2017 Ignatz Awards Celebrate Diversity and Community

Krazy Kat & Ignatz

This year’s Ignatz Awards felt more charged than recent years, and the current political climate felt immediate and present even in the ballroom of the Bethesda Marriott where the ceremony is traditionally held. This wider perspective led to an evening of intensely personal speeches about the power of community, comics, and becoming an active participant in the change you want to see. This year, SPX donated 310 books by SPX creators to the Philadelphia Free Public Library system, an annual tradition. In a break from years past, however, the voting turnout for this year’s awards was huge — over 1,200 votes were cast on Saturday, with two categories being decided by one single vote. Ignatz director Dan Stafford joked, “It’s almost as if something big happened lately that made people realize that voting is important.”

The 2017 jurors were Neil Brideau, Glynnis Fawkes, Sara Lautman, Trungles, and David Willis, and they were faced with almost 600 submissions. On the final ballot, Fantagraphics led the pack with ten nominations overall, three for Emil Ferris and her comic My Favorite Thing is Monsters (she nabbed two of them, Outstanding Artist and Outstanding Comic).

Caitlin McGurk, a curator at Ohio State University’s Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, hosted, and kicked off the proceedings with a heartfelt story about writing a letter to Chester Brown, and getting a phone call in return, showing her the accessibility of the comics community, stressing that, like Olive Garden, “if you’re here, you’re family.” The feeling of community was repeated throughout the evening’s speeches, from presenters and winners alike. Winner Hazel Newlevant in particular thanked the comics community, saying, “If you read Tender Hearted, you know it’s 50% about an abusive relationship. People have supported this work and me personally; I don’t want to see a community where abusers are tolerated and their victims are made to feel unwelcome.”

Emil Ferris opened her speech with, “Damn you for making an old lady cry,” but continued, explaining that she had finally found her community — “I didn’t know I could have a tribe. You folks have more than been my tribe.”

The importance of celebrating new perspectives was also an on-going theme in the night’s speeches. Tony Breed, presenting Outstanding Anthology, stressed the importance of a collection called Gay Comix he picked up as a “baby gay” to his life. “This book gave me multiple views from all these different people,” and helped inspire him to make his own comics. Taneka Stotts, winner of Outstanding Anthology, wrote in her speech (delivered via proxy) that she was happy for the recognition of the “time, talent, and voices of creators of color,” who will continue to make “kickass comics” regardless of industry recognition.

The two most moving speeches of the night were from two black creators, Bianca Xunise and Ben Passmore, for Promising New Talent and Outstanding Comic, respectively. Xunise’s Say Her Name is an intimate look at her own fears regarding the black men in her life and the threat of police violence. Her speech, delivered by proxy by her friend Shannon Wright, explaining that “Everything that happened in this comic is true, but for many people of color this is our every day. […] It is not fair to constantly ask the oppressed to rise up but we do it anyway.” Referencing Beyoncé, she wrote, “Thank you all for enjoying the lemonade I made. POC have so many stories to tell, and not just scary ones but ordinary ones about love and life.”

Ben Passmore’s Your Black Friend similarly grapples with themes of existing as a black man in a world where that makes you a target or a threat. He started his speech with a joke, saying, “I forgot to vote because I was at the Juggalo March,” but segued into speaking about Alton Sterling, a black man from New Orleans (like Passmore) who was killed by the police. He hoped that his comic could help share the invisible experiences of himself and others that looked like him, and help create change, saying, “I wrote this because maybe the knowledge itself would help sponsor political acts.” Passmore stressed that “at a time where right acts seem relatively obvious…in the face of it we face inertia.” He ended with “Fuck the police, free all prisoners, and fuck Donald Trump,” to much applause.

The Ignatz wrapped up with Outstanding Anthology, which went to Johnny Wander: Our Cats are More Famous Than Us by Ananth Hirsh and Yuka Ota. Both Hirsh and Ota mentioned that when they started making comics, there were not a lot of people that looked like them. But Hirsh recalled meeting Jeff Smith ten years ago at SPX, and how he took time to take him seriously and pay full attention. “He made me feel like I belonged in comics…and this award feels very full circle.”

2017 is a tough year for many, but the Ignatz Awards felt like a small community of people who are united for some kind of change, even if only for a moment in time.

