I won an Eisner last night for a single page that I scripted and my best friend drew.
An Eisner I share with not just her, but dozens of creators, including most of my heroes that either made me want to make comics professionally or inspired me to dig in and stay the course when things looked their bleakest. It’s unfathomable to me, especially after the month I just had.
Part of me — ever since both the Love is Love anthology was published and my colleagues at Women Write About Comics were nominated — tried to downplay it. I didn’t and shouldn’t need that kind of validation. I was setting myself up for disappointment. Thoughts like that ran through my head.
Those things are true. There’s all kinds of reasons why awards can be counter productive on both a personal and systemic level, but I’m not here to plead my case for why the Eisners matter. I’m here to tell you what we can make the Eisners mean, if we agree to invest meaning in them.
At the beginning of the ceremony, I wanted to share in two Eisner wins last night, because it’s in my nature to chase after that kind of recognition. And because if I pulled it off this year, then the pressure to achieve it would be off my shoulders for good. (I still want to give a speech and take home a trophy with my name engraved on it. I’m not going to lie to you here, but I’ve been exorcised of any sense of urgency.) But the reasons why I wanted to win — and what the win meant to me — changed drastically as the awards started getting handed out.
As I was frantically pawing my iPhone screen to update my Twitter feed like a cat trying to get at a bird on the other side of a patio door, I saw Jill Thompson, one of my biggest heroes, take home three awards: two before Love is Love won and one, for Wonder Woman: The True Amazon, after.
I wanted Thompson to win because seeing her succeed has always pushed me harder. It tells me there’s an appetite for the kind of work I want to do. Seeing her win for The True Amazon, the Wonder Woman comic I waited my whole life to read, crystallized for me the reality that I can do whatever the hell I want, because the comic I most wanted to read took home the most prestigious award of the night.
I also saw Chip Zdarsky win an award for Jughead, the comic that opened up a conversation around asexual representation that just plain did not exist in the mainstream prior to that.
I saw Magdalene Visaggio nominated for Kim and Kim, thrusting a breezy trans lead and created adventure comic (I once called it Cowboy Bebop by way of Broad City) head and shoulders above a parade of cis directed portrayals of trans women all completely about explaining what trans people are to other cis people.
I saw Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights hero and anti-Trump dissident win an Eisner for the third volume of March.
I saw pioneering Latinx cartoonists Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez enter the Hall of Fame.
What I started to see taking shape in the nominees and winners was a mandate. A mandate for radical change in the industry around who gets to tell their stories and bring their full selves to them with the institutional backing of the Eisners.
Love is Love, the anthology I participated in that won its category showcases an unprecedented range of queer pain, joy, and unmitigated experience for a comic put out under the IDW or DC banners, let alone a partnership of the two. It came together out of a heartfelt call from Marc Andreyko to come together and process the pain of the Pulse shooting through what we do best, and there’s a lot of pride to be had in what was achieved.
But it’s also absolutely true that it should never have taken the most brutal shooting rampage in living memory to assemble the range of talent it showcased. The sales alone prove that there’s a ferocious appetite for this kind of work, given that it was one of the last books to enter the New York Times Bestseller list for graphic novels.
There’s no reason that, spread out across the length and breadth of the direct market, comics cannot be at least as diverse as Love is Love was every single week. Especially since it’s been pointed out that the anthology could have done more to center and uplift queer Latinx voices, as they were the specific target of the shooting, and are distinctly underrepresented in comics. Which isn’t to say the anthology was a failure, but rather there’s a clear pathway ahead to make even greater strides, which is what we should always be striving for.
It can’t be about waiting for turns anymore, for white women to get a beach head, then for women of color to start getting opportunities, or other hierarchical expressions of progress anymore. It can be everyone all at once, just like it was in Love is Love, and just like it is in the broader comics world outside the direct market: in bookstores and webcomics. The evidence is all around us, and the class of winners, nominees, and newly minted hall of famers bear every last symbol of success the industry has to validate it.
I won an Eisner last night, and that Eisner gave me a mandate that I’m going to spend the rest of my career making manifest.
With or without you.