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Harvey: NCS bias against non syndicated creators?

RC Harvey, writing over on The Comics Journal, raises a question about the bias of the National Cartoonist Society in awarding its top honor, the Reuben, to syndicated comic strip creators.

In this roster of the first 16 Reuben winners, only one cartooned outside of newspaper pages. Ronald Searle. All the rest were syndicated newspaper cartoonists. And all but three made their marks with comic strips. NCS’s bias in favor of syndicated comic strip cartoonists was blatant from the beginning, and it has persisted through the club’s 54 years.

You will look in vain for Jack Kirby’s name in the lists of NCS awards; ditto Harvey Kurtzman, Joe Shuster, Jerry Siegel, Jack Cole, Peter Arno, Helen Hokinson, Charles Addams, George Price, the Berenstains (Stan and Janice), Robert Osborn, David Levine, Gluyas Williams, Rea Ivin, Gardner Rea, Edward Gorey, Virgil Partch (Vip). To name a few, too few.

The dubious tradition continues this year. As determined by a vote of the membership, this year’s finalists for the 2009 Reuben are: Dan Piraro for his panel cartoon Bizarro; Stephen Pastis for his strip Pearls Before Swine; and Richard Thompson for his strip Cul de Sac. All three are syndicated newspaper cartoonists.

In naming this year’s finalists, drawn from the syndicated ranks, NCS once again slights a vast acreage of cartooning endeavor, arenas of cartooning in which superior efforts have been made by highly skilled professionals typically ignored by NCS. Even a cursory perusal of the medium’s history turns up names of still living still producing cartoonists whose work is more deserving of Reuben recognition than, for instance, this year’s two newcomers, however worthy their efforts. Here are some of those neglected acres and the thus-far Reuben bypassed cartoonists who’ve distinguished themselves plowing through them:

Community Comments

#1 Jonathan Lemon
March/9/2010
@ 11:09 am

Interesting. He then goes on to say “Pastis, whose toothpicked-olive draftsmanship bespeaks of convenience rather than ineptitude and is therefore an insult to cartooning…” is not worthy of a Reuben. Well, while that totally undermines his credibility.

#2 Jonathan Lemon
March/9/2010
@ 11:15 am

…. I’m not seeing anyone else on his list more worth of recognition (although there are undoubtedly many great candidates).

#3 Scott Kurtz
March/9/2010
@ 11:44 am

I don’t understand. I thought the NCS was a club for syndicated cartoonists. Why would they honor anyone else?

#4 Ted Rall
March/9/2010
@ 11:59 am

@Scott: Because their contest rules say that any cartoonist, including non-NCS members, are eligible. And also because NCS is not a club for syndicated, but for professional, cartoonists–even though most of their members seem to be syndicated.

I only agree with some of R.C.’s suggestions for better choices, but he had to name names because if he hadn’t people would have asked: Like whom?

His broader point is probably accurate, but even skirts the main issue, which is that an award that supposedly goes to the “best cartoonist” in the field doesn’t consider the vast majority of cartoonists at all.

I don’t care about the Reuben, but it is seriously annoying to read mainstream press stories that refer to it as meaningful when it is so plainly a joke within the profession.

#5 Eddie Pittman
March/9/2010
@ 12:28 pm

Ted, could you explain how the Reuben is “so plainly a joke within the profession”? Evidently that’s yet another loop I’ve been left out of.

#6 Mike Cope
March/9/2010
@ 12:38 pm

@Eddie: According to this joke, there’s a magic ink hidden inside the base of each Reuben.

… Or, so I’ve heard :)

#7 Jan Eliot
March/9/2010
@ 12:38 pm

Jeff Smith?never nominated to my knowledge. The prolific creator of Bone, who is an amazing artist as well as writer, is just one cartoonist who is more deserving than many Reuben nominees and winners.

But… in reality, the NCS is just a club, not really a professional organization. The inner circle of board members and their friends reaps the most benefit, gleaning off opportunities and nominating each other. The bulk of the members are offered very little. So, since it’s just a club, and doesn’t represent the field of cartooning adequately, the award doesn’t mean much. To expect more is pointless.

Especially now that there’s a rule that you can’t win the Reuben more than once. So you don’t have to beat out the greats anymore. It’s just being passed around the clubhouse…

But as I said, to expect more is pointless, and an exercise in futility.

#8 Ted Rall
March/9/2010
@ 12:39 pm

@Eddie: Whenever the subject comes up, eyes roll. Additional beers are ordered. Which is good. The beers part.

#9 Eddie Pittman
March/9/2010
@ 12:50 pm

@Mike ? Magic?!?! Doh! I got to hold Al Jaffee’s (award that is) and didn’t know! What do you have to do, rub it? (award that is) :)

#10 Eddie Pittman
March/9/2010
@ 12:53 pm

@Ted ? So, if I bring it up, is there a chance someone will order a beer for me? or would eyes just roll? Have to give it a try.

#11 Scott Kurtz
March/9/2010
@ 1:05 pm

Jeez, I dunno. I mean, I know it’s supposed to be professional cartoonists, but I think practically the Reubens has always been the newspaper comics awards.

And I know some years they go outside it if they like the work, like Sergio has won, right?

Meh. It just doesn’t seem that controversial.

#12 Ted Rall
March/9/2010
@ 1:17 pm

I wouldn’t call it “controversial.” But it is a stupid situation that has long irritated a lot of cartoonists.

