Martha Thomases: Here Comes The Judge!

The secret is out.

I’m an Eisner judge next year.

Me me me me me me me!

It hasn’t been easy for me to keep this to myself, especially since telling it would enable me to enjoy so much bragging. I had basically told only my knitting group and my cat sitter. With one exception, none of these people cared.

Besides reading even more comics than I do already, I’m not sure what this job entails. I expect a certain amount of graft, although that will probably take the form of free books that I need to read to do my job properly. Thus far, there have been no offers of fat envelopes of cash, nor has anyone sent any nubile young boys to my door.

(If you would like to send a nubile young boy to my door, or if you are a nubile young boy who would like to meet me, please make the case for yourself in the comments. Don’t just show up. I have a doorman.)

I do take this responsibility seriously. Which means I have homework. Lots of homework.

Even though I’ve been reading comics for more than 55 years, there is so much I don’t know. There are so many corners of the graphic-story medium that I just pop into now and then. Biographies? Non-fiction? Memoirs? These are not part of the pillar of books that topple from my night-table.

So far, I have only stuck my littlest toe into the waters, reading a few things from year-end “Ten Best” lists. It is possible that, through random chance, I chose the wrong books first. Or perhaps my feelings about the current state of world affairs colored the tone of voice in which I read.

Those first few books I read were so dreary!

There is every reason in the world for artists to want to tell stories that might strike me as dreary. The purpose of art is to illuminate the world in new and different ways, some of which will be scary or sad or pessimistic. Art might be entertaining, but it does not have to be.

Still, sometimes I think that there is a bias in our culture against pleasure. If something is fun, it can’t also be serious and important. I see this most in teenagers, who embrace despair with the kind of zeal that one can only feel when rejecting everything one’s parents ever said. Certainly, that was true for me.

And then I got older, and lost people I loved to war and disease and disagreements, and, eventually, pessimism didn’t seem so romantic anymore. I embraced my love of laughter and super-heroes.

I continue to do so.

It is my fondest hope that I will find books like this among those clamoring for my attention this year. I feel like I owe it to comics.

I certainly owe it to 2017.