembled guests that this is Banned Books week (“Buy one for a friend…or a bad one for someone you don’t like!”), Gold amended the usual “Baltimore Comic-Con accepts this award on behalf of Image Comics” refrain for “Southern Bastards” with the tag, “Screw that, I’m keeping this!”

    BEST NEW SERIES

    • BITCH PLANET, Image Comics
    • LUMBERJANES, BOOM! Box (BOOM! Studios)
    • MS. MARVEL, Marvel Comics
    • SOUTHERN BASTARDS, Image Comics
    • THE WICKED + THE DIVINE, Image Comics
    Continued below

    MOST PROMISING NEW TALENT

    • Steve Bryant, ATHENA VOLTAIRE COMPENDIUM, Dark Horse Comics
    • Daniel Warren Johnson, GHOST FLEET, Dark Horse Comics
    • Chad Lambert, “KILL ME” FROM DARK HORSE PRESENTS, Dark Horse Comics
    • Babs Tarr, BATGIRL, DC Comics
    • Jen Van Meter, THE DEATH-DEFYING DOCTOR MIRAGE, Valiant Entertainment

    SPECIAL AWARD FOR HUMOR IN COMICS

    • James Asmus, QUANTUM AND WOODY, Valiant Entertainment
    • James Asmus & Fred Van Lente, THE DELINQUENTS, Valiant Entertainment
    • Ryan Browne, GOD HATES ASTRONAUTS, Image Comics
    • Fred Van Lente, ARCHER AND ARMSTRONG, Valiant Entertainment
    • Chip Zdarsky, SEX CRIMINALS, Image Comics

    (It’s interesting that Zdarsky said he would not accept the nomination as it stood (i.e., without mentioning his collaborator Matt Fraction like the other nominees’ collaborators were mentioned). In true “Steve ZDitko” fashion, he said it in a hilariously worded Tumblr post, but I would like to think the sentiment was genuine. Following the format of the other nominees, it’s actually Fraction who would be listed alone, as writer/artist combos only have the writer listed. Hmmmm…)

    (UPDATE 9/28 – Zdarsky posted on Tumblr today that his position on the matter had not changed, and that since Fraction’s name is not included, he will not accept the award.)

    Kochman then returned to the stage to induct the first of two creators into the HARVEY KURTZMAN HALL OF FAME: Jules Feiffer, who was in attendance to accept.

    Next came Dean Haspiel to present an award about books for young readers with drink glass in hand. But Haspiel turned his usual wisecracks off to speak briefly about his friend and college Seth Kushner, who passed away earlier this year. He recounted how Baltimore Comic-Con organizer Marc Nathan had written out a check of the proceeds of an art auction at last year’s show right in front of him to give to Kushner’s family while he was undergoing expensive treatments. Nathan told him he wanted Seth’s family “to have food…to be OK.” (Nathan, from the audience, yelled out, “I told you ‘Don’t lose this!” to much laughter). Haspiel finished by saying that to him, the Baltimore show is family, tying back to Twary’s opening remarks. He also managed to keep his shirt on the entire presentation.

    BEST ORIGINAL GRAPHIC PUBLICATION FOR YOUNGER READERS

    • JIM HENSON’S THE MUSICAL MONSTERS OF TURKEY HOLLOW, Archaia/BOOM! Studios
    • LUMBERJANES, BOOM! Box (BOOM! Studios) *
    • SISTERS, Scholastic-Graphix
    • SPONGEBOB COMICS, United Plankton Pictures
    • THIS ONE SUMMER, First Second Books

    BEST GRAPHIC ALBUM PREVIOUSLY PUBLISHED

    • HIT: 1955 TP, BOOM! Studios
    • MOUSE GUARD: BALDWIN THE BRAVE AND OTHER TALES HC, Archaia/BOOM! Studios *
    • RAI VOL. 1: WELCOME TO NEW JAPAN TP, Valiant Entertainment
    • SIX-GUN GORILLA TP, BOOM! Studios
    • THE LOVE BUNGLERS, Fantagraphics

    SPECIAL AWARD for EXCELLENCE IN PRESENTATION

    • ARMOR HUNTERS, Josh Johns and Warren Simons, Valiant Entertainment
    • HARVEY KURTZMAN’S JUNGLE BOOK: ESSENTIAL KURTZMAN VOLUME 1, John Lind and Philip R. Simon, Kitchen Sink Books/Dark Horse Books
    • LITTLE NEMO: DREAM ANOTHER DREAM, Andrew Carl, Josh O’Neill, and Chris Stevens, Locust Moon Press *
    • JIM HENSON’S THE MUSICAL MONSTERS OF TURKEY HOLLOW, Scott Newman, Archaia/BOOM! Studios
    • THE VALIANT, Kyle Andrukiewicz and Warren Simons, Valiant Entertainment