Hats off to R.C. for taking a stand and pointing it out.

#13 rick stromoski
March/9/2010
@ 1:23 pm

RC’s disingenuousness regarding the history of the NCS was beyond the pale. He knows better that the NCS was formed as a New York centric, syndicated newspaper cartoonists organization. It stands to reason that it’s first 16 Reubens went to newspaper creators. But through a lot of effort over several decades the NCS came to include cartoonists, illustrators and animators outside of the newspaper world. If you look at the last 16 years, 6 winners were outside newspaper strip cartooning and an additional 2 were editorial cartoonists.

An argument can be made as well for a reason why syndicated newspaper cartoonists tend to win the Lion’s share of Reubens. It’s the only award they CAN win. Animators can win Oscars and Emmys, Illustrators, Editorial cartoonists, and magazine cartoonists have the Caldecott, Newberry, Society of Illustrators, Eisner, Pulitzer, and a dozen others…With the exception of Trudeau and Breathed winning Pulitzers, the Reuben is the only syndicated strip award.

#14 Steve McGarry
March/9/2010
@ 1:28 pm

While it should be conceded that the NCS was effectively a club for syndicated cartoonists in its early days just after the Second World War, that has long since ceased to be the case. As perhaps evidenced by the fact that 5 of the last 11 Reuben winners have come from outside of newspaper syndication.

Glancing down the list of Reuben winners, I count Herblock, Ronald Searle, Bill Mauldin, Pat Oliphant, Charles Saxon, Arnold Roth, Mort Drucker, Sergio Aragones, Will Eisner, Jack Davis, Matt Groening, Mike Luckovich and Al Jaffee. In addition, both Jeff MacNelly and Jim Borgman won for their editorial cartooning. Not really the shut out that Bob implies.

And, of course, as RC well knows, the Society instigated the Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award, which is decided by unanimous vote of the Board of Directors, purely and simply to honor cartoonists who have not won a Reuben yet have an outstanding, lifetime body of work. The recipients of the Caniff to date are Harry Devlin, Will Eisner, Al Hirschfeld, Dale Messick, Bill Gallo, Jerry Robinson, Morrie Turner, Jules Feiffer, Gahan wilson, Ralph Steadman and Sandra Boynton. This year’s recipients are Joe Kubert and George Booth. That’s 15 recipients, of which only one made his name in syndication.

The facts are that the vast majority of NCS members do not work in syndication, and will probably never do so. The membership roster is published on the NCS website, along with bios, so feel free to verify. I have no idea why the membership has voted for three syndicated creators again this year – the NCS only asks for their vote, not their rationale. But as the Reuben is decided by a ballot of the entire membership, I’m not sure what Bob Harvey would have the NCS do? Force the membership into cartoon education classes?

It should be noted that the NCS Awards honor the outstanding cartoonist in 13 different fields each year, and Jeff Smith, for example, has won two awards from a number of nominations.

A cursory glance at the list of seminars presented at Reuben weekends in the past decade absolutely belies this guff about institutionalised bias. This year alone the speakers are Joe Kubert, Steve Brodner, Larry Katzman, George Booth, Stephen Silver, Mort Drucker, John Reiner, Stan Goldberg, Yaakov Kirschen and Bill Plympton. The only speakers from the syndicated community are the creators of the Six Chix strip. Who are, just to state the obvious, all female. (And in recent years, off the top of my head, we’ve featured Linda Barry, Sandra Boynton and Ann Telnaes.)

To be honest, I thought Harvey’s public comments about Stephan’s work, were needlessly offensive. (In private, of course we would all agree, as Stephan plainly draws like a man with two broken arms. And he’s Greek. Tee-hee!) But the NCS exists, in part, to “foster good fellowship and solidarity among professional cartoonists” and Bob’s attack, in my mind, clearly crosses the line. Stephan is one of the most talented and successful creators to have emerged in recent years and his work resonates with a very large audience.

As to other comments, I wish Ted well as he makes the ongoing transition from “angry young man” to “cranky curmudgeon” … but on a more serious note, I am a little concerned to see Jan’s comments. In light of her accusations, if she has knowledge of NCS board members abusing their positions, I would urge her to make an complaint to the NCS Ethics Committee, which exists to investigate complaints of members.

#15 Ted Rall
March/9/2010
@ 1:32 pm

Thanks, Steve. It’s not the best life, but it’s the one I have.

I should echo Steve’s comment about Stephan Pastis’ work. It is ridiculous to call someone’s choice to draw in a stripped-down style “an insult to cartooning.” How about Schulz?

#16 Stephan Pastis
March/9/2010
@ 1:42 pm

?Pastis, whose toothpicked-olive draftsmanship bespeaks of convenience rather than ineptitude??

That’s total bullshit. It’s ineptitude.

#17 Mark_Tatulli
March/9/2010
@ 1:46 pm

Is there any awards that truly gets it right? No matter what, there will always be complaints of the unrecognized. That’s just the nature of awards.

#18 Steve Skelton
March/9/2010
@ 1:50 pm

The Darwin Awards usually get it right.

#19 Meredith Randazzo
March/9/2010
@ 2:24 pm

If anyone would like to start a trade organization for cartoonists that want to advance the art and welcomes anyone for membership, I’ll be first to pony up for dues.

