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Posted at 6:45 AM ET, 06/16/2010

Coming today: Post to announce finalists for 'Next Great Cartoonist' contest

By Michael Cavna

The Washington Post is scheduled to announce this morning the 10 finalists for our "America's Next Great Cartoonist" Contest. For full details after 9 a.m., go to Washingtonpost.com/greatcartoonist. There you will find the names of the finalists and their honored samples, as well as critiques from our celebrity judges, including Stan Lee and Garry Trudeau, and Washington Post Writers Group comics editor Amy Lago.

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On the Post's contest page, you will also find all the details for voting for your favorite strip. The winner will receive $1,000, a chance for a month's run in The Post's Style section and on Comics Riffs and consideration for a syndication contract.

By Michael Cavna  | June 16, 2010; 6:45 AM ET
Categories:  America's Next Great Cartoonist  
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Comments

Love what you guys are doing! But another Stone Age decision: d'ya think humor is linked to gender? Don't worry Everybody in the business has this problem. Maybe after planet earth as we know it is gone, the first breath of life will see things differently. Then again, maybe they'll have no eyeballs...Eve

Posted by: eve43 | June 16, 2010 9:28 AM | Report abuse

What eve43 said.

Posted by: itsjustanapple | June 16, 2010 1:21 PM | Report abuse

Indeed, Eve. The imbalance was conspicuous. O, where to begin? Does it even matter that a [slight] majority of The Post's judging panelists were women? Do we pause to note that three of the "top 15" contestants are women -- hardly balanced, yet a different ratio from The Post's own funnypages, where only a single woman (participating judge Hilary Price of "Rhymes With Orange") is represented on two full pages of funnies? (Wow.) Probably not. "Celebrity critiquer" Signe Wilkinson said she didn't even look at the bios as she made her picks strictly by what she deemed "best."

But the larger conversation here is correlated to this: I have introduced (at comic-cons) my 10-year-old aspiring graphic-novelist relative to Stephanie McMillan and Raina Telgemeier and Mikhaela Reid and discussed my interviews with such also-talented women as Wilkinson and Ann Telnaes and Jen Sorensen and Molly Norris and Tracy White and Juana Medina (watch this space for my spotlighting of her work soon) because my relative says it helps give her, as a girl, a particulary inspiring sense of what is *possible.* Contests vary, readership polls vary -- but though signs of the Stone Age are still in our midst, there also are distinct signs of a more Golden Age of an ever-increasing diversity of voices in cartooning.

As you say: "Everyone in the business has this problem." Perhaps that's one key reason why the business itself is undergoing profound change. Like a prehensile tail (or a prehensile male), gradual change is afoot. (Or, if you read Hanna Rosin's "The End of Men" piece in the new Atlantic, perhaps it soon won't be gradual at all.)

Thanks for reading...participating...caring.

--M.C.

Posted by: cavnam | June 16, 2010 3:29 PM | Report abuse

Re: the top 10 picks-
There are a few really good ones there, but in the hundred 'others' you were kind enough to post through a separate link from The Daily Cartoonist were a number of really excellent strips that I thought were better.

Never mind that my strip didn't even make it into the top 100, but I thought there were better and funnier strips.

I wish all of them the best of luck!

Posted by: InkSlingerz | June 16, 2010 6:42 PM | Report abuse

M.C.

Great that three of the 'top 15' contestants are women. What a shame that nobody will see 2 of those 3 women, especially if 2 of them may have represented a view beyond that of a college student. Now THAT would have been a nice group to choose from, other aspects of diversity aside. Is it possible that Washington Post female readers don't always relate to male cartoonists' view of the world? Is it possible that female readers might have found those 2 strips to be different and funny in a different way?

Sure. Don't look at the names on the submissions. And definitely don't admit that it's usually pretty easy to distinguish the words of a female creator from a male creator. Blind isn't really blind when the male perspective is the assumed standard for what readers want.

Maybe it's time for a Next Best Female Cartoonist contest. The male point of view is pretty well represented and seems to serve as the assumed standard for funny. Maybe women are funny in a differnt way and the Washington Post female readers could have a crack at deciding if that is possible.

