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Rube Goldberg on the political cartooning

Allan Holtz over at the Strippers Guide has posted an interesting article written and published by Rube Goldberg in April 1923 about his views on editorial cartooning.

People have learned that the comic art ist is not shooting at the moon. He is try ing to hit something that is very near you â?? in fact somewhere inside of you near the heart. The seemingly small things that he centers his drawings around are really much bigger than the Republican elephant and the Democratic mule. They are as big as life itself. And they are much closer to the average man than any composite pic ture of the whole universe.

The newspaper readers seem to have got ten wise to some of the political bunk at least. They won’t bother about a political cartoon now unless they know there is a good idea in back of it. You can show them a whole row of Uncle Sams and in stead of saying, ” Isn’t it wonderful!” they will ask, “How do you play it?”

The comic man is out of the nut class because people now know that the symbols he uses are really the symbols of human nature. They are very definite and they strike home. They are the smallest and at the same time the biggest things we know. Why, once in a while, they even ask us to come to dinners and meetings and say something!

Community Comments

#1 Beth Cravens
August/9/2008
@ 11:45 am

I love Rube

#2 frank white
August/10/2008
@ 3:32 pm

I read recently that the NCS does not give it’s Reuben statuette to a cartoonist more than once. Schulz was allowed to recieve it twice in the past, as was Jeff McNelly and Watterson. Why did this rule get changed? I’m suspecting it was to stop Bill Watterson from winning a third Reuben as the whole party on those nights must have been a real let down for everyone as he never turned up to the awards ceremonies.Seriously, nobody has come even close to winning a second Ruuben since these guys so can anybody tell me why this rule exists? The Oscars don’t have this rule and the Ruebens are often billed as the Oscars of cartooning.

#3 Rick Stromoski
August/11/2008
@ 8:51 am

The membership of the NCS voted sometime around 1996 to limit the Cartoonist of the Year award to a once in a lifetime. Some of the arguments for the change compared the Reuben to a Hall of Fame type award and once you’re in the Hall of Fame there’s no need to be elected again.

Some of the arguments against were that a Cartoonists work can win a Reuben for two different features or in Sparky’s case, two bodies of work from different decades… 1955 Peanuts was quite different from 1964 Peanuts.

Around the time that the discussion/debate took place, it seemed for nearly a decade the same 4 cartoonists were nominated/won every year…Larson and Watterson and either
Lynn Johnston or Garry Trudeau. In Larson and Watterson’s case, many attendees grew weary of seeing a syndicate executive accept cartooning’s highest award year after year since neither Larson nor Watterson ever bothered to show up or ever express thanks to the NCS for the honor…although they readily accepted their Reubens. I suspect that this was a factor for the change as well.

Bil Keane led the campaign to limit the Reuben to once in a lifetime and it was debated at the yearly business meeting as well as at the chapter level and in the newsletter. Many good arguments were made for and against. But the vast majority voted for the change. I recall it was about a 2 to 1 vote.

I tend to agree with Bil since historically many deserving cartoonists were overlooked for the Reuben since the membership tended to vote for syndicated newspaper cartoonists. Without the rule change I doubt that well deserving cartoonists like Jack Davis, Sergio Aragones, Wil Eisner, Al Jaffee and Matt Groening would have gotten their Reubens’.

You can see a list of Reuben winners at http://www.reuben.org/ncs/archive/divisions/reuben2.asp

#4 Rick Stromoski
August/11/2008
@ 8:54 am

>>>The Oscars donâ??t have this rule and the Ruebens are often billed as the Oscars of cartooning.

The Oscars are given to actors who appear in different movies year to year.

One of the arguments made against giving the Reuben to a feature that’s won before would be the equivalent to giving a Best Actor oscar to George C. Scott every year for Patton.

#5 Wiley Miller
August/11/2008
@ 9:32 am

It should also be pointed out that Bil Keane is a Reuben Award winner, so his push for the rule change was made out of what was best for the organization and the prestige of the award itself rather than any self interest. He’s a genuine man of great integrity, which is an attribute that has been passed on to his son, Jeff, who is the current president of the NCS.

#6 frank white
August/11/2008
@ 10:31 am

Thanks for clearing that up for me Rick.That was very interesting.

#7 Rich Diesslin
August/11/2008
@ 10:51 am

Good question, great replies (Rick and Wiley). Makes sense to me.

#8 Jesse Cline
August/11/2008
@ 11:05 am

“The Oscars are given to actors who appear in different movies year to year.

One of the arguments made against giving the Reuben to a feature thatâ??s won before would be the equivalent to giving a Best Actor oscar to George C. Scott every year for Patton.”

I know you aren’t the one that brought up the Oscars, but I don’t think that is a fair comparison. A comic is a recurring series like a television show. An actor can win multiple Emmy’s for the same character on the same show, as long as its a different season.

I guess it depends on how you look at it. If its a yearly award, I think giving out Reubens only once cheapens it. It becomes a matter of giving it to who hasn’t gotten one yet, or whose turn it is, instead of who actually drew the best comic that year.

But on the other hand, if its more of a lifetime achievement type award and/or applied to the entire body of work and not just that one year, I guess it makes sense to give it only one.

#9 Wiley Miller
August/11/2008
@ 12:26 pm

Making analogies with other awards in an entirely different medium is fruitless and an utter waste of time. There is no such thing as a completely “fair” award system in any field that will please everyone. All any of them can do is try their best in dealing with the realities within the particular artform. There’s always room for improvement for any award system, but unless you’re involved with that system, you’ll never know all the problems inherent with making changes.

#10 Joe Williams
August/13/2008
@ 6:18 pm

We tend to think of those old time cartoonists as naive (or, at least to me that seems how they get portrayed in the media- that were almost idiot savants who simply doodled funny pictures) and that cartoons were “in their infancy” but in fact I think cartoons were already a mature art form and the people creating them were very intelligent and perceptive people who understood their art much better than cartoonists of today.

#11 frank white
August/15/2008
@ 11:36 am

Rick , correct if I’m wrong but isn’t the Golen Brick Award supposed to be the Lifetime Achievement/Hall of Fame type of award? If so then my question still remains why only give one Rueben to one cartoonist in his/her own lifetime?

#12 Rick Stromoski
August/15/2008
@ 12:08 pm

The Milt Caniff Award is the Lifetime acheivement award for the NCS. Given to a living cartoonist who had shown a lifetime of outstanding work …

>>>If so then my question still remains why only give one Rueben to one cartoonist in his/her own lifetime?

See my first post.

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