Why do we have a Webcomics category?

The Joe Shuster Awards, among the majority of the comics industry’s other awards, are primarily awards for print-based work. That is, comics that have been created specifically for sale in comic book stores and other retail outlets.

By honouring said work in such a fashion, awards (like these Joe Shuster Awards) hope to (in no specific order) — (a) help sell more copies of the books (and thus help our retailers and creators), (b) expose more people to great comics (and help schools and libraries in selecting books to carry/promote to their students), and (c) raise the awareness, and thus the profile, of creators doing great work. The full title of every award we give out except Webcomics is OUTSTANDING CANADIAN COMIC BOOK/GRAPHIC NOVEL (artist/writer/cartoonist/colourist/cover artist/publisher/retailer/self-publisher).

In 2006 we added a Webcomic Creator/Creative Team category. Why? Well, mainly in response to the fact that many people were creating great comics and putting them online. We felt that we should recognize these creators, even though the majority of them have more in common with newspaper gag strips and short form comics, formats we don’t recognize here at the Joe Shuster Awards in the core awards. There is a great diversity of comics being published on the internet and a lot more Canadians are doing them every year. Why not recognize that? Why not, indeed.

Our intention is not to be dismissive or patronizing, it’s unfortunate that people would promulgate that as the intention of any award attempting to honour the work of any creator. I see that it can be interpreted as isolating by some webcomics creators.

I don’t see that as a negative in the case of our webcomic creator/creative team award, I think it’s a positive.

When reviewing all of the potential webcomics we were looking for not just great writing or art, but OUTSTANDING creators who use the delivery system to great effect. I think our seven nominees are all outstanding creators of comics for the internet – most used the delivery system’s potential much more than just scanning a strip and posting it online. These are great comics created specifically for the internet and most succeed because the delivery system is not print.

If we were to dismiss the category or merge it, most people would be lost in the shuffle. If anything, a discussion takes place every year about expanding this category — perhaps dividing dailies from weeklies, ongoing strips from gag strips, etc. There aren’t enough Canadians doing it to justify separate writer/artist/cartoonist/colourist awards. So far we’ve been hesitant to expand by division, instead we concentrate on focusing on putting together a strong list for the one award.

Now perhaps we’ll see a day when there’s no need to cheer-lead comics printed on dead trees and there will be no need to recognize creators for using the delivery system to create outstanding comics… perhaps on that day digital delivery and online availability will eliminate the need to send people out to buy books to support the livelihoods of those that depend on the sales of books to continue creating, selling and publishing comics. However, we are not there yet.

As always, at the end of the award year (that would be between July and December this year), we are willing to discuss whether or not changes are required to the category for the following year.

2011 Nominees for Outstanding Canadian Webcomic Creator/Creative Team:

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