Each year when Saturday rolls around during the National Cartoonists Society’s (NCS) Reuben convention, the excitement gets a little more palatable. It begins with a great buffet breakfast followed later in the day by more seminars when they bring out the big guns (you know, the legends), then the black tie Reuben Awards banquet in the evening.
The first of the seminars on this day was by none other than children’s book author/illustrator Mo Willems. Unfortunately I arrived late due to another business meeting I needed to attend, and clearly missed a great first half because the second half of Mo’s talk was sooo informative and entertaining as he recounted his journey from conception to finished book.
The second speaker of the day was magazine and comic illustrator Drew Friedman. Drew’s work often features celebrities whom he nails in likeness while making them rawfully unglamorous at the same time. Even he acknowledges that his thing is often adding liver spots on people. He had several great stories for us of meeting celebrities after they had seen his depictions of themselves – some with good reactions, some with not so good like to the tune of a (frivolous) multi-million dollar lawsuit.
Drew Friedman as he told us about gingerly returning a phone call to Jerry Lewis after Jerry had seen a painting Drew created of Jerry.
I like to title this one "Cartoonists Listening." Kim and Jerry Scott ("Zits" & "Baby Blues"), John Martz (humorous illustrator), and Sam Viviano ("MAD Magazine") enjoying the seminars.
The final seminar of the day was by the legendary Brad Anderson who first created his comic strip Marmaduke back in 1955. He showed us samples of his pre-Marmaduke art, magazine gags, and tales of wooing his wife with drawings on envelopes sent from his position in World War II. Of course included were Brad’s thoughts about his beloved Great Dane’s creation 58 years ago and how he continues to draw his pop cultural icon.
Brad Anderson at the microphone telling tales of his much loved "Marmaduke" comic strip.
Fellow canine cartoonist Patrick McDonnell ("Mutts"), his wife Karen O'Connell, Carol Isaacs from the Professional Cartoonists Organization in Great Britain (PCO), and Brad Anderson's bride Barbara watching Brad's talk.
A group of British cartoonists from the PCO sent us a tablecloth that they doodled on, so we reciprocated in kind. My random blue monster sits amongst some mighty fine sketches of greater renown.
After the final talk of the day, all the cartoonists retreated to their rooms to doff their drawing duds in order to adopt a little refinement. Yes, I speak of cartoonists in tuxedos and gowns which is the only wardrobe appropriate when walking with one’s nose in the air. You cannot very well muster a proper “How do you do?” when wearing jeans and plaid, nor can you eloquently sashay across a stage in sneakers and cargo pants. Formal wear is the only acceptable way to go.
Chad Frye, jazz musician Grant Geissman (who authored a soon to be released book about MAD's Al Feldstein), and Andy Heckathorne enjoying some rarefied air.
The ballroom was elegant, long and slender, unlike some cartoonists.
Some table mates and good friends Bill and Kayre Morrison (Bongo Comics) with me and Andy Heckathorne (Penn State artist).
Jerry Scott (writer of "Zits" and "Baby Blues") presented Brad Anderson ("Marmaduke") with the Milton Caniff Award for lifetime achievement in our industry.
The Walker Bros., sons of "Beetle Bailey" creator Mort Walker, were on hand to collectively present a couple of awards. From left, Greg Walker, Brian Walker, and Neal Walker who are part of the team on "Beetle Bailey" and "Hi & Lois".
Vijaya Iyer, her husband Jeff Smith ("Bone" comic books), and yours truly during a break in the festivities.
Cathy Guisewite ("Cathy" comic strip) presented the Silver T-Square Award to Lee Salem of the Universal Press Syndicate.
Ed Steckley accepting his Reuben Division Award for Advertising and Product Illustration.
Part of the Reuben fun is socializing. Outside the ballroom I caught a few moments with Betty & Greg Evans ("Luann"), Jerry Van Amerongen ("Ballard Street"), and Jeannie Schulz (caretaker of all things "Peanuts").
Usually when the Reuben Award is presented, one of the NCS' elder cartoonists is chosen to make the presentation. Playing up the "elder" aspect of things, the very youthful Lynn Johnston ("For Better or For Worse") entered the stage hunched over while rolling an IV tower. Then she proceeded to announce.....
....that we had a tie. Both Rick Kirkman ("Baby Blues") AND Brian Crane ("Pickles") had won the Reuben for Cartoonist of the Year!
The awarding of the Reuben Award itself was historic this year when both Rick Kirkman (Baby Blues) and Brian Crane (Pickles) had won the grand prize for Cartoonist of the Year. The organizers had hidden a second statue that was produced when the second name was read surprising everyone in the room. The last and only previous time this had happened was in 1968 between Johnny Hart (B.C.) and Pat Oliphant (editorial cartoonist). Brian Crane, having been a nominee for this award many times in the past, gave a very warm and heartfelt speech in appreciation. When Rick Kirkman took to the mic, he unrolled a long piece of paper that hit the floor as he began to read his speech. Both gentleman are class acts who have created a worthy legacy of charm and humor with their comic strips.
Interesting that a strip about old people and a strip about babies both won. Hmmmm. Maybe next year middle aged cartoons will have a chance.
Emily Crane admires her father's new mantle decoration while Brian Crane chats with a previous Reuben winner Greg Evans who is likely giving advice as to how to light the trophy once Brian gets it home.
The evening wrapped up with a post banquet reception in a beautiful art deco room next to the ballroom where friends and colleagues could continue to chat and enjoy hors d’oeuvres until collapse.
Tired cartoonists who remain happy! Charles Kochman (Abrams Books), comic book nominee Amanda Conner ("Power Girl"), John Reiner ("The Lockhorns"), and me. Hard to believe it was almost 2am when this was taken.
If you would like to see a complete list of winners, please visit the NCS’ official website where all winners and samples of their work can be seen. CLICK HERE to go to Reuben.org!
Whew! Hard to believe that all happened in one day! One more day of photos yet to come!