Eisner Judge Frank Santoro and his BEFORE WATCHMEN Blacklist

eisners_logo_greyThere 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.

Before Watchmen blacklist

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.

SILKS302

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.


Comments

  1. kennyg kennyg says:

    Ultimately, all we can do is take him at his word. Although OF COURSE he’s going to deny it, even if it were true. So, take it how you will.

    Of course, I am obligated to mention that I refuse to buy or read anything by Frank Santoro…

  2. Apotheosize Apotheosize says:

    thinks that make you go hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

  3. ohcaroline ohcaroline says:

    I think it’s kind of ridiculous to get mad because a columnist expressed his opinions. That’s presumably his job at TCJ. If you want a panel of judges to be people who have never had opinions on anything. . .well, I don’t even know how to finish that sentence.

    • kennyg kennyg says:

      I don’t think it’s a matter of having an opinion, I think it’s more of ensuring the judges have no bias, or nothing in their past that would indicate a bias. Maybe he was not a good choice to be a judge from the get-go.

    • ohcaroline ohcaroline says:

      What’s the distinction between an opinion and a bias here?

    • ohcaroline ohcaroline says:

      Ahh, I didn’t realize at first that ‘blacklist’ was Santoro’s word choice. I think that does make it more concerning, but again, he said that before he was a judge. I don’t think there’s any obligation to have read everything up for judging before you’re appointed to the judging panel…

    • Nationalhill Nationalhill says:

      Maybe he should have been appointed to the prejudice panel.

      I don’t think you have to read everything either but this guy said he would never read anything by that list of people. He wasn’t judging them based on their work. He was judging them based on the fact they were involved with Before Watchmen (which I guess he wouldn’t have read either).

    • ohcaroline ohcaroline says:

      Maybe I’m not understanding what’s going on here, but it doesn’t seem to me that he ever made a pre-judgment of their work. He made a decision not to read their work, which — if you believe what he told Josh — he reversed after he was put on the committee. Now, if you are saying (based on — your own independent research?) that what he told Josh is a lie, then that’s another story. But based on the way this is presented I don’t see a real issue of prejudice.

    • Josh Flanagan Josh Flanagan (@jaflanagan) says:

      Since most people don’t know much about it, or have any reason to conclude that he’s a dirty liar, I don’t see why we don’t give him the benefit of the doubt.

      Or do we just default to the idea that everyone is a shithead?

    • Grandturk says:

      re: shithead – That’s my MO

    • rwpos rwpos says:

      Assuming that the pool to draw judges from was bigger than 10 people in the whole world, it just seems like a poor choice to pick this gentleman in light of his baggage. Does that mean that I think he’s a liar? No. But I think his own assertion tells something about his temperament and it opens the awards to question, so unless he’s an indispensable pillar of the comics creative community (he isn’t) why invite the debate by picking him? And in light of his decision to take the publicly-declared stance in the first place, why did he agree to be a judge? It’s simply unprofessional regardless of the outcome.

  4. joeislive joeislive says:

    How can you be a judge of a medium while not sampling work by some of that particular mediums greatest creators? and why ? because those creators took part in a comic event that was a prequel to a story you thought was untouchable and shouldn’t be done? it’s one thing to not read those before watchmen comics but to blacklist those creators based on that? Its not like they made anti semitic remarks or something equally horrible. Go F*** yourself Frank Santoro. You should be trying to promote the best and brightest in the field instead your holding a stupid fanboy grudge that might keep people from discovering some great work (i’m not talking about the before watchmen stuff either, but anything that might get someone new into Darwyn Cooke or Joe Kubert etc) because sometimes when people see “award winning” on a product it might pique their interest and help sell some more copies of those things we all like, aka comic books.

    • rwpos rwpos says:

      Yes, this guy did publicly “black list” Joe Kubert. And Neal Adams. And quite a few other respected professionals who’ve done more for the industry as a whole than even Alan Moore, including building the basis for many modern creators’ rights issues. Then he got to be a judge for the Eisner’s. Kind of sad.

  5. Grandturk says:

    I think someone who makes a “blacklist” is pretty ridiculous. Did he also participate in book burnings? Ready to set fire to Huck Finn?

    • jasonhart jasonhart says:

      Yeah, but saying you’re personally abstaining from something on your own moral grounds is lightyears away from destroying art as a public decree.

