These have been some of the most fun categories to research, as I don’t read a ton of comics and had to spend a good amount of time googling the artists for some of my favorite book covers from last year. Then, I got to fall down the internet hole that is fan art, and there’s an incredible amount of good work out there to peruse. One thing that is nice about these categories, as well, is that because these aren’t parts of fandom I’m particularly active in, I don’t feel like my decisions are heavily influenced by anyone else’s opinions. It means my thoughts about these categories are all very uncomplicated, but it also means that these are probably all categories that I won’t fill up my ballot for.
Best Graphic Story
- ODY-C Volume 1 by Matt Fraction and Christian Ward
This seems to have been a sort of love it or hate it book, and I am firmly on the love side. It’s a gorgeously illustrated, ambitious project unlike anything else out there right now.
- Rat Queens Volume 2: The Far-Reaching Tentacles of N’Rygoth by Kurtis J Wiebe, Roc Upchurch and Stjepan Sejic
While I was skeptical of this book to begin with—I’m a little distrustful of overtly feminist work by men, to be honest, because they usually mess it up somehow—I quickly fell in love with it. It’s smart and funny and full of badass women, with a minimal amount of male-gaze-y artwork.
- Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
This is a book that I actually bought for my daughter after she couldn’t put it down at the bookstore. When I read it for myself, I could definitely see why. It’s wonderful.
- Bitch Planet Volume 1: Extraordinary Machine by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Valentine DeLandro, Taki Soma, and Robert Wilson
Bitch Planet is the feminist comic book I’ve been waiting for my whole life.
- Monstress #1 by Marjorie M. Liu and Sana Takeda
This isn’t my favorite comic I read last year, but it’s hands down the most beautiful to look at. Every page from cover to cover is filled edge to edge with some of the most sumptuous illustration I’ve seen in a comic in ages. It’s just stunning.
As you might be able to tell, I don’t really do super heroes, as a general rule. I did read some of The Wicked + The Divine last year as well, but didn’t care for it, and I read the first issue of Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur when that came out. It was cute, but I didn’t go back to it when new issues came out. I’m actually really looking forward to reading whatever makes the finalist list in this category this year.
Best Professional Artist
- Richard Anderson
Richard Anderson did cover art for several of my favorite books last year—The Builders, Sunset Mantle, Empire Ascendant, and The Dinosaur Lords (which I actually hated, but it had a rad cover)—and I can’t get enough of his style. While he works with a somewhat limited palette, heavy on grays and browns, all of Anderson’s illustrations are full of remarkable energy.
- Cynthia Sheppard
In 2015, Cynthia Sheppard illustrated covers for Elizabeth Bear’s Karen Memory and A.M. Dellamonica’s A Daughter of No Nation. She’s another artist who works with a somewhat monochromatic palette, but it makes the occasional flashes of bright color in her work that much more striking.
I am probably going to just stick to these two nominations, since I don’t have a ton of strong opinions on particular artists. Tommy Arnold has some amazing cover artwork coming out this year, but that’s no good for this round of awards, and I always love Julie Dillon’s work when I see it, but she just won the Hugo last year and I’m looking forward to seeing some different people get attention.
Best Fan Artist
- Megan Lara
It’s been done to death, but I never get tired of art nouveau style illustrations. Ever.
- Octavi Navarro
Pixel art has also been done, but not like this.
This is another category where I doubt I’ll fill my ballot. There’s just so much that I like and so much that is good that it’s tough to make any final decisions, especially when I’m so bogged down with trying to cram some more short fiction reading in over the next few days.
All that said, if you have a recommendation, put it in the comments and I’ll check it out!