The second annual Dwayne McDuffie Award for Kids’ Comics was presented to Svetlana Chmakova’s Awkward this weekend at the Ann Arbor Comic Arts Festival (A2CAF).
Awkward tells a story that is very much of this moment but at the same time ageless—a story about the missteps of middle school, about rivalries and hurt feelings, and about the many twists and turns of friendship. Of the scores of comics from 2015 read by the judges, Chmakova’s book best met the four main criteria for selection: Quality, Timelessness, Originality and Diversity.
Those four values represent core concerns of Kids Read Comics, the nonprofit that sponsors A2CAF and the McDuffie Award. They also fit the man the award was named for. Dwayne McDuffie was a comics and animation writer, a winner of the Humanitas Prize, and the creator of Static, the teenaged superhero who first appeared in 1993, and Static Shock, the animated series based on the comic. McDuffie was an enthusiastic supporter of Kids Read Comics who believed in comics and believed in kids. He shared KRC’s belief that comics can expand young minds and change young lives for the better.
There is no more appropriate name to attach to an award that showcases the incredible variety of outstanding comics currently being created for kids and teens.
In accepting the award on video, Svetlana Chmakova said, “When I heard about the award, I was so happy to see that one of the four judging criteria was diversity. When I create my work, inclusion is something that’s always at the forefront of my mind. And not just because I think it’s actually overdue…but also because I was an immigrant, and I experienced it. I experienced inclusion.” Recapturing what that experience meant to her, she added, “I was a kid and it was so important.”
“While I’m truly, truly thankful to be the recipient of this year’s award,” Chmakova went on to say, “I’m even more thankful that this award exists.”
Judges for this year’s Dwayne McDuffie Award for Kids’ Comics were Edith Donnell, a Kids Read Comics cofounder and youth and teen librarian; Andrew Woodrow-Butcher, manager of Little Island Comics, a comic shop exclusively for kids; Eva Volin, a children’s librarian and comics-in-libraries advocate; and Marv Wolfman, a comics and animation writer and editor whose storied career goes back nearly half a century.
The Ann Arbor Comic Arts Festival is held annually at the Ann Arbor (Michigan) District Library, and features over fifty artists alley guests ranging from national bestselling authors and award winners—this year including Cece Bell, Kazu Kibuishi, Nathan Hale, Tom Angleberger and Ben Hatke—to teenaged cartoonists and even younger students from local cartooning classes. A2CAF programming focuses largely on hands-on workshops and interactive drawing games, allowing event attendees of all ages and skill levels to participate. The event attracts approximately 3,000 visitors each year.