The Winners

Outstanding Artist

– Pablo Auladell – Paradise Lost (Pegasus Books)
Emil Ferris – My Favorite Thing is Monsters (Fantagraphics)
– Manuele Fior – The Interview (Fantagraphics)
– Keren Katz – The Academic Hour (Secret Acres)
– Barbara Yelin – Irminia (Self Made Hero)

Outstanding Anthology

– Alphabet: The LGBTQAIU Creators from Prism Comics – Edited by Jon Macy and Tara Avery (Stacked Deck Press)
– Comic Book Slumber Party’s Deep Space Canine – Edited by Hannah K. Chapman (Avery Hill)
Elements: Fire – An Anthology by Creators of ColorEdited by Taneka Stotts (Beyond Press)
Power & Magic: The Queer Witch Comics AnthologyEdited by Joamette Gil (P&M Press)
– Spanish Fever: Stories by the New Spanish Cartoonists – Ed. by Javier Olivares & Santiago Garcia (Fantagraphics)

Outstanding Collection

– The Complete Neat Stuff – Peter Bagge (Fantagraphics)
Johnny Wander: Our Cats Are More Famous Than Us – Ananth Hirsh, Yuko Ota (Oni Press)
– Hip Hop Family Tree, Vol. 4 – Ed Piskor (Fantagraphics)
– Time Clock – Leslie Stein (Fantagraphics)
– Boundless – Jillian Tamaki (Drawn & Quarterly)

Outstanding Graphic Novel

– Band for Life – Any Davidson (Fantagraphics)
– Eartha – Cathy Malkasian (Fantagraphics)
– March, Book 3 – John Lewis, Adrew Aydin, Nate Powell (Top Shelf)
My Favorite Thing is Monsters – Emil Ferris (Fantagraphics)
– Tetris – Box Brown (First Second)

Outstanding Story

Diana’s Electric Tongue – Carolyn Nowak (Self-Published)
– March, Book 3 – John Lewis, Adrew Aydin, Nate Powell (Top Shelf)
– My Favorite Thing is Monsters – Emil Ferris (Fantagraphics)
– “Small Enough” from Diary Comics – Dustin Harbin (Koyama Press)
– “Too Hot to be Cool” from Elements Anthology – Maddie Gonzales (Beyond Press)

Promising New Talent

– Kelly Bastow – Year Long Summer (Self-Published)
– Margot Ferrick – Yours (2D Cloud)
– Aud Koch – “Run” from the Oath Anthology (Mary’s Monster)
– Isabella Rotman – Long Black Veil (Self-Published)
Bianca Xunise – Say Her Name (Self-Published)

Outstanding Series

Chester 5000 – Jess Fink (Self-Published)
– Crickets – Sammy Harkham (Self-Published)
Frontier – Edited by Ryan Sands (Youth in Decline)
– Maleficium – Sabin Cauldron (Self-Published)
– The Old Woman – Rebecca Mock (Self-Published)

Outstanding Comic

– Canopy – Karine Bernadou (Retrofit/Big Planet)
Libby’s Dad – Eleanor Davis (Retrofit/Big Planet)
– Public Relations #10 – Lilah Sturges, Dave Justus, Steve Rolston, Annie Wu (1First Comics)
– Sunburning – Keiler Roberts (Koyama Press)
Your Black Friend – Ben Passmore (Silver Sprocket)

Outstanding Minicomic

– Our Tale of Woe – Keren Katz & Geffen Refaeli
– The Man Who Came Down the Attic Stairs – Celine Loup
– Reverse Flaneur – M. Sabine Rear
– Same Place, Same Time – Ann Xu
Tender Hearted – Hazel Newlevant

Outstanding Online Comic

Disability in the Age of Trump – Amanda Scurti (The Nib)
The Meek – Der-Shing Helmer
Normal Person / Perfect Maine Vacation – Lauren Weinstein
That’s Not Who We Are – Mike Dawson (The Nib)
Woman World – Aminder Dhaliwal

Kat Overland

Kat Overland

Small press editor Kat Overland is a displaced Texan now living in Washington, DC, where she is perpetually behind on reading her pull list. She's a millennial, Latina, exhausted, and can often be spotted casually cosplaying America Chavez and complaining.