As many readers here may know, I am the current president of the National Cartoonists Society, a title affectionately known as “the office nobody else wanted or were dumb enough to take on”. The president does a lot of stuff, like plan the annual NCS Reuben award weekend, help co-ordinate the awards, provide snacks at the NCS board meetings… you know, presidential crap. Occasionally the NCS board even does something new, exciting and important—like this:
It’s been a long-time coming, but the NCS will have a web-comics division for the Reuben Awards this year. Awards membership chairman Sean Parkes and I, along with input from the rest of the NCS board, have been working on this for a few months. We have enlisted advice and thoughts from several knowledgeable sources including Dave Kellett (Sheldon, Drive), Andrew Farago (curator of the Cartoon Art Museum, San Francisco), Michael Jantze (The Norm, Professor of Sequential Art and Animation, Savannah College of Art and Design) and a few others. There are many challenges involved, the crux of which is separating those web-comics creators who are doing truly professional work from those who are just enthusiastic hobbyists.
To this end, we are introducing a purposefully narrow-focused new division this year, which will be called “Best Online Comic Strip”, and will be judged by the NCS board in anticipation of being done by an NCS chapter in the future. Here is the criteria for eligibility we have come up with:
- Comic-strip format only (no single panels, long-form narrative. etc.)
- Must be web only publication (any syndication in print would make it eligible for the Best Syndicated Comic Strip Division)
- Must be at least a weekly
- Must have shown consistent publication based on determined time-schedule (i.e. it being a daily, twice-a-week, weekly, etc) over the course of the 2011 calendar year
- Creator must earn the greater part of their living directly from cartooning* in order to adhere to the NCS criteria that creators under consideration must be either full members or eligible for full membership
* As with all other divisions, you do not need to make the majority of your income from one single property or strip, but from cartooning in general. So, if you are an animator or comic book artist who also does a web-comic but it isn’t your main source of income, you still qualify for professional NCS membership, which is all the NCS rules require for your work to be considered eligible.
Submitted work itself must be:
- No more than 12 samples, submitted as physical prints along with submission form and bio or as PDF with 2-4 strips per page and including bio/submission form
- Work must have been published (posted) during period from Dec. 1, 2010 to Dec 31, 2011 (archive.org links must be provided for each strip for verification).
The tricky part is the definition of “professional” with regards to web-comics/self-published work. The NCS awards are industry awards, not art awards. One of the criteria for consideration is that the creators be a professional cartoonist, and eligible for NCS membership (they do not have to BE members, but must be eligible for membership). Without independent verification (like a syndicate, editor or publisher who pays the cartoonist for their work) of a few criteria to that end, it’s difficult to separate the pros (i.e. those who are both fully committed to their craft for a career, and who make some substantial amount of income from it) from the hobbyists. We need an independent “screening committee” to review the creators who’s work is being considered to give us their opinion on if they meet the definition of “professional”, and this is what we have put together. Our screening committee will be made up of six experts on webcomics who are deeply involved/knowledgeable in the world of online comics including journalists and professors from major art colleges who are very enthusiastic about participating. Our panel of experts include:
- Bill Amend- Creator of Foxtrot
- David Allan Duncan- Professor of Sequential Art Graduate Coordinator, Savannah College of Art and Design
- Andrew Farago- Curator, Cartoon Art Museum, San Francisco
- Michael Jantze- Professor of Sequential Art and Animation, Savannah College of Art and Design
- Rick Marshall- Freelance Writer, Editor, and Producer, Time Inc., MTV News, IFC, Movies.com, Digital Trends, CBR
- Gary Tyrrell- Writer/Editor, Fleen.com
The screening committee has two jobs. First, they will review the submitted artists list and recommend those that they feel meet the criteria of eligibility as listed above. Second, they will recommend for consideration anyone who did not submit but they feel both meet the criteria and are representative of the best online work. They will forward their recommendations to the board, who will then judge the submissions and determine nominees and a winner as with any division.
This is our first stab at this kind of thing. It is bound to have some bugs which we will learn from and hopefully improve the process next year. The important thing is that efforts are being made to include work being done on-line in the NCS’s recognition of excellence in professional cartooning.