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The judges for the 2012 Eisner Awards have selected The Katzenjammer Kids cartoonist Rudolph Dirks and Archie artist Harry Lucey as this year’s automatic inductees into the Will Eisner Awards Hall of Fame.
Dirks created The Katzenjammer Kids in the late 19th century for William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal, and wrote and drew the comic strip until 1912, when he decided to take time off to travel around Europe. Hearst replaced Dirks with Harold H. Knerr, leading to a court battle between Dirks and the Hearst organization over who owned the characters. Hearst kept The Katzenjammer Kids, but Dirks was allowed to use the same characters elsewhere as long as he used a different title for the strip. Dirks moved to one of Hearst’s rivals, Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World, kicking off a half-century run on The Captain and the Kids. The Katzenjammer Kids, meanwhile, continues to run in newspapers worldwide today. Dirks passed away in 1968.
Harry Lucey began his comics career in the late 1930s, going on to draw Madam Satan, Magno, Crime Does Not Pay, Sam Hill and Captain America. From the 1950s until the 1970s, he was the primary artist for Archie, drawing not only the flagship title but also in-house ads, covers and various other comics for the publisher. His work went on to inspire many current artists, including Jaime Hernandez: “My favorite being Harry Lucey—he did the actual Archie title, while [Dan] DeCarlo did Betty & Veronica. I like them both, but Lucey just happens to be a personal favorite, because I think he was better at drawing natural characters—just their expressions taught me a lot about how I do my comics.” Lucey passed away in 1984.
Each year the judges typically choose two nominees who are automatically inducted into the Hall of Fame, along with a list of nominees who voters can select from. This year they’ve chosen 14 nominees, from which voters will choose four to go into the Hall of Fame: Bill Blackbeard, Howard Chaykin, Richard Corben, Carlos Ezquerra, Lee Falk, Bob Fujitani, Jesse Marsh, Tarpé Mills, Mort Meskin, Dennis O’Neil, Dan O’Neill, Katsuhiro Otomo, Trina Robbins and Gilbert Shelton. The judges were assisted by students at Vermont’s Center for Cartoon Studies, who made suggestions for Hall of Fame nominees and provided background information on the people they suggested.
The Eisner Awards will be presented during Comic-Con International in San Diego July 12-15.