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It's really striking that two years ago, it was impossible to find enough comics from 1938 to populate the Retro Hugo category - we gave a Special Committee Award to Superman instead - but this year there is a wealth of 1940 material to choose from. Having said that, there's not in fact a lot of variety; with one exception, the 1941 Retro Hugo finalists are origin stories of costumed crime-fighters. This at least reduces the problem of comparing apples with oranges, but it does mean that we are essentially voting on the same story told differently four times.

I did not nominate in this category. None of the entries is in the Hugo packet, but most can be found fairly easily if you look for them (taps side of nose).

6) No Award. Any of these is a good representation of where comics were in 1940. None of them is perfect, but none is deeply flawed either.

5) The Origin of the Spirit, by Will Eisner
Second panel of third page:

I didn't really warm to The Spirit. I found him a bit smug and complacent, and his drugs and technology work just as far as the plot needs them to. NB that the next story in The Spirit: A Celebration of 75 years ends with him triumphantly spanking a teenage girl, an image that is used for the frontispiece. That story is not on the ballot; if it were I'd be putting it below No Award.

4) The Spectre: “The Spectre”/”The Spectre Strikes!”, by Jerry Siegel and Bernard Baily
Second panel of third page (from first of two instalments):

I feel a bit more sympathetic to The Spectre than I do to The Spirit because The Spectre is actually dead, and has to manage relations with his girlfriend as well as Fighting Crime. He doesn't do a very good job of it though (the girlfriend bit, I mean).

3) Captain Marvel: “Introducing Captain Marvel” by Bill Parker and C. C. Beck
Second panel of third page:

I found myself warming to this much more - total wish fulfillment for the readers who can imagine transforming into superheroes at the simple uttering of the word "Shazam", and saving America from a plot to Destroy Radio. Glorious nonsense.

2) Batman #1, by Bob Kane.
Second panel of third chapter:

I am assuming that we are meant to consider the collected early Batman stories "The Joker", "Professor Hugo Strange and the Monsters", "The Cat" and "The Joker Returns" here. I did not immediately warm to them, but on reflection I can see that Kane put a lot of effort into the world-building, in comparison with the other three origin stories. And the fact that Batman has a sidekick makes the relationship at the top more interesting too. I am sure it will win.

1) Flash Gordon: “The Ice Kingdom of Mongo” by Alex Raymond and Don Moore
Second panel of third installment:

This is a very different kettle of fish; rather than traditional comics style, each panel has a detailed picture plus half a dozen lines of explanatory prose. The story concerns Flash Gordon and team crashing in the Ice Kingdom of Frigia (which is on the planet of Mongo), ruled by the skimpily dressed Princess Fria. Much of the story involves palace intrigues, including a love triangle between Princess Fria, Dale Arden and Flash; this varies from interesting to cringeworthy. But I liked the fact that the women are not generally peril monkeys and at one point team up together to rescue Flash from durance vile. There is the odd plot inconsistency, no doubt due to the difficulty of keeping names and details straight in a story that took thirteen months to publish, but for scale, ambition and (mostly) execution, I am giving it my vote.

For the 2016 Hugos fpr Best Graphic Story, my nominations were:

The Sculptor, by Scott McCloud
The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage, by Sydney Padua
Sex Criminals, Vol. 2: Two Worlds, One Cop, by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky
Saga vol 5, by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples
The Sandman: Overture, by Neil Gaiman, J.H. Williams III, Dave Stewart and Todd Klein

The File 770 straw poll found the following as the most popular nominees in this category among contributors:

The Sculptor, by Scott McCloud (15)
The Sandman: Overture, by Neil Gaiman and J.H. Williams III (9)
The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage, by Sydney Padua (9)
Ms. Marvel, Vol. 2: Generation Why, by G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, and Jake Wyatt (8)
Saga, Vol. 5, by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples (8)
The Autumnlands, Vol. 1: Tooth and Claw, by Kurt Busiek and Benjamin Dewey (7)
Bitch Planet, Vol. 1: Extraordinary Machine, by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro (6)
Nimona, by Noelle Stevenson (5)
Lumberjanes, Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy, by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Shannon Watters, and Brooke A. Allen (4)
Rat Queens 2: The Far Reaching Tentacles of N’rygoth, by Kurtis J. Wiebe, Roc Upchurch, and Stjepan Šejić (4)

I nominated four of the top five of these, a rare case of my tastes coinciding closely with the File 770 spread. However, the final ballot includes only one of these stories. The other finalists did not get a single vote between them from File 770 readers. The slate made a clean sweep here.

My own vote will be as follows:

6) Full Frontal Nerdity by Aaron Williams
Second panel of third 2015 installment:

It's not entirely clear what section of this webcomic is intended to be eligible. I started reading from the first episode published in 2015, and lost interest after the first few; the jokes are not particularly funny, the characters unengaging, and the whole thing a bit too focussed on tabletop gaming as the entirety of life.

5) Erin Dies Alone, by Grey Carter and Cory Rydell
Second panel of third chapter (confusingly numbered Chapter 4):

Another webcomic, which started in 2015. Here I read the first three story arcs (numbered Chapter 1, Chapter 2 and Chapter 4), starting from March 2015 and finishing in November. There is a cute girl and a cute raccoon, and they discover that computer games have their own reality which intersects with ours. I didn't much care for the setting and I thought the emotional pacing was badly off in places. But it has its moments.

4) Invisible Republic Vol 1, by Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman
Second frame of third chapter (rotated):

Carefully drawn, but unevenly plotted story of revolution in an oppressive society, set on a distant moon of a distant planet (but really could have been at any time and almost any place). I did wonder why the main male character didn't simply shave off his beard to avoid being recognised.

3) The Divine, by Boaz Lavie, Asaf Hanuka and Tomer Hanuka
Second frame of third page:

Story of an American military contractor in an Asian conflict zone who discovers that dragons are real. Improbable plot twist at the end involving his pregnant wife, and somewhat stereotyped characters among both Americans and Asians. But shows promise.

2) The Sandman: Overture, by Neil Gaiman and J.H. Williams III
Second text frame of third chapter:

As reported earlier in the year, I really enjoyed this and I nominated it myself. But having read four slated finalists that were nothing like as good as the four other graphic stories which I nominated, I'm angry that we have basically been given one person's choice of what should be on the ballot rather than the collective voice of fans, and a choice between one good work and four poor ones is no choice at all. I am invoking the Foster principle and voting:

1) No Award.
It is simply an outrage that The Sculptor and The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage, and probably two other worthy nominees, were kept off the ballot by the slaters. Filling the ballot with complete crap is unacceptable, as voters demonstrated last year; but putting just one good nominee on the ballot also removes choice and competition, and most of all fun, from the process. So I am not going to lend my vote to their enterprise.

As I've said before, let's hope for better times.

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