Monday, April 18, 2005

Comic Book Oscars

As the fellows over at Penny-Arcade discuss, my favorite online cartoonist has been nominated for an Eisner Award in the Humor category. The Eisner's are the comic book version of the Oscars and up until this year the awards were handed out by Will Eisner himself. If you ever take a look at his work on The Spirit you can easily see the influence that Eisner had on the comic book industry in general and "comics as art" in particular.

Congratulations Scott!

Just in case any of you were wondering, here are my favorite cartoonists (not comic book artists) in general and not in any specific order. Except the first one, that one really is number one in my mind and heart.

1) Jody Lindke -- Nicnup Jody was the first woman to win the prestigious Charles Schulz Award for best college cartoonist. The strip was a regular in my college paper the Sagebrush
and, oh yeah, Jody is my wife. You can see some strips she did for the Reno News and Review a local Reno weekly paper. Sadly, the weekly isn't of her Nicnup cartoon, but it often dealt with local Reno politics.

2) Scott Kurtz -- PvP Online. I have been a fan of Scott's for years and had the chance to meet him at Comic Con last year. He is a consummate professional and goes out of his way for his fans. Good guy and great comic.

3) "Gabe" -- Penny-Arcade. If you thought that no one could create a niche within a niche within a niche and make money at it, "Gabe" and "Tycho" have proven you wrong. Penny-Arcade is an online strip, with opinion column (and it predates almost every blog ever), that focuses on the computer gaming world. It's pretty inside baseball stuff, but the art has continually improved and they have hardcore "GenX" humor. I am actually most fond of "Gabe's" non-PA art, and his Cardboard Tube Samurai character. BTW, "gabe" and "tycho" aren't their real names, but I'm not telling you what they are. These guys are also cool to fans.

4) Alex Raymond -- Flash Gordon. Raymond's artwork on this science fiction "lost world" story is truly remarkable. Trust me when I tell you that Flash is lost world, the stories have more in common with John Carter and Tarzan than with Buck Rogers. Lot's of dinosaurs and elements of fantasy. A real precursor to the Star Wars movies.

5) Hal Foster -- Prince Valiant. Can I just say...bad ass! Not many comics are this well drawn or narratively sophisticated. Medieval excitement and adventure. If only those pretentious bastards at fantagraphics weren't the ones selling the books.

5) Charles Schulz -- Peanuts. Simplicity and innocents. Clean lines and clean humor. Peanuts is a well drawn and amusing Genre defining strip. You can buy the archives The Complete Peanuts from those evil pretentious bastiches at fantagraphics. Watching the development of Schulz' skill is a treat and the jokes are better than most people assume.

6) Berkeley Breathed -- Bloom County. One of the cartoon greats Breathed became disillusioned with the industry and his excellent talents were absent from newpaper pages until the movie Secondhand Lions reminded him how much he loves to draw.

7) Pat Brady -- Rose is Rose. Ever since Pat handed his title over to a "ghost" it has lacked a great deal. No longer do we have the subtle brush strokes or the heartwarming humor. Now we have the same characters acting differently. Unlike many fans who didn't like Brady leaving the title, I understood that there is a long tradition (rejected by Schulz) of having titles ghosted. Frank Frazetta got his start ghosting strips, as did many Comic Book greats. But I understand the modern sentiment against ghosting and I miss the subtlety, both artistic and humorous, that Brady brought to the strip.

8)Bill Watterson -- Calvin and Hobbes. How genius is it to name your strip after two "natrual right" philosophers? This title is the icon of the "modern" cartoonist and a celebration of the "artiste." Though, I wish Brady had chosen a better successor, I am also frustrated by Watterson's attempts to deny that comics are a business. His art, humor, and storytelling are amazing, but he had the much vaunted "artists temperment." He is a much better match for a fantagraphics collection than Foster.

9)Patrick O'Donnell -- Mutts. Patrick is awesome to his fans, he added almost two hours of signing time after a panel at last year's comic con, generous with advice and criticism. And...oh yeah, his comic rocks! Mutts is one of the few titles that lets the animals act like animals and shows the joy of companionship.

There are others I like, but this is getting really long winded.

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