New 2011 NCS On-Line Comic Strip Division Award

January 9th, 2012 | Posted in General

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,¬¨‚ĆProfessor 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:

  1. Comic-strip format only (no single panels, long-form narrative. etc.)
  2. Must be web only publication (any syndication in print would make it eligible for the Best Syndicated Comic Strip Division)
  3. Must be at least a weekly
  4. 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
  5. 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:

  1. 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
  2. Work must have been published (posted) during period from Dec. 1, 2010 to Dec 31, 2011 ( 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.¬¨‚ĆOur 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-¬¨‚Ć 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,, Digital Trends, CBR
  • Gary Tyrrell– Writer/Editor,

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.


  1. Great Site! I’m Fan. Greetings from M?¬©xico.

  2. […] « New 2011 NCS On-Line Comic Strip Division Award […]

  3. Thom says:

    Too bad there are very, very few web cartoonists who will qualify for this. Several of the best have day jobs in animation, comic books, or video games. The NCS is still several years behind reality unfortunately.
    Also, why no single panels? How arbitrary can you get?

    • Tom says:

      Because, again, the NCS awards are not art awards. They are professional industry awards. By the rules of the awards a cartoonist must qualify for membership to be eligible, meaning they earn a living as a cartoonist. That doesn’t put the NCS “several years behind” anything. It simply means we aren’t changing the requirements of eligibility for any new divisions. As for being arbitrary with strip format only, all divisions are arbitrary… That’s why their called “divisions”. We had to start somewhere, and adding 6 new divisions to encompass forms like single panel, comic book narrative, etc. was logistically impossible.

  4. […] National Cartoonists Society president Tom Richmond reveals on his blog, I will be part of a six-person screening committee for the Reuben Awards’ brand-new […]

  5. Tom says:

    Just a heads up for commenters… I think the post itself explains the reasoning behind this initiative, and the limitations that the nature of the NCS as an organization imposes on the process. No one understands more than I that it is not perfect, and that this will evolve in subsequent years. That said, I do not have the time to defend this venture online to all comers, especially when 99% of that “defense” is simply to restate what I wrote above. Therefore, if you have some truly constructive comments or ideas, then by all means make them and I will post the comments here. That kind of feedback is very valuable and we want to hear it. If your comments are of the “this is stupid, you guys are so backward/behind the times/why aren’t you doing it the way I want you to” variety… don’t bother.

  6. […] this year is a division for Online Comic Strip… see this post for the details on this new […]

  7. Andertoons says:

    Why the emphasis on strips vs. single panel? Online cartoonists often employ a single panel with a caption. (Think XKCD.)

    I understand you need to draw a line somewhere, but # of panels seems silly.

    • Tom says:

      Like you say, we had to draw the line somewhere. Is is fair to judge a strip format against a single panel format? The distinction is made within the syndicated divisions. Where does that leave editorial cartoons? Are they single panels? Is that fair to long-form narrative work? It’s all cartooning, right?

      No, we had to be specific for this first endeavor, or we had to add six divisions, which we just couldn’t do.

      • Andertoons says:

        I totally understand.

        It just seems unnecessarily restrictive for what I’m assuming is an experiment to attract and showcase art and artists in an evolving medium.

        Anyway, best of luck, and you certainly picked some good folks to spearhead this.

  8. Darryl Ayo says:

    Comic strips and longform comics are not mutally exclusive. As you well know. Is this about shape? So horizontal? Look at old Thimble Theatre dailies that were sometimes run in stacked columns, more akin to comic book pages (prior to the latter’s invention) as well as horizontally.

    What has that got to do with the price of eggs?

    -Ayo/Comix Cube.

  9. Avi says:

    Seems to me like it would be a good idea to judge short form and long form comics separately rather than disqualifying one group.
    Unlike print syndication, web publication is ideal for long form narratives because the reader has access to the full archive from the beginning.

  10. Mike Cope says:


    First, this new category is so wonderful to see. Congratulations on bringing it to life!