    Nellie Kurtzman then came to the stage to present the DICK GIORDANO HERO INITIATIVE HUMANITARIAN OF THE YEAR AWARD to Denis Kitchen, who was there to accept with dry wit about nobody obviously doing a background check on him. Keeping his remarks short and sweet, Kitchen mentioned his pride in founding the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, which he thought this award was mostly in reference to.

    David Petersen presented the next trio of awards. In his acceptance of the Domestic Reprint award for Steranko, IDW representative Dirk Wood mentioned a plan to appear on the stage in a puff of smoke, say the word “STERANKO!”, grab the award, and vanish. Sadly, this did not happen.

    BEST DOMESTIC REPRINT PROJECT

    • HARVEY KURTZMAN’S JUNGLE BOOK: ESSENTIAL KURTZMAN VOLUME 1, Kitchen Sink Books/Dark Horse Books
    • STERANKO NICK FURY AGENT OF S.H.I.E.L.D. ARTIST’S EDITION, IDW
    • THE COMPLETE QUANTUM AND WOODY CLASSIC OMNIBUS, Valiant Entertainment
    • VALIANT MASTERS: H.A.R.D. CORPS VOL. 1 – SEARCH & DESTROY, Valiant Entertainment
    • WALT DISNEY DONALD DUCK AND UNCLE SCROOGE: THE SON OF THE SUN (DON ROSA LIBRARY VOL. 1), Fantagraphics
    Continued below

    BEST COVER ARTIST

    • Mike Del Mundo, ELEKTRA, Marvel Comics
    • Francesco Francavilla, AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE, Archie Comic Publications
    • Jenny Frison, REVIVAL, Image Comics
    • Chris Samnee, DAREDEVIL, Marvel Comics
    • Fiona Staples, SAGA, Image Comics

    BEST BIOGRAPHICAL, HISTORICAL, or JOURNALISTIC PRESENTATION

    • BACK ISSUES, Comic Pop
    • COMIC BOOK CREATOR, TwoMorrows Publications
    • HEROES OF THE COMICS: PORTRAITS OF THE LEGENDS OF COMIC BOOKS, Drew Friedman, Fantagraphics
    • MASTERFUL MARKS: CARTOONISTS WHO CHANGED THE WORLD, Monte Beauchamp, Simon & Schuster
    • TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: THE ULTIMATE VISUAL HISTORY, Andrew Farago, Insight Editions

    After that, Feiffer proceeded to induct the second creator, Will Eisner. Having passed away in 2005, Eisner was not in attendance, but his niece and nephew were. They both spoke, with her saying how appropriate it was for each of the men to be in the other’s hall of fame given their close relationship and collaborations.

    Next to the stage was host-town representative and Diamond’s own Steve Geppi for the next two awards. In between some of the awards, a short little video clip would play on the two large screens set up at either end of the ballroom. It was more of a wipe than a clip, but with the wooshing sound came a small little guitar riff that, if it lasted one second longer, would have been confused with a “boom-chika-wow-wow”. Enough to raise an unintended chuckle, but not enough for a man to unbutton his shirt, thank God.

    BEST ANTHOLOGY

    • DARK HORSE PRESENTS, Dark Horse Comics
    • IN THE DARK: A HORROR ANTHOLOGY, IDW
    • LITTLE NEMO: DREAM ANOTHER DREAM, Locust Moon Press
    • MASTERFUL MARKS: CARTOONISTS WHO CHANGED THE WORLD, Simon & Schuster
    • WILD OCEAN, Fulcrum Publishing

    BEST GRAPHIC ALBUM ORIGINAL

    • ATHENA VOLTAIRE COMPENDIUM, Dark Horse Comics
    • JIM HENSON’S THE MUSICAL MONSTERS OF TURKEY HOLLOW, Archaia/BOOM! Studios
    • SECONDS, Ballantine Books
    • THE WRENCHIES, First Second Books
    • THIS ONE SUMMER, First Second Books

    That guitar riff would not be the only sexy-time callback of the night. At this point, Darwyn Cooke took the stage to present the HERO INITIATIVE LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD to Russ Heath, who was in attendance even though he was a few days shy of his 89th birthday. Cooke walked the audience through a Heath bibliography and list of achievements for context, then related an anecdote that he said helped him connect with Heath as a man as well as an artistic hero.

