Last year, after reviewing the shortlist nominees for the Hugo for Graphic Story, we decided we should do a guide this year for voters. I love comics, and I think it’s a great category. It’s a valuable award and what it stands for, recognizing excellence for speculative fiction told through the medium of graphic stories—more and more every year—is fantastic. It has had a few issues, though, so it seemed like a good idea to address and offer solutions for some of them.
As I noted the last time around, there seems to be a trend for Hugo nominators to stay comfortably inside their reading boxes—comics by folks already famous in other corners of SFF, like Neil Gaiman or Paul Cornell, or easily accessible webcomics that deal with comfortable tropes. (Which is not to say that Girl Genius wasn’t a deserving winner; just that it’s been two years in a row, now.) Compare the Eisner Awards with the Hugo for Graphic Story and there are startling discrepancies.
It’s pretty easy to fix that problem, if voters haven’t read widely in comics but want to: provide a list of eligible comics and some recommendations.
The other problems stemmed from confusion about some of the rules relating to serialized work, how to nominate comics, which way to nominate which comics, et cetera. For example: if one nominates Freakangels, a webcomic, as a whole, but two other voters nominate the volume published in 2010 (#4), that splits the votes and makes everything wonky. Or, if the trade collection of a series isn’t out yet but all the issues were released in 2010, it won’t be eligible in 2012. It’s eligible now, despite the fact that the trade isn’t out.
To address those problems, this list also delineates how to nominate each comic if you want to nominate it, to avoid voter-error knockouts.
One note: while, in technicality, a series that ends in 2010 is eligible as a whole (ie—Scott Pilgrim), for the sake of the award it’s probably best not to nominate them as such. We wouldn’t nominate “A Song of Ice and Fire” for Best Novel because it’s a series; in much the same way, nominating a graphic-novel series that ran through several storylines over 2 or 5 or 10 years is a bit disingenuous. (Not to mention, it splits votes, as mentioned above with the Freakangels possibility. If all fans of a series vote for the correct trade volume instead of half voting that way and half for the series, it has a better chance of getting on the shortlist.)
All errors are my fault, and please point them out if you spot any. Also feel free to add what I’ve missed in the comments; there were a lot of comics, and even with awesome contributors assisting, I’m sure we’ve missed some things.
MY PERSONAL TOP FIVE (in no way authoritative)
1. The Unwritten: The Inside Man (Volume 2) – Mike Carey & Peter Gross (Vertigo)
2. The Unwritten: Dead Man’s Knock (Volume 3) – Mike Carey & Peter Gross (Vertigo)
I give two spots to The Unwritten because, honestly, it’s just that good. I’ve reviewed The Inside Man here on Tor.com. The third volume is technically only available in single-issues at the moment, but as all the issues were published in 2010, it won’t be eligible next year. As it’s still in its early run, it’s also easy to pick up for the curious reader. If you like metafiction, stories about stories within stories, and examinations of speculative/fantasy lit from strange narrative angles—you’ll like The Unwritten.
Though, if you only want to nominate one trade, I would recommend all folks go for volume 2, the one that’s actually available as a collected book—that way, your votes won’t be split between some people nominating #3, some #2, etc. (So, for the sake of the votes, it’d be best to go for either both (two separate nominations, mind) or only “The Inside Man.”)
3. Freakangels (Book 4) – Warren Ellis & Paul Duffield
As for webcomics, Freakangels is one of the slickest, prettiest and most engaging out there. It benefits from Warren Ellis’s hand at story-telling and Duffield’s active, vibrant art. Not to mention: it’s free. It’s all online for easy reading. The eligible work is “Book 4,” also available in print as a trade paperback or hardcover, as are the rest of the volumes. If the reader falls in love with Freakangels, though, make sure the nomination is for volume 4.
4. Fables: Witches (Volume 14) – Bill Willingham & Mark Buckingham
While there are two eligible volumes of Fables this year, “Witches” was the better of the two. It dives straight into the conflict that was momentarily put on hold in the 13th volume. The Fables storyline grows twistier and darker, ever more engaging. There is a high entry bar for a reader who isn’t familiar with the series, though; catching up on thirteen prior collections might take some time.
5. Ooku: The Inner Chambers (Volume 5) – Fumi Yoshinaga
The first two volumes of Ooku won the James Tiptree Jr. Award, and I’ve been impressed with it as I’ve continued to read the series. (There’s an analysis of the first volume here.) Not only is it an awesome comic by a woman, but it deals with alternate-history, patriarchy, feminism and sexuality. Even those who are normally iffy about reading manga should try out Ooku.
Eligible This Year Only (No Trades Yet)
If you enjoyed any of these in single-issue, but thought you would wait until next year to nominate the trade, don’t! They’re eligible this time only, as the last issue was published in 2010.