    I’m not sure if you’re a member of, but there’s currently an active discussion, and a valid critique has been made regarding eligibility criteria #5 (“Creator must earn the greater part of their living directly from the strip/property”).

    This is obviously not true for the other Divisional Award categories. The cartoonists must earn the majority of their income from cartooning, but not necessarily from the specific category they apply to.

    And so, some web cartoonists have been questioning why the NCS is being hard-nosed about the online category?

    The thought that I’ve already shared is that the NCS likely wants to award the most deserving cartoonist. If webcomics have finally come of age, there should be at least a small handful of cartoonists that meet eligibility criteria #5.

    It’s about setting the bar as high as possible.

    A litmus test.

    Does webcomics actually offer a professional career to those who excel at their craft? If not, does it provide at least enough income to constitute the majority of one’s yearly earnings?

    The answer to at least one of those should be a resounding YES!

    Another way of thinking about it … Criteria #5 is a way for the NCS to recognize the Charles Schulz, Bil Keane, Jim Davis, Lynn Johnston, Bill Watterson, Gary Trudeau, etc. etc. etc …. of professional webcomics.

    The pile may be surprisingly limited.

    But that’s what makes each of those cartoonists one of the best.

    Is this a fair assessment? Or can you clarify on criteria #5?

    For example, what if a syndicated cartoonist has a webcomic, but makes more income from their syndication. Can they apply for the online category?

    Thanks for your consideration!

    – Mike

    • Tom says:

      Mike- This was brought to my attention from a few others, and the “directly from the strip/property” was a poorly worded requirement. That is not a requirement for other divisions, so should not be here. All that is required is that one make a living from their cartooning, in some substantial form. So, if you are a freelance illustrator that does a webcomic, but it isn’t where you earn most of your money, you are still a professional cartoonist and so fulfill the requirement of being eligible for professional NCS membership. You must earn SOME income from your strip, but not “the majority”.

  11. Why not just make a category that encompasses all the comic strips print and web? I don’t understand the need for a separate category.

    • Tom says:

      I think that is what this will eventually evolve into. Right now the delivery system is different enough that, to begin, we need to create a new division. Independent films are nominated for separate awards than studio films, despite the fact that they are all films and some independent movies are as good or better than the major studio’s fare.

  12. Justin says:

    This is really exciting news. It sounds like NCS has done a lot of work to bring this to life. Thanks for all your (and NCS’s) hard work on this.

  13. Mike Cope says:


    Can you please clarify a second point?

    On, it’s been suggested that a web cartoonist who also sells their feature to “a few” papers does not qualify for this category because of the following item:

    Must be web only publication (any syndication in print would make it eligible for the Newspaper Comic Strip Division)

    Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I’ve pointed out to them that the key word here is syndication.

    Does the web cartoonists “self” syndication to “a few” papers not validate their qualification for this category? That is, they are producing professional level material which editors are willing to purchase??

    After all, self-syndication is NOT accepted for the Newspaper Strips and Newspaper Panel categories.


    – Mike

    • Tom says:

      In the case of newspapers, self-syndication is still published work… there is just no syndication as middleman. It still appears in published newspapers. It’s like someone doing a comic book series themselves and then Impact or IDW publishing it. Still published work.

  14. Mike Cope says:

    Perhaps most importantly … If webcomics are now included in Divisional Awards, does this open the nomination field for The Reuben?

    Provided a nominee meets the professional criteria, of course.

    • Tom says:

      I believe the Reuben for Cartoonist of the Year has always been open to any professional cartoonist regardless of their discipline. As long as a cartoonist qualifies for professional NCS membership, they are eligible for “Cartoonist of the Year”, as long as they have not already won the honor.

  15. Mike Wade says:

    I bet you thought you were simply informing your readers of a new venture by the NCS! (The downside of “Freedom of Speech”? You get everybody’s opinion!!)

    • Tom says:

      No, I knew this was coming. I did it anyway because I believe it’s important to make some strides here. Let the naysayers have their nays if they must.


New profile pic courtesy of my self-caricature for the Scott Maiko penned article “Gotcha! Mug Shots of Common (but Despicable) Criminals” from MAD 550

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