#20 Dave Stephens
March/9/2010
@ 2:28 pm

LOL @ Pastis
No doubt, but you’re still a joy to read and vastly more easy on the eyes than Cathy ever could be. And just being nominated is awful darn cool, imho. Take heart – just look at how terrible Trudeau was in his early years. Art is important and quality matters but humor and writing always trumps a finely turned line… Keep up the great work!

#21 JP Trostle
March/9/2010
@ 2:30 pm

I just think it’s funny that Scott and Ted agreed on something

#22 Ted Dawson
March/9/2010
@ 3:33 pm

The NCS has never pretended to be an inclusive, progressive cartoonist club.

#23 Pab Sungenis
March/9/2010
@ 3:42 pm

The fact that webcartoonists aren’t considered for the award either strikes me as annoying. I’d put the writing of Randall Munroe and David Willis up against most of the current comics page. They’re at least as deserving of Reuben consideration as Piraro and Thompson. Maybe even as deserving as Pastis.

I wonder how the NCIS would look at me if I tried to apply for membership, for example. Sure, I only get paid $1.05 a day for my comic strip, but I STILL get paid to do it. That makes me a professional, doesn’t it? But my choice of medium would probably rule me out.

#24 Pab Sungenis
March/9/2010
@ 3:43 pm

Oops. My mind is on television. I accidentally inserted an “I” when I went to type NCS. Still, the way they treat some of the more deserving artists could be considered a crime, so….

#25 Garey Mckee
March/9/2010
@ 3:44 pm

Oh man, is this a can of worms!

#26 Stephen Beals
March/9/2010
@ 3:55 pm

Funny. RC Harvey’s writing this on the Comics Journal website. Over 20 years ago Don Thompson and others at the Comics Buyers Guide were pointing out that the Harvey Awards were known for being biased against Fantagraphic books (or rigged, it was said). RC might check to see how the Harvey Awards overcame that stereotype while he’s using tcj bandwidth.

And I have to say I’ve been avoiding RC Harvey articles and books in those 20 years because I find his endless prattling about comics boring.

I wouldn’t have said that, but he felt the need to publicly go after Stephan Pastis, whose work I haven’t avoided. In fact, I’ve bought all of his books.

Good luck, RC. You’re wrong.

#27 Alan Gardner
March/9/2010
@ 4:22 pm

@PAB SUNGENIS – before we all go piling on to the “web comics are snubbed at the Reuben,” I remind all we’ve had this debate several times here. If I had more energy to relive the debate for the nth time, I’d dig up the links to said threads.

I think the NCS would be good rename the “newspaper comic” division award to a more generic label like “comic strip” to open the door a bit wider for other mediums where comic strips are run.

#28 Rich Diesslin
March/9/2010
@ 4:57 pm

Scott, Rick and Steve dittos – well defended. It is voted on by all members with no starting list. Awards in general get way too much attention, but the NCS awards seem as reasonable as any out there to me. All of the criteria (since it is all opinion) is subjective, but popularity of the strip goes a long way to lending credibility to the quality of the work. It’s certainly a factor.

Ted, sometimes you just like mixing it up for the sake of mixing it up – don’t ya!? However, I think RC wins the curmudgeon contest here by default. ;)

#29 Paul Jon
March/9/2010
@ 5:15 pm

If Pastis ever offers drawing lessons, I’m signing up.

#30 Mark_Tatulli
March/9/2010
@ 6:03 pm

OK, Alan, then you can pick through the potentially hundreds of thousands of entries and tell us which should be considered.

#31 Phil Judd
March/9/2010
@ 7:03 pm

My question is why only yanks win these awards?? No Australians have won anything there yet have they??? Yet we win Academy, Tony and Oscar awards?? Are there no cartoonists worth noting outside of the USA??? Why the discrimination? :-) I mean there are many of us who can draw a mouse with sticks for arms…not as adept as Stephan Pstis but then we probably haven’t spent years perfecting the art of stick arms….:-)

#32 Phil Judd
March/9/2010
@ 7:05 pm

If Pastis ever gives out art lessons I’m calling the Drawing Police… :-)…Or should I call Ted Rall??? Whoever the hell he is??? Never heard of him over in Aussie…is that a blessing in disguise?

#33 D.D.Degg
March/9/2010
@ 7:15 pm

While respecting Harvey as a comic historian I do frequently disagree with his opinions, this being one of those times. He is advocating one of the problems I had with The Reubens. It is for Cartoonist of the Year and there for a while I thought it was turning into a Lifetime Achievement Award.
While Eisner and (two years later) Davis unarguably deserve recognition, there were others who deserved the Cartoonist of the Year sobriquet more for the years the not-very-active Will and Jack got it.
I would like to see the NCS’ Caniff Award expanded big time and see their Gold Key Award (Hall of Fame) more in line with how the Society of Illustrators do their Hall of Fame. Eisner, Davis, and a bunch of those on Harvey’s list should be honored by being inducted into the NCS Hall of Fame.

#34 Wanderlei Silva
March/9/2010
@ 7:34 pm

That is the most elegantly written article about cartooning that I have ever read. I cannot write nearly as well, so please indulge my attempt to sound elegant, too, by reading this comment using your best British accent.

I, also, found this RC character’s mean spirited attack on Pastis quite rude. Some readers prefer seeing simple art that gently nudges their attention back to the dialogue so the comic flows with a quick staccato tempo. I’m sure Pastis can draw “better”, but what he does now works perfectly with his strip.

