The Cornelius Award

I belong to the National Cartoonists Society, and specifically am a part of the Los Angeles Chapter called NCS LA. Affectionately, our chapter is known as The Order of Cornelius.

Cornelius is a bear who reportedly saved the life of California cartoonist George Herriman from hurtling over a cliff on a runaway toboggan. He later saved the lives of several other cartoonists, too, and thus earned his place as the patron saint of NCS LA after his passing. He’s now remembered as an angel bear who continues to look after the well-being of LA cartoonists.

Under the leadership of The New Yorker Magazine cartoonist Matt Diffee, NCS LA began giving annual awards for career achievement and for volunteerism to our members. We began giving the awards without actually having the physical awards to give. After a couple of years, I was tasked with designing The Cornelius Award (the one for volunteerism), while Diffee and Spencer Ramsey set about designing The Dingy (given for career achievement).

I looked to classic Art Deco medal designs of yesteryear to attempt to give The Corny an aged provenance of sorts. Cornelius was depicted in a more realistic manner, with his stylized angel wings and halo. Add a few lightning bolt accents, and we had our design!

The next step was getting the medals made, which proved to be challenging. One of our members, Drew Aquilina, found a Los Angeles based maker of custom medals, so I reached out to them only to discover that while they had an LA office, they were actually based in the Philippines which is where the sales representative was.

There was much back and forth via e-mail to make sure the specifics of the design were met with their production people, and then the order was placed. The medals turned out beautifully! They measure a large three inches across, and came with a plaid ribbon of our design long enough so this can hang around the recipient’s neck.

Of course, you have to take a look at The Dingy Award, too! Named after NCS LA founder Ding Daniels, it is given once a year to the member who has T.I.U.A.N. – Taken It Up A Notch – in their career. Diffee and Ramsey did a nice job on this one, too.

Earlier this summer after both medals were completed, NCS LA had a special medal ceremony to give the medals to the six people who had earned them over the past few years. The three recipients of The Dingy were children’s book illustrator Marla Frazee, cartoonist of the online comic Bacon Lonnie Millsap, and former MAD Magazine editor-in-chief Bill Morrison.

The Corny was given to Spencer Ramsey, Frank Hansen, and as a big surprise, yours truly. It felt kind of weird to be given the medal I designed, but it’s neat to have one.

Members of the Order of Cornelius the evening of our medal ceremony from L to R: Steve Greenberg, Carlos Saldana, Spencer Ramsey, Tony Carrillo, Frank Hansen, yours truly, portrait of founder Ding Daniels, Matt Diffee, Lonnie Millsap, John Duncan, Marla Frazee, Kevin Segall, and Daryl Cagle.

As we say in the NCS LA, “HEY HO HEY!”