So How Did Rise Of Arsenal Win That PRISM Award Anyway?

Bleeding Cool was not the only site to express surprise that Justice League Of America: Rise Of Arsenal won a PRISM award for an accurate portrayal of drug use and mental illness.

But rather than whinge and whine (okay we did a bit of that), I thought I’d actually ask them “what up?”

Larry Deutchman, Exec. VP Marketing & Industry Relations for PRISM took me through the criteria.

There are three scoring criteria for the PRISM Awards, each rated on a 10 point scale. Our reviewers include PhDs and MDs in the field of the PRISM issues.

1. Accuracy related to the PRISM issues of substance use and mental health.

2. Accessibility of the message – the likelihood that the target audience will understand the aspects of the PRISM issues portrayed in the submission based on potential mixed messages, consistency of metaphorical representations, etc.

3. Entertainment value – the degree to which the submission maintains its entertainment despite the PRISM issues being addressed.

So there are 30 maximum points. Upon reviewing the submissions, reviewers discuss and debate them based on their individual points of view and perceptions. Then they each give their own numerical ratings for all three criteria. Based on these criteria and the subsequent scoring of the reviewers, the results are determined. Justice League: Rise of Arsenal and Greek Street scored very closely during the initial review. In a run-off debate and scoring of just these two the scores got even closer and literally became a numerical tie.

We like to say that within the framework of a potentially subjective process (each reviewer brings their own baggage and expertise), this process leads to the most objective possible result.

Among the things I can recall from observing the discussions was the way in which the series dealt with not just the drug issue but the way it intertwined it in the post traumatic stress of the loss of his arm and the slaying of his daughter, the link to his past addiction and how that might trigger a relapse, the tie to past continuity, and so on. Although clearly this could not match up to the original storyline from the 1970s from which it stemmed, that’s a classic – in part because it broke such ground at a time when these subjects were not commonplace in the medium (or even allowed, technically). We knew much less about drugs than we know now from the research, so there are ways in which it’s naïve in its handling of the subject compared to today, but at the same time, in the time capsule of when it was written and appeared, it was sophisticated stuff and brilliantly representative of the best ‘70s writing (and art) regardless of the subject. It’s hard to measure today’s comics against the Silver Age milestones and foolish to do so. The audience and its expectations have changed. [But] the story has held up marvelously in ways that not all comics do. it succeeded in its own mission of utilizing the PRISM issues as an organic story element that realistically (within the suspension of disbelief required of the medium) portrayed those issues.

I asked if he was aware of the reception the comic in question had received on publication and he told me

Absolutely. I had noticed some of the controversy just at the nominee announcement stage with some things that were being flagged for us by Google Alerts. Obviously our criteria is a bit different from that of reviewers.

Obviously… still, it’s an interesting perspective to have.


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