Reuben, Roast and Remarks

By: Dave Astor

The National Cartoonists Society (NCS) put the spotlight on mainstream mavens, alternative artists, and creators with a foot in both worlds.

Jack Davis of Mad magazine fame won the Reuben Award as top cartoonist of the year at the May 25-27 NCS gathering in Boca Raton, Fla. Mike Peters, a past Reuben and Pulitzer Prize winner, was roasted. Speakers included Dan Piraro (“Bizarro”), Matt Groening (“The Simpsons”), and self-syndicated alternative cartoonist Lynda Barry.

Peters, whose “Mother Goose & Grimm” comic and Dayton Daily News editorial cartoons are syndicated by Tribune Media Services (TMS), was comedically assaulted in various ways. Several people, including “Family Circus” co-cartoonist Jeff Keane and Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader/Universal Press Syndicate editorial cartoonist Joel Pett, did dead-on imitations of the bubbly Peters. “Tank McNamara” artist Bill Hinds of Universal did a Web animation showing Peters, 57, using modern technology to look decades younger. There was also a video of Peters sleeping with a blow-up doll that looked suspiciously like Blondie. (Dagwood was unavailable for comment.)

And there were rewritten “Mother Goose” strips (one had Grimmy the dog giving genital herpes to the mailman), a “To Tell the Truth” spoof, humorous remarks by TMS executive Walter Mahoney, and a dueling “chalk talk” between Peters and Mike Luckovich — who does “SuperZeroes” for TMS and editorial cartoons for the Atlanta Constitution and Creators Syndicate.

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Piraro, Barry, and Groening Speak

Earlier in the day, Piraro spoke about following in Gary Larson’s footsteps. He succeeded Larson at Chronicle Features after “The Far Side” creator moved to Universal, and joined Universal around the time Larson retired. “I’m waiting for a phone call from his wife if he ever falls out of a truck,” he quipped.

Piraro recalled, when first getting syndicated, panicking at the prospect of needing a daily gag for life. “What if I’m born with only so many jokes in my head?” he asked himself.

Barry compared cartoon characters to imaginary friends that some children have. As a kid, “I was jealous of friends who had imaginary friends,” she said. “So I had imaginary imaginary friends!” Now, Barry has cartoon characters, but “I don’t feel obligated to have a punchline.”

Groening, who said cartoonists need to make themselves laugh in order to possibly make readers laugh, still does his “Life in Hell” comic for alternative papers. And Universal will resume syndicating a “Simpsons” Sunday strip in August.

Groening and “Rose is Rose” creator Pat Brady of United Feature Syndicate were Reuben runners-up. Among the 13 NCS category winners were Piraro (comic panel), “Tiger” creator Bud Blake of King Features Syndicate (comic strip), Jerry Holbert of the Boston Herald and Newspaper Enterprise Association (editorial cartoons), and Hinds (new media).

Tom Gill received the first Tim Rosenthal Award for Volunteerism, named after the late American Color executive; Arnold Roth received the Gold Key Award (putting him in the NCS hall of fame); and Ted Goff received the Silver T-Square Award for service to the NCS (he handles the organization’s online discussion rooms).

The weekend began with a King-sponsored reception marking the 50th anniversary of “Dennis the Menace.” It was held at the Boca-based International Museum of Cartoon Art, where an exhibition spotlighting Hank Ketcham’s comic creation will run through Aug. 26.

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AASFE TO HONOR ANN AND ABBY
They’ll Be Inducted Into Hall Of Fame

Twin-sister advice columnists Ann Landers and Abigail Van Buren will be inducted into the American Association of Sunday and Feature Editors hall of fame during the AASFE convention in Chicago Oct. 3.
“Certainly, no two people have attracted more readers to feature sections and kept them there over the years,” said the South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Dan Norman, chair of the hall of fame committee.

The 82-year-old Landers and Van Buren each appear in about 1,200 newspapers via Creators Syndicate and Universal Press Syndicate, respectively.

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CHANGES FOR DISTRIBUTOR
NewsCom Revamps Its Web Site

NewsCom has redesigned its Web site (http://www.newscom.com), according to Tribune Media Services (TMS).

The site offers photos, graphics, news, features, and other material to more than 2,000 media customers worldwide. The 50-plus content providers include TMS, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services, the New York Times News Service, the New York Times Syndicate, and the Washington Post Writers Group.

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ET CETERA …

Eric Devericks of Oregon State will receive the John Locher Memorial Award for collegiate editorial cartooning at the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists meeting in Toronto June 30. …

The AAEC has redesigned its Web site (http://pc99.detnews.com/aaec). …

“Parent to Parent” columnists Betsy Flagler and Beverly Mills of United Media have written a special 3-part series on child care.

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