Hugo Voting (Graphic Novels, Related Works, Fan Artists)

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

July 30, 2011 -- !:15 p.m.

" 'I think he's saying we have to keep talking to to ourself for the sake of exposition.' "

" 'That's going to kill efficiency.' "

" 'It'll be hard on the fourth wall, too.' "

-- Dialogue from Schlock Mercenary

Since I put so much time into writing last month, I won't have time to review all the Hugo categories, unfortunately. I'm trying to stuff what I can into the last few days.


My favorites:

1) The Unwritten
2) Grandville Mon Amour
3) Schlock Mercenary
4) Fables
5) Girl Genius

I'm not a graphic novel reader per se--I've read the high watermarks of the genre, such as Watchman and some of Frank Miller, but other than that, my background mostly consists of manga. Compared to manga, American comic books are surprisingly dense, word-wise. I was surprised to also see some of the art wasn't as fantastic as I was expecting. It was definitely better than I can do, just not what I was expecting.

Despite my vote, the clear consensus favorite in this category is Girl Genius, which has won every year since the graphic novel category was introduced. But I like a little variety in my winners. This was the first sample of Girl Genius I've ever read, so I got dropped into the middle, but the characters were vivid and I like the art. The colors really pop and there are some nice moments. That is one high-quality web comic. Still, the lack of ability for a n00b like me to get in immediately would have tucked this one lower down on my list anyway, though maybe not quite so low down.

On the other side of the coin, I was surprised to find myself really enjoying The Unwritten. From page 1, I was practically set against it. You have a really pretentious (in my eyes) literary introduction talking about how the book is a groundbreaking look at the way we tell stories, and that we should consider it more of an anthology because the stories weren't intensely related plotwise but we shouldn't worry about that and we don't even need the mystery solved because the ideas are so awesome...

Anytime someone has 1) a plot with a mystery 2) has someone saying the mystery doesn't need solving in the intro is always going to get my danders up.

So between that and the poor scan quality that makes it difficult to read the blog posts which are mixed with the comics in a Watchman-like combo, I was prepared to give this graphic novel its thirty pages and then give it a miss.

But the thing is--I couldn't. The premise is interesting, the idea is interesting, the dialogue is great, and when I put the book down, this was the only graphic novel I was itching to see the sequel too. Mostly because the story ends on a cliffhanger, unfortunately. It gets minus marks for that. But I love the mix of surreality (is that a word?) and banality, adult humor and childlike enchantment. It's very meta and interesting.

So what's it about? Well, picture if J.K. Rowling had one son and named him Harry Potter. And little Harry Potter has to grow up in the shadow of the books, especially after his father disappeared. And little Harry Potter gets stuffed in jail after he mass-murders a house full of people. Only he claims he was framed, but the prison warden doesn't believe him and sets Potter up to be killed because he feels like Potter ruined his children's childhood by bloodying the Potter name.

Oh, but all the weird fantasy stuff? Yeah, it might be real.

Bet you didn't see that coming (rolls eyes.)

Okay, so maybe some of the twists aren't the most original. (Visiting the Third Reich? There goes that whole Nazi time vortex thing again)...but I'm all for comics that have little girls shouting the latin phrase for eye-poke while eye-poking a boy who just told her to come sit on his wand.

Naturally, adult content warning. It's wonderful, the way the author managed to capture the different narrative styles whenever it starts a character in another world/book. The flashes of the fake Harry Potter narrative feel a lot like Harry Potter, just like the narrative voice for the Beatrix Potter/Winnie the Pooh parody at the end is also spot-on-awesome. It reminded me of the South Park Christmas Critter episode, with less Jew-baiting.

My second favorite graphic novel was Grandville, which boosts my favorite art of the bunch. Some people might look at the animals and bright colors and call it cartoonish, but I like a little color in my art.

Grandville one features an alternative history where humans are (mostly) replaced by humanlike animals. A detective starts looking for a dangerous terrorist who has a Jack-the-Ripper penchant for killing prostitutes. So it's like Sherlock Holmes...if Sherlock Holmes was a giant badger. A mystery, shootouts, damaged damsels and political connivance -- this is pulpy, good fun. While the Unwritten shoots for great heights and sometimes misses, Grandville Mon Amour delivers exactly what I wanted. This is one I wouldn't mind owning in paper, and I'll have to look for it next time I'm at my local comics shop. Check out the youtube ad for it here.

I like Howard Taylor, and Schlock Mercenary makes me laugh (not to mention be impressed by the sheer content--I'm 400 pages in and still not finished), but Grandville and the Unwritten appealed to me more this time around. Maybe another year.

Fables has gotten really good critical reviews, and it has an interesting concept, but I couldn't get into it, perhaps because this is another one where I was dropped mid-series. I'll try to read it again when I have more time.


This is a really tricky category, because its so wide open. How do you compare a set of book reviews to a biography of Heinlein to a podcast on writing? It's like evaluating apples and orangutans.

I looked for criteria to judge on but found diddly-squat. We're just supposed to pick the best, whatever that means.

Well, two of the entries specialized in offering advice to new writers, which is great, but I wasn't sure that's what the Hugo celebrates, so sorry, Writing Excuses. We'll kiss and make-up in the morning.

In the end, I'm going with 'Chicks Dig Timelords', which is a collection of female voices dealing with Who and Who fandom. It contains many different voices--from new fans to old fans, costumers to voice actors--but all of them share a love of the campy, wonderfulness of Dr. Who. But I found it interesting beyond Who-dom, because it was also about carving out a female space in a male-world, one which (according to some of the writers) were full of 'Get Rid Of Slimy girlS' society, especially since the shippers were polluting their pure Who with romance.

Anyway, I don't have much of a dog in this fight, but I enjoyed the discussion, the reminiscences, and the spunky voices of the essayists kept me turning the pages. The collection contains entries from several other Hugo-nominated authors too (such as Mary Robinette Kowal and one of the authors of Feed) so it's not just fem and queer-lit professors.

It hits my sweet spots (feminism and science fiction) as well as capturing an interesting moment in pop culture history about a silly, bubble-wrap and tinfoil show that managed to capture the imagination of a generation.

My doctor is still Tom Baker though. You just can't beat that scarf. His fashion sense shaped my fierceness into what it is today. ^_^


I thought about skipping this category. I'm probably skipping the fan writing one just because I don't have enough awareness of the community to know what offers the most merit. But the artist who drew xkcd is nominated, and I don't think people who live off their art count as non-professional, so I figure I'll try and counter the legion of fans who will vote for him, even though I like xkcd.

But I liked Maureen Starkey's stuff, and some of the other artists too. Though some of the scantily clad females look very cold.

Anyway, that's my first round of Hugo pics. Now I'm working through the short stories, novelettes, novellas and other vision stuff. More later.


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