Tales From The Reuben – “The Barney”

In the beginning the “Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year” was presented
not with “The Reuben”, but with “The Barney.”

When the National Cartoonist Society formed after World War II, one item on their agenda was an awards dinner to publicize the members and their craft. In 1947 the biggest Big Name among comic strip cartoonists was Milton Caniff. Having spent a dozen years creating Terry and the Pirates, arguably the greatest adventure strip of all time, Milton began 1947 by introducing Steve Canyon to the public. In May of 1947 at their first Awards Banquet the NCS named Milton “1946 Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year.” With that honor he also received the Billy DeBeck Memorial Award, also known as The Barney.

above: The Barney from a Billy Ireland Library & Museum image via their Milton Caniff Exhibit

From Meanwhile… R. C. Harvey tells of The Barney’s origins:

The National Cartoonist Society, who at the time was a men’s-only club had no trouble accepting Mary DeBeck Bergman’s generous sponsorship of their top award. The Billy DeBeck Memorial Award was presented to the Cartoonist of the Year from 1947 to 1954.

1946 Milton Caniff (Steve Canyon)
1947 Al Capp (Li’l Abner)
1948 Chic Young (Blondie)
1949 Alex Raymond (Rip Kirby)
1950 Roy Crane (Buz Sawyer)
1951 Walt Kelly (Pogo)
1952 Hank Ketcham (Dennis the Menace)
1953 Mort Walker (Beetle Bailey)

above: Mort Walker receives the last Barney


In February 1953 Mary perished in a plane crash. For the 1955 awards  dinner, and ever since, The Reuben, as created by Rube Goldberg, has been awarded to the NCS Cartoonist of the Year.


William Morgan (Billy) DeBeck himself was born 130 years ago today.
Animation Resources has a nice profile of the famous cartoonist.

above: Billy DeBeck, “How to Become a Cartoonist” in Cartoons magazine, October 1917.


above: via Stwallskull


The 2020 National Cartoonists Society’s Reuben Awards Dinner is presently scheduled for June 6,
but it is looking likely that the weekend gala and the awards banquet will be cancelled:

Under the circumstances, common sense tells us that it is very unlikely that we will be able to stage this year’s Reuben Awards Weekend as planned.

However, our contracted obligations with the hotel mean that we have to wait for the authorities to confirm that our event cannot be staged, which will then trigger Force Majeure clauses that allow our contract to be cancelled without incurring financial penalties. Given the extent of the crisis, we fear that this probably going to be the case.