National Cartoonists Society President Jason Chatfield has sent out a State of The Society message to members with a look to the future of the NCS – and the brand new website.
With permission, here is Jason’s letter to the members:
Well, here we are. Just another American job outsourced to an immigrant.
In all seriousness, it is a great honour and privilege to serve as your new President of the NCS. You won’t find a more welcoming and generous group of people in any other field in the world, and it’s a pleasure to be able to repay that generosity. We don’t work to make a living as cartoonists because it’s easy, we do it because we love it, and we wouldn’t do anything else in the world.
I have some really exciting news about the future of the NCS and the years ahead in this email, but you will find more detail in the up-coming edition of The Cartoon!st.
For those of you who have no idea who I am, (and that’s a lot of you), I’ll give you a 20-second background: I’m currently 34 and started my career working in commercial printing and newspapers when I was a teenager in my hometown of Perth, Western Australia. I was an editorial cartoonist and paid the mortgage with caricature commissions and drawing live caricatures at events (which I still do). At 23, I took over a 98-year-old legacy strip which is syndicated daily in 34 countries through Andrews McMeel Syndication. I now live in New York and do gag cartoons for The New Yorker and, until recently, MAD, …and when Ed Steckley gets a commercial illustration job he really doesn’t want… well, then he flicks it over to me and I do that, too. I’ve illustrated over a dozen of books, worked on boards for animation, completed a 30-page graphic novel and served as President of the Australian Cartoonists Association (Est. 1924). On occasion I entertain the fantasy of a full night’s sleep.
I outline the above to stress that I don’t hail from any one discipline of cartooning- I admire and respect our artform in all its incarnations, online and offline. I’m encouraged that the membership of the NCS of today is much broader than the exclusive collection of comic strip cartoonists it was in earlier years. I hope that myself and your new board can offer value and balance for all of our members of all disciplines.
I’d like to thank Bill Morrison and his board for all their hard work these past 4 years. During some of the most transformational years in our industry, they have done a tremendous job of fostering an inclusive and increasingly diverse NCS, reflected within both the board and the membership at large.
Under Bill’s leadership, we are now lucky to have a broader cross-section of artists in our ranks than at any other time in our 73 years. I, along with your new board, intend to continue that good work taking the NCS forward in this direction. I believe that to be integral to our growth for the coming years. I hope you’ll share my gratitude to Bill for a job well done.
Ok, I’m only allowing myself one paragraph of gloom, so I’m going to get it out of the way now:
At time of writing, we’ve just sustained some major blows for which it would be remiss of me not to mention: Between the New York Times decision to cease publishing all daily editorial cartoons in both editions, (For which you can see our official public response on the website), the devastating news of our beloved MAD no longer commissioning new content, ostensibly ending a 67-year-run as the most influential cartooning and comics magazine in history, and a slew of unfair layoffs of cartoonists all over the country, it’s hard not to feel the overwhelming weight of this gravitational shift in the industry. On a personal level, I felt the MAD news very deeply. MAD was the reason I decided to become a cartoonist. My drawing style is a result of reading MAD. My reference letters for US residency were written by MAD Magazine cartoonists and staff. My closest and dearest friends are Idiots, and I, along with many of you, have now lost yet another regular publisher of my work. Yecch!
Yes, it’s an opportunity and a new era for cartoons to find a home in other mediums – I’ll get to that – but I do believe it is important to recognise the gravity of this moment. I feel that this is a great chance for our new, qualified and innovative board, and the membership at large, to steer our ship through this rocky period. It’s a challenge to chart a new path to connect to our audiences. There’s an appetite for it. That is unquestionable. It’s up to us, not 20th century publishers or corporations, to chart that path.
Our ranks now include talented young cartoonists finding their audience in Webcomics, on Instagram, Twitch, YouTube, Twitter, Medium and a slew of other growing new media.
I’m a big believer in the Second Act. I have an enormous amount of faith in our ability to innovate our way through this transitional phase and come out the other side prosperous, emboldened by the opportunity with which this moment presents us.
As an organization, we do need to adapt and evolve to survive this rapidly changing territory. To that end, we’re going to have to make some very big, possibly unpopular decisions and take risks to ensure we don’t dissolve into history. Please rest assured that my intention is never to betray the loyalty and generosity of those of you who have supported the NCS for so many years.
