The Reuben

May 29th, 2012 | Posted in General

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.


  1. Mark Engblom says:

    WOOOOWWWWW! Congratulations, buddy! What an amazing honor….and a well-deserved one at that! You are the hardest working guy in the business (I would defend that statement in a vigorous and outspoken manner! haha!) and it’s great to see all that hard work and talent recognized by your peers…which is really the only audience that matters in the end. I’m so happy that many members of your family could be there to share in your joy!

    Now…hopefully I can stop by and bask in the warm glow of the Reuben! Haha!

    All my best,

    Mark Engblom

  2. Well deserved, sir! Congratulations!

  3. Tom, It was great to be there to see you win your award. Hey, you’re a caricaturist, an author, educator, a great leader of NCS….You’re way up there in my book. Congratulations to a man of great ability! Oh, the final thing you did was use the Reuben as a barbell in case you didn’t remember that. Funny!
    One question: Will there be a video of the Reubens and the MadMen panel with the history of MAD and the startling revelation of Sergio’s progeny? I thought I saw some camera work going on. Again Congratulations on reaching the Zenith of Cartooning.

  4. Alex says:

    Congratulations, Tom!

  5. Rocky Sawyer says:

    Looking good…..well deserved…all the best…..

  6. Trevour says:

    What a blast it must have been! Congrats on everything, Tom!!

  7. Leo Kelly says:

    Way to go! Much deserved!!!

  8. Vince Mills says:

    Congratulations Tom.
    I have been a big admirer of yours from afar for a good few years. Your work has amazed me and it is only fitting that you receive the ‘top’ honour in your field.
    Well done and keep up the fantastic work.

  9. Congratulations Tom! Much deserved!

  10. John Deaton says:

    Very well deserved Tom! Wow, what an honor…

  11. Tiberiu says:

    Excellent achievement! 🙂
    Keep up the good work! I bought your book a year ago.
    Greetings from sunny Romania!

  12. Mike Giblin says:

    That’s awesome, I couldn’t be more thrilled for you Tom. Like countless others, I’ve found inspiration in your work for many years and can think of no more fitting an accolade for your immense talents. It couldn’t go to a nicer guy too.

  13. Mark Tatulli says:

    Congratulations, Tom! Sorry I wasn’t there to see it!

    You rock, sir!

  14. Congratulations!
    You really deserve it!

  15. Skip says:

    Tom, congratulations, it was well-earned! You’re a super cartoonist, and what’s more, you share your knowledge and enthusiasm via this blog with the whole world. That willingness to share and contribute is as much a part of your legacy as your ability to draw. Well done!

  16. MDW says:

    From here, from Belgium, many friends know your talent to the Mad Art. I just learned that you deserve the price of NCS Reuben. It’s a bit unknown in Europe, but often listen to your advice, I want to congratulate you.

  17. Lee Fortuna says:

    Tom, this couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy! i haven’t met you in person yet but you have helped me via emails,snail mail, & of coarse THE MAD BLOG! Personally I would love just being a member of the NCS never mind “Cartoonist of the Year”! In the old words my late Italian grandpa use to say; “Ya Done Good!

  18. Zeb says:

    Congratulations, Tom! You deserved it! I am still studying your book on how to do caricatures! A wealth of knowledge. That’s one of the things I like about you, your taking the time to share your tips, work and secrets. All the best!

  19. Desmond Devlin says:

    You guys can see what Tom puts on the page, but I want to vouch for what goes on behind it. More than once, Tom has saved my bacon by catching a mistake (such as a wrong setting) and emailing me or Sam V. to check about it. MAD doesn’t have a ton of writer-artist collaboration in the classic back-and-forth sense. But I’ve heard more questions and comments from Tom about jobs in progress than the rest of the artists put together. Don’t think for a minute that that kind of diligence and professionalism isn’t a big part of what makes him Reuben-worthy. I couldn’t be more pleased for his honor.

  20. Tom says:

    Thanks for the kind words, everybody. I am still in disbelief.

  21. Congratulations Tom! I’m very happy for you and the award is very well-deserved.


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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