Looking at the Eisners: Nominees for Best Limited Series

Today we’re taking a look at the nominees for the Best Limited Series category. This is a comic book series that, similar to a TV mini-series, runs for a set duration, usually around 4 to 8 issues.

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 Limited Series

Take a closer look with the click through:

Baltimore: The Plague Ships, by Mike Mignola, Christopher Golden and Ben Stenbeck (Dark Horse)

Baltimore: The Plague Ships, by Mike Mignola, Christopher Golden and Ben Stenbeck (Dark Horse)

Mike Mignola, creator of Hellboy, brings in his second of four nominations this year with this five-issue mini-series that launched last August. Like more and more of his recent work, Mignola is creating properties outside of the Hellboy universe.

“Months after a devastating plague ends World War I, Europe is suddenly flooded with deadly vampires. Lord Henry Baltimore, a soldier determined to wipe out the monsters, is on the hunt for the creature responsible for this chaos and his own personal tragedy. What he uncovers is a terror as horrific and frightening as any he’s seen on the battlefield.”

Based on the illustrated novel from 2007, Baltimore, or The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire, this gothic story was co-written with novelist Christopher Golden. While Golden is primarily known for suspenseful young adult fiction, he’s been writing comics since the mid-’90s (Buffy the Vampire-Slayer, Batman, Wolverine). This is not the first time the two have collaborated. In 2002, Golden co-wrote the Hellboy spin-off B.P.R.D.: Hollow Earth with his frequent collaborator Tom Sniegoski and Mignola.

Ben Stenbeck was the artist for the interior pages, suitably capturing a haunted 1916. (Mignola is the cover artist.) Stenbeck previously worked with Mignola on two Hellboy spin-offs from 2008 and ’09, the Sir Edward Grey, Witchfinder: In the Service of Angels limited series and the B.P.R.D.: Ectoplasmic Man one-shot. Of the three creators, I believe only Mignola has won or been nominated for an Eisner before.

You can read a 3-page preview of Baltimore: The Plague Ships #1 right here, #2 right here, #3 right here, a 6-page preview of #4 right here, and a 5-page preview of #5 right here. You can also watch the making of issue #1 where pages 11-16 are depicted from script to finished pages.

The entire mini-series is available digitally for just $5.99 now at Dark Horse Digital. A hard cover collection of all five issues, Baltimore Volume 1: The Plague Ships [Amazon listing] is scheduled for release next month. The same creative team reunited for the 14-page short story, Baltimore: A Passing Stranger, which was included in Dark Horse’s free flip book released for last month’s Free Comic Book Day. And a proper sequel limited series, Baltimore: The Curse Bells, launches this August.

Cinderella: From Fabletown with Love, by Chris Roberson and Shawn McManus (Vertigo/DC)

Cinderella: From Fabletown with Love, by Chris Roberson and Shawn McManus (Vertigo/DC)

The first of three nominees published by the Vertigo imprint of DC Comics, which dominate this category, Cinderella: From Fabletown with Love is a spin-off of the successful Fables series created by Bill Willingham. Fabletown is the fictional community in New York City that houses fairytale characters like Prince Charming, the Big Bad Wolf and others in the modern day “real world”. The six-issue limited series, which ran from November 2009 to May 2010, tells the story of Cinderella as a secret agent; the title is a reference to the James Bond book and subsequent movie From Russia with Love.

“When supernatural artifacts from the Homelands begin surfacing in the modern world, it falls to Cinderella, Fabletown’s best kept (and best dressed) secret agent to stop the illegal trafficking. But can Cindy foil the dark plot before Fabletown and its hidden, exiled inhabitants are exposed once and for all? And how does her long lost Fairy Godmother factor into the equation?

“Whether she’s soaring through clouds, deep-sea diving, or cracking jaws, Cindy travels from Manhattan to Dubai and hooks up with a handsome, familiar accomplice who may be harboring secret motives of his own. Meanwhile, trouble brews back home in Fabletown when Cindy’s overworked, underappreciated assistant decides to seize control of The Glass Slipper, Cindy’s exclusive shoe boutique.”

Chris Roberson is a science fiction novelist and short story writer who has recently expanded his career into comics, a growing trend among published authors. His comics work has increased to some surprisingly high profile work over the last year, with Superman and his own iZombie series at DC, and the Philip K. Dick prequel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?: Dust to Dust and the new Stan Lee property Starborn at Boom! Studios. This is his first Eisner nomination.

Artist Shawn McManus, on the other hand, has been working in comics since the early ’80s, working on the historic runs of The Saga of the Swamp Thing by Alan Moore and The Sandman by Neil Gaiman. He previously worked in the Fables universe in 2006 with issue #51 of the series, reprinted in the graphic novel Fables Volume 8: Wolves. The unique cover art was the first published work of painter Chrissie Zullo. There’s a great story of how she got the job written by editor Shelly Bond at Vertigo’s Graphic Content blog.

DC Comics released a graphic novel of the entire limited series last August [Amazon listing]. There’s a 7-page preview on Amazon.com. The sequel Cinderella: Fables are Forever with the same creative team is currently being released.

Daytripper by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba (Vertigo/DC)

– Daytripper, by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá (Vertigo/DC)

Brazilian twin brothers Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba create a lyrical journey through one man’s life and its multiple endings. The 10-issue limited series was published throughout most of the calendar year of 2010.

“The acclaimed Daytripper follows Bras de Olivias Dominguez during different periods in his life, each with the same ending: his death.

