The National Cartoonists Society‘s annual Reuben Awards Weekend took place this past weekend, this time in birthplace of Rock n’ Roll, Memphis, Tennessee. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 professional cartoonists attended where they could be found talking talks, drawing drawings and being honored with awards. This was the first time in four years I have attended a Reubens where I was not NCS president and running the show. It was very relaxing, not just because I didn’t have to plan and run the event, but because current NCS president Bill Morrison and his wife Kayre did a terrific job so we had no worries.
The weekend kicked off on Thursday May 26th with a big drawing event and fundraiser for St. Jude Children’s Hospital and Research Center. Over 60 cartoonists appeared at St. Jude and set up in shifts to draw for patients, families and staff. We had a great crowd, drew a lot of cartoons and made a lot of people smile. St. Jude gave the artists tours of their incredible facility. That night all participating artists were treated to a Memphis themed dinner on Beale St., where they did more drawings to be sold/auctioned later to benefit St. Jude.
Later that night a smaller group of cartoonists went back to St. Jude to host a fundraiser dinner, where we drew more drawings, conducted a live and silent auction, and put on an improv show as the entertainment for a room full of St. Jude supporters.
Seminars and talks began on Friday, including an interview with the great Paul Coker Jr. done by long-time MAD editor Nick Meglin. Other presenters and speakers that weekend included representatives for Wacom, New Yorker cartoonist Matt Diffee, syndicated cartoonists Maria Scrivan, “Stone Soup” creator Jan Eliot, comic book greats Jeff Smith and Terry Moore, “For Better or For Worse” creator Lynn Johnston, Cartoonist Deborah Peyton, illustrator Luke McGarry, Jenny Robb from the Billy Ireland Cartoon Art Museum and cartoonist/copyright expert David Apatoff, and the incomparable Sergio Aragonés. Great speaker lineup this year.
Friday night was the traditional Welcome Party. This Reubens has a lot of new faces, which was really great. I met several new members, and it was fun to see some people I knew from the International Society of Caricature Artists like Bob East and Angie Jordan finally join the NCS and get to a Reubens. Losing Mell Lazarus right before this event was tough for the NCS, but the weekend was dedicated to the celebration of Mell and his indelible impact on the Society and so many of it’s members. The tributes, toasts and wonderful shared memories flowed throughout the Reubens. It felt like he and Sally were there.
The Reuben Awards show was amazing. Host Mo Willems and show director Ed Steckley knocked it out of the park, and video/performance contributions by Jason Chatfield and Tom Gammill hit new heights of hilarity. NCS Foundation president Steve McGarry presented the Jay Kennedy Memorial Scholarship to tremendously talented young animation student Tex Minos, my fellow USO cartoonist brother Bruce Higdon received the NCS Silver T-Square for “outstanding dedication or service to the Society or the profession of cartooning”, and Paul Coker Jr. was honored with the Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award.
The NCS Divisional “Silver Reuben” awards were a punctuated by star-studded video intros for each division, including Kristen Schall, Mark Hamill, Jack Black and Julianne Moore! Aussie cartoonist and fellow member of MAD‘s “Usual Gang of Idiots” Anton Emdin was nominated for three divisions and won ALL THREE. Greedy bastard. The complete list of winners is here.
The Reuben for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year went to editorial cartoonist Michael Ramirez.
The Farewell Party was held at Graceland, where we were all encouraged to wear musical themed costumes (no Elvis though, Graceland doesn’t allow that), which was a lot of fun. We got the entire facility to ourselves, with private tours of the Graceland mansion and grounds, plus the other attractions and a fun meal which included fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches.
As usual, a great time with great company. Sorry I didn’t take many pictures… I was too busy having fun and talking with people.
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