Each Memorial Day weekend, I look forward to the National Cartoonists Society’s (NCS) Reuben Award convention. It’s a time when cartoonists of all persuasions can gather, talk shop, hear some lectures, give each other awards, and socialize ’til all hours of the night. And boy howdy, do we ever!
This year’s Reubens were held at the Renaissance Hotel located at the Hollywood & Highland complex right next to the famed Graumann’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood, California. Cartoonists from all over the world converged on this hotel for some professional elbow-rubbing and rib-tickling. NCS President and “Family Circus” artist Jeff Keane (together with his lovely wife Melinda) put together a terrific three days that may require an additional three-day recovery period.
FRIDAY, MAY 22
The events got underway on Friday with a talk given by Steve Moore who draws the comic panel “In the Bleachers”. He brought along with him a creative executive from Nickelodeon and a producer of the upcoming Where the Wild Things Are movie to talk primarily about how to pitch animation ideas to the studios.
Following Steve was the great Eric Goldberg whom I had the pleasure of introducing to the audience. While Eric is widely known for his animation work for Disney (the Genie in Aladdin, co-directing Pocahontas, directing two sequences in Fantasia 2000, etc.), he gave a great talk about much of his career leading up to and including his time at Disney Feature Animation. His great experience can be read in his book Character Animation Crash Course!
Rounding out Friday’s talks was Drew Struzan, well-known for his movie poster illustration work (Indiana Jones, Back to the Future, Star Wars, etc.). Drew shared slides of his work peppered with anecdotes from behind-the-scenes of many images we all know and love. I was also honored to introduce Drew and assist with his slides.
Friday night the convention goers enjoyed an opening night reception sponsored in part by Creators Syndicate around the rooftop pool of the Renaissance. Cartoonists and their families all gathered for some carved prime rib, turkey, shrimp, sushi, and other items as we greeted old friends and began friendships with new folks. One might see Bill Amend (“Fox Trot”), Vic Lee (“Pardon My Planet”), Stan Goldberg (Archie comics), Scott Adams (“Dilbert”), Sergio Aragonès (MAD Magazine), or Barbara Dale (greeting cards), Rick Kirkman & Jerry Scott (“Baby Blues”), Chris Browne (“Hagar the Horrible”), Stephan Pastis (“Pearls Before Swine”) or Sandra Boynton (cards & books). It was a who’s who all weekend long.
As things wound down at the pool party, the party continued down in the lobby of the hotel where almost every seat was taken by a cartoonist. In fact, if there wasn’t a scheduled social event throughout the weekend, the lobby lounge was the default meeting place for friends to gather.
SATURDAY, MAY 23
Saturday was a busy day. With a breakfast served to everyone in the pool area once again, I was able to gulp down a quick bite with my friend Michael Ramirez (editorial cartoonist for Investor’s Business Daily) and then ran off the to the annual member business meeting where many new faces were added to the board with Jeff Keane serving another two years as our fearless leader.
During the business meeting, we had a presentation from Bill Hoogterp about the non-profit group The League requesting that cartoonists mention something about participation in public service in their strips and shows at a date in the fall. To drive home his point, he brought along with him Star Trek director J.J. Abrams who mentioned that his shows LOST and Fringe will be participating in this big effort.
Saturday afternoon began with a seminar about the state of syndicated comic strips with panelists from PARADE Magazine, King Features Syndicate, United Media and others. The big question on everyone’s minds was what the future holds for comics when newspapers seem to be failing left and right and the internet, where content is usually always available for free, is the primary source for information. Quite frankly, there were no real answers or decent suggestions brought up during the talk. Perhaps each syndicate has their own plan and didn’t wish to reveal it to the competition sitting next to them.
The second seminar was with the two time Pulitzer award winning editorial cartoonist Michael Ramirez who shared his approach to his work. While he draws his opinions from the Right (even his new book is titled Everyone Has the RIGHT to My Opinion), the brilliance his work was appreciated by Righties and Lefties both in the audience.
