The final ballots for the 2016 Harvey Awards have been released, revealing the final nominees for the most prestigious awards in comics not named The Eisners. As the comics community congratulates the nominees (themselves) for making it this far, there's one interesting fact that's difficult to ignore: Valiant Entertainment's utter domination of the final ballots.
All in all, Valiant had 50 nominations on this year's ballot, far more than any other publisher. Among the categories Valiant dominated in this year's ballot are Best Single Issue or Story (4 of 6 nominations), Best Cartoonist (3 of 6 nominations), Best Continuing or Limited Series (4 of 9 nominations), Best Cover Artist (5 of 9 nominations), Best Domestic Reprint (4 of 5 nominations), Special Award for Excellence in Presentation (5 of 6 nominations), Best Graphic Album Previously Published (5 of 6 nominations), Special Award for Humor in Comics (5 of 6 nominations), Best Inker (4 of 6 nominations), Best Colorist (3 of 6 nominations), and Best Letterer (3 of 6 nominations). Only a few categories were safe from Valiant, such as Best Online Comics Work and Best Syndicated Strip or Panel, though we're sure whoever is behind this is looking for a way to nominate Bloodshot Reborn for that next year as well. Perhaps "Prince Valiant" could get the noms in the latter?
So how did Valiant, the ninth largest comic book publisher with about 1% of the market share, come to completely destroy all other competitors in terms of total nominations? Well, let's look at the Harvey nomination process. According to the Harveys website:
Nominations for the Harvey Awards are selected exclusively by creators – those who write, draw, ink, letter, color, design, edit or are otherwise involved in a creative capacity in the comics field.
Sources tell The Outhouse that, specifically, eligible voters can list five nominees on their ballot for each category, and they can list the same nominee all five times if they want. Obviously, this process is ripe for exploitation by publishers willing to coordinate their employees to vote for their books, but that's not an advantage exclusive to Valiant. So how did Valiant end up with so many votes?
Perhaps it's relevant to bring up that, earlier this year, we reported on the efforts of the members of the Valiant Fan Forums to brigade /r/comicbooks' "Best of Comics 2015" polls, a community survey designed to show what members of the subreddit enjoyed the most over the previous year, causing /r/comicbooks mod Christian Hoffer to vacate two of the awards:
So good news and bad news. We finally had our first case of vote manipulation! After noticing that two categories (Best Inker and Best Publisher) had a disproportionately higher amount of votes than other categories, I did some digging and discovered that a Valiant fan forum rigged the vote had manipulated those categories for a Valiant win. Luckily, SurveyMonkey's advanced statistics tipped me off to this rigging, so I was actually able to figure out where/how the votes had been manipulated. Both awards have been vacated this year due to the vote manipulation, so there's no winner. Apologies and I'll try to figure out how to prevent this next year.
The Valiant Fan Forums were also, at that time, attempting to manipulate The Beat's Comics Industry Person of the Year Award, just as a quick glance at the site today shows an attempt to manipulate Amazon review lists. While Harvey ballots are restricted to people working in the industry, that appears to work on an honor system, as anyone can submit a ballot through the website. It's unclear how much validation is performed on these ballots, though we've reached out to the Harveys for comment and will update this article if they respond. However, nothing can be found, at least out in the open, suggesting vote manipulation for the Harveys on the Valiant Fan Forums. If not the Valiant Fan Forums, who could be to blame? Does Valiant, which signs roughly five artists per week to exclusive contracts, include a clause requiring them to vote for Valiant in the Harveys?
There remains another possibility: the comic book industry just loves it some Valiant. Perhaps people working in creative areas of the comic book industry simply feel that, all things considered, Valiant is better than everyone else more than one third of the time. It seems unlikely in an industry so ego-driven, but in the absence of any other evidence, we'll have to assume it's true. And if that's the case, then Valiant will surely win all of those categories once the final voting is done, right?
Which just leaves one course of action.
What? No, it's not to tighten restrictions on Harvey voting to ensure the process is fair and unbiased. It's to take advantage of this shit to finally get The Outhouse nominated for a prestigious comics award.
Listen, Valiant. We all know what's going on here. *wink wink* *nudge nudge* Maybe we can help each other out. We won't say anything about this if you'll instruct your employees to nominate us for best journalistic publication. Sure, it might seem a little suspicious, but more suspicious than the entire Quantum and Woody catalog being nominated for Best Domestic Reprint? This is comics, baby. How about a little quid pro quo? We scratch your back, you scratch ours?
Look. We deserve that award. Just like Valiant deserves four out of six nominations for best single issue of the year amongst all other comics. If it takes a little bit of organized ballot stuffing to get all of us what we deserve, then what's the harm? This is America, after all. Hit us up if you want to make deal, guys.