- The Unwritten (Volume 3) – Mike Carey & Peter Gross (Vertigo)
- Supergod – Warren Ellis & Garrie Gastonny (Avatar Press)
- Red Mass for Mars – Jonathan Hickman & Ryan Bodenheim (Image)
- I, Zombie – Chris Roberson & Mike Allred (Vertigo)
- Rapture – Michael Oeming & Taki Soma (Dark Horse)
Graphic Novels & Trade Collections
The Unwritten: The Inside Man (Volume 2) – Mike Carey & Peter Gross (Vertigo)
Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour (Volume 6) – Brian Lee O’Malley (Oni)
Fables: The Great Fables Crossover (Volume 13) – Bill Willingham & Mark Buckingham
Fables: Witches (Volume 14) – Bill Willingham & Mark Buckingham
Ex Machina: Term Limits (Volume 10) – Brian K. Vaughan & Tony Harris (Wildstorm)
Grandville Mon Amour – Bryan Talbot (Dark Horse)
God Complex – Daniel Berman, Michael Oeming & John Broglie (Image)
Phillip K. Dick’s Electric Ant – David Mack & Pascal Alixe (Marvel)
The Boys: The Self-Preservation Society (Volume 6) – Garth Ennis & Darick Robertson (Dynamite Entertainment)
The Boys: The Innocents (Volume 7) – Garth Ennis & Darick Robertson (Dynamite Entertainment)
X’ed Out – Charles Burns
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?: Dust to Dust (Volume 1) – Chris Roberson & Robert Adler (Boom! Studious)
The Walking Dead (Volume 12 & 13) – Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard & Tony Moore (Image)
Kill Shakespeare (Volume 1) – Conor McCreery, Anthony Del Col & Andy Belanger (Idea & Design Works LLC)
Shadoweyes – Ross Campbell (SLG)
Louis: Night Salad – Sandra Marrs & John Chalmers (Metaphrog)
Zombo: Can I Eat You, Please? – Al Ewing & Henry Flint (Rebellion)
Hellboy/Beasts of Burden: Sacrifice – Evan Dorkin, Jill Thompson & Mike Mignola (Dark Horse)
Green Lantern: Brightest Day – Geoff Johns & Peter Tomasi (DC)
Cinderella: From Fabletown With Love – Chris Roberson & Shawn McManus (Vertigo)
Turf – Jonathan Ross & Tommy Lee Edwards (Image)
Batwoman: Elegy – Greg Rucka & JH Williams III (DC)
Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season Eight: Retreat (Volume 6) – Jane Espenson, Joss Whedon, Georges Jeanty, Andy Owens, Jo Chen (Dark Horse)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight: Twilight (Volume 7) – Brad Meltzer, Joss Whedon, Georges Jeanty, Karl Moline, Andy Owens, Michelle Madsen (Dark Horse)
Duncan the Wonder Dog – Adam Hines (AdHouse Books)
At the Mountains of Madness – Ian Culbard & HP Lovecraft (Self-Made Hero)
Sleepyheads – Randall C (Blank Slate, originally published as Slaapkoppen, translated from Dutch)
DMZ: Hearts and Minds (Volume 8) – Brian Wood, Ryan Kelly & Riccardo Burchielli (Vertigo)
Foiled by Jane Yolen & Mike Cavallaro
American Vampire (Volume 1) – Scott Snyder, Stephen King & Rafael Albuquerque
Locke & Key (Volume 3) – Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW)
Irredeemable (Volume 3, 4, & 5) – Mark Waid & Peter Krause
Air (Volume 3) – G. Willow Wilson & M. K. Perker (Vertigo)
Chew (Volume 2 & 3) – John Layman & Rob Guillory
Echo: Collider (Volume 4) – Terry Moore
A God Somewhere – John Arcudi & Peter Snejbjerg (Wildstorm)
Sweet Tooth (Volume 1 & 2) – Jeff Lemire (Vertigo)
The Chimpanzee Complex (Volume 2 & 3) – Richard Marazano
Gravel: The Last King of England (Volume 3) – Warren Ellis & Mike Wolfer (Avatar)
Johnny Wander – Yuko Ota and Ananth Panagariya
Red Light Properties – Dan Goldman (Tor.com)
Freakangels (Volume 4) – Warren Ellis & Paul Duffield
Ooku: The Inner Chambers (Volume 3, 4 & 5) (Viz Media)
Kingyo Used Books – Seimu Yoshizaki (Viz Media)
Karakuri Odette – Julietta Suzuki (Tokyopop)
Pluto – Naoki Urasawa (Viz Media)
20th Century Boys – Naoki Urasawa (Viz Media)
Biomega (Viz Media)
Prime Baby – Gene Luen Yang (First Second)
Solomon’s Thieves – LeUyen Pham, Alex Puvilland & Jordan Mechner (First Second)
Brain Camp – Susan Kim, Laurence Klavan & Faith Erin Hicks (First Second)
The Unsinkable Walker Bean – Aaron Renier (First Second)
Dawn Land – Joe Bruchac and Will Davis (First Second)
Lola: A Ghost Story – J Torres and Elbert Orr (Oni)
Mercury – Hope Larson (Atheneum)
Set to Sea – Drew Weing (Fantagraphics)
Ineligible (Last issue published in 2009)
Planetary: Spacetime Archeology (Volume 4) – Warren Ellis &
Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites – Jill Thompson & Evan Dorkin (Dark Horse)
No Hero – Warren Ellis & Juan Jose Ryp (Avatar)
There! That’s quite the list. It was put together with the help of Cheryl Morgan (Salon Futura & Clarkesworld), Joe Gordon (Forbidden Planet International), David Monteith (Geek Syndicate), and Maura McHugh—as well as the hivemind powers of Twitter and Livejournal. Feel free to add your own suggestions!