The Second Annual City Paper Comics Contest
In truth, we put more upgrades and painstaking effort into the second annual Comics Contest. This year's winning strip will run in the paper each week for the next year alongside the work of our esteemed cast of comics professionals. (The second-place finisher garners a $100 prize; third place takes home $50.) And we recruited actual comics professionals to look over the entries. Our august panel members were Driana Pearlman, co-owner of Comics Kingdom, which was named "Best Comic Book Store" in our recent Best of Baltimore issue; Brian Ralph, a cartoonist and illustrator, as well as an instructor at the Maryland Institute College of Art, whose comics are regularly seen in Nickelodeon Magazine and whose books Cave-In and Climbing Out have been widely acclaimed; and Christopher Skokna, one of CP's resident comics nuts.
After we locked them in an overheated conference room with instructions not to emerge until they had a decision, our judges achieved near-unanimity in naming Syracuse, N.Y.-based Nicholas Gurewitch's dry, gnomic The Perry Bible Fellowship the grand prize winner. Although Ralph confessed he was "sad to pick a non-Marylander as the winner of this contest," he added that "after reading a few of these strips I hope people will see why we did." In fact, Ralph went on a little tirade: "Newspaper comics today are getting off too easy. They're no longer expected to be funny, or evenly slightly amusing. . . . [Perry Bible Fellowship is] hilarious. When was the last time a comic actually made you laugh out loud?" For her part, Pearlman singled out Gurewitch's "deceptively simple forms" and "original way of looking at the world." Skokna noted that Gurewitch's humor was "mostly original. . . . Plus, nearly all the jokes are at least partly visual, which is refreshing after reading tons of talking-head strips."
As for second-finisher, the Hussey Bros.' surreal Sheet Comics, Ralph says "it could have easily been my number one choice." He went on to add, "It's like Edward Gorey collaborating with Ben Katchor. Not so much funny in a ha-ha way, more funny in a way you might say, 'Whoever writes this comic is kind of . . . you know . . . funny.'" Pearlman was effusive over the Husseys' "beautiful" art: "You don't see that kind of line drawing in cartooning very often--I would look for it in a newspaper just for the art." "Love the obsessive crosshatching!" Skokna said, adding, "Honestly, I'd almost rather just look at the pictures and make up my own stories."
Third-place finisher Electric Cheez, by Toph X, won marks from Ralph for being "pretty darn funny." Pearlman pointed to a "strong and interesting" drawing style and "a fascinating yuk factor." "I'd like to see [the artist] tighten up his draftsmanship and, especially, his lettering for a more professional look," Skokna said, "because I think some real chops would make Cheez even more creepy."
Our judges had a hard time narrowing it down to three, so we're also printing representative panels from some of their other faves. And remember, whether you're an interested artist or a comics fan, there's always next year.
8th Annual City Paper Comics Contest (9/9/2009)
First Place: Just Ask Larnell (9/9/2009)
812 Park Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21201