The annual Reuben Awards weekend this year was not content to lay back and be relaxed on the Sunday after the actual awards ceremony as it has been in years past. Usually after the big night when shiny things had been handed out, the next day has a leisurely brunch, and then a dinner at night.
This year marked the first time that three days of seminars were held during a Reubens. Yes, count ’em up – 1, 2, and 3 days of seminars. I, for one, was excited about it. Each year the convention is held in a different city, but as far as I’m concerned, where it is held is inconsequential because rarely do I leave the hotel until the conclusion of the convention. Every seminar had a bit of gold in it as my colleages had many great things to share on different aspects of our very cool business.
Sunday, May 30
My personal experience this fine sunny morning was to attend a breakfast business meeting with the NCS Foundation, of which I am a board member. The Foundation serves to give financial support to worthy causes in relation to our profession, as well as helping cartooning colleagues who have need of financial assistance due to dire circumstances. Earlier this year we ran a fundraiser called “Help the Hodges” to help a cartoonists family in need. In addition, each year we bestow the Jay Kennedy Memorial Scholarship Award to a worthy college junior or senior who displays a knack for possibly joining our profession upon graduation. (The award is substantial, and includes a trip to The Reubens.)
The first activity for all the convention attendees came by way of a panel discussion led by MAD Magazine‘s Tom Richmond discussing a trip many of our members took with the USO to draw for our troops at war. Joined by Pearls Before Swine‘s Stephan Pastis, Baby Blues‘ Rick Kirkman, and Family Circus‘ Jeff Keane, Tom shared many photos of their ten-day trip to Germany, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
The second seminar of the afternoon celebrated the tenth anniversary year of the comic strip Six Chix. If you aren’t aware of this strip, it’s a daily humor strip written and drawn by six terrific female cartoonists – each taking different days to do their thing. Four of the Chix (Rina Piccolo, Anne Gibbons, Isabella Bannerman, and Stephanie Piro) were on the panel to talk about their work.
Speaking of comic strips, many folks who draw them happen to be members of the National Cartoonists Society, and many comic strip artists were in attendance at this year’s convention. In a cruel, yet darkly humorous twist of fate, the local Jersey newspaper, The Newark Star-Ledger, delivered their supply of Sunday papers to the Hyatt that morning FORGETTING to include the comics section.
The last seminar of the convention was conducted by my friend and extremely talented character designer Stephen Silver. Stephen teaches character design for the online school called Schoolism.com. Lately he has taken it upon himself to film great cartoonists in their studios talking about their work, and even doing full-blown drawing demos all for some documentaries viewable only on Schoolism.com. The first documentary about Mort Drucker is completed, and Stephen is currently editing ones on Archie Comics’ Stan Goldberg and The Lockhorns‘ John Reiner. After showing a teaser on all three documentaries, John Reiner, Stan Goldberg, Lockhorns writer Bunny Hoest, and former MAD Magazine editor Nick Meglin (representing Mort Drucker who could not attend) all joined Stephen on stage to discuss these documentaries.
After the last seminar of the day, it was time to have one last night of fun together. The NCS gathered in the main ballroom of the hotel for some dinner and a show. The show was a fun time led by The New Yorker Magazine cartoonist Matt Diffee. Matt had several cartoonists on stage (David Sipress, Emily Flake, Mike Lynch, Drew Dernavich, Jeff Stahler, and Michael Kupperman) for a bit of improv comedy cartoonists style.
As is common with improv comedy, folks from the audience shouted out various nouns and adjectives, and Matt had the six guest cartoonists draw a cartoon based on those suggestions in a battle to the death. Well, not death exactly, but it was a mildly cutthroat battle of wits, except minus the cutthroat part. What it was, was FUNNY.
To keep the audience entertained while the cartoonists drew their instant cartoons, Matt Diffee had invited the comedy duo of Stuckey & Murray. Together with an accordian player, Stuckey & Murray delivered their comedy by way of humorous songs they wrote. A few too many of us cartoonists in the audience could relate to one they sang about a grown man who can’t stop wearing his Looney Tunes shirt. At any rate, these fellas will be appearing on Last Comic Standing on NBC this season, so perhaps all will get to know the names of Stuckey & Murray very soon.
Following the show, the socializing continued into the night in the hotel’s lobby. Here are a few bonus shots from that part of the evening:
The following morning many departed for their homes across the globe. One last parting shot of New York City might be in order….
You know, many artists work at home by themselves in a fairly isolated environment. Connected only by the phone and the internet, we create our art, send it out, and many of you get to see the results. These annual treks to the Reuben Awards are such a welcome opportunity to break away from the seclusion to greet friends and colleagues for several days. We’re just people enjoying the company of each other, swapping back slaps and stories.
Arriving back in Los Angeles, I had one final reminder of the amazing impact our isolation can have. Not two days before I was chatting as colleagues with Steve Brodner, a pretty cool guy who does pretty cool art. As I was going down an escalator in the LAX airport on my way to the baggage claim area, I glided under this giant signage illustrated by Steve. The world of cartooning sure is fun!