Academy of Comic Book Arts
Academy of Comic Book Arts (1975 sketchbook - cover).jpg
ACBA Sketchbook (1975).
Cover art by Bernie Wrightson.
Formation 1970
Extinction 1977
Type Comics professionals organization
Legal status
Headquarters Society of Illustrators
Location New York City[1]
Region served
United States of America
Membership Comic book professionals
Stan Lee (1970)
Dick Giordano (c. 1971)
Neal Adams
Affiliations Shazam Award
ACBA Sketchbook

The Academy of Comic Book Arts (ACBA) is an American professional organization of the 1970s that was designed to be the comic book industry analog of such groups as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Composed of comic-book professionals and initially formed as an honorary society focused on discussing the comic-book craft[2] and hosting an annual awards banquet, the ACBA evolved into an advocacy organization focused on creators' rights.

The ACBA award, the Shazam, was a statuette in the shape of a lightning bolt. In addition to the creative awards, the ACBA also established the Academy of Comic Book Arts Hall of Fame award, inducting Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster as its initial honorees.


Founded in 1970,[3][4] the ACBA's first president was Stan Lee; its first vice-president was Dick Giordano. (Presidents initially served one-year terms.)[2] The ACBA met monthly at the Manhattan headquarters of the Society of Illustrators.[2]


The Academy's Shazam Award was a successor to the 1960s Alley Award; the ACBA held its first annual awards banquet at the Statler Hilton Hotel's Terrace Ballroom on May 12, 1971.

Aside from its Shazam Awards, the ACBA also published an annual fundraiser sketchbook. Contributing to the 36-page[5] ACBA Sketchbook 1973 were Neal Adams, Sergio Aragones, Frank Brunner, Howard Chaykin, Dave Cockrum, Reed Crandall, Frank Frazetta, Michael Kaluta, Gil Kane, Gray Morrow, John Romita Sr., Mike Royer, Syd Shores, Jim Starlin, Jim Steranko, Herb Trimpe, and Wally Wood. The 48-page ACBA Sketchbook 1975 included Adams, Aragones, Chaykin, Kaluta, Kane, Romita Sr., Steranko, Wood, and John Byrne, Russ Heath, Jeff Jones, Harvey Kurtzman, Walt Simonson, Michael Whelan, and Berni Wrightson. Wood also contributed to the 1976 and 1977 sketchbooks.[6]

Under its later president, artist Neal Adams, the ACBA became an advocacy organization for creators' rights. The comic-book industry at that time typically did not return artists' physical artwork after shooting the requisite film for printing, and in some cases destroyed the artwork to prevent unauthorized reprints. The industry also did not then offer royalties or residuals, common in such creative fields as book publishing, film and television, and the recording industry.[2]

Historian Jon B. Cooke writes:

While the ACBA was established [as] . . . a self-congratulatory organization focused on banquets and awards . . . it quickly served as a soapbox for the Angry Young Men in the industry, primarily Neal Adams, Archie Goodwin, and their ilk of educated, informed and gutsy artists and writers, self-confident and filled with a strong sense of self-worth, attitudes sadly absent from the field for decades. ... (Jeff Rovin recalled, 'I can't tell you how many times Martin [Goodman] would listen to some of the things Neal Adams was saying and mutter, "Who the hell does he think he is?"').[7]

Once the ACBA — riding a wave begun by the mid-'70s independent startup Atlas/Seaboard Comics, which instituted royalties and the return of artwork in order to attract creators — helped see those immediate goals achieved, it then gradually disbanded.[7]

As writer Steven Grant notes, by 1977 the ACBA had "... disintegrated into what became Adams' "First Friday" professional get-togethers at his studio or apartment."[1]

Irene Vartanoff was the final ACBA treasurer.[3] In early 2005, approximately $3,000 in sketchbook sales plus general contributions to the ACBA and accumulated interest was donated from the ACBA's Bill Everett Fund — created in 1975 to help comics professionals in financial need — to The Hero Initiative (formerly known as A Commitment to Our Roots, or ACTOR), a federally chartered, not-for-profit corporation likewise dedicated.


