I’ve finally got a few minutes to breathe now that the 2012 NCS Reuben Awards Weekend is over and my duties as president and host for the event are (mostly) over. We are headed back home today . . . in fact I am writing this at 32,000 feet on my way back to Minnesota. It was a great weekend and I am proud of how it turned out. The Lovely Anna literally worked herself sick, had no voice left at all on Monday and was an incredible hostess.
Actually winning the Reuben for “Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year”? Shocked, stunned, speechless, floored . . . pick your clich?¬© they are all accurate when it came to my reaction. I really did not think I had any chance of winning, being convinced that either Brian Crane or Stephan Pastis would take the honor. In fact I had a bit of a “no-moment” when Mell Lazarus read my name. There was a momentary vacuum of sound as I tried to process what I’d just heard. Then Anna grabbed me in a death-grip that I thought might require the “jaws of life” to separate me from. After several seconds I had to whisper in her ear that she needed to let me go so I could go up and accept the award.
As I said in my brief post yesterday, being so convinced I had no chance of winning I had nothing prepared to say. My acceptance speech is a bit of a blur to me, I only remember vaguely what I said. I do remember saying how the best part about my winning was that most of my kids were there to see it. To know I have made them proud of their dad is the thing that makes me smile the most. Also, having so many of the legends of MAD Magazine present for our 60th anniversary celebration of the magazine was great . . . these artists are my heroes and they were all so happy to see me get the Reuben. It was especially gratifying to have had Sam Viviano and Nick Meglin there. Both have been hugely influential in my work and career path, and are very important to me. Nick has been a constant supporter of my work, and a great source of advice and encouragement since I first showed my portfolio to MAD in pursuit of work from them. Sam is not just my art director at MAD. As one of the great MAD artists his work in an inspiration, and he has become a mentor to me from whom I have learned and grown so much as an artist. My father and my step-mom also attended, refusing to believe I was not going to win despite my hinting to them it was very, very unlikely. My dad has always been supportive of my pursuit of a career in art, and never once told me to “get a real job”. When I was a kid he would scrounge up scrap paper and pens from work so I would have art supplies to draw with, and encouraged me to chase my dreams and not some safe but less fulfilling path. To have seen the proud look in his eyes was a great moment for me. Finally, my wife (she of the death-grip) has always been my biggest supporter, promoter and encourager, and this was her moment as much as mine. I do remember this part of my acceptance speech: I told the story of our first Reuben awards in 1999 in San Antonio, when the great Will Eisner won the Reuben. I was a brand new member, was still a year or so away from getting my first piece in MAD, and we knew almost no one there. As Eisner was accepting the Reuben, she leaned over to me and said “someday, you will be up there accepting that award.” She has never wavered from that belief, and she was right . . . as usual.
Having won is still sinking in. This is arguably the biggest honor in cartooning. The list of winners since Milton Caniff in 1947 is a literal who’s who of the greats of cartooning. I don’t think I will ever really believe my name belongs in that company, but I am extremely humbled and gratified that enough of the members of the NCS thought so to have given me this incredible honor. To the National Cartoonists Society: thank you…for everything.
There are really only two drawbacks to my winning the Reuben. First and foremost that meant neither Brian nor Stephan had won it. Both are outstanding cartoonists, at the height of their powers and the top of their game, and who are more than deserving of the honor. I know both of them will have their Reuben moment soon, and I will be sure to be there to be among the first to congratulate them when they do. Secondly, there is nowhere to go from here. All I have to look forward to now is death. Fortunately there is (so far) no deadline for me on that.
Thanks again to all who have given me congratulatory messages. My heart is very full right now. Tomorrow it’s back to reality . . . and the drawing board.
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