First among those changes is The Cartoon!st.
We have received a lot of feedback from members that they hardly ever, if at all, get the time they’d like to sit and read The Cartoon!st in its print form each time they receive it. They do, however, check their emails, social media and our website and blog for information on the latest information from the NCS.
Regular publication of The Cartoon!st costs in the order of $40,000 a year to produce, print and post. That expense, which has been shouldered in recent years by the NCS Foundation, is significant. In this day and age, we have the ability to impart news in a much more timely and much less expensive fashion.
The middle ground we’ve arrived at, for now, is that we will all still receive in the post, a printed and fully stocked annual bumper issue of The Cartoon!st after every Reubens weekend. In the interim, you will still receive the regular number of fully-packed editions of The Cartoon!st, ably compiled by super-editor Frank Pauer. These editions will be delivered in PDF format via email. You will also have the ability to read it online at ISSUU.com in high resolution and full colour. Those who wish to, can print from the PDF if they prefer to consume it on paper. Moreover, the more timely articles in The Cartoon!st (which sometimes arrive in your letterbox weeks after they would ideally have been shared) will be published on the website ahead of the delivery of the PDF version.
It has always seemed a shame that much of the non-exclusive information in The Cartoon!st is not made available to our supporters and cartoon fans in public. These items,, which often include wonderfully detailed profiles of our members who have books being published, or public events and signings being staged, will be made available on the website in a more timely fashion, shared on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram channels… thereby relaying that news not just to NCS members, but to a vast audience of cartoon fans. Naturally, there will still be much information in each issue that that will remain exclusive for members only, such as address changes and anything intended for NCS eyes only.
On that note: we have another big announcement (don’t panic, it’s a really good one):
We are now able to announce, in line with our new direction, we now have a brand new website! Complete with fully-customizable member profiles, showcasing your artwork, social media details, a full bio and contact information of your choosing.
<snip – information related to members login and contact>
A big thank you to Joe McGarry for his tireless and on-going work on this. I hope he forgives me for my endless prodding via email as to when we are able to announce it.
<snip – related to members providing profile information>
I have, for as long as I can remember, called those short profiles “NCS Mini-Bio Cards,”
guess I’ll have to switch to NCS Mini-Bio Page now (though the memoriam page still have the “cards”).
Here’s a look at the difference using Charles Brubaker‘s card and page:
Looks like when (if) they do a new Album it’ll have to be in color!
Now, back to Jason…
As always, new website roll-outs come with bugs and glitches, so please be patient if we need to tweak a thing here and there.
On another front…
In 2016 I was proud to introduce the NCS to the drawing tablet creator, Wacom for what has since become a fruitful and ongoing relationship. With the assistance of Steve McGarry, Wacom have now well and truly become part of the NCS family. We are pursuing similar partnerships in parallel industries for ongoing support for the ensuing years to ensure the NCS remains able to continue our regular program of events and benefits for our members.
We are on the hunt for new, modern sponsors and strategic partnerships. If ever you have an idea or suggestion of a sponsor, please feel welcome to email me at the address below. We are always open to your ideas. Thank you to those who have already reached out with suggestions since the business meeting in California.
But wait… there’s more.
Another great update we’ve now introduced is: You no longer have to pay your dues via check! Yes, it is a little bizarre that we were still asking new and existing members to apply and pay via check (as if Gen Y has ever owned a checkbook) but we are happy to report that you can all pay your NCS membership dues on the website through memberclicks, the same way you register and pay for your Reubens attendance. If you have any queries on how to do this, please email our membership secretary, Greg Cravens at firstname.lastname@example.org
We have a lot of work ahead of us individually and as a community. The NCS is only as strong as the spirit of its members, and as our 73-year history has proven, our resolve to grow and thrive in the face of change is the reason we are still alive and kicking today.
Thank you for affording me this first, lengthy introductory email. I promise to adopt the brevity mantra going forward.
I’m excited to keep you all updated on the coming ventures the new board has in store for the rest of the year and into 2020.
Onwards and upwards,
National Cartoonists Society