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Posted at 8:45 AM ET, 05/11/2010

READY? DRAW!: Enter to become America's Next Great Cartoonist [UPDATED]

By Michael Cavna


It is with considerable regularity that Comic Riffs gets mail (of both the snail and "e-" variety) that beseechingly inquires: (a) "Dear Sir -- how do you become a better cartoonist?"; or (b) "Dude -- how do you make a career out of cartooning?"; OR (c) "If you have even a shred of smarts, fella, read the enclosed cartoons and tell me precisely how soon you plan to syndicate me -- got it?"


Got it. Because Comic Riffs tries to respond to as many of these as we can. Yet routinely over the past couple of years, we've wondered: Is there a better way on the blog to aid, abet and honestly inspire aspiring cartoonists?

Finally, we all here think we've hit upon a better way -- a way that starts today. Ready? Here's the official spiel (and please, save those questions till the end):

You may be funny -- but do you have what it takes to crack the funnies?

Starting today, The Washington Post launches "AMERICA'S NEXT GREAT CARTOONIST" -- a contest that allows readers who are aspiring comic-strip creators to submit their portfolios by June.4.

The prize? Well, besides national exposure, the 10 finalists will see their work put to a reader vote -- and also will receive critiques from such esteemed cartoonists as "Doonesbury" creator Garry Trudeau, "Pearls Before Swine" creator Stephan Pastis, Jerry Scott (creator of "Zits" and "Baby Blues"), "Rhymes With Orange" creator Hilary Price and "Cul de Sac" creator Richard Thompson and "Family Tree" creator Signe Wilkinson -- as well as Post political cartoonist Tom Toles and Post humor columnist Gene Weingarten (co-creator of the comic "Barney & Clyde"). And the winner's work will be published for a month -- in print and online -- in The Post and become a candidate for syndication.

The contest will be hosted by The Post's Michael Cavna [yours truly] on his cartoon blog, "COMIC RIFFS" [again, at your service], where you will find more information. And a Post jury of editors will cull the entries to 10 finalists. For full rules, voting and directions for uploading entries, go to the contest site: "AMERICA'S NEXT GREAT CARTOONIST."

So sharpen your pencils, sharpen your comic minds -- and draw for a chance to be crowned America's next great cartoonist.

There -- any questions? Please feel free to post them in the Comments field below; or to e-mail us at:

So watch this space regularly as this contest unfolds. And for those who plan to enter: Good luck!


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By Michael Cavna  | May 11, 2010; 8:45 AM ET
Categories:  General  | Tags:  America's Next Great Cartoonist, Art, Cartoon, Cartoonist, Comic Strips and Panels, Comic strip, Comics, Creators, Garry Trudeau, Gene Weingarten, Hilary Price, Jerry Scott, Michael Cavna, Richard Thompson, Stephan Pastis, Tom Toles, WASHINGTON POST, Washington Post  
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I thought this was a great idea until I read the rules of entry. Cartoonists beware: "By entering the Contest, each entrant grants Sponsor an unrestricted, royalty-free, perpetual right to display, modify, perform, copy and create derivative work from his/her Entry." "Perpetual..," "...right to create derivative work." Does this mean that the Washington Post can steal your work?

Posted by: jlindseyii | May 10, 2010 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Let me guess. A white guy's gonna win this America's Next Great Bullcrap too, right?

Posted by: dkp01 | May 10, 2010 11:24 AM | Report abuse

I'm working on my tan right now!

Posted by: halfbakedtoons | May 10, 2010 2:39 PM | Report abuse

halfbakedtoons, skip the tan and go for the bottle. Then you can count yourself as the same as Charlie Crist and John Boehner.

Posted by: dkp01 | May 10, 2010 3:37 PM | Report abuse

>> jlindseyii:

Thanks for your comment. As a cartoonist who's signed more than one syndicate contract over rights to my creations, I've asked The Post to review this clause again for clarity. Stay tuned.


