The Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards Archives
VCU Libraries has been the repository for the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards Archives since 2005. The collection is part of VCU Libraries' Comic Arts Collection located in Special Collections and Archives in the James Branch Cabell Library.
The Eisner Awards have been given annually since 1988 for creative achievement in comic books and are named for Will Eisner (1917-2005), the acclaimed and influential comics writer and artist. The Archives contains over 1200 items that were both nominated and won in over 20 different categories. Formats include comic books, graphic novels, books about comics, and journals. For more information about the current year's awards, visit this site maintained by Comic-Con International. A list of past winners can be found at this site.
The VCU Libraries' Comic Arts Collection consists of over 100,000 items, including more than 30,000 comic books along with graphic novels, editorial cartoons, comic strips, comic journals, fanzines and a broad array of reference materials to support the entire collection. With the recent and ongoing addition of the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards Archives, the rapidly growing collection provides one of the most comprehensive collections for the study of comic arts in North America.
A Brief History of the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards
The Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, the “Oscars” of the industry as they are known, were not always the Eisner Awards. They were once called the Jack Kirby awards.
In 1984 Fantagraphics Books created the Jack Kirby Awards to honor the best works and creators in comics. They were named for comic book artist Jack Kirby (1917-1994). Dave Olbrich, a Fantagraphics employee, was the Awards Administrator. The awards were given out beginning in 1985 at the San Diego Comic Convention with Jack Kirby on hand to congratulate winners.
Olbrich left Fantagraphics Books in 1987, leaving the fate of the awards uncertain. In the end, two new awards programs were started: Fantagraphics started the Harvey Kurtzman Awards (commonly known as the “Harveys”); and Olbrich started the Will Eisner Comic Book Industry Awards.
The Eisner Awards were originally set up as a non-profit organization with an advisory board which consisted of Will Eisner and representatives of various comic museums and libraries. Funding was supplied by sponsors within the industry, including distributors, retailer associations, and printers. The first Eisner Awards were conferred at the San Diego Comic Convention in 1988, for works published in 1987 with Will Eisner on stage to congratulate the lucky winners in eleven categories.
The awards for 1990 had to be cancelled due to errors included on the final ballot. Olbrich opted to cancel that year’s program rather than go forward since there was no time to correct the ballot. That year at the convention, Will Eisner, Dave Olbrich, Denis Kitchen, Fae Desmond, and Jackie Estrada met and proposed the idea that would change the awards from a one man operation into a collaborative effort, complete with a judging panel to handle the nominating process.
The Eisner Awards came under the auspices of the San Diego Comic Convention, Inc., a non-profit corporation, after the Comic-Con Board of Visitors approved the proposal presented to them by Fae Desmond. Jackie Estrada was named Awards Administrator. The program is funded by contributions from distributors, retailers, media companies, and other industry suppliers.
A call for entries is sent to all comic publishers at the beginning of each year with the opportunity to nominate works in more than twenty-five categories. Each year a new judging panel gathers in San Diego for a weekend to determine what selections will make up the Eisner Awards ballot. Then the finalized ballots go out to creators, publishers, editors, retailers, and distributors. The results are tabulated by Mel Thompson and Associates, and the winners are announced during an annual gala ceremony in July at the San Diego Comic-Con.
If you have questions about the collection, please contact us.