So toss me in with the other folks on here with gyro-covered noses.

I hope he fails.

I mean, I hope you win, Pastis.

#35 Mike Cope
March/9/2010
@ 7:34 pm

@PHIL JUDD — Lynn Johnston is Canadian. As noted above, she was not only the first female cartoonist to win the Reuben Award, but she was also the first female to be NCS President.

#36 Steve McGarry
March/9/2010
@ 8:04 pm

Continuing Mike Cope’s train of thought …

Australian Pat Oliphant has won two Reubens and 7 division awards. As well as a Pulitzer. In 2009, Australian James Kemsley was posthumously awarded the NCS Silver T-Square. (Having previously been a featured speaker at two separate Reuben weekends.) The late Jim Russell received a special award from the NCS. As recently as 2008, Australia’s Shaun Tan won the Comic Book Division.

Off the top of my head, Canadian Lynn Johnston is a Reuben winner. Reuben winner Ronald Searle is English. Reuben winner Sergio Aragones was born in Spain and raised in Mexico. Englishman Ralph Steadman flew over from London to receive his Caniff in 2007. At division level, I can think off Prudencio Miel from Singapore, France’s Cyril Pedrosa and Nicolas Marlet … all of whom have won within the last few years. If the net is broadened to include nominees, the list includes countless overseas artists, including Kieran Meehan, who has made the trek to the Reubens on two or three occasions I can recall.

By contrast, The Australian Cartoonists Association, formerly known as the Black & White Artists Society, was founded in 1924 … a full 22 years before the NCS. And I believe I am correct in saying that they have only ever honored one overseas artist with a Stanley Award during all that time, awarding the 2002 Illustration Division to a British illustrator who currently resides in California (the same year that this brilliant, yet exceptionally modest and self-effacing, Englishman won the Newspaper Illustrator Award from the NCS.

#37 Isaiah McAllister
March/9/2010
@ 8:22 pm

I’ve never really been interested in winning a Reuben.

Probably because I really don’t care for corned beef all that much. But, to each their own.

#38 Shane Davis
March/9/2010
@ 8:23 pm

I thought in order to win a Rueben you first had to:
#1 – Be a member of the NCS, which means you sought them out, applied, had sponsors and were evaluated and accepted by a board,
#2 – Had to submit work you thought was great and offer it up to be considered in the hopes of being nominated,
#3 – Win the greatest number of votes from the NCS membership from all competing nominees.

I just took a cursory glance at the list of names Mr. Harvey wrote and compared it to the membership list on the NCS website and the only three that were NCS members out of his whole list were Jack Kirby, Harvey Kurtzman and Gluyas Williams. If the other weren’t members, why is he smoldering over them not winning?

Berke Breathed wasn’t a member and to my knowledge wasn’t ever even nominated, so he couldn’t win, right?

Seems to me this is a private club people have to pay to get into, and there is no more guarantee you have a right to win their most prestigious award (much less get IN) than you would if you made application to an exclusive private university. They let in who them choose to, it isn’t a public library or welfare.

Sorry, but it just seems like whining. If he doesn’t like it, he can start his own club and give out all the awards he wants.

#39 Charles Brubaker
March/9/2010
@ 8:52 pm

Shane,

No, you don’t have to be a member to win.

Bill Watterson and Gary Larson were never NCS members and they won the Reubens (Bill won twice)

#40 R.C. Harvey
March/9/2010
@ 9:06 pm

I’ve written about Stephan Pastis before at the Comics Journal website, but I was doubtless assuming too much to suppose that what I’d said before would reside in any reader’s mind for long. But in the interest of somewhat greater clarity, here’s what I wrote before (on December 14, to be exact):
Stephan Pastis is one of the nicest guys you?ll ever meet?self-effacing, shy even, soft-spoken, modest. Not at all the sort of fellow you?d imagine him to be judging from the most conspicuous evidence we have at hand, his comic strip. Based upon that evidence, we must conclude that Pastis is an arrogant egomaniacal blow-hard who scoffs mercilessly at his readers and his fellow cartoonists. How can I say that? Come now: anyone who names his comic strip Pearls Before Swine is expressing an overweening disdain for his readers. Day after day, he casts his ?pearls??his comic strip?before the ?swine,? his readers. That conclusion is inescapable.
As for his similar disdain for his professional colleagues, we have as evidence the infantile scrawl of his drawings in the strip. Stick figures, slightly modified. But we know Pastis can draw better than that. Whenever he draws himself or any of the characters from other strips that he regularly dragoons into cameo appearances in his, we see a drawing ability on display that is superior to the stick-figure style he assumes when rendering Rat, Pig, Goat, and the rest. When he draws little Jeffy from The Family Circus, Pastis apes Bil Keane?s style perfectly. And since Keane (both father and son, who is now doing the feature solo) has considerable drawing ability at his fingertips, we know, perforce, that Pastis does to.
So when he draws his characters in a way that they resemble hors d?oeuvres on toothpicks, we know he?s doing minimal work, artistically speaking. In effect, he?s ridiculing his hard-working fellow cartoonists, many of whom spend almost every waking hour making the elaborate drawings in their strips. I can almost hear him scoffing: ?You fools! You spend your lives pushing ink around on paper, but I have achieved fame and fortune with the barest resemblance of drawing in my strip. Don?t you wish you?d thought of this?? Scorn drips from every syllable.
But, as I say, Stephan Pastis is actually one of the nicest guys you?ll ever meet?as long as you meet him somewhere other than in his comic strip.
That’s what I said back then.
As for the rest, well—can of worms indeed.

