Looking at the Eisners: Nominees for Best Single Issue

Today we’re taking a look at the nominees for the Best Single Issue or One-Shot category.

The 2011 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards released their nominees for excellence in comic books for the previous year recently. A panel of 6 judges made up of professionals throughout the industry selected the nominees. People throughout the industry will now begin voting on the nominees. Winners will be announced at the award show put on at this summer’s huge Comic-Con International convention in San Diego. The Eisners are basically the comic book equivalent of the film industry’s Academy Awards, TV’s Emmy Awards, music’s Grammy Awards, and theater’s Tony Awards, so it deserves a closer look.

I’m breaking down the nominees in each category, providing context and background info, and giving links to Amazon and other sites so you can buy your own copy, if possible. I can’t read everything, so lots of this stuff passed by me or is on my way-too-high to-read pile, so I’m going to avoid saying what “should” win. (I’m also pretty bad at predicting award show winners, so I’m not going to bother embarrassing myself.) Please feel free to post your predictions, preferences, opinions, or questions.

Best Short Story

Take a closer look with the click through:

The Cape by Joe Hill, Jason Ciaramella & Zach Howard (IDW)

 The Cape, by Joe Hill, Jason Ciaramella, and Zack Howard (IDW)

As described by IDW:

This special one-shot takes Joe Hill’s acclaimed short story from his best-selling short-story collection 20th Century Ghosts and adapts it to comics! The Cape will walk you along the fence of childhood innocence, and then throw you face first into a brick wall. Explore your dark side in this tale by Hill and Jason Ciaramella, with art and two covers by Zach Howard.

Here’s a preview. Looks real good.

No relation to the recently canceled NBC show of the same name, The Cape was released last December. As mentioned above, it’s an adaptation of a short prose story of the same name by writer Joe Hill, who happens to be the son of obscure horror novelist Stephen King. Joe Hill has had a very well-received debut in comics, in addition to his prose work, with his Locke & Key horror series. It’s currently on its fourth limited series and a nominee in this and several other categories for this year’s Eisners. This one-shot was co-written with Jason Ciaramella who has collaborated with Joe on another one-shot Kodiak, but is otherwise a newcomer to comics.

Regarding the nomination, Joe Hill wrote on his blog:

I’m glad as hell, too, to be up for an Eisner with one of my other best buds, Jason Ciaramella, for The Cape, the one-shot based on the story from 20th Century Ghosts. Zack Howard drew the shit out of it, and Nelson Daniel threw down some of the most unbelievable colors you’ll find anywhere in comics. Jason is a ballsy scripter and I think people are going to love The Cape spin-off series he’s scripting.

Jason tweeted:

When your buddy calls and tells you you’ve been nominated for an Eisner, you start looking for the hidden camera. I’m honored beyond words to be mentioned with so many of my heroes in this industry.

The Cape did well enough that it sold out and is getting a special “Legacy Edition” reprint this June that will include the original short story by Joe from 20th Century Ghosts and notes by Jason. Then in July there will be a The Cape limited series by the same team to continue the story, which will undoubtedly get collected as a graphic novel, which will likely include this one-shot. This could turn into another Locke & Key level hit for IDW.

Fables #100 by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, et al. (Vertigo/DC)

Fables #100, by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, and others (Vertigo/DC)

Another December 2010 release, Fables #100 was a huge 100-page anniversary issue celebrating one of the most successful and celebrated series of the current line-up from the Vertigo imprint of DC Comics. The series brings all of the well-known fairy tale characters into the same world – our world. Snow White, the Big Bad Wolf, Little Boy Blue, Little Red Riding Hood, and tons more are all in hiding in present day New York City.

The series itself has won 14 Eisner Awards since it debuted in 2002, plus almost as many for the individual creators themselves. This year, Todd Klein was again nominated for Best Lettering for his work on Fables and many other comics.

As announced on the Vertigo blog Graphic Content, the full contents of the issue were as followed:

The issue kicks off with a 62-page lead story written by series creator Bill Willingham, with art by Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha and Andrew Pepoy

Following that is a 10-page prose story written by Mark Buckingham with illustrations by Bill Willingham.

Also in this issue are:

• A set of do-it-yourself Fables puppet theater illustrated by Mark Buckingham

• A three-page story written by Willingham with art by Cinderella: Fables are Forever artist Chrissie Zullo

• A three-page story written by Willingham with art by Joao Ruas

• A two-page Fables board game, illustrated by Buckingham, with game rules by Willingham

• Four celebrity “Burning Questions” stories, all written by Willingham, featuring questions from some of your favorite actors who are also Fables fans! These “Burning Questions” are illustrated by top-flight artists including Adam Hughes, J.H. Williams III and Dave Johnson.

The issue was included in the recently released Fables Vol. 15: Rose Red [Amazon link].

Hellboy: Double Feature of Evil, by Mike Mignola and Richard Corben (Dark Horse)

Hellboy: Double Feature of Evil, by Mark Mignola and Richard Corben (Dark Horse)

As described by Dark Horse:

Eisner Award-winning horror masters Mike Mignola and Richard Corben present this bloodcurdling double-feature comic with Hellboy entering two very different, but very deadly, houses – a carnivorous home and a pagan temple, both hungry for human sacrifices.

This one-shot was released last November and also included a variant cover by Richard Corben. There’s a preview of Richard’s story at Dark Horse. He’s such a great storyteller. Both Mike and Richard are joined by regular Hellboy colorist Dave Stewart.

