During the various discussions about the Puppies, the Hugo Awards and everything somebody, I think it was Erik Olson, made the excellent remark that new Hugo categories only make sense if there are enough good candidates each year for it. If there only one or two or even five different candidates in any given year, what’s the point? It occurred to me that the converse is also true: any given Hugo category only makes sense if the Hugo voters are knowledgeable enough to actually vote for more than just a handful of the usual subjects year after year. Otherwise it means you just have an even smaller than usual group of people nominating and most people either not voting, or only voting for names they recognise.
The Best Graphic Story category, which was first awarded in 2009, at first seemed to fail that second requirement. The first three awards were won by Girl Genius and you do wonder whether that was because people recognised Kaja & Phil Foglio from fandom, rather than for the comic itself. The Foglios themselves were gracious enough to withdraw after their third win and since then the category has improved a lot, having been won by three different comics since. I’m still a bit skeptical of how well it will work out in the long term, or whether it’ll become just another category most people won’t care about, like the best semi-prozine or best fan artist ones and just vote by rote, if at all.
On the other hand though, if there’s one thing the Hugos, as well as Worldcon needs if it wants to stay relevant, is to get in touch with wider fandom, to not just focus on the old traditional categories. And comics suit the Hugos well. There are plenty of science fiction comics published each year, even omitting superhero series and there does now seems to be a core of Worldcon fans invested in nominating and voting. Since there isn’t really a proper comics orientated sf award yet, haivng the Hugos take up the slack is an opportunity to make them relevant to a primary comics geek, as opposed to a written sf geek audience.
Now it may surprise you, but I’m a bit of a comics nerd myself, if not as fanatical as fifteen years ago, picking up most of my reading in trades. The Best Graphic Story category is eminently suitable for this sort of reading, as it also tends to focus on trades and collections rather than ongoing series. Of this year’s non-Puppy nominees I’d already read two and have now read the other two. As nominees these were all decent, if not exceptional choices, all series with some buzz behind them in comics fandom too, if fairly mainstream:
- Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal G. Willow Wilson (writer), Adrian Alphona (artist), Jake Wyatt (artist)
- Rat Queens Volume 1: Sass and Sorcery Kurtis J. Weibe (writer), Roc Upchurch (artist)
- Saga, Volume Three Brian K. Vaughn (writer), Fiona Staples (artist)
- Sex Criminals Volume 1: One Weird Trick Matt Fraction (writer), Chip Zdarsky (artist)
Tomorrow I’ll look at the first of the nominees, Ms. Marvel.