Time to look at another Hugo category.
Today, Best Graphic Story. (Or ‘best comic book,’ if you want to be less pretentious).
Anyone who knows anything about me knows that I am an old time comic fanboy. I was there for the birth of comics fandom in the 60s. I was the first fan to sign up for the first comicon. My first published words were letters to Stan and Jack in the pages of THE FANTASTIC FOUR and THE AVENGERS. My first published fictions were prose superhero stories in fanzines like HERO and YMIR and STAR-STUDDED COMICS. I was a member of the Merry Marvel Marching Society. I once won an Alley Award (though I never got it). Decades later, I was a guest of honor at San Diego Comicon and won an Inkpot.
That was a long time ago, however. I fear I no longer follow mainstream comics much. I still love the stories and heroes I grew up, Silver Age Marvel and DC (hell, even Charlton, the Question and Blue Beetle were great), but there have been way too many retcons and reboots and restarts for my taste. I don’t know who these characters are any longer, and what’s worse, I don’t much care.
I really don’t think we needed to add a Graphic Story category to the Hugo Awards. Comics have their own awards, the Eisners, they don’t need the Hugo too. Besides, most SF fans do not follow comics closely enough to make informed judgements in this area.
That being said, however, I have to concede that the fans did pretty damned well nominating in this category last year. SAGA was the only one of the finalists that I had actually heard of before Sasquan announced last year’s ballot… but I dutifully read all the others before I voted, and for the most part, I was impressed (okay, not by the Puppy nominee, which was several notches below the other four)… especially by MS. MARVEL, a whole new take on the character (actually a whole new character with an old name), a charming new addition to the Marvel universe, and the eventual winner.
So… I still don’t love Graphic Novel as a Hugo category, but it exists, and those who follow the field more closely than me should nominate Good Stuff here again, and maybe I’ll have more comic books to discover and delight in when the final ballot comes out.
Meanwhile, I do have one truly outstanding graphic novel to suggest… I am not totally disconnected from the world of comics, y’see… and that’s a book called THE SCULPTOR, by Scott McCloud.
McCloud, of course, is the author of UNDERSTANDING COMICS, the seminal work about graphic stories and how they work, a book I recommend unreservedly to all aspiring comic book artists and writers. With THE SCULPTOR, McCloud proves he’s as talented a practitioner as he is a theoretician. It’s a story about a guy with superpowers, yes… but a very real one. No one puts on spandex to fight crime here. This is a story of character, a tale that evokes not Stan Lee or Jack Kirby or even Steve Ditko (much as I love them), but rather Will Eisner. And higher praise than that I do not have.
I haven’t read enough graphic novels to know for certain that THE SCULPTOR was the best of 2015. But it is so damned good, so original and so human, that I cannot imagine that it is not one of the best five. THE SCULPTOR deserves a Hugo nomination, and I know it will be on my ballot.