    Heath was recruited by Kurtzman to help out with the behind-schedule “Little Annie Fannie” strip he and Will Elder were doing for “Playboy” magazine. Said work was being done at the Playboy offices in the Playboy Mansion. After that work was finished, Kurtzman and Elder left the mansion and went home but Heath apparently said, “Fuck it…I’m staying here.” He had access to a 24-hour staffed kitchen, beautiful women, and other amenities, so he stayed. For several months. Until someone finally said to him one day, “Who the fuck are you?” and that was that.

    But while the Playboy anecdote killed, it was Heath himself that was the star. Helped up to the stage, he told the audience that he was honored and touched, but that it all just started from having responsibilities and trying to make a living, which he was still doing. He self-deprecatingly said that, despite want others say, he had lost a step but that he covers it up and nobody notices. He said he was stunned and that this was the biggest surprise he’d ever had, before being helped off the stage to another standing ovation.

    After this, things entered the presenter lightning round: one per category. John Ostrander, Marv Wolfman, Sara Richard, Mark Waid, and Laura Martin were called upon to hand out awards. Twary gave each of them the same introduction courtesy he’d given the other presenters, although one intro went slightly and hilariously awry. When talking about Mark Waid, Twary mentioned they had ‘bashed clams’ together at dinner the night before. Laughter from the audience at an unexpected juncture made him realize he meant to say crabs (CULINARY NOTE: eating crabs in non-cake form in Baltimore is called ‘crab picking’ and requires a knife and wooden mallet, hence the bashing). A few more mentions of clams and crabs came out before an audience member sounding remarkable like the future “Best Writer” award recipient pleaded for Twary to “stop talking!”. One can only assume Waid got over that after he was handed the Harvey Award.

    Continued below

    BEST CONTINUING OR LIMITED SERIES (John Ostrander)

    • AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE, Archie Comic Publications
    • DAREDEVIL, Marvel Comics
    • SAGA, Image Comics
    • SOUTHERN BASTARDS, Image Comics
    • THE VALIANT, Valiant Entertainment

    BEST WRITER (Marv Wolfman)

    • Jason Aaron, SOUTHERN BASTARDS, Image Comics
    • Jen Van Meter, THE DEATH-DEFYING DOCTOR MIRAGE, Valiant Entertainment
    • Brian K. Vaughan, SAGA, Image Comics
    • Mark Waid, DAREDEVIL, Marvel Comics
    • G. Willow Wilson, MS. MARVEL, Marvel Comics

    BEST ARTIST (Sara Richard)

    • Clayton Crain, RAI, Valiant Entertainment
    • Roberto de la Torre, THE DEATH-DEFYING DOCTOR MIRAGE, Valiant Entertainment
    • Chris Samnee, DAREDEVIL, Marvel Comics
    • Fiona Staples, SAGA, Image Comics
    • Jillian Tamaki, THIS ONE SUMMER, First Second Books

    BEST CARTOONIST (Mark Waid)

    • Steve Bryant, ATHENA VOLTAIRE COMPENDIUM, Dark Horse Comics
    • Howard Chaykin, BLOODSHOT #25, Valiant Entertainment
    • Farel Dalrymple, THE WRENCHIES, First Second Books
    • Terry Moore, RACHEL RISING, Abstract Studios
    • Dan Parent, KEVIN KELLER, Archie Comic Publications
    • Andy Runton, X-O MANOWAR #25, Valiant Entertainment

    BEST SINGLE ISSUE OR STORY (Laura Martin)

    • ARMOR HUNTERS #1, Valiant Entertainment
    • “Breaking Out”, DARK HORSE PRESENTS #35, Dark Horse Comics
    • JIM HENSON’S THE STORYTELLER: WITCHES #4, Archaia/BOOM! Studios
    • MULTIVERSITY: PAX AMERICANA, DC Comics
    • RAI #1, Valiant Entertainment

    Bracing for the closing remarks, the audience was relieved to hear Twary skip the pleasantries and bring the evening to a rapid close.

    As award shows go, the Harveys were a fine experience. I do, however, have a few observations I’d like to make about the awards themselves.

