Only one short month until “America’s Biggest Comic Arts Festival!”
Officially it runs May 17 to May 19, 2019,
but there’s a signing event on May 16 and a live podcast on May 20th.
Get there early and stay late.
Like the star of his Badlands comic strip, Steve McGarry is
the white hat-wearing good guy riding herd on this new and exciting experiment.
Steve is the President of the NCS Foundation and the Director (and instigator) of NCSFest.
He recently talked to Alex Dueben about the National Cartoonists Society project.
Steve on the why and how of NCSFest:
When [the National Cartoonists Society] do the Reubens, we always have some sort of public outreach. We’ll do children’s hospital visits. When we went to Memphis a few years ago we visited St. Jude, and we did fundraisers, an auction, personal appearances. We were able to raise over $100,000 for St. Jude that weekend. There’s a degree of self-satisfaction being able to do this for people. I was thinking, should we formalize this? The Reubens are essentially a private Oscars once a year moving to a different city. I didn’t want to do a comic con, but I did admire the European festivals like Angoulême and Lucca where it’s a big city-wide festival. I was looking around for how to do that. I found Julie Tait who founded The Lakes International Comic Arts Festival in England. It’s the best comics arts festival in UK and it’s become a destination on the European festival circuit. I began chatting to Julie and she came to the Reubens and we started to brainstorm. Long story short, a couple years later here we are with NCSFest.
Well, Steve continues with more about the origins of The Festival,
but let’s move on to how this festival is different than a comic con:
You can be at any convention – a plumbers convention – and candidly it’s just a big soulless room without windows with rows of sellers and distributors. The festival is completely different in that with Huntington Beach, the vast majority of the programming is free. We have an open air marketplace where people who might not particularly be interested in comics can wander around and become versed in it. We have workshops that are free and available for families and kids. We’re doing readings at the library. Big names doing this for free. We have four major exhibitions, three at the Art Center and one at Pacific City. We have a big family zone which we’ve partnered with the Chuck Jones Center for Creativity. We have a windows trail where we’ve married fifty businesses downtown with a well known cartoonist and they’re devoting their window space to cartoons. It’s a way of involving the community, celebrating cartoons and comics and the artform in a festival atmosphere.
Steve on the modern NCS and this celebration:
I think the perception of the NCS is that it’s old white guys who make comic strips – and it’s not. Part of this outreach is to change that perception. Look at who we have as members. Look at whose art we’re celebrating. Look at the exhibitions…To try and dispel some of these myths that have grown up around the NCS. There is a disconnect between the online comics community where there are cartoonists who rail against these old dinosaurs. I think all cartoonists – probably without exception – are comics fans…One of the selfish aspects of this is to present the NCS and put a spotlight on it and what we’re doing and who we are. At the same time we’re entertaining the public.
Then Alex asks Steve, “Do you plan to do this again next year?”
Candidly, we don’t know. That’s the honest truth. Every week that goes by this begins to look bigger and more successful. The city is laying on shuttle buses for the parking and wrapping them in cartoon art. Huntington Beach and Pacific City have given us huge gorgeous stores free of charge so that we can stage exhibitions. In downtown we have a store with TVs and we’re running Popeye cartoons continuously. We have a popup store they’ve given us for months and we’re going to have signings and events. Pacific City has given us this gorgeous space that’s going to house an exhibition by the French Comics Association. We think this is going to be very successful, and if so, we would be foolish not to do this again and again and again.
Back in the day The Reubens Dinner was held in New York City every year.
Will Huntington Beach now become the new Reubens location?
The interesting part is do we continue to do the Reubens here? Since the eighties we’ve taken the Reuben Awards on the road. Some have been really successful but our most successful Reubens have been on either coast – LA and Orange County or New York and New Jersey. We get much greater attendance then. If we do the festival every year here and hold the Reubens every year here then we would have to counterbalance it with something on the East Coast.
And why would we not hold the Reubens here if we can throw this kind of spotlight on it? What we don’t want to do is disenfranchise our members from around the country. We’re still kicking ideas around. Do we do a huge Christmas party in New York? We might give out the legacy awards there like the Gold Key and Caniff? The other alternative is maybe we look at doing NCS Fest East? We really don’t know at this stage but we’re not dismissing anything.
As for the guest list – here are a few more to compliment those already spotlighted here.
Profiles of the guests and more about the who, what, why, when, and where at the NCSFest site.