Louis Falcetti writes for Bleeding Cool from San Diego Comic Con;
At the 25 year Eisner Awards retrospective panel, memories were shared of award ceremonies past and light was shed on the process through which the Eisner Award winners are chosen. Noticeably absent was British TV big shot Jonathan Ross, who's America's Got Powers series recently finished at Image Comics.
Among the panelists who did show up were Jackie Estrada, Kayre & Bill Morrison, Maggie Thompson, Denis Kitchen and Todd Klein. The panel was one of those increasingly rare types during these frenetic days of ShoBO (you like that? It's Showtime & HBO's celebrity couple name I just came up with) over exposure. It's the type of panel that doesn't feel like inane marketing overload but rather a conversation between friends (and that includes members of the audience).
Jackie Estrada ran the panel, I know she's involved in the Eisner's and Comic Con somehow but the panel never introduced themselves to the audience, which I guess may be the downside to comfortable laid back panels among friends. She first talked about the history of the award, how originally there were the Jack Kirby Awards which then split into the Eisners and the Harveys. Jackie also shared some interesting statistics regarding Eisner wins and noms. It should come as no surprise to learn that Alan Moore leads with the most Eisner nominations, 48, and 26 wins. Panelist Todd Klein (letterer) turns out to be either 18 for 18 or 16 for 16 depending on who you ask (Todd believes the latter).
Kayre Morrison shared an interesting tale of Samuel L. Jackson at the awards one year who apparently got very cozy with her (at the time) 17 year old niece. Cozy as in an arm around the shoulder, nothing untoward and the niece in question apparently told Jackson she was 18 because (in her words) "I didn't want him to take his arm away." More touching and funny stories were shared as you can imagine considering the amount of years between the panelists, being deeply involved on all side of the ceremony. Stories about Eisner's legendary physical prowess, bounding past an exhausted Frank Miller and Dave Gibbons on the way back to the hotel or literally chasing after Michael Chabon just to share love.
Towards the end of the panel the microphone was passed among several audience members who had served as Eisner judges in the past, to share their experiences and to shed some light on the process. Charles Hatfield likened the experience to "a day camp in an igloo made of paper". All the judges (who are only allowed to serve once) expressed how amazing the experience was, how people rarely voted like you expected, how the time spent judging was spent exclusively reading comics ("You only see San Diego out the window on the way to and from the airport" Estrada noted) and how exhausting (but rewarding!) the experience was.
As the panel members shared the things they loved or didn't (Kitchen would appreciate you dressing up for the event) Kayre Morrison revealed a great memory from George R.R. Martin. Having just finished Season One of Game of Thrones, she asked G.R.R.M. what was in store for the characters in Season Two. He took her hand, patting it softly and said, "Nothing good".
Wossy might not have been there but there was a picture of him and Neil Gaiman locking lips last year that was displayed proudly to laughter and applause. The Reno 911 crew (Robert Ben Garant and Tom Lennon) were involved for many years adding their unique comic flavors to the event, including one year where they bought George Foreman Grills (out of pocket) to give to the losers of the night so no one would go home empty handed.
Will Eisner was praised as a humble, friendly, kind and supportive man who was as invested in helping promote the industry as he was in shaping it. It felt like a private party, what with the relatively sparse attendance and the overall feeling of joy and friendship that permeated the experience. Comic Con isn't just explosions and opportunities to scream at Vin Diesel, it's also made up of real people with real memories that are a joy to share in.