      Some people felt pretty strongly about that issue; you can’t fault a guy sticking up for what he sees as an injustice. It read more as a “here’s what I’m doing in protest” not “here’s what you must do with me” statement.

      And I gotta say, that blurb at the end by Palmiotti is pretty damn classy & mature, for what we’ve come to expect from this industry.

    • jasonhart jasonhart says:

      That being said, yeah, the issue of impartiality here is a pretty appropriate concern.

  6. Metamorphic Metamorphic says:

    He can be a columnist. He can have his feelings about Before Watchmen. But when you go on record as saying you refuse to read or buy works by specific creators, you can pretend to put your feelings aside all day. The reality, however, is you’re still bringing your bias to the table regardless.

    It’s one thing to read a comic and dislike it – for whatever reason. It’s even cool to hear about a concept and not read it because it doesn’t sound like it would appeal to you. But to make such a blanket statement as Santoro did? You have lost your objectivity. And I’ve subsequently lost any respect I might have had for his opinion as a judge.

    • There’s no such thing as judging art “objectively,”

    • Nationalhill Nationalhill says:

      @AnotherBastich But you do have to sample or see the art in order to judge it…correct?

    • Metamorphic Metamorphic says:

      @AnotherBastich Fair enough. But I would argue that someone coming in with a very specific bias certainly cannot judge something on its own merits as effectively as someone who is at least keeping an open mind. Given his prior statement, I find it hard to believe he can do so.

  7. uvayankee1 uvayankee1 says:

    I really appreciate all the reporting here – getting quotes and giving everyone a chance to weigh in. It actually just about makes this a non-story, which is not a bad thing.

    Compartmentalizing personal opinions from professional decisions is a pretty standard thing, and with the subject nature of awards lists, its hard to know what swayed the votes one way or another. Thankfully, everyone was quick and helpful with responses. This is why I generally like the comics business – more people to people questions, less giant corporate statements like the Scandal That Shall Not Be Named from last week.

  8. How can he make an informed choice about any category when he’s admitted to refusing to acknowledge any work by these creators? This gets worse the more I hear about it – these people are really letting down Will Eisner and the spirit of the awards.

    Kudos for iFanboy for following this up. Hopefully you guys can dig a bit deeper.

  9. gobo gobo says:

    Holy shit, is this actual comics journalism? Right on!

  10. adamtohell says:

    Guys, I think DC Comics will survive this.

    • Metamorphic Metamorphic says:

      It’s not about DC Comics for me. For me, it’s about the creators involved. And while I readily admit that one judge is countered by five others in this case, that one judge had a heck of a list of people whose works he was on record as refusing to read nor purchase. Even if he read them at the time of the judging – as I imagine he did – it’s hardly coming in with the open mind required of a judge.

  11. Ollywood Ollywood says:

    To be fair, if he’s really boycotted the work of Darwyn Cooke, Bruce Timm, Amanda Conner, Chris Samnee, The Allreds, Eduardo Risso, Brian Azzerello, Becky Cloonan, Steve Rude and Dave Stewart then he’s only hurting himself and will likely miss out on some damn good books.

  12. LeviHunt15 LeviHunt15 says:

    The real problem is taking anyone from The Comics Journal seriously.

    • KrelPlat says:

      Why? They have two of the best columns dedicated to comics criticism on the net (McCulloch’s and Stone’s).

      Also, kudos to Josh and iFanboy for this clear and concise write-up.

    • phess1 phess1 says:

      The comics journal is literally the only large platform to give work shine that isn’t coming out of a major publisher (Marvel, DC. Image, Dark Horse, IDW, Boom, Dynamite ect) I don’t agree with everything they say about comics but they are a very important voice in comics criticism.

  13. stasisbal stasisbal says:

    Great write up, Josh. I have no problem with him judging. It’s perfectly reasonable for him to set his blacklist aside and consider the field after he was selected as a judge.

    That said, setting the Eisners aside, that blacklist is insane. How could someone with a strong interest in comics dismiss all of the work of so many talented creators? I didn’t even know some of those people were involved. Did they just do a variant cover of something? Sheesh.