The ACBA was the first in a string of largely unsuccessful comics-industry organizations that includes the Comic Book Creators Guild (1978–1979), the Comic Book Professionals Association (CBPA, 1992–1994), and Comic Artists, Retailers and Publishers (CARP, 1998).[8] The long-running exception had been the publishers' group the Comic Magazine Association of America (CMAA), founded in 1954 and lasting through 2011,[9] as a response to public pressure and a Senate subcommitte on juvenile delinquency, and which created the self-censorship board the Comics Code Authority.

Grant summed up the ABCA's legacy this way:

[The ACBA] had the support of what passed for comics fandom at the time. But that was also its weakness; its members drew their incomes from the same companies ACBA would have had to war on to be effective, and alternative markets were functionally non-existent. Fandom's "support" was also a double-edged sword, since many in fandom, as now, identified with the professionals' goals but wanted the rewards for themselves as the ones who created the comics, providing the companies with potential talent pools should existing professionals get too uppity. (Both Marvel and especially DC had already turned to foreign artists as a cost-cutting tool.) Significant changes for talent had to wait until new competition forced Marvel and DC to keep up, and Marvel didn't bother until DC, which had spent most of the '70s and early '80s in potentially fatal decline, and inspired by publicized early '80s creator-rights struggles by Jack Kirby and Steve Gerber, adopted many "independent publisher" notions about royalties, artist ownership of original artwork, etc. to woo talent away from Marvel.[1]

Shazam Award

Shazam Award
Harvey Logo.jpg
Awarded for Outstanding achievement in the comic-book field
Country United States of America
Presented by Academy of Comic Book Arts
First awarded 1970
Last awarded 1975

Alley Award    

The Shazam Award is a series of awards given between 1970 and 1975 for outstanding achievement in the comic-book field. Awards were given in the year following publication of the material (at a dinner ceremony modeled on the National Cartoonist Society's Reuben Award dinners),[10] and were based on nominations that were then voted upon by industry professionals. The name of the award is derived from the magic word for the original Captain Marvel, a popular superhero of the 1940s and early 1950s.


Presented May 12, 1971[4]


Presented 1972


Presented 1973
  • Best Continuing Feature: n.a.
  • Best Individual Story: "Dark Genesis", by Len Wein & Berni Wrightson, Swamp Thing #1 (DC)
  • Best Individual Short Story (Dramatic): "The Demon Within", by John Albano & Jim Aparo, House of Mystery #201 (DC)
  • Best Writer (Dramatic Division): Len Wein
  • Best Penciller (Dramatic Division): Berni Wrightson
  • Best Inker (Dramatic Division): n.a.
  • Best Humor Story: "The Poster Plague", by Steve Skeates & Sergio Aragones, House of Mystery #202 (DC)
  • Best Writer (Humor Division): n.a.
  • Best Penciller (Humor Division): n.a.
  • Best Inker (Humor Division): Sergio Aragones
  • Best Letterer: n.a.
  • Best Colorist: n.a.
  • Best Foreign Artist: n.a.
  • Outstanding New Talent: n.a.
  • Special Award: DC letterer/proofreader Gerda Gattel "for bringing her special warmth to our history"
  • Superior Achievement by an Individual: Julius Schwartz "for bringing the Shazam Family back into print"
  • Hall of Fame: n.a.


