Robot 6

Winners of the first British Comics Awards are announced

The winners of the 2012 British Comics Awards were announced Saturday evening at the Thought Bubble convention in Leeds. This is the first year for the awards, which were announced in January. Here’s the list of winners:

Best Book
Nelson, edited by Rob Davis and Woodrow Phoenix

Best Comic
Bad Machinery, by John Allison

Emerging Talent
Josceline Fenton

Young People’s Comic Award
Hilda and the Midnight Giant, by Luke Pearson

Hall of Fame Award
Raymond Briggs

This is a nice, short list—maybe too short, but it’s only the first year, and it makes sense to start small. When the awards were first unveiled, Richard Bruton, a member of the committee that drew up the shortlist, described them as a U.K.-exclusive complement to the Eagle Awards, which tend to include a lot of American comics and creators. The comics scene in the U.K. has been burgeoning over the past few years, and a set of awards that recognizes that is long overdue. Take a look at the nominations — and I could have doubled that list, even sitting here on the other side of the pond.

That said, there are some interesting things going on. The winner of the “Best Comic” category is a webcomic, and no fuss is made about it. Digital and print comics are considered in the same category, which I think makes a lot of sense, as the lines between the two are getting more and more porous. And it’s great that with only five categories, one was set aside for “young people.” I hope to see that one grow a bit, though, as there is an abundance of excellent material for children in the U.K. right now, and the nominations didn’t even scratch the surface. But if they were going to add just one category next year, I’d advocate for one that covers archival collections or writing about comics, as writers and publishers are just beginning to mine the history of British comics and it’s a trend to be encouraged.

Finally, the awards seem to shy away from mass-market comics. With only five awards, they naturally have to limit the pool, but there’s some good stuff going on in the pages of The Beano, The Phoenix and Judge Dredd, and it would be too bad if those artists were not recognized in coming years.

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Plenty of people who work (or worked) for the UK mass market (The Dandy, The Beano, The Phoenix, Doctor Who Magazine and 2000AD/Rebellion) contributed to Nelson, so I think it’s both a worthy winner and a pat on the back for the entire UK comics community.

Brigid, I’m that Richard Bruton you quoted…

Except I never said they were a “complement to the Eagle Awards”.
The Eagles as far as we know, are gone. Frankly given the mess they were, a lot of comic people in the UK are happy with this. We didn’t want a complement to the Eagle Awards. Nor, as I said in the piece, are they meant to be a replacement.

They’re meant to be an improvement, an evolution.

As for the idea of expanding the awards… NO.
Like I said in the original we nicked the idea and the format from the Doug Wright Awards. Small, exclusive, something to be bloody proud of.

And that’s it. Selection on merit. We considered EVERYTHING. Thanks for noting we made no distinction between online and print, but it went further than that. We refused to think in old fashioned terms of mainstream, indie, small press. They’re pointless labels, meaningless outside the tiny world of comics. We’re going for the real mainstream. We’re looking at comics in the UK and have decided that the old rules, the US rules mostly of mainstream comics, don’t apply. Mainstream comics should mean comics that appeal to a mainstream audience, an audience of readers. And anything counts. We looked at them all.

And next year, we’ll do it all over again.

Hey Richard, sorry about that. I was paraphrasing but I guess I got it wrong.

I saw that the awards were modeled after Doug Wright, and I like that it’s small. At the same time, I see so much good work being done that I hate to see so much of it being passed by. But as a former judge for the Eisner Awards (which some have argued are bloated), I have to admit that even with over 20 categories, there were a lot of strong works that didn’t get nominated.

Anyway, great choices! You certainly are off to a good start!

Brigid

At times we really despaired of the limited category thing, but we knew it was right. It’s a distillation of the best rather than a dilution.

And having limited categories like this also means that just being on the nominations list is a worthwhile thing.

The committee are already talking about next year and there’s already a few very strong contenders for that coveted shortlist place!

I’d like to chip in here and mention that one of the nominations was Kate Brown’s The Lost Boy, a 35-episode series that ran in The Phoenix, so it seems a bit odd to claim that “the pages of The Beano, The Phoenix and Judge Dredd” aren’t represented.

I’d also like to back Richard when he says “Mainstream comics should mean comics that appeal to a mainstream audience, an audience of readers”. The nominations covered a healthy number of genres, almost all of which would be considered mainstream in any other medium but comics. It’s high time we dragged ourselves out of the habit of referring to what should be mainstream genres as “indie” simply because the largest publishers in comics happen to only publish one or two niche genres.

No set of awards can ever reflect all preferences, but for me, both as a creator and a fan of comics of every genre, the British Comic Awards have already provided a more satisfying line-up than any comic award in either the UK or US that I’ve been aware of.

This is more than just a good start, it’s a breath of fresh air, and a step in the right direction for UK comics.

Paul, thanks for that. I am suffering from severe Phoenix deprivation and am looking forward to the new app that Panel Nine is putting out, because I follow a lot of these creators via their blogs and Twitter. Somehow I have managed to miss Brown up till now, but I’ll soon fix that.

And your point about “mainstream” vs. “indie” is well taken.

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