#41 Shane Davis
March/9/2010
@ 9:43 pm

@ Charles,
Thanks, I didn’t know that, but still I think the point is valid that it IS a private club…they can give the award to anyone they want.

I just think it sounds presumptuous say the NCS should have given the awards to someone else other than who won it.

I know Mr. Harvey is an NCS member, so I guess he does have the right to grinch if the guy he’s pulling for doesn’t win, but after the fact it seems a bit…well, unseemly.

I don’t understand why throwing brickbats at Stephan Pastis does any good, either. Seems to me, in this day and age, ANYONE who can get more eyes and attention on the funny papers is a real good thing. And Pastis has attracted a wide audience, no matter what his strip looks like.

No one would argue that Scott Adams, Gary Larson or even Bill Amend is a John Singer Sargent, but they did a heck of a lot of good for comics, too.

Pastis rocks.

#42 Mark_Tatulli
March/9/2010
@ 10:20 pm

My dear Mr. Harvey, with all due respect, you have gotten Stephan Pastis completely wrong. There is nothing remotely nice about him.

#43 R.C. Harvey
March/9/2010
@ 11:16 pm

Ooops. Sorry. One other thing. I didn’t expect any of my remarks to influence the balloting for the Reuben because that is probably complete by now. The ballots went out to members in February, and I’m pretty sure everyone who’s going to vote has voted. In other words, I was not lobbying for or against any of the finalists.
End of worms.

#44 Phil Judd
March/9/2010
@ 11:56 pm

I was actually just joking…but thanks for all the good information…by the way Mike Cope I love your stuff you are one very talented cartoonist…

#45 Phil Judd
March/10/2010
@ 12:05 am

Gary Larson and Bill Waterson were never memebers? Wow…so whats the importance of these organizations…???
These guys obviously made it without being overly involved…

Did they attend to recieve their awards???

#46 Peter Broelman
March/10/2010
@ 5:24 am

The NCS can’t dictate to its membership how they should vote. Likewise the Australian Cartoonists Association experiences a similar trend amongst its membership who lean towards editorial cartoonists in the Stanley Awards. Beats me why. That’s democracy for you.

Phil, while Larson and Watterson were never members of the NCS, the importance of the NCS should not be downplayed. Having been to four Reubens I have seen first hand just how important the NCS is. Which reminds me I better pay my dues!

#47 Bill Hinds
March/10/2010
@ 11:15 am

Geez, I love Pastis’s art in Pearls Before Swine. No kidding. It’s a perfect blend of the idea and the visual.
By the way, my kids love Pearls Before Swine, and the opinion of their generation is quite a bit more significant to the future of the business than R.C. Harvey’s and/or mine.

#48 Scott Metzger
March/10/2010
@ 11:39 am

“I love Pastis?s art in Pearls Before Swine. No kidding. It?s a perfect blend of the idea and the visual.”

I’ve always felt the same way. No matter what the reason is for Pastis drawing in the ‘simple’ style, it’s over the line to call it an “insult to cartooning.”

#49 R.C. Harvey
March/10/2010
@ 11:42 am

I’m delighted to agree with Bill Hinds. And I also agree with Peter Broelman (who, not at all incidentally, won the ACA’s Gold Stanley “cartoonist of the year” last November)—you can’t dictate to people how to vote. But NCS already does that in the form of guidelines that must be followed in the Reuben Division awards. How about a similar guideline for the Reuben itself? At present, members cast a preliminary ballot in order to determine the finalists: they write in the names of 5 nominees. From those, three finalists are picked. Why not encourage members to think beyond syndicated cartooning when making their initial 5 nominees? Suggest (“suggest”) that every voter nominate with his 5 “votes” cartoonists from at least three Reuben divisions (since, conveniently, the divisions represent virtually all of the genres of cartooning). Admittedly, that’s a kind of affirmative action, but if the designation “outstanding cartoonist of the year” is to mean anything, it seems to me that there should be some structure that would broaden the focus so as to embrace a larger swath of the profession.

#50 Mark_Tatulli
March/10/2010
@ 12:24 pm

“I’m delighted to agree with Bill Hines”

Huh?

Mr. Harvey, I think you’re off your nut about a mile and a half.

#51 Jan Eliot
March/10/2010
@ 2:54 pm

In my post expressing my feelings about the NCS, I thoughtlessly made a broad statement that included the board, which is made up of many fine individuals. I stand by my feelings toward the NCS as an entity, but did not mean to insult random individuals.

Thanks to my cartoonist friends who emailed me with their concerns about this.

#52 Mark_Tatulli
March/10/2010
@ 3:43 pm

Soooo…the cartoonists aren’t bad, they just do bad things. Is that right?

#53 Shane Davis
March/10/2010
@ 6:45 pm

Mr. Harvey, can you tell us how you feel about web comics?

#54 Rich Diesslin
March/10/2010
@ 9:35 pm

R.C. sure, but any instruction other than pick 5 is sort of creates a bias of it’s own don’t you think?

#55 Derf Backderf
March/11/2010
@ 7:33 am

As I recall, there was a similar thread when the last Pulitzer winner was announced.

All awards suck. Especially when I don’t win them.