Or maybe the Washington Post just thinks women readers don't care about the comics. Or that they don't have money to spend on the products advertisers advertise.

Signed - a reader in search of a male AND female perspective in ALL sections of a newspaper, not just the Style section.

Posted by: itsjustanapple | June 16, 2010 7:30 PM | Report abuse

>> itsjustanapple:

One of those two other strips by a woman creator was a finalist, by the way, but the cartoonist herself decided to pull out the competition. A pity: She was one of my absolute favorites.

--M.C.

Posted by: cavnam | June 16, 2010 7:39 PM | Report abuse

M.C.

That's the problem when you only choose one or two of the minority - lose one or two and the minority is obliterated.

But maybe the Washington Post likes it that way. The Washington Post certainly doesn't seem to mind.

Posted by: itsjustanapple | June 16, 2010 7:54 PM | Report abuse

>> itsjustanapple:

I'd like to hear more: How would you have liked to have seen the dozen-plus Post jurors approach choosing the finalists for this particular contest? Specifically, what guidelines or goals or requirements would you have put in place in terms of selecting the finalists?

Thanks,
--M.C.

Posted by: cavnam | June 16, 2010 8:17 PM | Report abuse

If Washington Post marketing stats are correct, it looks like the dollars belonging to women in the DC area are pretty valuable. Women are 52% of the DC market compared to the 48% male, according to the Washington Post. So please explain again why only one female was deemed funny enough to be in the top ten and audition before the Washington Post's female audience? Do women read comics? Do DC women read comics? Do DC working women (dollar earning) women read comics? If they don't, does the Washington Post want them to?

Posted by: itsjustanapple | June 16, 2010 8:19 PM | Report abuse

Simple. If the humor of men is so clearly better and funnier than the humor of women, which seems pretty clear (1 female out of 500 submission?), then split male and female submissions into two separate categories. If female humor can't compete with male humor, in the view of professional funny people, then have two separate contests. Let women, who represent half of your readership (averaging weekdays and Sundays) and who represent a greater share of the DC market, be exposed to humor to which they might relate. Maybe female readers would find contemporary female humor funny.

Posted by: itsjustanapple | June 16, 2010 8:27 PM | Report abuse

P.S.

"Maybe female readers would find contemporary female humor funny."...if they were allowed to see what contemporary female humor looks like. I will surmise that it does not look like male humor. And I challenge the Washington Post to prove me wrong. Or right. But the Washington Post needs to try. If it turns out that women in Washington DC prefer male humor to female humor when provided with both, then at least we know that after trying out both. Just because male cartoonists make up the majority of the cartoon world does not mean that they are better - let's find out by seeing what female submissions look like.

Posted by: itsjustanapple | June 16, 2010 8:32 PM | Report abuse

Thanks. No word yet on whether The Post plans to host a second contest yet, but I will raise this very suggestion with the current contest producers and Style editors.

As for the question: Why the conspicuous dearth of women cartoonists on The Post's print funnypages and, frankly, in most newspapers -- that's a question largely for newspaper comic editors and syndicate editors. It's also a tremendously worthy question that Comic Riffs will take up in the future.

--M.C.

Posted by: cavnam | June 16, 2010 8:50 PM | Report abuse

Why the conspicuous dearth????? C'mon...

Because promoting female humor is not a Washington Post priority. If it were a priority, we would see female humor in the Washington Post.

The Washington Post "just isn't into us" - the Washington Post is into men. And men's humor. And men's perspective on what is funny. It's pretty obvious. The Post just simple is not trying out women. 1 Female out of 500!!! The Washington Post isn't into women.

As for the industry, who cares? This is the Washington Post. It caters to a DC demographic. The women in DC are successful and financially independent and far more educated than most other parts of the country. The women have money to spend. But the Washington Post is giving the women of DC male humor as the only option.

There's your DC dearth.

