The creators of FoxTrot, Speed Bump, and Bizarro are this year's nominees for the National Cartoonists Society's Reuben Award as cartoonist of the year. That’s Bill Amend, Dave Coverly and Dan Piraro, respectively -- one comic strip cartoonist and, in order, two panel cartoon ‘tooners, all syndicated. Universal Press, Creators, and King Features, respectively. No non-syndicated candidates this year. There seldom are. In the entire history of NCS, few unsyndicated cartoonists have been nominated for the Reuben. All three nominees have been nominees in previous years. None has ever won. In March, members of NCS voted by mail on this slate of candidates, and the winner will be disclosed on May 26th during the Memorial Day weekend convention in Orlando, Fla. At the Reuben Awards Banquet that night, winners will also be named in12 categories, or “divisions.” Finalists in each were selected by NCS chapters, who are assigned a different division every year. This year’s crop:

Nominees for best comic strip cartoonist are Bill Griffith (Zippy the Pinhead / King), Stephan Pastis (Pearls Before Swine / United Media),and Mark Tatulli (Lio / Universal). Best comic panel finalists are Tony Carrillo (F Minus / United), Hilary Price (Rhymes With Orange / King), and Kieran Meehan, who is listed on the nominee roster as doing Meehan; but E&P's syndicate directories indicate that Meehan formerly created Meehan Streak for Tribune Media Services and now does A Lawyer, A Doctor & A Cop for King.

Editorial cartoonist nominees are Mike Lester of the Rome (Ga.) News-Tribune and Cagle Cartoons, Glenn McCoy of the Belleville (Ill.) News-Democrat and Universal, and Mike Ramirez of Investor's Business Daily and Copley News Service. Interestingly, as E&P’s David Astor observed, all three finalists are conservatives in an editorial cartooning profession consisting mostly of liberal and centrist creators. (Makes me wonder which chapter did the editorial cartoonist selection this year.) Nominees for newspaper illustration are Sean Kelly, Robert Sanchuk, and Laurie Triefeldt.

Several nominees in non-newspaper categories have syndication connections. For instance, two of the book illustration finalists are the aforementioned Mike Lester (for 93 in My Family) and Non Sequitur cartoonist Wiley Miller of Universal (for The Extraordinary Adventures of Ordinary Basil). The third nominee in this category is Adrian Sinnott. And one of the greeting card finalists is Carla Ventresca, who does the Creators-distributed On a Claire Day comic with Henry Beckett. The two other nominees in this category are Pat Byrnes and Kevin Ahern. Also, feature animation nominees include the "Over the Hedge" movie (based on the strip of the same name by Michael Fry and T Lewis of United) and "Open Season" (which In the Bleachers cartoonist Steve Moore of Universal helped create); the third nominee is “Ice Age 2.” Individuals nominated for their work in these films are, in order: Tim Johnson and Karey Kirkpatrick, directors; Carter Goodrich, character design; and Peter De Seve, character design.

Categories which include no syndication connection are: television animation -- David Hulin (Geico Gecko), Steve Loter (Kim Possible), and Craig McCracken (Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends); advertising illustration -- Craig McCay, Jack Pittman, and Tom Richmond; magazine illustration -- Steve Brodner, Tom Richmond, and Jean-Jacques Sempe; and gag cartoons -- Drew Dernavich, Mick Stevens, P.C. Vey (all New Yorker ’tooners).

The comic book category once again reflects NCS’s historically abysmal appreciation of this genre. All three nominees are for the creators of graphic novels, not comic books: Acocella Marchetto (Cancer Vixen), Gene Luen Yang (American Born Chinese) and Marjane Satrapi (Chicken with Plums). NCS will fix this gross ineptitude in future, I’m told, creating a new category for Graphic Novel.

During the Reuben ceremonies, Beetle Bailey’s Mort Walker, the undisputed “dean of American cartoonists,” will receive the Gold Key Award, the Society’s equivalent of a Hall of Fame. Others in the Hall of Fame are Hal Foster (Prince Valiant), Edwina Dumm (Capt Stubbs and Tippie), Raeburn Van Buren (Abbie ’n’ Slats), Herbert Block (Herblock, editorial cartoonist), Rube Goldberg (Boob McNutt and editorial cartoons), Milton Caniff (Terry and the Pirates and Steve Canyon), and Arnold Roth (freelance). Walker, a past president of NCS and previous winner (in 1953) of the Reuben, has won just about every award the Society bestows, except the Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award; and he’ll doubtless get that before long. About the “dean” designation: John T. McCutcheon, the long-time editorial cartoonist at the Chicago Tribune, used to quip that this mantle fell on whoever was the oldest still-working cartooner; he said this when the mantle was draped on him. Congratulations, Mort.

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com


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