The Stumptown Comics Fest made some changes to their annual awards ceremony this year. The public still gets to vote on the winners, but for the first time nominees for the Stumptown Comics Art Awards were chosen by a panel of comics professionals—Madman creator Mike Allred, King City creator Brandon Graham, Mercury karaoke blogger Laura Hudson, Bridge City Comics' Michael Ring, and Floating World's Jason Leivian. Their nominations were announced yesterday, and online voting is currently open—there's also an "audience choice" write-in award.

The first thing you'll notice about that ballot is that it's not a Stumptown-specific list—while plenty of the nominated creators and publishers will be at the fest, some have nothing to do with it. I emailed festival director Indigo Kelleigh to ask why he didn't limit the nominations to creators who would actually be exhibiting at Stumptown. He replied:

Just as our goal with Stumptown is to not limit our showcase to local, indie- or art-comix creators, our goal with the awards is to recognize and celebrate comic excellence everywhere, not just those creators who are able to exhibit at the Fest.

Most of the books nominated will be represented at the show in some way, either the creator or publisher exhibiting.

Personally, I'd like to see a nomination list or ballot that actually helps fest attendees discover new work at Stumptown. What the nominations now represent is an ideal reading list from some very smart people who know a lot about comics. That has value, but it's value that feels somewhat incidental to the festival itself. Makes a great reading list, though, and there is a definite local bent—it's particularly gratifying to see that three of Portland's female cartoonists (Emi Lenox, Sarah Oleksyk & Julia Gfrörer) were nominated for Best New Talent. Good year for the ladies.