Academy of Comic Book Arts
TypeComics professionals organization
HeadquartersSociety of Illustrators
Region served
United States of America
Comics professionals
Stan Lee (1970)
Dick Giordano (c. 1971)
Neal Adams
AffiliationsShazam Award
ACBA Sketchbook

The Academy of Comic Book Arts (ACBA) was 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 Award, 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 their 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 ACBA Sketchbook (1973)

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.[4]

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]

Adams wanted to focus on creator rights and pay rates, essentially making the ACBA a labor union. In a 1998 interview, Lee said, "ACBA became divided into two camps, it seemed. I wasn't interested in starting a union, so I walked away from it."[8]

During 1970-1974, the ACBA Newsletter, varying in page count from 4-12 pages, was published by ACBA themselves on a roughly bi-monthly basis, subscriptions available to any interested party. The last known [from this writer] issue was #29, 1974.

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).[9] The long-running exception had been the publishers' group the Comics Magazine Association of America (CMAA), founded in 1954 and lasting through 2011,[10] as a response to public pressure and a Senate subcommittee 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 Awards

Shazam Awards
Awarded forOutstanding achievement in the comic book field
CountryUnited States of America
Presented byAcademy of Comic Book Arts
First awarded1970
Last awarded1975

The Shazam Awards were 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).[11] The Shazam Awards were based on nominations and were the first comics awards voted upon by industry professionals.[4] The name of the award is that of the magic word used by the original Captain Marvel, a popular superhero of the 1940s and early 1950s.

Marvel's comic-book Secret Wars II #1 (1985) features a fictional scriptwriter, Stewart Cadwall (based on real-life writer Steve Gerber)[12] who has a Shazam Award on his table. When Cadwall becomes a superhuman, his Shazam Award turns into a weapon.[13] Cadwall and his Shazam Award re-appeared in Iron Man #197 (1985).[14]


Winners. Presented May 12, 1971.[4]


Winners. Presented 1972.[15]


Winners. Presented 1973.[16]
Also nominated: "The Black Hound of Vengeance," by Roy Thomas & Barry Smith, Conan the Barbarian #20 (Marvel)


Nominees where known, and winners. Presented 1974.[17]
Also nominated: Conan the Barbarian (Marvel), The Tomb of Dracula (Marvel)
Also nominated: "A Clockwork Horror" by Len Wein & Berni Wrightson, Swamp Thing #6 (DC); "Finally, Shuma-Gorath" by Steve Englehart & Frank Brunner Marvel Premiere #10 (Marvel)
Also nominated: Roy Thomas (Conan the Barbarian); Len Wein (Swamp Thing)
Also nominated: John Buscema (Conan the Barbarian, The Savage Sword of Conan); Mike Ploog (Marvel Spotlight, Frankenstein)
Also nominated: Tom Palmer (The Tomb of Dracula); Berni Wrightson (Swamp Thing)
Also nominated: "The Escape", Plop! #1; "F-f-frongs", Spoof #3 (Marvel); "Kung Fooey", Crazy #1 (Marvel)
Also nominated: Roy Thomas, Marv Wolfman
Also nominated: Bob Foster (Crazy); Larry Hama (Crazy); Mike Ploog (Crazy)
Also nominated: Russ Heath; John Severin; Herb Trimpe
Also nominated: Klaus Janson


Nominees and winners. Presented 1975.[18]
Also nominated: Man-Thing (Marvel), The Tomb of Dracula (Marvel)
Also nominated: "Night of the Stalker" by Sal Amendola with Vin Amendola, Steve Englehart, and Dick Giordano, Detective Comics #439 (DC); "Red Nails" by Roy Thomas & Barry Smith, Savage Tales #1-3 (Marvel)
Also nominated: "Burma Sky," by Archie Goodwin & Alex Toth, Our Fighting Forces #146 (DC); "Jenifer" by Bruce Jones & Berni Wrightson, Creepy #63 (Warren)
Also nominated: Steve Gerber, Roy Thomas
Also nominated: Gene Colan, Berni Wrightson
Also nominated: Frank Giacoia; Tom Palmer; Joe Sinnott
Also nominated: "The Boob Rube Story" by Stu Schwartzberg & Marie Severin, Crazy #4; "The Ecchorcist" by Marv Wolfman & Vance Rodewalt (Crazy #6); "Police Gory Story" by Stu Schwartzberg & Vance Rodewalt (Crazy #8)

Also nominated: Nick Cuti; Steve Gerber; Joe Gill

Also nominated: Dan DeCarlo; Frank Roberge; George Wildman
Also nominated: Rudy Lapick; Frank Roberge; Marie Severin; George Wildman
Also nominated: Annette Kawecki; Gaspar Saladino; Artie Simek
Also nominated: Marie Severin; Glynis Wein
Also nominated: Paul Gulacy; Al Milgrom
Also nominated: Barry Smith; Jim Starlin
Also nominated: Alex Toth; Wally Wood

Additional credits where not given in cited source:[19]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Grant, Steven (March 26, 2008). "Permanent Damage". Archived from the original on April 5, 2008.
  2. ^ a b c d Eury, Michael (2003). Dick Giordano: Changing Comics, One Day at a Time. TwoMorrows Publishing. p. 57. ISBN 978-1893905276.
  3. ^ a b "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 May 18, 2011..
  4. ^ a b c d Thompson, Maggie (August 19, 2005). "Comics Fan Awards 1961-1970". Comics Buyer's Guide. Archived from the original on September 14, 2015.
  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 June 14, 2010.
  6. ^ "Wally Wood". Archived from the original on December 5, 2007. Retrieved November 16, 2011.((cite web)): CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)Includes
  7. ^ a b 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. ^ Sacks, Jason; Dallas, Keith (2014). American Comic Book Chronicles: The 1970s. TwoMorrows Publishing. p. 11. ISBN 978-1605490564.
  9. ^ 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 May 5, 2006., July 23, 2010.
  10. ^ 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. Retrieved January 8, 2017.
  11. ^ Gabilliet, Jean-Paul. Of Comics and Men: A Cultural History of American Comic Books (Univ. Press of Mississippi, 2010), pp. 251–252.
  12. ^ Thundersword profile in Marvunapp
  13. ^ Secret Wars II #1
  14. ^ Iron Man #197
  15. ^ Hahn, Joel (ed.). "1971 Academy of Comic Book Arts Awards". Comic Book Awards Almanac. Archived from the original on December 17, 2014. Retrieved February 4, 2016.
  16. ^ Hahn, Joel (ed.). "1972 Academy of Comic Book Arts Awards". Comic Book Awards Almanac. Archived from the original on December 27, 2014. Retrieved February 4, 2016.
  17. ^ Hahn, Joel (ed.). "1973 Academy of Comic Book Arts Awards". Comic Book Awards Almanac. Archived from the original on December 22, 2014. Retrieved February 4, 2016.
  18. ^ Hahn, Joel (ed.). "1973 Academy of Comic Book Arts Awards". Comic Book Awards Almanac. Archived from the original on December 22, 2014. Retrieved February 4, 2016.
  19. ^ Grand Comics Database