Like Fables, Hellboy has received tons of nominations, awards and praise. This year, Mignola and his team made out like bandits with 6 nominations. Richard Corben was also nominated for Best Penciller/Inker, Mike Mignola for Best Cover Artist, Dave Stewart for Best Coloring. Other Mignola projects were acknowledged as well. Baltimore: The Plague Ships was nominated for Best Limited Series and The Amazing Screw-on Head and Other Curious Objects for Best Graphic Album-Reprint.

In case you didn’t see either of the Hellboy movies, the character is a demon brought to earth as an infant and raised to fight against dark forces as a member of the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense (B.P.R.D.). The horror/adventure stories quickly gained attention upon their debut in 1994 and have since cultivated and sustained an enthusiastic audience with every subsequent limited series. (The movies were fun but not as good as the comics, but now I can’t help but here Ron Perlman’s voice when I read Hellboy’s dialogue. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; he was one of the best things about the movies.)

This one-shot is still available through Dark Horse’s retail partner Things From Another World and other comic shops, and will surely be collected in an upcoming Hellboy graphic novel.

Locke & Key: Keys to the Kingdom #1, by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW)

Locke & Key: Keys to the Kingdom #1: “Sparrow,” by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW)

And here’s the previously mentioned Locke & Key by the previously mentioned Joe Hill.

The series is a suspense/horror story about a family that moves into a mysterious house owned by the brother of their recently murdered father. The children begin to discover secrets to the house, which has a demonic force within it. This issue is the first chapter in the fourth and current limited series, Keys to the Kingdom. Released last August, it is the beginning of Act Two of the entire Locke & Key story begun in 2008 with the prologue limited series Welcome to Lovecraft. The entire story is planned for six limited series.

Locke & Key was previously nominated for Best Limited Series and Joe Hill for Best Writer, but neither won. However, the series won the 2009 British Fantasy Award for Best Comic or Graphic Novel, the first year the BFA gave out an award for that category since 1980. This year, Locke & Key and its creators have gathered an impressive four nominations: Best Continuing Series, Best Writer and Best Penciller/Inker, in addition to Best Single Issue.

Regarding the nomination, writer Joe Hill wrote the following on his blog:

I found out this week that Locke & Key is up for a raft of Eisner awards; I could not be more floored or more honored or more amped. I’m especially glad to see Gabriel Rodriguez receiving his first ever nomination for Best Penciller/Inker. Gabe is one of the kindest and most generous guys I’ve ever known, not to mention one of the most talented; he’s one of my best friends and I think of him the way I think of family. Having the chance to collaborate with him has been one of the very best parts of my career, and I hope we’re still doing comics together thirty years from now, and that his mantle is piled with Eisner awards.

We’re also up for best series, which is incredible and says everything about what a great team works on this book, from Jay Fotos’s colors, to Robbie Robbins’s expressive lettering, to Chris Ryall’s editing, to publisher Ted Adams. I’m a lucky guy to be in with these dudes.

While this issue is now sold-out, the Locke & Key: Keys to the Kingdom mini-series will be released as a graphic novel this July. [Amazon listing] UPDATE: You can read the entire issue as a preview to the graphic novel at Comic Book Resources.

Unknown Soldier #21, by Joshua Dysart and Rick Veitch (Vertigo/DC)

Unknown Soldier #21: “A Gun in Africa,” by Joshua Dysart and Rick Veitch (Vertigo/DC)

Released last summer, this self-contained issue tells the story of a gun. Artist Rick Veitch spoke about the issue on Vertigo’s Graphic Content blog, which included a few uncolored pages.

Josh’s “A Gun For Africa” follows a specific Kalashnikov AK-47 machine gun from its manufacture in a 1970’s Eastern bloc factory into Africa and through the many lives and deaths it comes to define. The story puts a forty year sweep of African conflict into historical context without being dry; humanizing its dreadful social impact without being preachy. I hope I did Josh’s work here justice.

As many cartoonists will attest, war comics can be difficult to draw. They require lots of detailed reference and need to convey the gritty reality of human beings in wartime. This story was especially challenging, asking that the AK-47 itself not only look like the real thing but have a certain character all its own. Since the story spans three decades and many wars, it also needed to age visually.

Dave Johnson provided the cover seen here, and he’s also been nominated for Best Cover Artist for his work on this series and others.

Unfortunately this comic was canceled with issue #25. WatchPlayRead writes about the character and this issue:

As the writer, Joshua Dysart has created some of his best stories with Unknown Soldier.  He took a character that was used in old WWII stories (he first appeared in a Sergeant Rock comic) and modernized him into a tragic and violent character in Uganda’s recent troubles.  This stand alone story doesn’t really feature the character of the Unknown Soldier, but instead focuses on the most ubiquitous weapon of war for the past 60 years, the AK-47, placing it in the troubles of Ethiopia, Sudan and Uganda.

Anyone who has ever traveled out their comfort zone into the developing world has seen these guns.  I saw bank guards holding them in every bank I went to in Africa.  Border guards held them.  Police had them.  The military had them;  I once rode in the back of a small Subaru truck with two soldiers who kept their fingers on the triggers of their AK-47s as they watched over a prisoner accused of being a rebel – the same type of rebels that you can find in Dysart’s Unknown Soldier.

The issue is the first chapter in the graphic novel Unknown Soldier Vol. 4: Beautiful World, which will be released at the end of May. [Amazon listing]

Horror, suspense, fantasy, war, and slice-of-life with a dash of super-hero on the side. Another category packed with quality material. What do you think should win? What have you read? What would you like to read?

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