Looking at the legacy of the Russ Manning Newcomer Award
With news this week that the nomination box is open for this year’s Russ Manning Promising Newcomer Award given out by Comic-Con International, it’s a good time to look at some of the previous award-winners and who they beat out for this prestigious award. The award was named after Russ Manning, the prolific artist who worked on Tarzan, Star Wars and created the classic comic series Magnus, Robot Fighter.
The Russ Manning Most Promising Newcomer Award has been awarded each year during the Eisner Awards ceremony at Comic-Con International, and is for noting the achievement of comic artists whose first professional work appeared within the last few years. After nominations from the general public, the final winner is chosen by Comic-Con International’s organizers and the West Coast Comic Club.
Over the years the Award has been spot-on in identifying future greats while also giving the honors to artists who ultimately never committed to a full career in comics. After honoring The Rocketeer’s Dave Stevens its first year in 1982, they went on to string of popular choices from Jan Duursema (Star Wars), Steve Rude (Nexus), Scott McCloud (Understanding Comics), Art Adams (Uncanny X-Men, Godzilla, Gumby), Eric Shanower (Age of Bronze) and Kevin McGuire (Justice League International).
Their pick in 1989, Richard Piers Rayner, ended up dropping in and out comics over the years with his most popular contribution being the graphic novel Road To Perdition. Their choice in 1991, Dærick Gröss, Sr., was another outside-the-norm choice, and 1992’s good-girl artist Mike Okamoto ended up spending his time outside comic books in favor of illustrating strips for Golf Magazines.
The Russ Manning award went on to identify some greats like Jeff smith, Gene Ha and Alexander Maleev, but also got some criticism for choosing artists who didn’t fit in the award’s rules of only being a pro for two years. But it also showed extreme foresight, such as 2003’s winner Jerome Opena. At the time Opena was doing a little known and hastily canceled series for Dark Horse titled Lone, and ended up dropping out of comics for three years before Rick Remender brought him back to be a second artist for Fear Agent. After Fear Agent, Opena’s art style flourished at Marvel and really came into his own on the recent Uncanny X-Force.
For a complete list of winners, visit the Award’s wikipedia page.