The Eisner Awards, known as “The Oscars of comics,” were awarded at this weekend’s San Diego Comic-Con International, and a Somerville shop and a local artist took home some of the top honors.
Late Sunday night, as much of Somerville slept, employees and owners of Comicazi in Davis Square were anxiously glued to their phones, scrolling through and refreshing social media sites.
“We all sat there at 1 in the morning following #EisnerAward on Twitter,” says Comicazi co-owner David Lockwood. “When the award came out, my wife was asleep, I sat on the couch, and my two business partners and Jill, our manager, were all texting in a group text: Is it coming up? Is it coming up?”
“When finally, someone tweeted it, I was like, ‘Oh my effing something-or-other,'” Lockwood laughs. “I was stunned for a minute.”
Comicazi was the recipient of the Spirit of Comics Retailer award, which honors the important role retailers play in the industry and acknowledges the still-crucial link they provide between creators and readers. The shop is one of only 36 winners to ever receive the international award, and one of just two on the East Coast (the other—That’s Entertainment—is also located in Massachusetts).
And Comicazi wasn’t the only Somerville honoree in this year’s Eisners. Local artist Erica Henderson took home not one but two awards: Best Humor Publication for Jughead and Best Publication for Teens (13-17) for The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. She lives not far from Comicazi’s home in Davis Square, where the shop has been located for all of its 17 years.
The Spirit of Comics Retailer award takes a lot of almost intangible factors into account, things like community involvement and sharing comics with a broader population. Comicazi has always emphasized a friendly, inclusive and community-oriented atmosphere, Lockwood says, but when the shop moved into its current location at 407 Highland Ave., he and the rest of the staff really stepped that up. That’s when Comicazi introduced free comics for kids every day and when the shop really rounded out its robust calendar of upcoming community events.
Then, of course, there are The Ladies of Comicazi, a “small but mighty collective of geek culture fans” (Scout profiled them back in 2015) who stand in support of female-driven stories and women creators and comic fans. The group will host the second-annual Ladies Con on September 16 at the Armory (191 Highland Ave.).
“People only come to a shop like ours because they feel like it—we don’t sell bread, we don’t sell milk, we don’t sell anything that people ‘need,'” Lockwood says simply. “Sure, you want to make some money, but at the end of the day, how do you want to run your business? That’s always been very important to us.”
It’s been important to Comicazi shoppers, too, many of whom took to Twitter to congratulate their favorite local store. “So happy that the comic shop I’ve been going to all my life is finally getting some recognition!” effused one. “These guys deserve this,” added another.
Even the folks at City Hall gave the store a shoutout yesterday on Somerville’s official Twitter.
No word yet, unfortunately, on when they’ll get those keys to the city.