Posted by: cavnam | May 10, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

But really, it's weird that a paper that serves a city that's over 60% non-white couldn't find a single non-white or non-male cartoonist or comic for their panel of judges. I'm not talking about affirmative action or quotas here, it's just that it's *weird* you know?

And after a similar panel of judges didn't "get" the writing of minority and female (and minority female) bloggers in the last America's Next Great ___ I don't have much faith that they'll "get" some of the comics made by women or minorities in this contest. Even with the esteemed Trudeau and the odd but endearing Weingarten in the mix.

Posted by: dkp01 | May 10, 2010 3:42 PM | Report abuse

>> dkpO1:

Would love to hear more about why you at all have concerns about bias in regards to THIS contest. Please shoot me an e-mail ( or give me a call (202.334.5334) if you're willing to talk more.


Posted by: cavnam | May 10, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse


And to clarify: The panel of Post judges is diverse by race, gender, age, geography and background. The jury includes Post and Post Writers Group editors. (Don't confuse the Post jury with some of the advertised celebrity critiquers.)


Posted by: cavnam | May 10, 2010 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Shooting you an e-mail.


Excellent -- many thanks.


Posted by: dkp01 | May 10, 2010 4:03 PM | Report abuse

I too was concerned about the rules and specifically about loss of copyright whether or not you are compensated for your work. Rarely see that on a contest like this.

"The work performed or produced by the Challenge Participant for the Challenge portion of the Contest (collectively, "Challenge Submissions") shall be work made for hire and that, in the event that the work is deemed not a work for hire, Challenge Participant agrees to assign to Sponsor all right, title and interest in all Challenge Submissions performed or produced by Challenge Participant including all copyrights...."

Posted by: BearmanCartoons | May 10, 2010 6:08 PM | Report abuse

Thanks Michael, please keep us posted in terms of the rights and copyright.

One question, am I allowed to submit more than one idea? (I have two.) Meaning two separate, 6 strip, entries?


Posted by: stupidinventor | May 10, 2010 7:12 PM | Report abuse

>> BearmanCartoons:

Thanks for pointing to that precise clause. I will raise this language as I meet with Washington Post contest producers and lawyers in the days ahead.

Will keep everyone apprised.


Posted by: cavnam | May 10, 2010 7:42 PM | Report abuse

>> stupidinventor:

"Subsequent entries by an individual will be disqualified." Meaning: one entry per person.

I have also replied to your e-mail question re this. Thanks for inquiring.


Posted by: cavnam | May 10, 2010 7:49 PM | Report abuse

Thanks Michael.

Posted by: BearmanCartoons | May 10, 2010 10:45 PM | Report abuse


It isn't stealing if you hand it over to them. Of course, you shouldn't do that in the first place. Unless that clause is very clearly changed, you give away your IP rights in exchange for not bloody much. Work-for-hire is an ugly term when no money is on offer.

Posted by: erik_k | May 11, 2010 1:09 PM | Report abuse

UPDATE: As of today, I have strongly urged and submitted new language for the clauses that concern creator rights. Published revisions will be forthcoming in the days ahead.


Posted by: cavnam | May 11, 2010 7:47 PM | Report abuse

Is there any chance the eligibility can be made more inclusive? Canadians enjoy newspaper comics too :)

Posted by: MikeCope | May 11, 2010 11:09 PM | Report abuse

>> MikeCope:

I'll forward your question (as well as your e-mail) to the contest producers, who will reply to you asap.

And no matter *what* "South Park" says, Americans "heart" their cartoonists -- and comedians -- to the North.


Posted by: Michael Cavna | May 11, 2010 11:48 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, it would be nice to include us Canucks.

And what exactly does "Sponsor will not accept cartoons that are drawn by computerized "art generators." mean?" Does this eliminate computer-rendered art where everything is designed and created by the artist?

Posted by: pm-cn | May 12, 2010 9:35 PM | Report abuse

Has there been any development in the contest rules concerning the language on creators' rights?

Posted by: halfbakedtoons | May 13, 2010 4:01 PM | Report abuse

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