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Judges’ Choices (will be automatically inducted)
The Eisner Awards judges have selected four individuals to automatically be inducted into the Will Eisner Hall of Fame for 2019.
Jim Aparo’s first comics work was at Charlton Comics in the late 1960s. He worked on several genres there and was eventually recruited by editor Dick Giordano for a move to DC Comics in the late 1960s, where he handled such features as Aquaman and Phantom Stranger before landing the art chores on DC’s premiere team-up book The Brave and the Bold (starring Batman). He then co-created (with Mike W. Barr) Batman and the Outsiders, which he drew from 1983 to 1985. Aparo went on to draw stories for Batman (most notably “A Death in the Family” storyline), Detective, and other DC titles into the late 1990s. For most of his career, Aparo not only pencilled his work but inked and lettered it as well. He died in 2005.
Dave Stevens created the Rocketeer, the retro adventure hero of 1980s indie comics and 1991 movie fame. The Rocketeer combined Stevens’ love of 1930s movies, the golden age of aviation, and 1950s pinup girl Bettie Page. Before becoming a professional artist, Stevens contributed amateur illustrations to early Comic-Con program books in the 1970s. His first professional gig was as Russ Manning’s assistant on the Tarzan comic strip in 1975. Stevens later worked as an animator at Hanna-Barbera and a storyboard artist on projects including Raiders of the Lost Ark and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” music video. Stevens was the first recipient of the Russ Manning Most Promising Newcomer Award in 1982, and he won an Inkpot Award and the Kirby Award for Best Graphic Album in 1986. He died in 2008.
Morrie Turner created the Wee Pals comic strip in 1965. When Wee Pals was first created, bringing black characters to the comics pages was by no means an easy task. At first, only five major newspapers published the strip. It was not until 1968 and the tragic assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. that Wee Pals achieved nationwide acceptance. Within three months of Dr. King’s death, Wee Pals was appearing in more than 100 newspapers nationwide. In 2012 Turner was the recipient of Comic-Con’s Bob Clampett Humanitarian Award. He also has the distinction of having been one of the handful of pros at the very first Comic-Con in 1970.
Nominees (4 will be inducted by voters' choices)
After starting out in underground comics and self-published fanzines, British artist Brian Bolland made his professional debut drawing the Nigerian superhero Powerman in 1975, alternating issues with his friend Dave Gibbons. Bolland did cover art for early issues of 2000 AD magazine, then started drawing interiors, becoming one of the most popular and defining artists on Judge Dredd stories. In the 1980s he was part of the “British Invasion” of American comics, gaining note for his art on Camelot 3000, Batman: The Killing Joke, and memorable covers on everything from Animal Man to Wonder Woman. Bolland has won numerous awards, including Best Newcomer from the Society of Strip Illustration in 1977, followed by an Inkpot Award, an Eagle Award, and multiple Eisner and Harvey awards.
Kevin Eastman co-created Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with Peter Laird. The duo published it themselves as a small-press comic book starting in 1984, under the imprint Mirage Studios. The Turtles quickly made the leap to other media and went on to star in multiple movies, animated TV series, and toy lines over the years. In 1990 Eastman founded Tundra Publishing, which funded and published creator-owned comics by talent such as Alan Moore, Melinda Gebbie, Eddie Campbell, and Mike Allred, until 1993. Eastman also owned Heavy Metal magazine for more than 20 years, until 2014, and he continues to serve as its publisher.
Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez
Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez was born in Spain and began drawing comics professionally in Argentina at age 13. In the 1960s, he drew romance titles for Charlton Comics. Garcia-Lopez came to the U.S. in 1974 and started working for DC Comics, drawing series such as Superman, Batman, Hawkman, Tarzan, and Jonah Hex. His other notable work includes Atari Force, Deadman, New Teen Titans, and On the Road to Perdition. Since 1982, Garcia-Lopez has designed and pencilled the definitive versions of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and many other characters for various DC Comics style guides, which are created for licensees only. His style guide art has been seen on countless DC Comics licensed products and is still being used today.
Lynn Johnston is the Canadian creator of For Better or For Worse. This family-based comic strip has been syndicated since 1979 and was named Best Syndicated Comic Strip in 1992. At its peak, For Better or For Worse appeared in more than 2,000 newspapers in 23 countries and was translated into eight languages for a devoted readership of more than 220 million. Johnston is the first woman to receive a Reuben Award for Cartoonist of the Year by the National Cartoonist Society (1985). In 2008 Johnston retired from For Better or For Worse, at which time the comic strip was republished from the beginning.
Jenette Kahn rebranded National Periodical Publications as DC Comics, reviving the floundering company as a proving ground for both experimental titles and reboots of iconic characters. She started as publisher at DC in 1976, at only 28 years old, after having founded the wildly successful kids’ magazine Dynamite for Scholastic. Kahn became president of DC in 1981 and editor-in-chief in 1989. She pushed the boundaries of mainstream comics, publishing work such as Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns, and launched the edgier Vertigo line in 1993. She grew the company from 35 employees to 200 (half of them women) and instituted more creator-friendly policies. In 2000 the Library of Congress honored Kahn as a Living Legend for her contributions to America’s cultural heritage. In 2002 she left DC to create her own film production company, Double Nickel, which produced Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino in 2008.
Paul Levitz began his career as a comics fan, publishing The Comic Reader. He started at DC in 1976 as an assistant editor (to Joe Orlando) and 1978 became editor of the Batman titles. He was an executive at DC for 30 years, ending as president and publisher. As a comics writer, he is best known for Legion of Super-Heroes. Most recently, Levitz has worked as a historian (75 Years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Myth-Making, Taschen, 2010) and teacher (including the American Graphic Novel at Columbia). His most recent book is Will Eisner: Champion of the Graphic Novel (Abrams ComicArts, 2015).