    For a quick recap, the Harvey Awards are chosen entirely by creators. Per the Awards website, creators are “those who write, draw, ink, letter, color, design, edit or are otherwise involved in a creative capacity in the comics field.” So no fans, no journalists, no board members or stockholders. Works are nominated for the Award by a write-in nomination ballot divided by categories; top votes and ties go on the final ballots. Making sure the works and creators nominated are attached to the proper category is an important job, as is simply understanding what the specific category is asking for in its nominees. As far as I can tell from some judicious Googling, I can’t find anywhere that gives any definitions for the category titles, aside from ‘cartoonist’. Contrast this with the Eisner Awards, where the panel of judges essentially referees the process to make sure things go where they should according to the agreed-upon consensus definition of that category, rather than what each voter thinks that category means to them.

    For example: Best Continuing or Limited Series. Well, which one is it? Continuing and limited are, by definition, two completely different things showcasing two completely different skill sets. And aren’t different skill sets part of what separates creator categories? Continuing series have so many more moving pieces to juggle and limited series don’t have the luxury of time that a continuing series does. There’s a reason the Eisners split them up (and I’m not saying the Eisners are perfect but I’m trying to compare with an equivalent organization). And having them split gives each category more opportunity to showcase the type of work that category defines. So you can recognize 5 ongoing and 5 minis, rather than 5 of either total, which will more than likely be ongoing a since they have more exposure to hook readers. A lot of good minis could use some Harvey attention.

    Another example: Best Graphic Album Previously Published and Best Domestic Reprint Project. How are these not the same category? A collection of previously published work is a reprint. And the Domestic Reprint category has books that not only reprint of other books (like the Jungle Book) but also collection of single issues (Nick Fury or Quantum & Woody). There might be an age cap for Reprint Project saying those nominees have to be material over X number of years old, but I’m not seeing how I’m supposed to know that as a voter. A little clarity and pruning goes a long way.

    There’s no way to make any voter-nominated award process completely foolproof. There’s always talk or whispers of ballot-stuffing or the like, and while those situations can be somewhat avoided by increased voter turnout (even if the electorate is too busy trying to make a living than vote), they can’t be avoided entirely. But things like the Zdarsky mishap mentioned earlier, or the inclusion of Jen Van Meter and Steve Bryant as “new talent” when they each have at least a decade of work under their belts (and thus excluding two other names from the list), could be easily avoided with some vetting. Harvey Awards coordinator Paul McSpadden released an email shortly after the nominations were sent out, shedding some more light on the subject:

    Continued below

    The Harvey Awards would like to address questions posed by the comics press and other concerned parties since the release of The Harvey Awards Final Ballot.

    The Harvey Awards were formed over 28 years ago with the intent to enable the creative community to honor their peers. The Harvey Awards administrators, as well as fans, retailers, and convention professionals, have no vote. That is the guiding principle of the nomination ballot, and we work very hard to maintain that vision.

    As with all Harvey Award categories, “Most Promising New Talent” and the “Special Award for Humor” are selected through the voting of the comics professional creative community exclusively. Beyond a publishing date in 2014, we provide no eligibility guidelines for works in these categories and, as such, we continue to rely on the judgment of our voters, and not impose arbitrary limits.

    Our vetting process also leaves us confident that all nominations in the Best Original Graphic Album category are indeed eligible, containing enough new and revised material to meet the category definition.

    The Harvey Awards committee is open to suggestions from the professional community and we welcome the input. As we do every year, we will review the Harveys voting process and identify areas where improvement can be made.

    Thank you,
    Paul McSpadden
    The Harvey Awards

    While I appreciate the Harveys’ commitment to not imposing arbitrary limits, the nominating body is too diverse to be really effective without some kind of guidelines or a stricter vetting process (although I do concur with their decision on the “Athena Voltare” book). Wouldn’t having creative professionals on the committee help it maintain the Harvey Awards mandate and still be able to offer constructive guidance from the creative community?

    Talented creative people were recognized this past weekend for hard work in the medium we all love in the name of Harvey Kurtzman. Kurtzman was a genius and perfectionist willing to sweat even the smallest detail to get things “right”. Is it too much to ask that the awards in his name make sure they live up to that set of exacting standards?

     


    Greg Matiasevich

    Greg Matiasevich has read enough author bios that he should be better at coming up with one for himself, yet surprisingly isn't. However, the years of comic reading his parents said would never pay off obviously have, so we'll cut him some slack on that. He lives in Baltimore, co-hosts (with Mike Romeo) the Robots From Tomorrow podcast, posts on his Tumblr blog, and can be followed on Twitter at @GregMatiasevich.

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