Daytripper follows the life of one man, Bras de Olivias Dominguez. Every chapter features an important period in Bras’ life in exotic Brazil, and each story ends the same way: with his death. And then, the following story starts up at a different point in his life, oblivious to his death in the previous issue – and then also ends with him dying again. In every chapter, Bras dies at different moments in his life, as the story follows him through his entire existence – one filled with possibilities of happiness and sorrow, good and bad, love and loneliness. Each issue rediscovers the many varieties of daily life, in a story about living life to its fullest – because any of us can die at any moment.”

Both brothers started self-publishing their own work and contributing to anthologies. Their work has been published in Brazil since the early ’90s, but most American comics readers first noticed them when the Eisners and Harvey Awards started throwing nominations and awards at one or both of them, such as their anthology De:TALES, another anthology simply titled 5, yet another titled Pixu: The Mark of Evil, Matt Fraction’s Casanova, Mike Mignola’s B.P.R.D.: 1947, Joss Whedon’s Sugarshock digital comic, and Gerard Way’s Umbrella Academy.

Dave Stewart colored the limited series, which contributed to his nomination for Best Coloring this year.

Daytripper was released as a graphic novel in February [Amazon listing]. The entire limited series is also available digitally at Comixology.

Joe the Barbarian, by Grant Morrison and Sean Murphy (Vertigo/DC)

Joe the Barbarian, by Grant Morrison and Sean Murphy (Vertigo/DC)

Grant Morrison has been busy focusing on big superhero epics at DC Comics for the past several years but while he’s been overhauling Batman with deaths, resurrections, replacements and additions, he’s also told a fantasy story about a kid struggling with diabetes. The 8-issue limited series started at the beginning of 2010.

“Joe is an imaginative eleven-year-old boy. He can’t fit in at school. He’s the victim of bullies. His dad died overseas in the Iraq war. He also suffers from Type 1 diabetes. One fateful day, his condition causes him to believe he has entered a vivid fantasy world in which he is the lost savior — a fantastic land based on the layout and contents of his home. His desperate attempts to make it out of his bedroom transform into an incredible, epic adventure through a bizarre landscape of submarine pirate dwarves, evil Hell Hounds, Lightning Lords and besieged castles. But is his quest really just an insulin deprived delirium — from which he can die if he doesn’t take his meds — or something much bigger?”

Grant Morrison has been writing comics since the late 1970s. US audiences first noticed him when DC Comics hired him as part of a wave of British and Scottish comics writers. Morrison’s original graphic novel Batman: Arkham Asylum, illustrated by Dave McKean, remains one of DC’s strongest sellers. Morrison’s handling of Animal Man and Doom Patrol introduced surrealism and other themes more mature and advanced than most superhero comics at the time. This coalesced in the ’90s with the anarchic sci-fi series The Invisibles. Since the new millennium, Morrison has toned down his bizarre tendencies just enough for most superhero readers, which have resulted in critically acclaimed stories with artist Frank Quitely on New X-Men, All-Star Superman and Batman and Robin, with occasional (too few) deviations into creator-owned work, like The Filth, We3, and Seaguy.

Sean Murphy has been illustrating since just after the new millennium, working on Batman/Scarecrow: Year One, Shaun of the Dead, and GI Joe: Storm Shadow, while producing his own original graphic novels Off Road, Outer Orbit and the upcoming Punk Rock Jesus. This is great exposure for a young artist with a great style, and will probably be remembered as the mini-series that put him on the map. He has gone on to the limited series Hellblazer: City of Demons and the upcoming American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest limited series, two more high profile projects at Vertigo.

Dave Stewart also colored this limited series, which contributed to his nomination for Best Coloring. Todd Klein was nominated for Best Lettering for his work on Joe the Barbarian and other work.

A deluxe hard cover collection of the limited series is coming out in September [Amazon listing].

Stumptown, by Greg Rucka and Matthew Southworth (Oni)

– Stumptown, by Greg Rucka and Matthew Southworth (Oni)

Writer Greg Rucka’s second nomination for this year’s Eisners (the first for Best Short Story) is a detective series. The 4-issue limited series started at the end of 2009 and concluded by last summer.

“Dex is the proprietor of Stumptown Investigations, and a fairly talented P.I. Unfortunately, she’s less adept at throwing dice than solving cases. Her recent streak has left her beyond broke – she’s into the Confederated Tribes of the Wind Coast for 18 large. But maybe Dex’s luck is about to change. Sue-Lynne, head of the Wind Coast’s casino operation, will clear Dex’s debt if she can locate Sue-Lynne’s missing granddaughter. But is this job Dex’s way out of the hole or a shove down one much much deeper?”

Rucka is perhaps best known for his original graphic novel Whiteout and spy series Queen & Country, which has continued on as a series of novels. Both of those projects won him multiple Eisner and Harvey nominations and awards. He has also won fans for his work with DC Comics on Batman, Detective Comics, Wonder Woman and Gotham Central. He recently won the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Comic Book for his work on Detective Comics. He’s also written Wolverine and Daredevil (among others) for Marvel Comics.

Matthew Southworth is a relative newcomer to comics. His first published work was a back-up story in an issue of Erik Larsen’s Savage Dragon. Since Stumptown, he has drawn several issues of Amazing Spider-Man for Marvel Comics, as well as a story in Batman: 80-Page Giant 2010 for DC Comics.

A Stumptown graphic novel was released last month [Amazon listing]. A 4-page preview of issue #1 is right here.

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