    • Agreed, I think this is more to the point! Although that could be why there are so many other interesting nominations up there that we (well I) haven’t heard of. He probably had to do some far and wide reading, more so than most of us here need to, in order to find some real hidden gems not done by people on that list.

  14. All those saying he judged books without reading them, he quite specifically says he read the stuff that was submitted once he became a judge. There have been people here who were very anti Before Watchmen but changed their minds when they read some of the actual books. There’s one thing taking a stance when writing an article and quite another when you’re required to set your biases aside and be objective, some people can handle that.

  15. J-Nel J-Nel says:

    Too bad, and damn that list is huge and illustrious… And to be fair, Minutemen & Silk Spectre were 2 of only a handful of things DC put out last year that really deserved any consideration… If you ask me, the teams on Wonder Woman and Batman were the people who really got robbed on nominations…

  16. mikegraham6 mikegraham6 says:

    I think it’s less of an issue about bias and more about the fact that the Eisner nominees were just that much better than the work in those Before Watchmen books

    • Truth. The Eisners are about rewarding what’s new and innovative in comics, and there were many better examples of that this year than BW.

    • phess1 phess1 says:

      So true I ‘ll admit to not reading a lot of Before Watchment (pretty much a couple issues of Minutemen and Silk Spectre) but there was nothing there that was anywhere close to the quality of the books that got nominated.

  17. kennyg kennyg says:

    Let me ask something I asked in the other thread, because I might actually get an answer here. Who actually does the nominations for the Eisner Awards? Do the judges themselves do the nominating AND judging, or is it a separate body of people for each? It would seem to me that letting the judges also be the nominating committee is kind of like letting the fox guard the henhouse. I would think they wouldn’t do that.

    So who comes up with the nominees? We may be getting our torches and pitchforks for nothing.

    • kennyg kennyg says:

      Ah, I found my answer:

      The judges met in San Diego in early April to select the nominees that will be placed on the Eisner Awards ballot. The nominees will now be voted on by professionals in the comic book industry, and the results will be announced in a gala awards ceremony on Friday, July 19 at Comic-Con in San Diego.

      So, the judges are the nominating committee, and the nominees are then voted on by “professionals in the comic book industry” (a shadowy cabal if there ever was one! – JK).

      So, never mind. These are the droids you’re looking for. Resume angry internet mob preparations…

  18. These are sometimes the problem with awards. People vote with a bias anyway. Not just in comics, but movies, books, etc. People don’t like violence so they won’t vote for that, they think the person who made it is an asshole so they can’t view the work as is, so on and so forth. Awards are great for getting little heard of names out there, putting attention on an under seen item. But at the end of the day, I won’t say they don’t matter, but what’s there to say who did the best really.

  19. devious1 says:

    F him and the Eisners….

    I thought it was a bit strange that DC only got 3 nominations out of 29 categories when they did pretty well last year

  20. cpro cpro says:

    Let’s call a spade; a spade. Did most of the nominees deserve a nomination? Yes. But the idea that DC only got 3 nominations is absolutely absurd. Snyder, Capullo, Azzarello, Chiang, Cooke, Francis Manapul, Amanda Conner, Mahmud Asrar. Not one? Really?

    I know this is a commonplace thing for awards (*cough* Affleck for Best director), and I know some member here are more loyal to Marvel than to DC, but doesn’t this just feel very wrong?

    Plus, the idea that he read them after-the-fact has no meaning or added value to me. He already has a predisposition on those creators. Let’s say I hate Bendis as a writer (I have him on my BLACKLIST). If I had to judge him for a nomination, how does that change my position on Bendis? I’m going in knowing I dislike the guy. That will always be there.

  21. Arrrggghhh Arrrggghhh (@Arrrggghhh) says:

    We can’t blame Santoro for the nominations for two reasons: 1.) He’s not the only person deciding who gets nominated. 2.) The Eisners have always had a more favorable lean towards more independent publishers than mainstream titles from Marvel & DC. (This I can understand because there tends to be more creative freedom with the smaller publishers.)
    But to judge people because they were making a living creating prequels to something you consider sacred: simply childish.

    To follow Santoro’s logic is to say: Once a comic book reaches a legendary status . . . all characters should then be retired to preserved said comic. Watchmen characters themselves were Moore’s revamping of Carlton characters. Where’s Santoro’s outrage that Moore was inspired from Steve Ditko’s Mr. A when creating Rorschach?

