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Interview: New NCS president Tom Richmond

MAD Magazine cartoonist Tom Richmond took the helm of the National Cartoonists Society this year. He has big shoes to fail. Tom succeeds Jef Keane who lead the organization for 2 two year terms. He’s been a member of the professional organization since 1998. I asked him a few questions regarding his new role as president.

Alan: For those not familiar with the NCS, what are the primary responsibilities of the NCS President?

Tom: The NCS president is the chairman of the board of directors and acts as the head of the NCS in all matters. Primarily that means addressing any issues that arise, identifying and undertaking any initiatives for the organization, organizing committees and appointing committee chairmen to undertake said initiatives and oversee NCS programs or activities, plan the annual Reuben Weekends and in general boss everybody around. Apparently I also have to provide the snacks at the board meetings… nobody told me about that part.

Alan: How long have you been a member of the NCS?

Tom: I became a member in 1998 and attended my first Reubens in 1999 in San Antonio. Surprisingly I was not banned from attending future Reubens, and have not missed one since.

Alan: At what point did you become a board member in the organization and why?

Tom: I was approached by some board members and asked if I would be interested in serving on the board. The NCS has done a lot for me, and I felt I needed to give back in whatever way I could. I tried to just give them a fruitcake but somehow ended up as president.

Alan: What are the challenges you see for the organization in the next couple of years?

Tom: Our industry is changing with the evolution of entertainment and how it is delivered and consumed by readers. The biggest challenge of the NCS is to grow and evolve along with the industry.

Alan: At the end of your term, is there something you want to be able to say you’ve accomplished?

Tom: I’d like to be able to say I made some positive impact on the organization, and not just that I kept it status quo.

Alan: This last year, webcomic creators were invited to participate. Was that a one time thing or will there be more outreach and inclusion to the webcomic creators?

Tom: Webcomics creators have never been excluded from the NCS just because they did webcomics. The NCS has always been an organization of professional cartoonists, and the requirements for membership are that a cartoonist earn the majority of their income from cartooning for the past three years. The sources of income from cartooning is also evolving, making that professional determination harder to quantify. This is one of the challenges that industry evolution I mentioned before has created. Cartooning on the internet is a big part of the future of our industry, and I foresee more active participation in the NCS by web cartoonists, both at the Reubens and within the organization.

Alan: There has been a devaluation of comics in the last decade (my opinion based on declines in print medium, increase in stock art, etc. ) How does the NCS view the state of the industry and what is it doing to promote cartooning in general?

Tom: Cartooning is about a lot more than just the comics page. The NCS is not just a group of syndicated strip cartoonists… and has not been for many, many years now. Most of our members do work in other areas of print like comics, books, magazines and greeting cards as well as in advertising, TV and film animation and other media. Given all these different outlets, the cartooning industry is thriving and has an exciting future. Comics and cartoons are not something readers are going to suddenly not want to read, view and enjoy, even if where they get their comics is beginning to change. As long as people want their comics and cartoons, there will be an industry and cartoonists to create that work. The NCS will do what it’s always done: promote cartooning by networking industry professionals together, reaching out to the public about our industry and recognizing excellence in the work being done.

Alan: Mike Peters has his superman costume, you have your batman costume – any chance of the two joining forces?

Tom: We have discussed a “World’s Finest” collaboration, but Mike won’t stop hugging me long enough for me to get the armor on.

Community Comments

#1 John Read
@ 2:36 pm

Tom says “the NCS is not just a group of syndicated strip cartoonists,” and he’s right. While many of its membership is made up of newspaper comics creators, most members are not. There is a wonderful assemblage of gag cartoonists, animators, caricaturists, greeting card illustrators, comic book artists, editoonists and more…including some whose income is derived from the internet. I think it speaks volumes that an Idiot like Tom has been chosen as the NCS’s president, and he’s serving with a board of directors made up of men and women working in various fields.

#2 Dave Stephens
@ 2:49 pm

And by “Idiot” you mean Mad Magazine’s pre-eminent caricature artist and cartoonist extraordinaire (for those not familiar with Mad Magazine’s catch-phrase, “The Usual Gang of Idiots”).

Tom is the obvious choice for President, especially considering his own wide range of achievements and marketing savvy…

#3 Tom Racine
@ 9:17 pm

Actually, they now choose NCS President with a bench press test. So Tom should be President for life. :)

I think that Tom is uniquely qualified to be in charge during this time of transition for cartoonists in general. A long track record in the industry, embracing of the web, marketing skills, and a Batarang. What else do you need?

#4 Gerry Mooney
@ 3:16 pm

“MAD Magazine cartoonist Tom Richmond took the helm of the National Cartoonists Society this year. He has big shoes to fall.”

Ouch, Freudian slip I’m sure!

Hey Tom, Commissioner Wayne on the Phatbone, er, Batphone!!

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