Wednesday, July 9, 2008


But gets caught in ballot snafu

Meanwhile…: A Biography of Milton Caniff by R.C. Harvey has been nominated for a Harvey Award (no relation). The awards will be presented at the Baltimore Comic-Con in September. ‘Meanwhile’ is nominated in the category of BEST BIOGRAPHICAL, HISTORICAL OR JOURNALISTIC PRESENTATION. It’s chances of winning have been hurt, though, by a balloting discrepancy. When the original nominations were announced, the Caniff bio was not listed, but rather a blog known as Meanwhile…Comics! was in its place. A blog being nominated wasn’t out of the question, as another nominee is Blah Blah Blog, the blog of Marvel Comics executive editor Tom Brevoort. The guys who run ‘Meanwhile…Comics’ were surprised and pleased by the recognition, so you can sympathize with them learning the honor amounted to a clerical error.

The original ballots were released on June 18th, but the correction was not announced until June 27th. Voting is open until August 15th, but those who voted early didn’t have the Caniff biography as an option. Paul McSpadden, the Harvey Awards administrator, says that voters who have already cast ballots may submit a revised ballot. But I doubt that any voter other than a rabid Caniffite will go to the trouble to revise their choice in one category out of 21. Even if you go to the Harvey Awards website, the ballot is fixed but the nominees list on the homepage is not.

The broad category also means an ‘apples and oranges’ range of competition. There’s one other biographical book The Naked Artist…and Other Comic Book Legends by Bryan Talbot, in which the author has compiled humorous anecdotes from various comic creators. The Comics Journal, a monthly magazine of comic news, reviews and criticism represents the ‘journalistic’ aspect of the category. I didn’t read the Journal much in 2007, but I always find plenty to read and enjoy when I do pick one up, and they do the most in-depth creator interviews around. The Official Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide is another nominee. It’s an odd choice, I think, because the price guide section doesn’t fit in this category and it makes up 90% of the book. There is information about collecting and the history of comics, but this remains virtually unchanged from year to year. I haven’t seen this edition, so it may have some amazing new content that I don’t know about. The last nominee is Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What They Mean by Douglas Wolk. I don’t know much about it, though it seems to be a primer of some kind for the uninitiated. The hubris of the title scares me away, as comics work differently and mean different things to different readers. For those who want help with understanding the visual language of comics, I recommend Scott McCloud’s 1994 book, Understanding Comics.

I think The Comics Journal has the best chance, as it’s the most widely read of all of the nominees. If ‘Meanwhile’ wins instead, it’s still good for R.C. Harvey, who writes a regular Journal column, and Fantagraphics, the publisher of both.

The Harvey Awards are named for Harvey Kurtzman, the legendary EC Comics artist/writer/editor and founder of Mad Magazine. Kurtzman is also well-known for his Playboy Magazine comic strip, ‘Little Annie Fanny’, a collaboration with the recently deceased Will Elder.

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