#56 Stephanie McMillan
March/11/2010
@ 8:02 am

Pearls Before Swine is one of my favorite strips. It’s funny. It’s cute. The stripped-down style and bold lettering works great for the teensy spaces comics are reduced to these days. There’s not a lot of room for frills. It takes skill to pare down to the essentials but retain enough complexity to keep characters and jokes interesting and surprising.

#57 Ed Harrington
March/11/2010
@ 9:59 am

I love Pearls. The writing is great, and the drawing style is perfect for the strip. Mr. Pastis is not just drawing “stick figures.” They do convey emotions, quirks and personalities. How is that bad art?

#58 R.C. Harvey
March/11/2010
@ 11:35 am

I agree with Bill Hinds that neither his opinion nor mine will have much effect on the future of cartooning.
I never said Pastis’ art was “bad”; nor did I say he shouldn’t get the Reuben. What I said was: “All three do credible commercial work?they produce funny features of unconventional comedy?although Piraro and Thompson are more admirable than Pastis, whose toothpicked-olive draftsmanship bespeaks of convenience rather than ineptitude and is therefore an insult to cartooning.”
If something is “less admirable,” that doesn’t mean it isn’t admirable at all. I admire Pastis’ offbeat comedic sense, but I don’t like his drawing style.
As for web comics, I don’t see much that engages me, but I don’t look around much either, so my opinion on this topic shouldn’t matter at all. I love Ishida’s Sinfest, both comedy and art. He should get a Reuben. Except that he’s a web cartoonist and web cartoonists have a hard time getting into NCS; not that you must be a member to get a Reuben—you don’t have to be. But it helps who you know.

#59 Jason Nocera
March/11/2010
@ 11:54 am

Could it be that syndicated newspaper comic strip artists are the typical nominations because you see their work on a daily basis and the names are fresh in your head? Perhaps it’s just a matter of awareness.

#60 Mark_Tatulli
March/11/2010
@ 12:03 pm

If you say a drawing style is “an insult to cartooning” I don’t know what other conclusion one could come to other than you think it’s bad. And you are certainly entitled to your opinion…I just don’t know what makes you an expert.

#61 Stephen Beals
March/11/2010
@ 12:26 pm

Less admirable still means admirable. Uh-huh. Ok.

Since we’re talking about Stephan Pastis, I’ll stick to comic strips.

Obviously, there are plenty of well-trained artists and writers who understand that the physical confines of the comic format forces a sort of creativity that you don’t see anywhere else. Minimalism is rewarded in comics. Easily defined, iconic characters are neccessary for a format that’s squished into newspapers.

I suppose if Picasso were drawing Pearls Before Swine it would be another brilliant stroke of genius for him to puposefully simplify objects down to their base form so that the sarcastic writing style was properly emphasized.

I remember when people gasped that Ollie Johnston liked the character design of The Simpsons. “But Matt Groening can’t draw!” Blah Blah Blah. It’s the character design combined with the writing, which (trained or not) is better than most of what’s out there that makes Pearls Before Swine work. I think an equally creative person, like Ollie Johnston, would get that.

To say that Pearls is an insult to cartooning is beyond ignorance.

#62 David Pritchard
March/11/2010
@ 12:42 pm

“I never said Pastis? art was ‘bad’….I admire Pastis? offbeat comedic sense.”

I thought all that was pretty clear when you called him an “insult to cartooning.”

#63 Stephen Beals
March/11/2010
@ 1:12 pm

I’d like to add that cartooning is about a combination of funny drawing and writing. That’s what Pastis does so well and that’s what RC Cola isn’t getting.

Many, many great artists in comics aren’t talked about much these days because the strips they worked on just weren’t that interesting.

If you’re a characaturist or Sergio Aragones (or Mark Tatulli) there’s still funny writing, or thoughts, to go with the drawings. Otherwise, you’re an illustrator and outside of this discussion.

#64 John Sanford
March/11/2010
@ 2:03 pm

RC who?
No one listens to that jackass. His analysis of “Pearls” and the meaning behind the title is the kind of knee-jerk overreaching psuedo-intellectual nonsense we used to laugh at in art school.
Treat him the same way you might treat a street corner soliciter for Greenpeace or the Catholic Church: avoid eye-contact and move on.

#65 Lucas Turnbloom
March/11/2010
@ 2:15 pm

I’m gonna take kick this brawl up a notch.
Web comics.

#66 Mike Cope
March/11/2010
@ 2:28 pm

Nice t-shirt, Turnbloom :)

#67 Stephen Beals
March/11/2010
@ 3:09 pm

@ John Sanford,

In the future I’m just going to wait for you to comment. Yeah! What he said!

RC Cola. RC Harvey. I avoid both and get the real thing instead.

#68 Conroy Mitty
March/11/2010
@ 3:13 pm

John Sanford:

“Pseudo-intellectual nonsense”? Pearls before swine is taken from the bible, and RC’s “analysis” is just a straightforward reading of the verse. There’s no overreaching frippery, it’s just what the metaphor means. I disagree with him about other stuff, but let’s not get all anti-intellectual without knowing the context.
Also, Pearls Before Swine was a great band from the 60s.

#69 Mark_Tatulli
March/11/2010
@ 3:45 pm

“frippery”?! There’s only ONE person who uses words like “frippery”…and “overweening” and “dragoons” and “perforce”…

Isn’t that right, “Mr. Mitty”?

