Editor’s note: Christian Sager is the creator of “Think of the Children” and “Border Crossings”. He has also written essays about the comics industry, punk subculture and national identity.
If you’re not a comic book reader, you probably already associate comics with powerful people punching each other. Your assumption wouldn’t be wrong. The rack at your local comic shop is filled with superhero comics, not romantic dramas or police procedurals.
Superheroes might own sales in the comic book world, but when comics professionals honor the best the industry has to offer they go fringe.
Non-superhero comic books won 75% of the winners at the 2011 Harvey Awards, held on August 21 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Harvey Awards are a respected annual awards ceremony hosted in conjunction with the Baltimore Comic-Con. Comic book professionals from across the industry attend this ceremony to celebrate their accomplishments. This year’s event featured big names like Stan Lee, “Thor” and “Hellboy”.
Darwyn Cooke’s adaptation of Richard Stark’s crime novel “The Outfit” won two awards. Three awards went to comics featuring talking animals, “The Muppet Show,” “Blacksad” and “Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites.” Each of these is vastly different from the other, using humor, horror and noir with their anthropomorphic protagonists.
Reviewing the comic book sales of August 2011, only 2 of the top 100 selling comic books (“The Walking Dead” and “The Infinite”) were not about superheroes. Only 2%, compared to more than 75% of the Harvey Awards going to diverse material. That’s a huge discrepancy. The Harvey Awards’ Brad Tree wasn’t surprised by the statistics. In his experience, the Harveys always balance the mainstream and the fringe.
The San Diego Comic-Con Eisner Awards might be the Oscars of the comic book world, but Baltimore’s Harvey Awards are its Golden Globes. The Harveys are laid back, faster-paced and often irreverant.