Thursday, April 8, 2010

2010 Eisner Award Nominations--Wait, WHAT TH-?

Nominations for the 2010 Eisner Awards (the Oscars of the comics business) were announced this afternoon and, well, it looks like I'm up for two of them. After I just got done posting about how I didn't foresee getting back to the San Diego ComicCon anytime soon, they figured out a way to pull me back in. Brilliant.

Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow? is nominated in two categories: Best Lettering, and Best Publication Design (with Abrams designer Neil Egan). I heard about this a few days ago but had to keep mum until the announcement. It's a genuine surprise, and I mean that with all the sincerity I can muster. I didn't know I was in the running. This is one of those times when it truly is an honor just to be nominated.

I imagine some people reading the list will get to my name and say, "Huh?" They might even shout it so loudly they startle their neighbor's napping shih-tzu. I sympathize.

I think the Best Publication Design nomination recognizes the work Designer Neil, Editor Charlie Kochman and I did to make WHTTWOT not just the best book we could but a special physical object: the die-cut jacket, the different textures and glosses on the cover treatments, the different types of paper used for the four internal "comic book" inserts. That's the kind of detail Abrams prides itself on and a big reason I'm happy they're my publisher.

Front to back, from placement of page numbers to layout to incidental art and photography, we worked hard to give the book a thoughtful, interesting look that most importantly supported the story. I'm especially happy to see Neil earn this notice; he's a life-long comics fan who put a lot of heart, care and effort into getting WHTTWOT right. To have the results of his work vying for comics' highest award must be pretty sweet icing on the cake.

Lettering is an important aspect of the heart, care and effort that I put into the book. I'm especially surprised by the Best Lettering nomination because I honestly had no idea anyone noticed.

Most of the lettering in WHTTWOT is my own hand-printed font, sampled from the lettering I did for Mom's Cancer. I've never pretended my own lettering is professional-grade but it is very personal, which is why I chose it (and why I think it works) for that purpose. A person's handwriting is intimate. The reader and I are having a conversation. The lettering in the "Space Age Adventures" comic books within WHTTWOT is a very different commercial font deliberately cleaner and slicker, and it gets more sophisticated through the decades. For example, in the earlier comics, emphasis is indicated via bold face; in later years, it's indicated via bold italics. I hoped to suggest--through the lettering as well as the writing, artwork, characterizations, "print quality," etc.--that my pretend "Space Age Adventures" series was published by a small off-brand publisher whose little corps of anonymous creators gradually got better at their craft.

Yet a third font is used in the final chapter: not as classically "comic-booky" as the second (e.g., it employs lower-case letters), meant to suggest a progressive melding of the two earlier fonts and, perhaps, a different reality than the others. Still more fonts were used throughout the book to provide era-appropriate comic book indicia and mock advertisements. I put a lot of thought into how lettering could convey meaning--not just through the words the letters spelled, but the very form of the letters themselves.

At best, I hoped the reader might pick up some of that detail subliminally--good lettering, like good special effects, does it best work unnoticed. I'm not claiming it all worked like I wanted, but I was thinking about it.

I imagine I'll have some more thoughts on the Eisner Awards in weeks to come and will leave it at that for now. What a great, gratifying treat! All my thanks to Abrams and the Eisner judging panel. This acknowledgement means a lot.


Nat said...

Wow, congratulations!

ronnie said...

I'm so pleased - and not even a little bit surprised. WHTTWOT is not just a good book but a gorgeous artifact and deserves this.

Congratulations to you and to Charlie!

Walter Underwood said...

Dang. Now I have to re-re-read it and pay attention to the lettering.


Mike Lynch said...

Wonderful new! Congratulations, Brian!

Sherwood Harrington said...


I'll dance a little jig just as soon as I learn how to do one.

I echo what ronnie said -- and Walter, too.

Valerie said...

Congrats, Brian! It IS a beautiful book and I'll join Walter in looking through it again and enjoying the attention to detail that added to the story so well.

Brian Fies said...

Thanks, all. It's pretty cool.

But don't go back through the book paying attention to stuff like lettering! You're not supposed to notice it! Leave that to the Eisner voters....

Jim O'Kane said...

Brian, I must ask: of all the letters in the book, which page has your proudest word-kerning arrangement?

Jim O'Kane said...

P.S. I think the "WWHHRRROOOOOOOOMMMMM!" lettering of page 108 really captured the sound and style of a Gemini launch.

Brian Fies said...

Jim, Jim, Jim . . . Must you ask? Really? ;-)

Actually, I'm proudest of the kerning on my "VA-AV" pairs. It's easy to overdo it and stack them too closely. As in many things, restraint and balance are the key. On the other hand, I've got a few "T" kernings (AT, TA, LT, etc.) I wasn't happy with and intend to revisit.

What, you thought I wouldn't have an answer?


Mike Peterson said...

What ronnie said. I like the story but there is something very Japanese about it -- the presentation is so exquisite that it takes on its own identity. It's a beautiful book, but also a great story, in a world where beautiful books are generally void of content.

So, if you win, do you get dinner?

Brian Fies said...

Mike, thanks, I appreciate that a lot.

Win or lose, if I do go to San Diego this year (haven't started looking into it yet), I imagine Editor Charlie might pick up the tab for a beer. Other than that, the perks of an Eisner nomination are few--except for the inestimable perk of sitting near people like Frank Miller and Neil Gaiman for a few hours and pretending that you're a peer. Plus there are sometimes free chocolates. Mmmm ... chocolate.

sligo said...

i glow with pride just from knowing you. since it was released, i have thought the book is a treasure, a sterling example of your unique, combined talents and mastery of crafts. no BS.

it also stands as an example of what an ebook or digital edition can never be, and why books will endure. congratulations, and you do have one helluva publisher.

Tim said...

Congratulations, Brian! You definitely deserve it.

Neil Egan said...

I'd like to go on the record here to say to you and everyone how incredibly proud I am of having had the pleasure to collaborate with you and Charlie on this book. The design of it was truly a 3-way collaboration at least (there are others who weighed in and gave me their advice, like my art director Michelle Ishay). I do feel like you gave me the room to bring my own input to the physical and visual form of the book, but it was a very balanced collaboration that genuinely shows the best of what all of us brought to the project. Better than the sum of its parts.
The news of the Eisner nomination completely took me by surprise. It took me several days to absorb that my name was on a list of professionals and heroes of mine that truly astounded me. I'm still trying to figure out how this happened. What a privilege we have! I'm so happy that we're sharing this recognition.
One bit of trivia that I think is interesting - Obviously I didn't work on Mom's Cancer, but it was acquired by Charlie around the time that I started at Abrams, just a few months before Charlie, and I vividly remember seeing it being discussed and worked on by other folks in the design department who I knew. It was such a thrill to find myself working at a place where comic books--and high quality graphic novels at that--were being produced. I knew that I would have to figure out a way to get myself involved in that part of the Abrams business. This seemed a remote goal, since I was at the lowest rung of the design department ladder, designing promotional materials and other humble stuff that only other publishing industry people would see. Years later, I find myself in a fantastic situation as the graphic designer/art director/general visual advisor to Charlie and the editorial team that make up our shiny new ComicArts imprint. I'm a very lucky boy.
To be nominated for an Eisner is certainly icing on that cake. We will certainly not win, but that doesn't bother me in the slightest. What a treat. Here's to keeping the Fies Eisner streak running! Can't wait to work on our next Eisner recognized project!!!

Brian Fies said...

Thanks, Sligo and Tim! Sincerely appreciated.

And many thanks to you, Neil (many already expressed privately). That's nice of you to say. Ditto.