    • Alan Moore wrote Watchmen, but he doesn’t own Watchmen.
    • DC is in the business to make comics, they own Watchmen.
    • If no buys Before Watchmen, DC would stop making those comics; but this didn’t happen because DC hired some the absolute best in the business who treated the material with the utmost respect.
    • Those who help determine who wins notable awards should be unbiased.
    • Santoro should step down, especially since his opinion is now public record.

    • muddi900 says:

      “If no buys Before Watchmen, DC would stop making those comics; but this didn’t happen because DC hired some the absolute best in the business who treated the material with the utmost respect.”

      J. Michael Stracynski.

    • kennyg kennyg says:

      It’s true that there were six judges, and five would seem to overrule one. But we don’t know what went on in the voting. Maybe he was able to convince others of his position. We’ll never know.

      And sure, the Eisners do lean more to independent publishers. But this was kind of a “stacked deck” of judges in some regards with a predisposition towards independent books.

  22. muddi900 says:

    At least somebody gives a damn about comics awards now. When was the last time you got a collection based on Eisner noms or wins?

    Chris Samnee from the *blacklist* did get nominated.

  23. BCDX97 BCDX97 says:

    The fact that this crybaby posted a “blacklist” for Before Watchmen creators is pretty sad. It’s not like Alan Moore is a saint – he’s a cranky old man who hates everybody.

    It just makes the Eisners mean a little less to me – and they meant almost nothing to me in the first place.

    But I am still rooting for Vader and Son!

  24. rossco says:

    Still amanda conner, scott snyder and greg capullo should have gotten some eisner attention !!

  25. kennyg kennyg says:

    First, here’s a link to a short but somewhat enlightening article by judge Michael Cavna about the nomination process. Read into it what you will. From Cavna’s article, it sounds like they spent a bunch of time reading books when they met, which is good since it sounds like nothing was seriously considered unless everyone read it. But we don’t know what the discussions were like.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/comic-riffs/post/2013-comic-con-eisners-awards-one-judges-diary-notes-on-the-wild-the-innocent-and-the-harbor-drive-tussle/2013/04/18/59d6fd4a-a7d8-11e2-b029-8fb7e977ef71_blog.html#pagebreak

    Second, let’s work from the assumption that all the judges are fine, qualified people who were able to set aside their prejudices in judging the best of the best. And I’m all for the little self-publisher being able to compete on equal footing with works from the Big 2. But, from a couple hours of googling (when I should have been working!), it would appear to me that most of these folks have very indie-leaning tastes. So, I’m sure that worked against more mainstream publishers, books, and creative teams.

  26. PotatoPope PotatoPope says:

    I still think its a little bullshit for someone who has proclaimed to black list creators would be nominated to be a judge for the Eisner’s.

    I’m glad Palmiotti was reached out to though. If Jimmy doesn’t really see a problem here and since he is actually involved in the business (something I’m not), I won’t fret too much over this process. And you know Palmiotti isn’t saving face, if you listen to his podcast “Listen to Jimmy” he is very upfront with his real opinions.

    • kennyg kennyg says:

      Well, yes. One might think that publishing that kind of opinion might preclude someone from being eligible to be a judge in the first place.

  27. BeefTornado says:

    I understand the animosity towards Before Watchmen. It makes since to me why people boycott it. Personally, I didn’t like the idea to make these books, but I would never, NEVER, let an artist or writers affiliation with something I don’t agree with interfere with what I decide to read or not read. That’s dumb. If BKV came out tomorrow and said he was a meth addicted eater of babies, would I still read Saga? The answer is, you bet your stinking face I would. I found out what’s in a Burger King burger and that hasn’t slowed me down on eating whoppers.

  28. JSAkid JSAkid says:

    If his opinion really didn’t affect his judging than he’s clear in my book as everyone’s entitled to they’re own opinion just like on a side note to that statement, I think he’s an uptight douchebag refusing to buy and blacklist a list of some of the best names in the business new and veteran caliber. I get why some wanted Watchmen left alone as its a stand alone milestone that stands for many things but the characters are good and were just collecting dust so why not let a bunch of excellent creators who were probably inspired by the Watchmen to get a chance to do a story on em? It doesn’t change or take anything away from the classic original.