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Posted at 8:30 AM ET, 02/23/2009

The Vote: Who Deserves Cartooning's Oscar?

By Michael Cavna

Morning, Cartoon Nation...

Early every year, my ballot would arrive in the mail. And each time, for several years running, I would write in my vote for the cartoonist-of-the-year: Namely, several of my boyhood cartooning idols from "MAD" magazine.

From top: The cartoon creations of Davis, Groening and Aragones. (Courtesy

Since the mid-'90s, three "MAD" greats -- Sergio Aragones, Jack Davis and Al Jaffee -- have received the Reuben Award, which is the highest honor as voted upon by the membership of the National Cartoonists Society -- aka "cartooning's Oscar." Other recipients of the Reuben in recent years include Matt Groening, Patrick McDonnell and Jerry Scott.

So on the (high) heels of last night's Academy Awards, my question to you, 'Riffs readers, is: If you could nominate someone for this year's Reuben, who would get your vote? (And if you're a reader who does have a vote, we understand completely if you have to keep your pick on the downlow.)

There is one catch: More recently, the National Cartoonists City decided that there could be no repeat winners of the award -- this after such folk as Bill Watterson, Gary Larson and Jeff MacNelly had won multiple times. (For a list of past winners, you can go to THIS Reubens web page.)

Is this Darby ("Get Fuzzy") Conley's year, or maybe it's time for Stephan ("Pearls Before Swine") Pastis? Perhaps a political cartoonist such as Clay Bennett or Michael Ramirez? And who knows: Animator Mike Judge (from Beavis to Hank Hill) might just get the surprise call (regardless of whether he's a member), if not Pixar's legendary John Lasseter. (Was great to see Pixar honcho Ed Catmull recognized last night, btw. Also, Oscar congratulations to "WALL*E" animating director Angus MacLane, who gave Comic Riffs a swell interview in December. [You can find his and our "Iron Man" interviews in our "Interviews With Cartoonists" archives, at left.])

The Reubens ceremony's not for a few months, but before the pros vote: Who do you think is the best cartoonist who's due for the big award?

The ballot box is open, and the floor is now yours.



Stephan Pastis not only makes us laugh -- he also creates more work for us. (If only these were billable hours.) Today, starting with "shmulky shlumperdik," Rat launches into a one-rodent tour into the Joys of (Insult) Yiddish. Do you have any idea how many editors it takes to vet all these terms, Pastis?? Even among those who speak Yiddish? We kvetch at your chutzpah, even IF you are never a nudnik.


Uh-oh. Big Jeremy is thinking with the Little Jeremy again. THIS cannot lead anywhere good.

By Michael Cavna  | February 23, 2009; 8:30 AM ET
Categories:  The Morning Line  
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Next: Lessons of a Fiery--and Fired--Cartoonist


I nominate Brooke McEldowney.

Posted by: kcghost | February 23, 2009 9:05 AM | Report abuse

Ralph Steadman.

Posted by: rhompson | February 23, 2009 9:16 AM | Report abuse

Jef Mallett.

Posted by: Horsefeathers | February 23, 2009 9:42 AM | Report abuse

Oh great, now I'm doing research on Shmulky Shlumperdik! And even worse I find out that on more than one occasion I have been one. I think I might be one right this minute.

Based on this lesson of self-awareness and the fact that I have laughed at Pig so much in recent months Stephan Pastis definitely needs a nomination.

Posted by: elyrest | February 23, 2009 10:23 AM | Report abuse

Richard Thompson!!!!!!!!!!!

He or Mark Tatulli definitely deserve cartoonist of the year, which is what the Reuben is supposed to be. From what I understand, current prez Keane has changed it to more of a lifetime achievement award, so I doubt it will go to either of them.

I definitely think Cul de Sac or Lio will be strip of the year though.

Posted by: jessecline | February 23, 2009 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Sorry Cavna, have to continue my tangent a little more! I'm not a big fan of it being a once in a life time award. It might end up being a turn-based award, as in "its so and so's turn to win this year" even though they might not have necessarily had a good year or years.

That being said, my prediction is Stephan Pastis will win since he has been putting out a consistently good strip for years, even though Richard Thompson arguably had a better 2008.

Posted by: jessecline | February 23, 2009 11:12 AM | Report abuse

I nominate Robert Crumb because.

Posted by: Jumper1 | February 23, 2009 12:50 PM | Report abuse

I second the nomination of Brooke McEldowney.

The nomination has been moved and seconded; all those in favor, signify by saying "aye"...

Posted by: SportzNut21 | February 23, 2009 1:49 PM | Report abuse

I second Robert Crumb because.

Posted by: rhompson | February 23, 2009 2:13 PM | Report abuse

If this poll were being held this time last year I would agree that Brooke McEldowney at least deserves serious consideration, although I doubt he would have been my first choice when it came time to vote. This year, however - forget it. The Edda-and-Amos-in-Brussels torturous story arc is as terrible as it is unending. Mr. McEldowney needs to give serious consideration to hiring someone to write the script for him (maybe "Pibgorn" too), so that he can devote full time to the art.

Posted by: seismic-2 | February 23, 2009 7:17 PM | Report abuse

I would vote for Eduardo Barreto. Why is it with the Reuben that no serial comic strip artist wins. Maybe they did back in the 60s (Alex Raymond, Leonard Starr?).

Why not Barreto? Or even Graham Nolan? Those guys are good. Some of the "artwork" in the "funny" comics looks like it was drawn with someones toes. No offense. I'm just sayin'.

I nominate Eduardo Barreto or Graham Nolan for consideration.

Posted by: RobM1013 | February 24, 2009 9:43 AM | Report abuse

Eight in our office would nominate Tony Cochran for Agnes. She dominates the bulletin boards daily for fun and strength. Pretty sure there is some of Agnes in all of us. We read online that March 2009 is the 10th anniversary of this great comic strip. Time for an award!

Posted by: Scadooodle | February 25, 2009 11:55 AM | Report abuse

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