The 2010 Diamond Gem Award winners were just announced. These awards are nominated by a “panel of Diamond industry professionals”, voted on by comic book shop retailers, and selected based on “quality, creativity, and overall sales impact”, as you might note from the subtitle “Suppliers of the Year”.
The winners are the industry “good guys”. For example, DC Comics, which has more retailer-friendly policies, beat out Marvel for Publisher of the Year (for the second year in a row), even though Marvel sells more. Marvel got two awards to DC’s ten, and those two were both in Licensed categories for Kick-Ass, Mark Millar’s property. That’s got to smart — if Marvel cared. It doesn’t seem to affect them getting orders and sales from the direct market.
Five of DC’s awards were for action figures, statues, and the colored plastic rainbow Green Lantern power ring set. I also find it fascinating that these awards have two comic book award categories, “Comic Book of the Year Under $3.00″ and “Over $3.00″. Remember, these are about what sells for the direct market — and now that Marvel prices so many comics at $3.99, they’re practically eliminated from one of those categories.
But the thing that most struck my notice was who was recognized as Manga Publisher of the Year: Dark Horse Comics. They’re not a dedicated publisher, unlike Viz, Yen, or Vertical, but they’ve been part of the direct market for several decades, so they’re a comfortable, familiar choice for a group of retailers who are often ambivalent about the category overall. Don’t get me wrong — I enjoy some Dark Horse manga, such as The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, but to call them publisher of the year for manga? That seems to ignore the many and varied publications released by other outlets — who are more interested in the bookstore than direct market, which likely explains it.
Best Manga of the Year, meanwhile, went to Yen Press for Twilight: The Graphic Novel, a book that isn’t even really a manga. But it’s something that direct market retailers had heard of, at least. Never underestimate the power of a familiar name on an overstuffed ballot when busy people are checking off their choices.