Tom Batiuk creator of the comic feature Funky Winkerbean is one of the three finalists for this year’s Pulitzer Prize. This is the fourth time a comic strip has been considered for American journalism’s top prize. Two previous comic strippers have won the prize Garry Trudeau (1975) and Berkeley Breathed (1987).
According to the judges, Tom’s work was deserving “for a sequence in his cartoon strip “Funky Winkerbean” that portrays a woman’s poignant battle with breast cancer.”
“Lisa’s Story” was the biggest story in syndicated comic strips last year as many readers wrestled with reading a story-arc regarding breast cancer in the “funny pages.” Worse yet, the story ended with the death of the strip’s main character spurring more debate on the comic’s appropriateness.
Funny page appropriateness debate aside, Tom’s work certainly raised the profile for breast cancer and funds as well. Proceeds from Tom’s book “Lisa’s Story, The Other Shoe” go to a new fund called Lisa’s Legacy Fund that helps fund cancer cure research.
Today’s announcement places him in a very select crowd. It is not entirely unusual for a comic strip cartoonist to be a finalist or even win the Pulitzer. As mentioned above Trudeau won the Pulitzer for editorial cartooning in 1975 for his dealing with Watergate and has been nominated three more times (1990, 2004 and 2005). Breathed won the prize in 1987 for his social satire in Bloom County and Lynn Johnston was nominated in 1994 for her strip, For Better or For Worse which dealt with the coming out of a gay character.
Tom, humbly added that this honor isn’t completely his, that he had the help of a great editor, Jay Kennedy at King Features. Tom calls Jay a great “referee” who “had the ability to get the best out of me.” Jay had read and reviewed the entire “Lisa’s Story” script prior to his untimely death last spring off the coast of Costa Rica.