At their 77th Annual Reuben Awards Dinner the National Cartoonists Society honored Bill Griffith as the 2022 Cartoonist of the Year and presented him with The Reuben Award. The banquet and awards show was held at The Hyatt Regency in Jersey City on September 7, 2023.
Bill’s cartooning career began in New York City in 1969 contributing to the underground papers of the time (East Village Other, Screw). In 1970 he crossed the country to the underground comix Mecca – San Francisco. Where his cartooning success took hold.
With a solo Tales of Toad to start Bill was soon contributing to a number of anthology comix, including Sleazy Scandals of the Silver Screen where Bill does a couple early biographical comics (Liberace, Tallulah Bankhead). Zippy the Pinhead first appeared in Real Pulp Comics #1 (dated January 1971) and the character quickly became the star of Griffith’s stable of characters with his own comix book.
With the comix business dying underground cartoonists were scrambling and Bill took Zippy to Hearst’s The San Francisco Examiner in 1985 where he found a regular spot. The next year Hearst’s King Features Syndicate began distributing the comic strip across the nation, which it continues to do to this day. (Not the first time Zippy was syndicated. In 1976 Zippy began a weekly comic strip for the Berkeley Barb with The Rip Off Press Syndicate selling it to other underground newspapers in 1977.)
These days Bill Griffith is as famous for his biographical graphic novels as for Zippy the Pinhead.
Included in the announcement from the National Cartoonists Society:
Charles Kochman, Editor-In-Chief of Abrams ComicArts who published the graphic biography [“Three Rocks: The Story of Ernie Bushmiller: The Man Who Created Nancy”], says of his friend and client:
“When I met Bill Griffith almost ten years ago, I was surprised to discover that he had never won a single award for his work. This was not something that bothered him—in typical Griffy fashion, he wore the Susan Lucci slight as a badge of honor, and, like Groucho Marx, never wanted to belong to any club that would have someone like him for a member.
The reality is that Bill Griffith created Zippy in 1971, and, since 1986, it has been syndicated by King Features. In addition to writing and illustrating a syndicated comic strip seven days a week for thirty-seven years without any assistants, Bill Griffith has somehow—only recently—found the time to research, write, and illustrate three (thus far) longform graphic novels.
I know Cartoonist of the Year is not a lifetime achievement award, but it’s hard to look at the work Bill does every day (the crosshatching alone) and not shake your head and, as Zippy would say, exclaim “Yow!”
So, like it or not, Bill, you are now a Reuben Award winner. Welcome to the club—you earned it.”
So while our shelves have Griffith books, Bill’s shelf now has The Reuben Award!