Alex Niño was among the Philippine comics artists recruited for U.S. comic books by DC Comics editor Joe Orlando and publisher Carmine Infantino in 1971. Niño’s earliest DC work was drawing stories for House of Mystery, Weird War Tales, and other supernatural anthologies, as well as the jungle-adventure feature “Korak” in Tarzan. In the decades since then, Niño has drawn all types of stories for DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Warren Publishing (Creepy, Eerie, and Vampirella), Heavy Metal, Byron Preiss, Dark Horse Comics, and other publishers. Starting in the 1980s, Niño branched out into movies and video games, doing design work and concept art for Hanna-Barbera, Sega, and Walt Disney Pictures (Mulan and Atlantis). Niño received an Inkpot Award in 1976.
Lily Renée Wilhelm Peters Phillips
Lily Renée Wilhelm Peters Phillips was the star comic artist for publisher Fiction House, where she worked from 1943 until 1948. She drew such strips as Werewolf Hunter, Jane Martin, Senorita Rio, and The Lost World. She was known for her striking covers and good girl art. She later drew Abbott & Costello Comics with her husband at the time, Eric Peters, and Borden’s Elsie the Cow comics. She left comics in the 1950s; she is still living and was a guest at Comic-Con in 2007.
Wendy and Richard Pini
Wendy and Richard Pini created the much-loved fantasy series Elfquest, widely regarded as the first manga-influenced graphic novel series with a high fantasy theme published in the U.S. The Pinis were among the first independent publishers of their own comics, founding Warp Graphics in 1978. Richard ran Warp full-time from 1981 until 2003. In 2018, Elfquest concluded its 40-year run with Dark Horse Comics. The series has millions of readers around the world and continues to gain new fans. Wendy has also drawn and written comics for Marvel, DC, First Comics, and other publishers, including two graphic novels based on the 1980s TV series Beauty and the Beast. More recently, she created a graphic novel and animated webcomic based on the Edgar Allan Poe horror story “Masque of the Red Death,” which has been adapted into a musical. The Pinis received an Inkpot Award in 1980, and Elfquest has won numerous awards since 1979.
P. Craig Russell
Trained as a fine artist and renowned for his beautiful linework, P. Craig Russell has spent 40 years producing graphic novels, comic books, and illustrations. He entered the comics industry in 1972 as an assistant to artist Dan Adkins. After establishing a name for himself at Marvel on Killraven, Dr. Strange, and Elric, Russell began working on more personal projects, such as adaptations of operas by Mozart (The Magic Flute), Strauss (Salome), and Wagner (The Ring of the Nibelung). Russell is also known for his Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde series and his graphic novel adaptations of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman: The Dream Hunters, Coraline, Murder Mysteries, and American Gods. Russell received an Inkpot Award in 1993 and has won several Harvey and Eisner awards.
Bill Sienkiewicz started drawing comics professionally at age 19, fresh out of art school. His early style on Marvel titles such as Moon Knight was heavily influenced by Neal Adams. In the 1980s Sienkiewicz broke out into a multimedia style that was revolutionary for comics, combining painting, line art, collage, mimeographs, and other elements. Sienkiewicz’s highly stylized art on Marvel’s Elektra: Assassin, The New Mutants, and his own graphic novel Stray Toasters earned international acclaim. His work has appeared in Brazil’s National Museum of Fine Arts; galleries in Paris, Barcelona, and Tuscany; and advertising campaigns for Nike, MTV, and Nissan. Sienkiewicz received an Inkpot Award in 1981, and his work has won many awards including several Eagles, a Kirby, and an Eisner.
Don and Maggie Thompson
Maggie Thompson and her late husband, Don Thompson, are among the legendary founders of comics fandom. Lifelong fans of science fiction and comic books, they met in 1957 and published their first fanzine, Comic Art, starting in 1961. In 1967 they launched Newfangles, one of the first fanzines devoted to the doings of comics fandom. In 1972 the Thompsons started writing a column for the Buyer’s Guide for Comic Fandom, which later became the Comics Buyer’s Guide (CBG). They ran CBG together from 1983 until Don’s death in 1994, after which Maggie continued to manage CBG until it ceased publication in 2013. Under their direction, it became essential reading as the industry’s main fan-oriented news magazine. The Thompsons won many joint awards, including an Inkpot Award, a Kirby, a Diamond Lifetime Fandom Award, and an Eisner. Maggie has also received the Bob Clampett Humanitarian Award and the first Friends of Lulu “Women of Distinction” Award.
Akira Toriyama is a Japanese manga artist, game artist, and character designer who created the popular series Dr. Slump, which earned the 1981 Shogakukan Manga Award, has sold more than 35 million copies in Japan, and was adapted into two anime series. His next series, Dragon Ball, was even more popular and has reportedly sold more than 350 million copies worldwide. Dragon Ball’s anime adaptations have been credited with boosting anime’s popularity in the West, and Toriyama is regarded as one of the artists who changed the history of manga. He also designed characters for several popular video games, such as the Dragon Quest series, Chrono Trigger, and Blue Dragon.
Naoki Urasawa is a Japanese manga artist and musician who has produced a steady stream of award-winning manga since 1981, many of which have been adapted into anime. His works include Return, Pineapple Army, Yawara!, Master Keaton, Monster, 20th Century Boys, Pluto, and Billy Bat. He has also been called one of the artists who changed the history of manga. Since 2008, he has taught manga classes at Nagoya Zokei University. Urasawa has received the Shogakukan Manga Award three times, the Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize twice, the Kodansha Manga Award once, and the Eisner Award twice.