Sunday Mailbag

June 19th, 2011 | Posted in Mailbag

Q: I read on your blog that you just became the president of the National Cartoonists Society. What is the National Cartoonists Society? Assuming it’s a group of cartoonists, how do I join up?

A: The National Cartoonists Society (NCS) is an organization of professional cartoonists. It got its start back in the early 1940’s, when several cartoonists did a series of “chalk talks” for service men and women during World War II. In 1946, the NCS was officially formed at a dinner event, with Rube Goldberg as its first president, Russell Patterson as vice president, C.D. Russell as secretary and Milton Caniff as treasurer. Later in 1946, the first NCS award for “Cartoonist of the Year” was bestowed to Milton Caniff. Then known as the Billy De Beck Memorial Award, it was given each year to honor one outstanding cartoonist as voted on by the membership. In 1954, the award was renamed the Reuben, in honor of Rube Goldberg.

Since 1946, the NCS has grown to include cartoonists from all walks of the industry: comic strips and dailies, editorial cartoonists, humorous illustrators, animators, greeting card artists, gag cartoonists, comic book artists, advertising and book illustrators, web cartoonists, etc. Initiatives like the Milt Gross Fund, which provided financial assistance to indigent cartoonists and their families, was an example of some of the programs the NCS undertook over the years. In 2005, the Milt Gross Fund was absorbed by the newly formed National Cartoonists Society Foundation, a 501 (C)(3) charitable organization and the charity arm of the NCS. Today the NCSF oversees programs like the former Milt Gross Fund and the Jay Kennedy Memorial Scholarship, an annual scholarship award given to a qualified student via a juried application process.

Today the NCS is still going strong, with eighteen regional chapters, including one in Canada and some possibly forming in other parts of the world. The NCS has an annual awards weekend called the “Reuben Awards”, where multiple divisional awards are given out as well as the Reuben for “Cartoonist of the Year”. The event also features a slate of guest speakers, dinners and other happenings. The NCS is not a union, it’s a trade association of professionals in the cartooning industry whose main purpose is to promote cartooning in its many forms, recognize excellence in the industry and bring other professionals together to network.

In order to join you have to be a professional cartoonist. By the current guidelines, this means cartoonists who are currently earning the major part of their income from cartooning and have done so for at least the past three years. Their work must be of a high professional quality and their reputation good. Applications must include two letters of recommendation from current NCS members in good standing, a short biographical sketch and samples of current work bearing a signature. You can get all the necessary information here.

It is a great organization, and I am proud to be serving as president . . . I just wish the position paid better (translation: at ALL).

Thanks to J.G. for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me and I’ll try and answer it here!

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