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Last weekend at the Baltimore Comic-Con, the annual comic book industry awards known as the Harvey Awards were presented. Named for Harvey Kurtzman (MAD magazine), the Harveys are one of the two big awards presented each year (the other being the Eisners, which are presented at San Diego Comic Con). This year a number of awards went to very deserving creators including Mark Waid, Fiona Staples, and many others. However, it was an award that went to Chip Zdarsky that caused some stir afterwards.
Zdarsky is the co-creator and illustrator of Sex Criminals (Image Comics), along with writer Matt Fraction. Sex Criminals has become a critical and fan favorite because of its characterization, honesty and hilarity. So it seemed somewhat fitting that Zdarsky was awarded a special “Harvey Award for Humor.” On Monday, though, Zdarsky announced that he was refusing the award because it was only given to him and not to his partner Matt Fraction as well.
When he was nominated, Zdarksy had asked the Harveys to add Fraction to the ballot or remove him altogether. The awards chose to do neither. On Zdarsky’s Tumblr page, he explained his decision. “….I truly appreciate everyone who voted for me, but the award, as it stands, doesn’t make a lot of sense…The fact that I was nominated for a humor award for SEX CRIMINALS without the writer of said series, my beloved chum, Matt Fraction, is wrong. On every level.”
Zdarsky believes that if multiple people worked on a project that is nominated then the entire creative team should be nominated in order to highlight everyone’s crucial contribution to the end product. Alternatively, he suggests, only nominate cartoonists who do all of the writing and art (such as Kate Beaton). Zdarsky finished by writing, “Until then, I can’t accept the award. I love the people who voted for me, but I can’t abide by the rules set in place to allow such a thing. If, for some reason, it’s already en route to me, I’ll just carve Matt’s name into it and raffle it off for the HERO INITIATIVE.”
Zdarsky makes a good point about creator contribution. For many years, there was a great deal of dissension and ill will over the creation of Stan Lee’s Marvel Comics Silver Age heroes, as not enough credit was given to the artists, such as Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. Even though it’s the artist receiving credit in this case, it still seems wrong to highlight one creator unless it is specifically for the attribute he/she is providing (writing, illustrating, coloring). Something vague like “humor” should go to an entire book, but it’s laudable that Zdarsky took a stand to highlight this.