The Comics Hugo

Yes, that’s what the cognoscenti call the Best Graphic Story Hugo – “The Comics Hugo.”

I didn’t know this before I paged through The Drink Tank #336 where the cognoscenti have to lot to say about the Hugo-worthy work of 2012.

Chris Garcia notes Paul Cornell’s strong recommendation for Fables but says it will not be a choice for him: “Now, looking at this coming year, well, Fables is nowhere near my ballot. Dial H (one of my all-time favorite comics concepts written by China Miéville) Saucer Country (by Paul Cornell), Silk Spectre, Dr. Manhattan, and perhaps most importantly of all, Justice League.”

Chris also reports that Paul Cornell is so disappointed with the track record of the Best Graphic Story Hugo category that he’s now referring to it as a “fan Hugo.” I guess that’s supposed to be an insult, otherwise you’d think it would help his purpose since everyone knows no one can win a fan Hugo but a pro. In fact, Paul took one home in Best Fancast just last year.

James Bacon speaks about Grandville Bete Noir by Bryan Talbot and suggests that “Straight away I would have to say that SAGA (by Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples) is a definite. Any SF fan who has not read this, is missing out, not only for the ideas, but the terrific dialogue and humour. It is a wonderful mix of Fantasy in a space setting and is terrifically personal, in a very skilled way.”

He also recommends, Manhattan Projects by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra, Peter Panzerfaust by Kurtis J Wiebe, art by Tyler Jenkins, “an alternate history, messing with the famous children’s literary characters, with Hauptmann Hook on the Horizon” and Marvel’s Hawkeye which “may be a marvel mainstream comic, but the aesthetic look and the excellent dialogue makes it a winner, the humour and sense of absurdity, pitched in a realistic way, make it delightful.” He also mentions Storm Dogs, which has only had two issues published in 2012, by Doug Braithwaite and David Hine.

Meanwhile Joe Gordon on the Forbidden Planet International Blog also recommends Grandville Bete Noir, Saga, Manhattan Projects as well as The New Deadwardians by Dan Abnett and Ian Culbard, Judge Dredd: Day of Chaos/Trifecta by Wagner et al (2000 AD), Prophet by Brandon Graham, Simon Roy et al and Batwoman by JH Williams III, Haden Blackman, adding a few other choices, but definitely confirming interest in some titles.

18 thoughts on “The Comics Hugo

  1. “Graphic novels,” “graphic stories” and “sequential art” are in some ways the “literary fiction” of the comics world. “Ooh. This is a graphic novel. It’s good, unlike those trashy comics over there.”

    And all Hugos are technically fan Hugos. Industry outsider fans make up a vast majority of the voting block.

    What we see here is Hugo nominators are not omnivoracious comic fans. We’re not medium fans, and we’re not steeped in the history and tropes of popular comics. As genre fans, we start reading a comic when we hear beloved a genre author is writing it. Or something like Digger rises from the depths, a complete work that captures our imagination in ways that a middle volume of an unfinished work we’re also new to doesn’t.

    I’m fine with calling it a “comics Hugo” in general conversation. And I think most of the pros are too. Ask any of them, their final product isn’t a graphic story, it’s a comic book or a web comic.

  2. I absolutely *do not* regard the term ‘fan Hugo’ as an insult. That’s a quote of a quote of a quote, and everything got lost along the way. I think it’s no longer appropriate, as we enter the year I’m presenting the Hugos, for me to comment on any aspect of them. I do think I can say, though, because this is just a minor technical point which might be of interest, that people in the comics industry call comics comics. A ‘graphic novel’ is a specific thing: a single text in comics form, which tells one story. Using it more widely than that feels like a euphemism for something that doesn’t need one.

  3. Agree with a number of those recommendations. Saga, Manhattan Projects and Hawkeye are fantastic comics. Other great comics – with a strong SF, rather than super hero focus – include Prophet (noted above), Glory and Debris. All published by Image Comics.