Saturday night the strictly black tie Reuben Awards banquet was held in the Renaissance’s huge ballroom with a cocktail hour hosted by King Features Syndicate and a dinner catered by Wolfgang Puck’s company. This ballroom is right outside the upper exit doors of the Kodak Theater where the Oscars are held every year, and is, in fact, the ballroom where the Oscar’s Governor’s Ball is held.
Hosted by another Pulitzer winning editorial cartoonist Mike Luckovich (his work often appears in Newsweek Magazine), the evening went on with awards given for all forms of cartooning. I’ll let the photos do the talking, but here is a list of the winners that should be announced shortly on the NCS’ official website www.Reuben.org:
The first award to be handed out was the NCS Foundation’s Jay Kennedy Scholarship award winner Chris Houghton whom I blogged about a few weeks ago. Chris was on hand to accept his award, and turned out to not only be talented, but also a pretty nice guy.
Kicking off the awards, Bil Keane (“Family Circus”) and Mell Lazarus (“Momma” and “Miss Peach”) were awarded the Gold Key Award, their induction into the NCS’ Hall of Fame.
Greeting Card Division: Jem Sullivan
Comic Book Division: Cyril Pedrosa (Three Shadows)
Advertising Illustration Division: Craig McKay
Gag Cartoon Division: Mort Gerberg (New Yorker magazine)
Television Animation Division: Sandra Equihua and Jorge Gutierrez (El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera)
Feature Animation Division: Nicolas Marlet (character designs on Kung Fu Panda)
Magazine Illustration Division: Sam Viviano (MAD Magazine)
Newspaper Illustration Division: Mark Marturello
Book Illustration Division: Mike Lester
Editorial Cartoon Division: Michael Ramirez (Investor’s Business Daily)
Newspaper Panel Division: Mark Parisi (“Off the Mark”)
Newspaper Strip Division: Mark Tatulli (“Lìo”)
And the Reuben Award, the NCS’ highest honor for the best cartoonist of the year, was awarded to Dave Coverly who draws the comic panel “Speed Bump”.
SUNDAY, MAY 24
Usually the Saturday evening festivities go really late. I ended up hanging out at the hotel until about 4am just chatting with folks, only to return again for a 10:30am meeting with the non-profit NCS Foundation of which I am a board member. It was Sunday afternoon that held a special time, though.
Cathy Guisewite, the creator of the comic strip “Cathy”, hosted everyone at a soirèe held at her Los Angeles home. She welcomed all 350 of us with open arms and a copy of one of her books while inviting us to visit every nook and cranny of her beautiful abode. Most of the cartoonists made a beeline to see her elegant studio which was housed in an upper room in the main house.
Down on her tennis court, Cathy had tables set for us all to enjoy a Mexican food dinner accompanied by a Spanish guitar player. The weather was just perfect, and cartoonists young and old enjoyed their time in her lovely and secluded backyard. That was an event that will be spoken of for years to come. Her generosity in having us as her guests was truly a special and memorable afternoon.
Upon returning to the hotel, Bongo Comics hosted a final party at the Hollywood & Highland complex at which local cartoonist Michael Ramirez’s band played for awhile followed by karaoke. Many cartoonists seem to live for the karaoke. I am content to be an observer. Particularly when folks like “Lìo” and “Heart of the City” cartoonist Mark Tatulli set the bar so high when he comes in costume. While watching Mark and his son perform “Bella Notte” from Lady & the Tramp in full costume was entertaining, the most disturbing moment was when Mark came out in full fin and seashells to perform “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid.
The weekend as a whole was terrific fun! The photos say it all. If you are a fellow professional cartoonist in comics, animation, illustration – WHATEVER – I would encourage you to consider joining the NCS. There are local chapters all over the country (including one in Canada) that have their own events throughout the year, with the annual Reubens being a highlight of the year. I have attended 12 of the last 14 Reubens, and hate it when I have to miss one. Visit www.Reuben.org to learn more about the NCS!
Oh, and the title of this post indicates that this is only Part 1 of my Reuben report. Fear not. This is only the case because I have a feeling that within the next week I will have been given more photos from others that should be shared with you. So, stay tooned…..