Presented 1974
  • Best Continuing Feature: Swamp Thing (DC)
  • Best Individual Story: "Song of Red Sonja", by Roy Thomas & Barry Smith, Conan the Barbarian #24 (Marvel)
  • Best Individual Short Story (Dramatic): "The Himalayan Incident" (Manhunter) by Archie Goodwin & Walt Simonson, Detective Comics #437 (DC)
  • Best Writer (Dramatic Division): Archie Goodwin
  • Best Penciller (Dramatic Division): Berni Wrightson
  • Best Inker (Dramatic Division): Dick Giordano
  • Best Humor Story: "The Gourmet", Plop! #1 (DC)
  • Best Writer (Humor Division): (tie) Stu Schwartzberg, Steve Skeates
  • Best Penciller (Humor Division): Marie Severin
  • Best Inker (Humor Division): Ralph Reese
  • Best Letterer: Gaspar Saladino
  • Best Colorist: Glynis Wein
  • Best Foreign Comic Series: Lieutenant Blueberry
  • Outstanding New Talent: (tie) Walt Simonson, Jim Starlin
  • Superior Achievement by an Individual: Richard Corben
  • Hall of Fame: Carl Barks


Presented 1975
  • Best Continuing Feature: Conan the Barbarian (Marvel)
  • Best Individual Story: "Götterdämmerung", Detective Comics #443 (DC)
  • Best Individual Short Story (Dramatic): "Cathedral Perilous" (Manhunter) by Archie Goodwin & Walt Simonson, Detective Comics #441 (DC)
  • Best Writer (Dramatic Division): Archie Goodwin
  • Best Penciller (Dramatic Division): John Buscema
  • Best Inker (Dramatic Division): Dick Giordano
  • Best Humor Story: "Kaspar the Dead Baby" Crazy #8 (Marvel)
  • Best Writer (Humor Division): Steve Skeates
  • Best Penciller (Humor Division): Marie Severin
  • Best Inker (Humor Division): Ralph Reese
  • Best Letterer: John Costanza
  • Best Colorist: Tatjana Wood
  • Outstanding New Talent: Craig Russell
  • Superior Achievement by an Individual: Roy Thomas
  • Hall of Fame: Jack Kirby

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Grant, Steven (March 26, 2008). "Permanent Damage". Archived from the original on April 5, 2008. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Eury, Michael and Giordano, Dick. Dick Giordano: Changing Comics, One Day at a Time (TwoMorrows Publishing, 2003), p. 57.
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Academy of Comic Book Arts Gifts ACTOR Comic Fund Over $3000". ACTOR Comic Fund Press release via April 22, 2005. Archived from the original on July 23, 2010. .
  4. 4.0 4.1 Thompson, Don. A Decade of Comics Fan Awards, 1961-1970 (D. & M. Thompson: Mentor, Ohio, 1971, 16PP)
  5. "The A.C.B.A. Sketchbook, Academy of Comic Book Arts, 1973". Michigan State University Libraries Special Collections: Reading Room Index to the Comic Art Collection, Acacia to Acar. Archived from the original on July 24, 2010. 
  6. "Wally Wood". Archived from the original on December 1, 2007.  Includes "Online checklist: Catalogues, Programs, Sketchbooks, Etc."
  7. 7.0 7.1 Cooke, Jon B. (December 2011). "Vengeance, Incorporated: A history of the short-lived comics publisher Atlas/Seaboard". Comic Book Artist (16). Archived from the original on December 1, 2010. Retrieved September 28, 2011. 
  8. Dean, Michael (August–September 2004). "Collective Inaction: The Comics Community Tries and Tries Again to Get It Together". The Comics Journal (262; excerpt posted online Aug. 13, 2004). Archived from the original on December 18, 2007.  Additional WebCitation archive, July 23, 2010.
  9. The final publisher to use the Code dropped it in January 2001, as noted at Rogers, Vaneta (January 21, 2011). "Archie Dropping Comics Code Authority Seal in February". Archived from the original on January 31, 2011.  The CMAA was described as "defunct" at "CBLDF Receives Comics Code Authority Seal of Approval". Comic Book Legal Defense Fund Press release. September 29, 2011. Archived from the original on November 15, 2011. 
  10. Gabilliet, Jean-Paul. Of Comics and Men: A Cultural History of American Comic Books (Univ. Press of Mississippi, 2010), pp. 251–252.

External links

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