This past weekend the National Cartoonists Society, an august organization I am privileged to be current President of, had its annual Reuben Awards Weekend in not-so-sunny San Diego, CA… well, we did see some sun on the final day of the festivities, but for most of it we experienced what native San Diegans call “May Gray”. That hardly got us down, however. The weekend was a lot of fun. They usually are, but this one seemed to be turned up a notch. Most of the events took place at the beautiful Omni hotel right at the start of the famous Gaslamp District.
Friday, May 23rd
The ball got rolling Friday with a terrific slate of guest speakers. As NCS president, I have many things I have to do and oversee throughout the weekend, so I rarely get to catch many of the speakers, but I did get to see the majority of the first three of the day who I thought were great, and I heard nothing but raves about the others:
Eddie Pittman– Freelancer, animator and creator of the online graphic novel Red’s Planet, Eddie shared his work from various Disney features like “Mulan” and “Lilo and Stich”, to TV’s “Phineas and Ferb”, to his excellent web comic (which was nominated for a divisional award).
Chris Houghton– The second recipient of the Jay Kennedy Memorial Scholarship for cartooning, Chris is a great success story. He’s worked on several animated TV shows, comics, MAD and more, including his own comic Reed Gunther.
Greg Evans– The Reuben Award-winning creator of the syndicated comic strip Luann, Greg shared stories of some of his early tries at syndication, and about his 29 years doing Luann.
Suzy Spafford– The creator of the art brand “Suzy’s Zoo”, Suzy talked about built a line of greeting cards into an international licensing business… including a peek at an upcoming kids TV show concept.
The sun peeked out a bit for our poolside/patio/foyer hosted NCS Reuben Welcome Party on the 6th floor of the Omni, where attendees got to say hello to old and meet new friends while enjoying drinks and a wonderful buffet dinner. We had a “new member/first time attendee” pre-event cocktail hour, where NCS board members past and present welcomed new faces and introduced them around.
An NCS tradition, the party moved into the L Street Art Gallery adjacent to the hotel for both praise and cringe inducing Karaoke performances.
Saturday May 25th-
We always host a big¬¨‚Ä†NCS Buffet Breakfast for those who didn’t go too crazy with the karaoke and cocktails the night before… well, for them too.
The NCS Business Meeting followed. This is a closed door, members-only meeting, so as usual we asked that no one disseminate any information on what was discussed. That said, the NCS will be making some announcements soon about some big changes coming to the awards process, and some terrific initiatives from both the NCS and The NCS Foundation, the charitable arm of the Society. Lots of exciting things coming up.
One thing I can share is that the board decided to rename the NCS Divisional Awards. It’s long been a misnomer that these divisional awards, the ones like “Best in Comic Strips” or “Best in Editorial Cartoons” were referred to as “Reubens”. They are not. The “Reuben” is the big award for “Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year”. The others are not Reuben Awards… but they are now. The Board voted to rename them “Silver Reubens”. So, from now on all those people who have wrongly been saying so and so had “won a Reuben” will be partly right, although color-blind.
Our line-up of speakers on Saturday afternoon were every bit as awesome as Fridays:
The Rube Goldberg Panel– Rube Goldberg’s grand-daughter Jennifer George led a panel on the career of one of the founders of the NCS, and shared the terrific new book on Rube from Abrams ComicArt: The Art of Ruben Goldberg.
Sandra Bell-Lundy– Sandra is celebrating 20 years of syndication for her daily comic strip Between Friends, and she shared stories about her road to syndication, her influences, and some reader’s responses to her comics.
Bunny Hoest-Carpenter and John Reiner– These two beloved cartoonists were being honored with the prestigious Gold Key award this weekend. They gave a presentation on their respective long and amazing careers, up to their 30 year collaboration on The Lockhorns.
Russ Heath– Moderated by writer Mark Evanier (who I understand has some minor experience moderation panels about comics), we were lucky to get to hear the great Russ Heath talk about a career in comics that might be truly unparalleled. From humor to war to superhero comics, advertising, etc. Russ has excelled in almost every genre of cartooning there is. His being honored with the Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award is well deserved.
After a cocktail hour and¬¨‚Ä†The Reuben Award Banquet dinner (black tie as always) The big Reuben Award show is always entertaining, but I must say director Bill Morrison and Master of Ceremonies Tom Gammill really knocked it out of the park this year. The winner of the Jay Kennedy Memorial Scholarship Renee Faundo was on hand to be honored, ACE Award recipient “Weird Al” Yankovic gave a very funny acceptance speech, Gold Key winners Bunny Hoest-Carpenter and John Reiner were presented with their awards with a touching intro by Ed Steckley and a hilarious story about Bunny from the great Lynn Johnston, then the incredible Sergio Aragon?¬©s didn’t even need a translator (much) to present the Milton Caniff award to Russ Heath.
One of the highlights was the live playing of a solo violin during the “In Memorium” segment right before the break. It was a very poignant and classy way to say goodbye to a lot of cartooning greats we lost this year.
The second half is where the hardware really gets handed out. If you didn’t see it, here’s a list of all the evening’s winners. The big award, The Reuben for “Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year”, went to Wiley Miller, creator of the syndicated strip Non Sequitur. Wiley gave a moving acceptance speech about the support his mom gave him in pursuing cartooning when the rest of his family and friends tried to convince him to choose a more traditional career. I guess we have a lot to thank Wiley’s mom for too, his comics are fantastic. A well deserved honor. It is too bad that the other nominees, Stephan Pastis, Hilary Price and Mark Tatulli, couldn’t have taken home a Rueben also… but their time will come I am sure.
We then partied into the night at the President’s After Party back at the L Street Art Gallery!
Sunday, May 25th-
I’ve written here many times about the USO tours many NCS members have participated in to veterans hospitals here in the states to the far flung reaches of the planet into war zones like Iraq and Afghanistan. A large group of artists got to participate in the experience when we boarded a bus in the morning and took a short trip to the Balboa area to draw for wounded warriors and staff at the Naval Hospital. It was too short a time, but I think everyone enjoyed the experience. What an appropriate way to spend part of memorial Day Weekend.
That afternoon we did our annual public-outreach event in conjunction with the NCS Foundation, this time aboard the USS Midway aircraft carrier/museum. Here over 100 artists signed autographs, did sketches, met with fans and in general had a great time.
We had a truly epic Farewell Gala that evening also aboard the USS Midway. In fact, we gathered right on the flight deck in the shadow of the “island” command tower. A great dinner, great music by Pulitzer-prize winning editorial cartoonist Micheal Ramirez and the DeLuz Band, and of course great company. The event was sponsored in part by the USO and IDW Publishing, and we hosted 38 wounded warriors and their families who enjoyed dinner and got plenty of drawings, autographs and thank yous from our members.
One final President’s after-after party back at the hotel wrapped up another great Reubens.
The parties are a lot of fun, of course, but I will always look most forward to getting to spend time with some very good friends during these weekends. Unfortunately as hosts, Anna and I have spent the last three Reubens running the show and that has cut drastically into our time to just chat and enjoy the company. Next year the Reubens will be in Washington DC, and it will be my last as president (and host) so perhaps in 2016 I can enjoy that a bit more.
Also, I never have time to take any pictures… as you can see. Check some out here at the Daily Cartoonist.
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