Online speculation is something best left in the hands of trained professionals like Markisan and Rich Johnston, but there are some opportunities even I can’t resist.

This past Thursday, the 2004 Eisner Award nominations were announced, and in typical predictive fashion, some of the nominees stand out as clear front-runners in their respective categories. Fortunately, I’ve read a large percentage of the material that garnered recognition this year, which is encouraging, considering the last time I even thought about a piece like this, I was surprised to find that my reading habits were somewhat…limited. But I’m all better now, and fully prepared to lay odds on how some of this may ultimately turn out come July. Along the way, I’ll also attempt to point out anything that I think the esteemed judges missed.

Figure I have a good three months, before this becomes yet another harsh reminder of the downsides to keeping an index.

Best Serialized Story-

Alias #22-28: “The Secret Origin of Jessica Jones” & “Purple,” by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos (Marvel)
Daredevil #46-50: “Hardcore,” by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev (Marvel)
Forlorn Funnies #3-5: “Mother Come Home,” by Paul Hornschemeier (Absence of Ink)
Gotham Central #6-10: “Half a Life,” by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark (DC)
Queen and Country #13-15: “Operation Blackwall,” by Greg Rucka and Jason Alexander (Oni)

From a saturation standpoint, this category will likely boil down to Bendis and Rucka, and since they’re both in a position where they’re not only competing with each other, but also themselves, it only makes sense to hedge bets on their strongest nominated story. For Bendis, Alias is a lock, despite the strength of the “Hardcore” story in Daredevil that irrevocably changed the relationship between Murdock and Wilson Fisk. The concluding arc of Jessica Jones’ mature adventures within the MU answered the central question that the entire series was built upon, and officially cast Jones as one of the most fascinating Marvel heroines we’ve gotten in recent history.

Coincidentally, the structure and tone of the dual Alias storylines isn’t that far removed from Rucka’s stronger work “Half a Life,” featured in Gotham Central. They both focused around strong female characters, and allowing the audience to watch as their lives were surgically dissected, all for the express purpose of witnessing them put things back together again. Before this story, Renee Montoya was just the partner of hard nosed cop Harvey Bullock, but Rucka took full advantage of the opportunity to add a bit of well deserved layering onto her, and made her one of the most easily recognizable personalities within the large ensemble.

Both are exceptional storylines by exceptional writers, but I’d have to say this one goes to Rucka, just barely.

Best Continuing Series-

Alias, by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos (Marvel)
Daredevil, by Brian Michael Bendis/Alex Maleev and David Mack (Marvel)
The Goon, by Eric Powell (Dark Horse)
Gotham Central, by Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka, Michael Lark, Brian Hurtt, and Stefano Gaudiano (DC)
100 Bullets, by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso (Vertigo/DC)
Queen & Country, by Greg Rucka, Jason Alexander, Carla Speed McNeil, and Mike Hawthorne (Oni)

Alias takes this, and largely for its consistency. Daredevil won this last year, but I think this nomination is slightly hampered by the six issue run that Mack delivered between “Hardcore” and the current story “King of Hell’s Kitchen.” Not that there was anything particularly bad about the Echo story, both beautifully written and illustrated, but the momentum was interrupted during a critical turn in Bendis’ run, and as accomplished as the Echo work was, the title character was barely present. Nice Echo story, but not quite what you’d expect from a book with the name Daredevil on the cover.

Gotham Central sometimes suffers from an incredibly large cast that cycle their way through scenes and shifts very quickly, sometimes without the clearest of identification, and a main character to focus upon (which is why “Half a Life” was one of the stronger arcs) so it loses a few points there. Queen & Country has rotating artists, and while that gives you a different look with each arc, it clearly changes the dynamics between stories, which is what it’s supposed to clearly accomplish, but overall, you want to talk about characters, about the creative team, about the synergy, and it’s Alias. Though Mark Bagley contributed some work in the final leg, this book undeniably belongs to Bendis and Gaydos. The award does too.

Best Limited Series-

Arrowsmith, by Kurt Busiek, Carlos Pacheco, and Jesús Meriño (WildStorm/DC)
Empire, by Mark Waid, Barry Kitson, and James Pascoe (DC)
Global Frequency, by Warren Ellis and various artists (WildStorm/DC)
JSA: The Unholy Three, by Dan Jolley, Tony Harris, and Ray Snyder (DC)
Superman: Red Son, by Mark Millar, Dave Johnson/Andrew Robinson, and Kilian Plunkett/Walden Wong (DC)
Unstable Molecules, by James Sturm and Guy Davis (Marvel)

Probably one of the most difficult categories to judge, because every last one of these series brought something unique to the table. All of them were built around a tight premise, and a unique execution, but I’ll go out on a limb and pick Sturm’s Unstable Molecules. I remember having no idea what to expect from that series, first being surprised at what it was, and then being blown away by it. Certainly one of the most unorthodox Fantastic Four stories you’ll ever read, and a really unexpected and difficult to quantify project from Marvel.

