Open letter calls for more transparency from the Eisner Awards

The request comes after Thomas Woodruff’s multiple, controversial nominations.

In the wake of this year’s Eisner Award nomination controversy, a group that includes comics professionals, journalists and readers has asked for more transparency from Comic-Con International on the Eisner Award process.

Editor/journalist Jennifer de Guzman, who has worked for SLG and Image Comics in the past, and Mariah McCourt, a comics writer and former editor at Vertigo, wrote the open letter following the controversial nomination of Francis Rothbart! The Tale of a Fastidious Feral by Thomas Woodruff in several categories this year. It’s been co-signed now by more than 30 individuals.

“This troubling disparity between who is judging the work to be nominated and the makeup of the industry itself has created an environment of systemic inequality,” the letter reads “There is a distinct need for more diverse and inclusive backgrounds in the people responsible for these nominations, every year. We need the active participation of creators of color, LGBTQIA+ creators, artists, writers, letterers, colorists, cover artists, editors, and those with more direct and every day experience with the medium itself. Right now the panel appears to be made up mostly of journalists, librarians, and academics which, intentionally or not, skews the point of view of the nominations.”

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Thomas Woodruff withdraws his work from Eisner consideration

‘Francis Rothbart! The Tale of a Fastidious Feral’ and the creator himself received widespread criticism since the nominations were announced.

After criticism on a number of points related to his graphic novel Francis Rothbart! The Tale of a Fastidious Feral, Thomas Woodruff has removed his work from consideration for the Eisner Awards.

The quick version:

  1. Thomas Woodruff received nominations in four categories in the 2023 Eisner Awards, including “Best Graphic Album—New” and “Best Painter/Multimedia Artist.”
  2. Many people, including his former students, raised an issue with his nominations, with the points of contention being a) accusations of mistreatment of students while he was the head of the illustration and cartooning departments at the School of Visual Arts in New York, and b) that the work itself, about a feral child with brown skin, has racist overtones. A petition aimed at the Eisners was started to have his nominations withdrawn.
  3. After Woodruff and his publisher, Fantagraphics, released statements mid-week defending the work, Woodruff has since withdrawn himself for consideration for the awards.

So what’s this all about? Let’s break it down …

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