Eisner Hall of Fame: How I Voted (Part 1 of 2)

The Eisner Hall of Fame Class of 2024 is rounding into shape. As we discussed two months ago in this posting, nineteen inductees have already been named, with four more to be determined by the results of springtime voting by those eligible from within the professional ranks.

The sixteen candidates put forth for these final four billets are (in alphabetical order): Gus Arriola, Eddie Campbell, Mike Friedrich, Don Heck, Klaus Janson, Abe Kanegson, Jim Lee, Mike Mignola, Tom Palmer, Bob Powell, Mike Royer, Ira Schnapp, Phil Seuling. Leonard Starr, Jill Thompson, and Angelo Torres. All worthy candidates, and one hope each person on that list will eventually be inducted into the Hall. This year, however, only four of them can achieve that status.

My work at LOAC qualifies me to have received a ballot, and I gave this a fair amount of consideration before casting my votes during the second half of April. While we rarely see how comics professionals make their Hall selections, the BBWAA writers who vote for the Baseball Hall of Fame each year often publish their choices and the associated rationale behind them, so it seems reasonable that I follow in those footsteps. The voting period has now ended — so what I discuss below cannot influence the outcome, since even the procrastinating voters who waited until the very last minute have by now made their selections — and here are the first two of my four choices for the final 2024 inductees:

Don Heck

In a career that spanned five decades, Heck was one of the industry’s most reliable craftsmen. Many recognize him as one of the best Western artists in our history, though he also produced science fiction/fantasy and mystery/horror work for a handful of publishers before the revival of the superhero genre began his decades-long association with marquee characters at both Marvel and DC Comics: The Avengers, Spider-Man, The Flash, Batgirl, Wonder Woman, and others. Of course, Heck is perhaps best known as the first artist to depict Iron Man (and his villain-turned-eventual-hero, Hawkeye the Marksman) in the pages of Marvel’s Tales of Suspense series.

Roy Thomas once observed, “Don could rise to the occasion because he had real talent and a good grounding in the fundamentals. He amalgamated into his own style certain aspects of Jack Kirby’s style, and carved out a place for himself as one of a handful of artists who were of real importance during the very early days of Marvel.” Milton Caniff also recognized Heck’s talents, using him to ghost select Steve Canyon projects.

Finally, if one looks at the list of current Hall of Fame roster, those associated with the flourishing of Marvel Comics are already members: Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Stan Lee, Dick Ayers, John Romita Sr., Marie Severin, Joe Sinnott, John Buscema, Gene Colan, Barry Windsor-Smith, Steranko, Neal Adams, Gil Kane, Ross Andru — you name ’em, they’re in there. The brief gallery of selections below helps buttress my conclusion that Don Heck fully deserves to take his place in their company. (Click each image for an isolated view.)

Phil Seuling

Phil loved comics and what we think of today as “fan culture” — loved it so much, in fact, he helped nurture it from fledgling status to the all-encompassing mass-media phenomenon it is today. Everyone speaks of Seuling as the mastermind behind the direct sales market that make comic shops possible (and viable!), and certainly he was uniquely poised to do so while operating his Sea Gate Distributors company. Revolutionizing the business side of comics should by itself qualify Phil for Hall of Fame membership — how do you not include a person without whom the entire industry would have evolved along very different lines?

Above and beyond his work related to the direct market, Seuling was the motive force behind the biggest comics conventions of the tag-end of the 1960s, the ’70s, and early ’80s: the Comic Art Conventions. These July 4th shows featured all-star creators and even offered 1973 attendees a chance to attend a panel discussion featuring the infamous Doctor Fredric Wertham, author of Seduction of the Innocent.

Phil was also arguably one of comics’s first TV stars: check out this ten-minute excerpt from a 1977 Mike Douglas Show that features him showcasing comic books that were classic collectors items even then, chatting with M*A*S*H star Jamie Farr (who reveals himself as something of a fan), and bringing with him a surprise guest star who appears at the end of the segment!

This takes us halfway through my selections for this year’s final Eisner Hall of Fame inductees. Join me in this space on May 10th to see which other creators received my final two votes!

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