    Mind Management by Matt Kindt is also great.

  4. @Michael Walsh: Marketing? I was going to say “the binding” but if you buy them in digital form even that doesn’t apply.

  5. I didn’t think that Paul was saying that the Graphic Story being a Fan Hugo was an insult, just that Big Comics had a very difficult time winning against what he called ‘Fan’ comics. At least I think that’s what I was saying. I’ll have to go back and check.

  6. @Paul Cornell: Now that I know the source comment was a tweet (as I learned offline) I have a different perception about where it fits into the scheme of things. It wasn’t a position statement, as you sometimes write on your blog, it was just short thought fired off about your opinion of a certain phenomenon.

    @Chris Garcia: I still believe the phrase “fan comics” is a pejorative in nature, and am satisfied to have expressed crankiness about it (Phil Foglio and I were both doing fan stuff in 1978; I still am, while he’s gone on to become an established pro). However, I have no doubt that Paul Cornell was delighted to win a fan Hugo and did not denigrate fan Hugos in this tweet.

  7. Thanks for that. I think if we settled on ‘comics easily accessed by SF Fandom’ instead of ‘fan comics’ then that’s fair to everyone. My apologies.

  8. “x easily accessed by SF fandom” is a constraint that applies to all of the Hugo categories. For example, there have been some terrific stage plays and radio dramas that far surpass the latest episode of whatever TV program is currently popular, but none of them have ever had the slightest chance of even getting nominated for Dramatic Presentation. I see no reason to expect anything different in the Graphic Story category. I’m pleased when people or works that I like receive awards, but I long ago ceased to think of them as any kind of real indication of the “best” of anything.

  9. Indeed, “easily accessed” is a known problem– it’s part of the reason for the Hugo packet, and the big one behind rules giving works extra eligibility when they get published in the US, if they were originally published elsewhere.

    I think it’s a mixture of both that and habit, though. Compare the experience of anime, where in the last few years it’s become routine for plenty of eligible works to be made available, free and legally, online in a way that nearly all Hugo voters have timely access to them, and that hasn’t led to the Hugo voting pool taking up anime-watching.* A few of the comics mentioned might pick up some voters if they were available in the same way Girl Genius is (like, say, the one with China Miéville’s name attached), but even if the entire output of DC and Marvel were somehow published that way, I just don’t see the Hugo voters suddenly developing a habit of reading superhero comics.

    Which leads to the argument about how or whether to broaden the pool, which leads to the argument with the sub-fandom in question saying “The Hugos don’t recognize my fandom so why should I participate,” etc, etc.

    * To anyone tempted to counter with “but anime sucks”: I challenge you to watch Space Brothers and explain why it’s clearly worse than anything a reasonable person might be considering putting on their ballot for BDP Long Form this year.

  10. What I find interesting about this issue is that 15 people have commented on it — now 16. Of all the science, science fiction and fannish topics in the news, it is a comics item that generates the most interest.

  11. Anime sucks? Sounds like someone hasn’t seen SPIRITED AWAY, among many many other titles But the form under discussion here is more apt to lean toward Manga. than animation. More WATCHEN the book than WATCHMEN the movie

  12. I’ve always though LIO
    ( )
    should be considered for best graphic story Hugo, as well as Pibgorn
    ( )
    , which is also delightful.
    Also some of the Non Sequitur strips.
    In some ways, doing a regular comic strip is harder than a book, as it has to be produced every day ( or in the case of Pibgorn, three times a week.) Not much room for writer’s/artist’s block.

  13. Not all anime sucks. Just most of it. After you remove Miyazaki’s films and a handful of other titles, *then* all anime sucks. I’ve been watching it since the mid 1980s, when the first bootleg, unsubtitled copies of “Nausicaa” and “Valley of the Wind” began to circulate in North America, and as far as I can see the industry peaked with “Spirited Away.” Nothing since has touched it, not even Miyazaki’s own productions.

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