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Why Chip Zdarsky of ‘Sex Criminals’ is serious about declining his Harvey Award for Humor

“Sex Criminals,” by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky, notes the title’s artist. (Image Comics)

CHIP ZDARSKY is a deeply funny creator. But he’s entirely serious about declining his latest honor.

In July, when Zdarsky was nominated for the Special Award for Humor in Comics by the Harvey Awards jurors, he protested his being singled out to the exclusion of his collaborator. “I urge the awards committee to change the ballot to say, ‘Chip Zdarksy and Matt Fraction, Sex Criminals, Image Comics,'” Zdarsky wrote at the time. “If it does not get changed to exactly that wording, I will ask them to remove my name from the ballot completely, allowing the awards to replace my position with another middle-aged white man.”

However, the Harvey Awards committee said it could not so readily alter the ballot; administrator Paul McSpadden replied in a statement:

As with all Harvey Award categories, “Most Promising New Talent” and the “Special Award for Humor” are selected through the voting of the comics professional creative community exclusively. Beyond a publishing date in 2014, we provide no eligibility guidelines for works in these categories and, as such, we continue to rely on the judgment of our voters, and not impose arbitrary limits.

Over the weekend at Baltimore Comic-Con, the winner in the humor category was indeed Zdarsky, leaving the artist to now formally decline not just the nomination, but also the win. On Monday, his stance remained the same, as he wrote that his being recognized in this particular category apart from his “beloved chum, Matt Fraction, is wrong.”

“If it was art, sure I’d accept!” Zdarksy (the nom-de-toon of Canadian artist Steve Murray) tells The Post’s Comic Riffs in the aftermath, about his category. “If it was writing, I’d be ecstatic for Matt to get it! But ‘humor’? That’s both of us, with the emphasis on Matt, frankly.”

Zdarsky notes how this is an interesting twist in an industry that often underappreciates the artist’s contributions, rendering them somehow lesser than the writer’s.

“Usually the roles are reversed here, with the writer getting the sole credit,” Zdarsky tells Comic Riffs. “But this going to the artist doesn’t make it any more right. The Harveys had the power to take me off the nomination list when I asked, and they certainly have the power to clarify the category next year so this doesn’t happen again.”

Zdarsky proposes that the category be changed to Best Humor Publication, which happens to be the exact name of the humor category for the Eisner Awards, presented each summer at San Diego Comic-Con. Altering how to recognize collaborators who work so closely is not without precedent. Years ago, Jim Borgman protested that the National Cartoonists Society was honoring him for his art on the syndicated strip “Zits” without recognizing his co-creator, Jerry Scott; ultimately, both men were recognized for their seamless teamwork.

Meantime, Zdarsky holds out for a change.

“I hope they address it,” Zdarsky says, ” ’cause we don’t need this kind of divisiveness from within our industry.”