Secret life, indeed….

#70 Alex Hallatt
March/11/2010
@ 3:45 pm

Maybe RC Harvey should set up his own awards night, the Reubens Fringe.

#71 Scott Metzger
March/11/2010
@ 4:03 pm

This reminds me of this time I went to Baskin Robbins and ordered a large Oreo Frippery. I liked the taste of it but it looked disgusting. It was an insult to ice cream drinks.

#72 John Sanford
March/11/2010
@ 4:05 pm

Conroy, I am well aware of the origin of the phrase “Pearls before Swine”. I believe it can be found in the book of Proverbs, my personal favorite book of the bible. What I believe is overreaching is that Harvey assumes that Pastis is using this proverb to describe how he views his audience.
This is a baseless assumption, which I consider to be “anti-intellectual”.

#73 Rich Diesslin
March/11/2010
@ 8:36 pm

Wow, this is getting ugly. Time to go find a horse and beat it. Oh wait, nevermind.

#74 Joe Rank
March/11/2010
@ 9:29 pm

I can only laugh derisively towards the pups, talently challenged, and utter know-nothings that spout off against Bob Harvey!

Disagree with him if you must.
You only display foolishness by criticising a master you don’t know.

#75 Mike Peterson
March/11/2010
@ 9:47 pm

… seem to have wandered into r.a.c.s. by mistake …

#76 Stephen Beals
March/11/2010
@ 9:55 pm

Yeah! I’m a pup!

The pups love Pastis.

#77 John Sanford
March/12/2010
@ 3:15 am

RC is a master of something? REally? What?

#78 Donna Barstow
March/12/2010
@ 4:07 am

No one trusts the NCS Reubens, so I’m glad someone finally pointed it out. It’s an insular little group, and some huge majority are retirees who vote for the same (men) over and over and over.

For many years none of us gag cartoonists had any interest in the NCS, but the Reubens finally came to Pasadena one year, and a friend persuaded me to go. I had a blast!

And of course last year they came to LA – 5 minutes closer than Pasadena. I started a diet for it! But the price was $465 (to rejoin and attend) for…not hotels, not travel, but just 3 meals! See, that part wasn’t clear because there is NO info anywhere on what you get for the money, if you’re not currently a member!

I emailed them and Phil Pyster wrote back that if I just wanted to go to the dinner Sat night it would be “only” $145. Oh, and there was no publicity because the NCS is a very intimate – members-only event, and they aren’t allowed to post details online. (I guess that’s why I can never find the nominees, so I stopped looking years ago.)

An organization that doesn’t publicize anything, ESPECIALLY for its own current or possible members is either hiding something or socially retarded. (And anyone remember May 5 Cartoonist Day? They did that one year, then dropped it.) How can you get new members that way?? I would never have joined the first time if someone hadn’t told me the Reubens were in town, so any possible new members in LA never learned squat last year.

Someone mentioned the ethics committee. Didn’t know they had one. But how about Phil being President of the travel agency/management co which actually sets up the Reubens each year, AND SETS THE PRICES, and yet he is also actually part of the NCS Board!!! Apparently he approves his own prices then. Conflict much?

#79 Peter Broelman
March/12/2010
@ 7:11 am

Ah nothing like a non-member telling a members-only organisation how to treat non-members.

#80 rick stromoski
March/12/2010
@ 7:25 am

@Donna- You are mustaken on several accounts

The Reuben pricing (room rate, food and beverage, audio /visual) is set by the negotiation of the NCS President with the venue…Not by Crow Segal the management company. Crow Segal is not a travel agency nor does it negotiate any pricing with the hotels, the NCS President does. I know this because I was NCS President for two years and also assisted 3 previous presidents prior to my service. Crow segal doees not arrange travel for attendees. Attendees arrange their own travel. Crow segal assists the NCS President in the running of the weekend.

You are mistaken when you state the the huge majority of the NCS membership are retirees. Of the 400 or so members, about 12 are actually retired.

Voting for the awards is done democratically. For The REUBEN each NCS member gets a ballot where they nominate 5 cartoonists. The top 3 go onto a second ballot and the winner is chosen from that final tally….one person one vote. Division awards are decided by the chapters. Each chapter gets a division on a rotating basis each year. Chapter forms a committee which review submissions and then submit a winner and 2 runners up for each award.
There are no secret back rooms of old boys voting for themselves.

As to your registration costs concerns,
NCS members who are in arrears on their dues need to pay their back dues ($150) if they wish to attend the Reuben weekend at the Member rate (Between $299 and $350) in recent years. That is why you had to pay the rate you did when you wanted to attend.

For your $299 registration you get more than 3 meals. You get access to all seminars, opening nite cocktail party with lavish buffet and open bar, full buffet breakfasts saturday and sunday, seminars all day saturday, black tie Reuben awards banquet with again, open bar, sunday brunch, sunday seminars, and usually a sunday nite show/roast/dance party with another dinner buffet and open bar.

I beg you to point to any event that offers as much for so little. The Reubens also take place at 5 diamond hotels usually in a major city or resort at greatly reduced room rates. As NCS President I hosted two Reuben weekends at the Chicagp Renaissance whose normal rates were $529 a night and I was able to negotiate a rate of $149 a nite. In Orlando we stayed a the Ritz Carlton, normally $450-599 a nite and I got it down to $139

Your charge that the NCS doesn’t publicize the Reuben event to it’s members is false…The Reubens is publicized to it’s members by a release of a brochure several months in advance (I just received mine yesterday in fact) In this package is a full color brochure with all information of seminar guests, room rates, registration fee etc. and registration forms included.