Best New Series-

El Cazador, by Chuck Dixon and Steve Epting (CrossGen)
Invincible, by Robert Kirkman and Cory Walker (Image)
The Losers, by Andy Diggle and Jock (Vertigo/DC)
Plastic Man, by Kyle Baker (DC)
Sleeper, by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (WildStorm/DC)
The Walking Dead, by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore (Image)

Love seeing Robert Kirkman’s name in there, especially twice. As a very recent endorser of Kirkman’s work, I’m probably not nearly as excited as a few of his other advocates, but the last couple months have really cemented his standing with me. Feelin’ Invincible and The Walking Dead, and I hope that the next Image section of Previews has the phrase “Eisner nominated creator” splashed in bold letters, because those titles deserve to move a few more units. El Cazador and The Losers are both impressive, and are likely the most easily translatable across media, which gives them a decidedly mainstream appeal, without sacrificing their flair and intelligence. Plastic Man is the perfect book for Baker’s style, but ultimately, I gotta go with Sleeper here.

Scrolling through a few articles from the past year will reveal an almost nauseating affinity for this title, so I’ll try to tone it down a bit. Sleeper deserves the right not only to exist, but to thrive, and if a book like this can’t find an audience, than the system we’re currently operating under is fundamentally flawed. There’s a reason why the fans that believe in Sleeper do so this passionately. Because we’re angry that you’re not supporting this book. Upset that it took a line-wide crossover, art from Jim Lee, and special retailer discounts to get you on board. If this title gets canceled, we’re holding you all responsible. Hmm…that wasn’t restricted at all, was it?

Sleeper Season Two launches this summer, and I think an Eisner would help in securing a season three…

Best Writer-

Brian Azzarello, 100 Bullets, Sgt. Rock: Between Hell and Hard Place (Vertigo/DC); Batman (DC)
Brian Michael Bendis, Alias, Daredevil, Ultimate Spider-Man, Ultimate X-Men (Marvel); Powers (Image)
Ed Brubaker, Catwoman, Detective Comics, Gotham Central (DC); Sleeper (WildStorm/DC)
Warren Ellis, Orbiter (Vertigo/DC); Global Frequency, Red, Planetary, Planetary/Batman: Night on Earth (WildStorm/DC)
Alan Moore, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Promethea, Smax, Tom Strong, Tom Strong’s Terrific Tales (ABC)
Greg Rucka, Queen & Country (Oni); Gotham Central, Wonder Woman (DC); Wolverine (Marvel)

Really difficult again as everyone has contributed really strong material, and I have a friend that would likely argue that no living writer should beat Alan Moore in this bracket, but assuming that someone could, let’s take a look at the potentials. Bendis earned the crown last year, so I have the feeling they might pass the baton onto another scribe, and on the back of Sleeper, Gotham Central, and Catwoman, I’d say it fits with Brubaker. Like Bendis, he has the ability to contribute a massive amount of work to the landscape, and somehow maintain a consistently high level of quality. Being affiliated with some of the most skilled artists in the business doesn’t hurt either.

If the man can write a Catwoman title worth reading on the monthly, he deserves some type of recognition.

Best Penciller/Inker or Penciller/Inker Team-

John Cassaday, Planetary, Planetary/Batman: Night on Earth (WildStorm/DC); Hellboy Weird Tales (Dark Horse)
Tan Eng Huat, Doom Patrol, JLA #91 (DC)
Alex Maleev, Daredevil (Marvel)
Jim Lee/Scott Williams, Batman (DC)
Eduardo Risso, 100 Bullets (Vertigo/DC); Batman (DC); Boy Vampire: The Resurrection (SAF)

Alex Maleev.

Moving on…

Best Cover Artist-

James Jean, Fables (Vertigo/DC); Batgirl (DC)
Dave Johnson, Batman #620-622 (DC); 100 Bullets (Vertigo/DC)
Scott McKowen, 1602 (Marvel)
Joshua Middleton, NYX, X-Men Unlimited, New Mutants (Marvel)
Sean Phillips, Sleeper (WildStorm/DC)
Brian Wood, Global Frequency (WildStorm/DC)

Despite the notable omission of Wildcats cover designer Rian Hughes from the mix, got no disagreement with the talent featured here. Those Fables covers are tight as hell, Johnson always brings it, and some of those 1602 cover images are really nice. Middleton’s style is so hopelessly distinct that anything he elects to place on the cover stands out, and I’ve discussed Sleeper more than enough. The statue has to go to Brian Wood for those Global Frequency covers though, proving that his skills as an artist/designer match his skills as a writer. You need your book to jump off the stands, and there’s a good chance Wood can make it happen. Now, give him his award…

All right folks, that’s enough wild conjecture for one week. As always, your comments are always appreciated. Feel free to write and tell me how completely off base I am.



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