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THE NCS IN PITTSBURGH

Reuben20130001The National Cartoonists Society committed history again on Memorial Day weekend, this time, in Pittsburgh at the confluence (as natives are addicted to saying) of the Allegheny and the Monongahela rivers (both of which disappear immediately to form the Ohio). Not only did NCS name the “cartoonist of the year” last Saturday, but it did it twice: voting for the coveted Reuben trophy winner produced a tie this year, for only the second time in 67 years. Brian Crane, who does the comic strip Pickles (mostly about Earl and Opal, doting grandparents and cranky co-existers) and Rick Kirkman, who draws Jerry Scott’s gags in Baby Blues (a strip about a family with three kids, a mother and a too-large-nosed father), went home each with a heavy metal statuette named after NCS’s first prez, Rube Goldberg. The third nominee was Stephan Pastis, who casts Pearls Before Swine. The only other time a tie vote produced two “cartoonists of the year” was in 1968 when editorial cartoonist Pat Oliphant tied Johnny Hart (B.C. and Wizard of Id).

This was Crane’s third nomination; first for Kirkman. Pastis has now been the bridesmaid for five consecutive times. He should not, however, be discouraged: Dan Piraro (Bizarro) won in 2009 on his eighth nomination; ditto, Pat Brady (Rose Is Rose) in 2004. And we all lost count of the number of times Garry Trudeau was nominated for Doonesbury before he won in 1995.

The festive Awards Banquet was further enlivened by Master of Ceremonies Jason Chatfield, the Australian who inherited a national monument when he took over the comic strip Ginger Meggs in 2007 at the death of James Kemsley who had done the strip for 23 years. (Ginge first appeared on November 13, 1921, in Us Fellers, a strip by the legendary Jimmy Bancks; the red-headed pre-pubescent mischief-maker soon elbowed the others off the masthead, and Bancks continued the kid’s capers for the next 32 years; the strip persists in 120 newspapers in 34 countries). In addition to being a cartoonist and prez of the Australian equivalent of NCS, Chatfield is a deft song-and-dance man and an accomplished stand-up comedian, who performed through the evening with panache and flourish.

The announcement of this year’s Reuben winner(s) is the climactic event of the evening: it is preceded by the presentation of other awards, including the Division Awards in 15 areas of cartooning endeavor. Before those were presented, NCS conferred the Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award on Brad Anderson, who has been producing Marmaduke since June 1954 (now assisted by his son Paul), and the Silver T-Square for service to the profession on Universal Press/Uclick’s Lee Salem (see Opus 307), whose leadership, canny talent discoveries and stalwart support of cartoonists has set an industry standard for syndicates.

A complete listing of the Division Award winners and finalists as well as other juicy tidbits about the weekend frolic can be found (in a day or so hence) in the Usual Place (Rants & Raves at RCHarvey.com; the list without frolics can be found almost immediately at Reuben.org). Before we leave the premises, here’s a photograph of your intrepid reporter with the soulmate he found in Pittsburgh.

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

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