The NCS has a publicity committee that releases a press release prior to and immediately after the Reuben event to ALL media outlets. This is headed by Hilary Price in recent years. It is unfortunate that the media chooses not to publicize our event but we have no control over that.

Yes were are a private affair…just as the Oscars, Emmys, Tonys and Gammys are only open to their members, so is the Reubens only open to it’s members.

I think I answered every one of your concerns and hope this clears up any confusion on your part as to how the Reuben weekend is put together.

#81 Ted Dawson
March/12/2010
@ 1:22 pm

It wasn’t just Cartoonist Day, it was Cartoonist Appreciation Day. That went over well.

But something good did come of it. Independent comic book people turned it into Free Comic Book Day, which has continued to grow every year. It was an ingenious way to promote the industry and get people to go to comics shops. This year Free Comic Book Day will be May 1.

#82 Donna Barstow
March/12/2010
@ 5:21 pm

Peter: I’ve been a member on and off.
Rick: Still don’t understand what Crow Segal does, and why the President of CS is on the board of the NCS, when CS is getting paid.

I’ve been given much different info on retirees from someone inside. So all the other retirees just…vanished?

Yes, I understand the voting. Same old, same old. I don’t think it’s back room, I think it’s in a rut.

Thanks for telling me what I WOULD have gotten. Neither Phil nor Bill Keane would tell me anything, no details at all, other than a dinner Sat night. That’s ridiculous.

I’m not going to pretend that money doesn’t matter, because it definitely does, at least to me. It was a terrible year. Your numbers are different. I was told I had to pay $450 as a guest or 465 to rejoin.

No pricing was sent to the members last year until March 31. Yes, there was a pretty brochure. No, it didn’t say what you got for your bucks, nor list guests nor events, nor seminars, etc. Listing hotel rates is not…enough.

My point about publicity to the outside world is…of course you have control of that, Rick!!! That is the point of using PR – to get the media outlets to understand, respect, and admire the hard-working cartoonists all over! It was really cool to see all the cartoonists doing a cartoon for May 5. It was great to see the nominees listed in the paper (once, I think). People are fascinated by cartoonists – fanboys at ComiCon? Come on!!! Let’s feed their interest!

Oscars, Emmys, etc…yes, I think I’ve seen a little bit of publicity about these. And I saw some Hollywood names who are NOT members OR guests hanging at the Reubens in LA – at least in photos and reports.

That was as close as I got. :(

#83 rick stromoski
March/12/2010
@ 7:30 pm

@ Donna

Crow Segal is the management company for the NCS and the NCS foundation.They help run the day to day business of the NCS. This includes mailings, data base management, finance management, executing the directions of the NCS President, registering attendees for the conventions and comicon, things that a management company is hired to do.

Phil is NOT on the board of Directors of either the NCS or the NCSF. He has no executive decision making powers for the workings of the NCS. He does attend Board meetings, as all management company execs do for their clients. His attendance is necessary to be privy to the business of the NCS and implement the directions of it’s President and Board of Directors.

AS to your insistance of the retiree issue…A perfunctory glance at the NCS membership Directory that is given to every NCS member would tell you exactly how many retirees there are in the organization for it lists EVERY members status as either Regular, Associate or Retired. I don’t know who your person on the “Inside” is but perhaps you’re getting bad information that’s easily verifiable just by looking at your Directory. A few DO disappear every year unfortunately, and we honor them in a memorial portion of the Reuben banquet.

You are again mistaken regarding the NCS brochure. It lists in DETAIL everything that you get at the Reuben weekend. Steve Mcgarry has been the designer of the brochure for the past several years and I can assure you it certainly lists a detailed itinerary of events that includes seminars, guest speakers, cocktail parties, banquets, brunches, karaoke, registration and room reservation information is all there in a full color 4 page brochure. I’m looking at mine right now form last year.

As for Cartoonists day….the idea may have been well meaning at first, but the consensus was that most cartoonists who were asked to participate felt it an imposition. The onus for it fell on the syndicated members since they were the only ones who could really participate. Most resented being told to put a mention of it in their strips and panels and felt it was a contrivance. It flopped miserably. You can’t force people to participate in an exercise that they feel is self serving.

As for non NCS members attending the Reubens , they can attend as guests of regular members. They just have to pay a higher rate if they are not friends or family members. When you take into account what your yearly dues are in which you were in arrears and the membership rate for the Reuben weekend, you’d see you would have paid no more than any other regular member.

As I stated earlier the publicity committee sends out PR to all media outlets. We can’t force TV, newspapers and Radio to run stories on our convention, we can only give them the information if they wish to use it in the sincerest hopes that they will. I’m guessing that those in the media don’t hold cartooning as important or as high a profile as they do movies, music and television.

The President of the NCS is not Bill Keane but his son Jeff Keane. Bill is also spelled Bil.

I hope this clears up any continued confusion on your part regarding the NCS, it’s members, management company, convention details, the name of it’s President and how a management company works.

#84 guy endore-kaiser
March/14/2010
@ 12:50 am

it’s is spelled its

#85 Lucas Turnbloom
March/15/2010
@ 2:37 pm

HAHA! Thanks, Mike.

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