There have been rumblings among the comic book community since the Eisner nominations were announced yesterday about Eisner judge Frank Santoro. Santoro, a graphic novelist, teacher, and columnist for The Comics Journal, has come under some scrutiny for his previously declared stance on creators who worked on DC Comics’ Before Watchmen comics, which was posted prior to his becoming an Eisner judge.
Here’s a handy list of all the comics makers who participated in Before Watchmen. I refuse to buy or read anything by these folks: Neal Adams, Rafael Albuquerque, Michael Allred, Brian Azzarello, Lee Bermejo, Jordi Bernet, Tim Bradstreet, Massimo Carnevale, Cliff Chiang, Michael Cho, Amanda Conner, Darwyn Cooke, David Finch, Gary Frank, Richard Friend, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Michael Golden, John Higgins, Adam Hughes, Phil Jimenez, Jock, J.G. Jones, Dave Johnson, Michael Kaluta, Chip Kidd, Andy Kubert, Joe Kubert, Jae Lee, Jim Lee, John Paul Leon, Joshua Middleton, Phil Noto, Kevin Nowlan, Olly Moss, Joe Prado, Paul Pope, Ivan Reis, Eduardo Risso, P. Craig Russell, Steve Rude, Chris Samnee, Bill Sienkiewicz, Ryan Sook, Brian Stelfreeze, Jim Steranko, J. Michael Straczynski, Jill Thompson, Bruce Timm, Ethan Van Sciver, Len Wein
Obviously, that’s quite a list of creators who did comic book work other than Before Watchmen to not be included in the judging. Is that fair?
Additionally, Santoro is a columnist for The Comics Journal, which was also nominated for a journalism Eisner this year, which raised more eyebrows.
So we contacted Santoro and asked him about it.
I definitely had strong feelings about Before Watchmen when it was announced. However, once I became an Eisner judge, I took my responsibility seriously, set my feelings aside, and considered the books that were submitted—as did all the other judges. (And I don’t believe any of the other judges had actually seen that particular blog post.) These titles and creators were up against strong competition in all the categories for which they qualified, and ultimately none of them made the final nominations list. I actually went to bat for Steve Rude and Darwyn Cooke specifically. Some of the creators I listed in the posting are indeed nominated for Eisners for other work they did. So no, it did not affect the judging decisions.
As far as The Comics Journal goes – I refrained from voting in that category.
We also checked with Jackie Estrada, who is the administrator of the Eisner Awards.
Please remember that the judging is conduct by a panel of six judges. No one judge makes final decisions. In fact, if a conflict of interest occurs, whenever a judge has some kind of involvement in a potential nominee, that person is recused.
This morning, comics pro Jimmy Palmiotti tweeted comments about the lack of nominations for his partner, Amanda Conner and her work on Before Watchmen, as well as Dave Johnson’s cover work. It touched off a great deal of speculation about the Eisners and Santoro as a judge. So we also asked him his opinion as well.
A couple of people brought to my attention what Frank had said, sending me to the link of his blog and I thought it was a serious conflict of interest to judge awards with such a statement out there about all the creators involved with [Before] Watchmen. Amanda, Darwyn [Cooke], Dave, and about 20 other friends being among some of the artists mentioned, well, naturally I found this upsetting.
Learning later that this was something Frank wrote before he was picked as a judge made me wonder why he was picked, but as he says, he didn’t think the other judges saw that blog post, and he put his feelings aside and tried to be impartial while judging. I believe his statement clears up the confusion and I take him as his word. I try to keep a positive outlook at things like this. Overall, the nominations are excellent this year. I am glad this got cleared up.
There you are. If you believe everyone involved, things seem to be on the up and up. There’s no doubt that the nominations are pretty far away from the mainstream of comics, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing or a good thing, and the selections seem to reflect that. Even if one judge swayed things, there are five others. Santoro’s involvement with The Comics Journal also seems to be a non-issue as well, so apparently we can all just move on.