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A look back at 2006

With this year coming to a rapid close, I don’t anticipate any major changes or announcements coming from the syndicates or newspapers, so I dug into the archives of the Daily Cartoonist to pull out some of the highlights of the year.

The syndicates launched 13 new features this year. King Features gets the prize for coming out with the most features this year – a grand total of four. Creators, United Media, Universal Press and Washington Post Writers Group each launched two features each and Tribune Media Services only rolled out one new feature.

Here’s a break down of the releases.

Feature title Cartoonist Syndicate
Girls and Sports Justin Borus & Andrew Feinstein Creators
On a Claire Day Carla Ventresca & Henry Beckett Creators
Retail Norm Feuti King Features
Pajama Diaries Terri Libenson King Features
Heaven’s Love Thrift Shop Kevin Frank King Features
The Brilliant Mind of Edison Lee John Hambrock King Features
Raising Hector Peter Ramirez Tribune Media Services
Cow and Boy Mark Leiknes United Media
F-Minus Tony Carrillo United Media
Lio Mark Tatuli Universal Press
Ronaldinho Gaucho Mauricio de Sousa Universal Press
S.O.S. SOMOS PRIMERIZOS Emilio Ferrero Washington Post Writers Group
Watch Your Head Cory Thomas Washington Post Writers Group

Quite easily the big winner in new features this year was Mark Tatuli who came up with a little gem called Lio. Lio had the biggest launch of the year with over 75 newspapers and within its first six months had cleared 150.

150 newspapers is quite an accomplishment, but there were other big numbers posted this year. Rick Kirkman and Jerry Scott’s Baby Blues cleared the 1000 mark. Zits creators Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman hit the 1500 newspaper number in July. Interestingly, in March, the Editor and Publisher article announcing the Baby Blues numbers put the Zits client list at “nearly 1400” newspapers and then three months later it cleared 1500. Gotta love that Boondock sabbatical!

Garry Trudeau also had big year. In March he received a Lifetime Achievement Award by Georgetown University’s Institute for the Study of Diplomacy for international political commentary, and then in July he was awarded the Vietnam Veteran’s of America’s President’s Award for Excellence in the Arts. He was also granted a rare and extensive interview with the Washington Post in October and created a blog called the Sandbox that allowed soldiers (both deployed and returning) a place to talk about their experiences. He donated the proceeds from the sale of his book, “The War Within: One More Step at a Time” to the Fisher House which provides temporary homes for families of injured soldiers being treated at military and veteran medical centers. If you believe in Karma – Garry would be the poster child this year.

And perhaps this will be the year that is remembered as the one where many a cartoonists chipped in and took over features for fellow ailing cartoonists. When Rob Harrell needed to recuperate from treatment of a cancerous tumor from his right eye – 15 fellow Universal Press cartoonists stepped in to keep Big Top going. And just this month, six cartoonist as well as editorial cartoonist Matt Davies took over Prickly City while Scott Stantis recovered from rotator cuff surgery.

On the topic of exiting features – a few come to mind. Perhaps the warning signs were raised that Unfit was on its way out when Scott Adams posted a competition to find an artist to take over the drawing. An artist was selected, but before it had the chance to see newsprint, Mike Belkin, its creator, pulled the feature completely.

The Boondocks sabbatical announcement in March created instant speculation on many cartooning boards as to whether Aaron McGruder was going to be coming back at all after his feature made the leap to television and was even nominated for outstanding comedy series. In the end Aaron walked away from the comic strip because he was tired of it.

Another big announcement was that Bill Amend would drop the daily comic strip and make FoxTrot a Sunday only feature. Not sure anyone saw that one coming.

Switching over to editorial cartooning, it was another roller coaster ride for this community with many coming in and going out, but mostly going. Kal announced the end his 17 year run at the Baltimore Sun and officially left in January. He bounced back with several cool projects and a job at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County where he created a 3-D talking President Bush head. He also enjoyed several exhibits in his honor this year as well.

Clyde Peterson retired after 41 years with the Houston Chronicle in January. Nearly 12 months later, he tells me that he’s spent the year enjoying being “grandpop,” watching over his aging parents and visiting with teachers and schools. He has several cartooning projects in the works including a book collaboration, and a gallery art show.

Like KAL, Stacy Curtis is a great example of how to land on one’s feet gracefully after a budget cut leaves a cartoonist outside of the newsroom. After years with the Times of Northwest Indiana and specifically doing local, local, local cartoons, Stacy was walked out of the newsroom. Three months later Stacy roared back by signing with Shannon Associates – a big name in children’s book illustration. Since then he reports to have illustrated the first two installments of a new your readers series, and a picture book about a pirate-loving parrot. In an email, he tells me, “Getting laid off might have been the best thing that happened to me this year.”

Other cartoonists who didn’t make it out of the year in a newspaper include Tim Menees of the Pittsburg Post Gazette after 30 years with the paper – a move that still makes me shake my head months later. Paul Combs voluntarily left his job with the Tampa Tribune to return back to Ohio to be closer to family. Paul doesn’t leave cartooning entirely, he creates three cartoons a week with Tribune Media Services and will also be doing local cartoons for The Crescent-News in Defiance, Ohio.

While on the topic of rebounds, former L.A. Times editorial cartoonist Michael Ramirez was hired on as a senior editor/editorial cartoonist with Investors Business Daily where he’ll also serve on their editorial board. And lastly, Doug Marlette moved from the Tallahassee Democrat to the Tulsa World in Oklahoma. He reports he was motivated to make the move to be able to work for a family newspaper and not a conglomerate paper that is subject to fickle stock investors.

And now on to awards. I’ll not list all of the award winners here, but one cartoonist sticks out in my mind as having a really good year. Mike Luckovich took home just about every prize there was to win this year. A quick recap: The Reuben (outstanding cartoonist of the year), the Pulitzer, National Headliners Award, Overseas Press Club (which was shared by Clay Bennett), and the Sigma Delta Chi (SPJ). While Mike is quite the cartoonist – I’m going to make a “bold” prediction here. He’s not going to win back to back on any of these awards. Repeat winnings on any of these prizes is pretty rare. Only one cartoonist has won the Pulitzer back to back and that was Nelson Harding in 1927 and 1928. Clay Bennett took the National Headliners award in 1999 and again in 2000 and the Overseas Press Club has only two cartoonist winning repeats: Dick Locher in 1982 and ’83 and
Tony Auth in 1974 and 75.

And lastly we come to the obit section. I’ve not tracked these as well as I should have, but here are my notes on the notable passings.

Richard Rockwell was the artist for Steve Canyon for 35 years. Passed away at age 85.
Bob Laughlin created Cuffy and was the inking assistant for Heathcliff.
Rose Ellison King was the writer for Flo-and-Friends. Passed away due to breast cancer at age 63.

If you think there have been bigger stories omitted above, please post them in the comments.

Community Comments

#1 JR
December/26/2006
@ 8:20 pm

A nice wrap-up Alan! You’re doing a great job with this site!

#2 Brian
December/26/2006
@ 9:35 pm

You left out the following deaths:

Hilda Terry
Bob Thaves

#3 Alan Gardner
December/26/2006
@ 9:47 pm

Aaarggh! How could I have missed Bob! Yes, Here’s the link to my write up of his passing.

Here’s my write up on Hilda Terry.

Thanks for pointing those omissions out.

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