I’m back from another terrific time at the NCS Reuben awards. The board members and officers really work hard to make this event fun, entertaining and relaxing every year. They secure the sponsorship of the major syndicates like United Media, King Features and others to pay for lavish dinners, parties and gatherings throughout the weekend, which also includes a number of guest speakers and plenty of time left over to hang out with friends and colleagues. Sleep is often an afterthought, with parties going until the wee hours every day.
Festivities kicked off this year on Friday with two guest speakers, Jerry Van Amerongen and Mort Walker. Jerry does the panel cartoon “Ballard Street” (formerly called “The Neighborhood”) and he shared a lot of his work and insights into his process via a Powerpoint presentation. Jerry is from my neck of the woods, so I am very familiar with him and his work. Terrific and funny stuff. Unfortunately, due to the job I had to work on Jerry’s was the only seminar I was able to attend. I missed Mort’s talk on Friday afternoon and both Bud Grace (Pirhanna Club) and Sam Gross (The New Yorker) on Saturday. That was a shame and I wish it could have been different…
Friday night was the traditional welcome cocktail reception that I blogged about on Saturday. This is always a lot of fun, where you see many famous and legendary cartoonists who are all very approachable and easy to meet and talk with. Over the 9 years or so I have been a member, I’ve gotten to know a lot of cartoonists and have seen many of my caricaturist friends (those who are also illustrators or animators) become members, so there is no shortage of conversation. As always, we hung out closely with good friends Keelan and Barbie Parham (and Brady!), Ed and Heather Steckley and Steve and Heidi Silver. All are some of my favorite people and Keelan, Ed and Steve do inspirational work. I also was able to finally meet Mike Luckovich, last year’s “Cartoonist of the Year” and the mega talented editorial cartoonist. He attends the same church as my brother in law in Atlanta, yet we never seem to have found ourselves able to properly meet and chat. Also attending, as most years, was former MAD editor Nick Meglin and his delightful girlfriend Linda Maloof, and MAD art director Sam Viviano. It’s always a pleasure to spend some time with them. There are too many others that we see every year and have a lot of fun catching up with to mention, so I won’t even try.
The weekend isn’t all fun and games. There is NCS business as well. On Saturday morning I attended the NCS business meeting with the board of directors. Sometimes these meetings have a lot of fireworks and heated arguments from people with strong opinions or beefs about this or that. I can see that being on the board is no easy task, and I applaud all the board members for their sacrifices. This year was very subdued and ended quite quickly. Following this I had to attend the annual chapter chairpersons meeting, where NCS Board Chapter Chairman Greg Evans (Luanne) stepped down in favor of new board member Mike Lynch (freelance gag cartoons) who will now act as chapter liaison with the board. I was recently elected vice-chairman of our North Central Chapter, and attended this meeting in the stead of our chairman Oliver Christianson (Hallmark’s “Revilo”), who could not come at the last minute.
Saturday night was the black tie awards dinner. Emceed by Dan Pirarro (Bizarro), it featured a presentation of the NCS silver T-square award for outstanding service to the society to Joe and Luke McGarry. Joe and Luke are the 19 (or maybe 20?) year old twin sons of former NCS president Steve McGarry (Mullets, etc.) who have worked for years on the NCS website, multimedia presentations and other projects for the society. Mort Walker also received the Gold Key award, the NCS’s version of the Hall of Fame and it’s very exclusive company he is in. I think I heard that only 8 cartoonists have ever gotten the Gold Key. Mort is unquestionably the Grand Poobah of the NCS, having created the long running “Beetle Bailey” and “Hi and Lois” and being one of the longest tenured and most respected members.
The awards themselves are kind of a blur for me. It’s hard not to be nervous when you are nominated. My pal Stephan Pastis (Pearls Before Swine) won for Newspaper Comic Strip. Steve Brodner won for Magazine Illustration, the other category I was nominated in. That’s my fourth nomination in that category, and no wins so far. Just being nominated with the likes of Brodner, Jean-Jaques Sempe, C.F. Payne and others is a rare honor. The big Reuben for “Cartoonist of the Year” went to Bill Amend (Foxtrot). Bill’s strip has been consistently entertaining for a long time, and he has had this coming. Congratulations to him for the great honor. Here’s a list of all the winners.
Sunday consisted of my having to miss the NCS brunch to attend a meeting of the NCS Foundation, the non-profit charity (for lack of a better word) wing of the NCS. Technically it’s a separate entity, with it’s own board of which I am a newly elected member. The Foundation’s purpose is to administer the principal and determine the bequeathment of moneys for programs like scholarships and the Milt Gross fund for cartoonists with financial hardships. New board chairman Daryl Cagle (editorial/freelance) led a crisp meeting and I will be sharing some of the programs we will be implementing, including scholarships for aspiring cartoonists and details in how to apply, in future blog posts.
Sunday night was a good bye party featuring a Salsa dance band. The last several years this was the traditional “roast” evening where they put on a big show and skewered some long time member, but that was not done this year. There were many people who left early and did not attend this last part of the weekend, but many did and it was still fun to visit with people I had missed at previous functions. There are certain times of the weekend where it’s okay to ask for autographs and sketches, and Sunday’s brunch and evening party are two of them. My kids got lots of comics and books signed by the likes of Bill and Jeff Keene (Family Circus), Mort, Brian and Greg Walker, Chris Browne (Hagar), Rick Stromoski (Soup 2 Nutz), Mike Peters (Mother Goose and Grimm) and a few others.
It was a great time. It was more laid back and low key than some of the past Reubens, and I think that was on purpose just to provide a less hectic and scheduled event. A great deal of thanks needs to be bestowed on outgoing NCS president Rick Stromoski, his life Danna, incoming president Jeff Keane and the rest of the NCS board for the tireless work in putting the Reuben weekend together. Great job and many thanks.
Here are some more pictures from the weekend:
Mort Walker signs a comic for my kids
Sam Viviano, Linda Maloof and Nick Meglin
Rick Kirkman, Steve McGarry, Daryl Cagle and Jeff Keane
Sparky’s widow Jeanne Schulz and The Lovely Anna
Bill Amend and myself
Barbie and Keelan Parham, Heather and Ed Steckley,
Heidi and Steve Silver
Anna and I
Linda, Nick and John Reiner
C.F. Payne and myself
The wonderful Chris and Caroll Browne
Gabrielle and Anna watch Bil Keane sign a book for them
725 My cover art for the next issue of MAD, exclusive sneak peek from @entertainmentweekly website
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