While Marvel and DC might be the heaviest hitters in the comic book arena, don’t be so quick to count out the smaller publishers, because this year’s Eisner Awards certainly are not. Held every year during Comic-Con San Diego, the Eisner Awards recognizes all of the best work done in comics. Awards are given out for tons of categories (30 in total this year), including Best New Series, Best Cover Artist, and even Best Webcomic. Given the relative supremacy of the “big two” in popular culture, one might think Marvel and DC would sweep a show like this, but they are being outdone by smaller publishers, most notably Image Comics.
Image Comics is a creator-owned comic book publisher, meaning they aren’t a huge corporation solely focused on catering to the masses and wringing every last dollar out of a franchise until it dies a slow, tragic death. They aren’t wrapped up in toy deals and advertising, and it seems that being able to focus solely on curating an ultra-impressive lineup of comic franchises is really paying off in terms of quality. Many of their comics from these past few years contain some of the most groundbreaking stories and most visually compelling art to hit the scene. Looking at every category in the upcoming Eisner Awards, Image Comics alone has an impressive 20 nominations, which is two less than Marvel and DC combined, who are nominated for only 10 and 12 awards, respectively.
Another lower-profile publisher, but one who certainly snags some great licensed franchises, is Dark Horse Comics. Yeah, they are also beating out Marvel and DC with 13 nominations. Image and Dark Horse have both been cranking out amazing comics for years, and they are obviously being recognized for it. Dark Horse has never stopped releasing great stuff, and if you’re not reading Image’s Paper Girls, I feel so, so sorry for you.
One reason for this interesting turn of events is that Marvel and DC might be getting a little too high-profile for something as endearing as comic books. When you consider how much money, time and effort are going into the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the DC Extended Universe, it seems that the quality of the comics is being found lacking, at least by other industry professionals. But hey, they’re making the big bucks, so who can blame them? Not me, because some of these movies are great. Sadly, the lack of Eisner Award nominations comes as no surprise, considering Marvel just released a Guardians of the Galaxy comic where the main character is a Ford Ecosport.