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.
3 thoughts on “Tom Batiuk is 2008 Pulitzer Prize Finalist”
This would be the fourth strip to be considered for Pulitzer.
“For Better or For Worse” was a finalist in 1994. (Ironically, “Foob” lost to Mike Ramirez, this year’s winner)
Good for him. Every one in eight women get breast cancer. Like it or not on the comics page, it IS a mainstream subject. As somebody sitting here with a fresh ten inch scar on my chest where a breast used to be, I have to say I’m glad that they honored his courage to do that series.
Posthumous kudos to Jay Kennedy for allowing it. I’m not sure all syndicates would have.
Congrats to Tom. If memory is correct it created some controversy among editorial cartoonist the last two times a comic strip won. While it seems logical that since it’s a cartoon, a comic strip would be put it the Editorial cartoon category. But couldn’t it also be put in the Fiction writing category or non-fiction? It seems to me that in this case that would make more sense. It’s an illustrated story being told in several chapters. That has more in common with a book than Editorial cartoon.
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