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SYFY WIRE Harvey Awards

Gene Luen Yang and Watchmen lead the 2020 Harvey Awards winners

By Matthew Jackson
Superman Smashes the Klan [Credit: DC Comics]

Comics conventions have gone virtual in the pandemic era, but that doesn't mean that the medium's various awards bodies are going to stop honoring the highest achievements in comics and comics-related storytelling. On Friday night, the 2020 Harvey Awards — New York Comic Con's annual honors for the best comics work of the year, named for MAD Magazine legend Harvey Kurtzman — were given out in a virtual ceremony via NYCC Metaverse, and though the winners were previously announced by Harvey organizers, there was still plenty to celebrate.

Writer and artist Gene Luen Yang was the big winner for the night, taking home two of the night's six awards, including Book of the Year for his graphic novel Dragon Hoops and Best Children or Young Adult Book for his DC Comics release Superman Smashes The Klan, with the artistic duo known as Gurihiru. When it came time to collect his award for Dragon Hoops, Yang took time to thank the real-life basketball team who formed the basis for the book, the 2014-2015 Bishop O'Dowd High School Dragons.

"Thanks for letting a nerdy cartoonist tag along with you for the entire season, thank you for being so welcoming, thank you for sharing your stories with me," Yang said. "I'm never going to forget the courage that you all showed on the court that year. That time that I spent with you really was life-changing."

In the Harveys' other four categories, Digital Book of the Year went to The Nib by Matt Bors; Best Manga went to Witch Hat Atelier by Kamome Shirahama; Best International Book went to Grass by Keum Suk Gendry-Kim and translator Janet Hong; and Best Adaptation from a Comic Book/Graphic Novel went to the Emmy-winning HBO series Watchmen, created by Damon Lindelof.

In his acceptance speech, Lindelof highlighted Kurtzman's legacy, and used it to pay tribute to Watchmen co-creator Alan Moore, though Moore chose to distance himself from the HBO project as he has with all other Watchmen follow-ups.

"Harvey Kurtzman was a genius, he was a renegade, and it was his brutal satire Superduperman that actually taught a young Alan Moore that sometimes the best way to show you love something with all of your heart was to kick it in the teeth," Lindelof said. "I don't talk about Alan Moore enough, and that's because he made it clear he didn't want me to, but I'm here now because of him. Not just because of his and the brilliant Dave Gibbons' masterpiece, but because Alan Moore taught me the true meaning of adaptation. To adapt is to change, to honor the inspiration but challenge it, to embrace what made you fall in love with it, but then ask yourself every morning when you look at it in bed next to you, 'Why are we together again?'"

But the night didn't end with the presentation of trophies in six categories. The virtual Harveys also took time to honor this year's inductees into the Harvey Awards Hall of Fame. The 2020 class includes Astro Boy creator Osamu Tezuka; Scary Godmother and Beats of Burden creator Jill Thompson; and Milestone Media founders Denys Cowan, Derek T. Dingle, Michael Davis, and the late Dwayne McDuffie.

"I'm not going to stop making new worlds for you to visit," Thompson said in her speech. "I'm going to do it until I can't see and I can't write anymore, and I happily will have the blessing of Harvey Kurtzman, which is a very big deal to try and live up to."

Each of the Milestone founders also had the opportunity to speak, and McDuffie's wife Charlotte sent along thanks in a letter. In their respective speeches, Davis paid tribute to the Black Lives Matter movement, Dingle honored the many talents who helped make Milestone possible, and Cowan took a moment to thank the company's fans.

"I think what this award is really for is for the Milestone fans and for the people who supported us all these years," Cowan said. "All those kids who grew up watching Static Shock, and all the people who read our comic books, and who will read them in the future: This is for you, so thank you."

For more from the Harvey Awards, including special appearances by Neil Gaiman and 2019 Book of the Year winner Jarrett J. Krosoczka, check out the video of the full event above. 

Click here for SYFY WIRE's full coverage of New York Comic Con Metaverse 2020.