The National Cartoonists Society has created a new and separate award category for webcomics this year in its division awards. The category is simply named “On-Line Comic Strips” and requires that the feature be a comic strip (no single panel or long-form narrative), appear on the web only at least weekly, and the creator has shown a consistent and timely publication over the course of the 2011 calendar year. The winner must also earn “greater part of their living directly from the strip/property.”
That last requirement has always been a tough one to judge. As NCS President Tom Richmond notes the NCS awards “are industry awards, not art awards.”
The tricky part is the definition of “professional” with regards to web-comics/self-published work. The NCS awards are industry awards, not art awards. One of the criteria for consideration is that the creators be a professional cartoonist, and eligible for NCS membership (they do not have to BE members, but must be eligible for membership). Without independent verification (like a syndicate, editor or publisher who pays the cartoonist for their work) of a few criteria to that end, it’s difficult to separate the pros (i.e. those who are both fully committed to their craft for a career, and who make some substantial amount of income from it) from the hobbyists. We need an independent “screening committee” to review the creators who’s work is being considered to give us their opinion on if they meet the definition of “professional”, and this is what we have put together. Our screening committee will be made up of six experts on webcomics who are deeply involved/knowledgeable in the world of online comics including journalists and professors from major art colleges who are very enthusiastic about participating.
To sift through the submissions, the NCS has created a panel of experts that include Bill Amend, creator of Foxtrot, David Allan Duncan, Professor of Sequential Art Graduate Coordinator, Savannah College of Art and Design, Andrew Farago, Curator, Cartoon Art Museum, Michael Jantze, Professor of Sequential Art and Animation, Savannah College of Art and Design, Rick Marshall, freelance writer, editor, and producer, Time Inc., MTV News, IFC, Movies.com, Digital Trends, CBR and Gary Tyrrell, writer/editor of Fleen.com. The job of the panel is to not only screen submissions, but also recommend other artists who do fit the criteria that might not have entered.