Posted by: itsjustanapple | June 16, 2010 9:04 PM | Report abuse

I am a female contestant who didn't make the top 10 but whose cartoon was included in the ones selected for the gallery. The contest was a wonderful experience for me, and I wanted to thank the Post and the judges. It was fun (and challenging) to enter, and it was inspiring to see all the amazing work and the judges' commentary. Clearly, the finalists and many of the other cartoonists are talented and have devoted much time and energy to their craft.

I was disappointed there weren't more women in the top 10, but on the other hand, I wouldn't want to get picked because I am a woman. I don't know what the remedy might be for the dearth of published female cartoonists. I do think that cartoon editors should try to choose a mix of cartoons that reflects the diverse interests of the population. Though I love cartoons, I don't always read the Post's cartoons because I don't relate to many of them.

But a contest is a contest, so I am not going to second-guess the composition of the top 10.

In addition to the second contest for female cartoonists proposed earlier, the Post might consider holding an instructional/critique workshop or a Meet-up style gathering for the female cartoonists who entered. I certainly would benefit from knowing other female cartoonists and/or getting my work critiqued by a professional. I don't know any other cartoonists or how/where to get guidance to help me improve my work. Knowing other cartoonists, especially female ones, could be helpful since art tends to thrive in community.

As a mom who works full-time, it's hard to find time to cartoon, but this contest has inspired me, and I'm going to keep working to get better...lettering, drawing, composition, figuring out how &8#!@ ink washes work, etc.

Thank you, Mr. Cavna, for your willingness to engage in dialogue, and best wishes to all the cartoonists who entered.

Posted by: tiara123 | June 16, 2010 9:35 PM | Report abuse

>> tiara123:

I'm thrilled to hear that this contest has inspired at least one aspiring cartoonist. And I don't know whether you have submitted (or have ever considered submitting) your work to The Washington Post Writers Group, but comics Editor Amy Lago -- one of the leading voices in our contest judges' room -- is one of the best critiquers of newspaper comics in the business. (And I'm not just saying that because we're both Posties; she was my supremely talented editor at United before either of us landed here.) Whenever you're ready, you might consider sending a submission to her @ WPWG (http://www.postwritersgroup.com/comicsubmissionguide.html) -- even if it "simply" results in receiving her smart feedback.

Good luck as you keep improving your lettering, your line, those blasted ink washes. [!]

Best,
M.C.

Posted by: cavnam | June 16, 2010 10:21 PM | Report abuse

Keep at it, tiara123! Good luck. Hope to see your strips someday.

M.C. - WPWG has ten syndicated strips. How many are written/drawn by females?

Posted by: itsjustanapple | June 16, 2010 10:31 PM | Report abuse

My point exactly.

--M.C.

Posted by: cavnam | June 16, 2010 10:52 PM | Report abuse

And it's because the men are more talented at writing and drawing and because men are funnier? ... by odds of 10-1 (or 9-1)?

Posted by: itsjustanapple | June 16, 2010 10:56 PM | Report abuse

I did not make the top 10 and I am very content with that. I am now going to push myself harder with Just Say Cheese so if we get another contest next year, I'll be bigger, badder and stronger!

I made the gallery (#99) and that within itself is AWESOME!!!

Congrats to the top 10 and GOOD LUCK. Go get a contract!!!

Posted by: FugCheese | June 17, 2010 10:18 AM | Report abuse

Not a cartoonist, just a subscriber who is female - what exactly is female humor? While my favorite of the top 10 is by the sole woman finalist, her work seemed gender neutral. I like my humor equal opportunity.

On the other hand, several of the finalists were distinctly male. You probably won't find many women still dreaming of becoming rock stars in middle age.

Posted by: thingsfallapart | June 17, 2010 10:36 AM | Report abuse

@itsjustanapple:

You are being tiresomely chauvinistic.

Mike is being too nice to you. You keep poking him with your "why didn't you pick more female cartoonists" stick (schtick?)even after he explained the numbers to you. It had nothing to do with preference and everything to do with averages. 15 women out of 500 submissions is .03 percent. and 3 of them were in the top 15, which is quite a larger percentage than one would expect. And one of those women dropped out!

Maybe some women didn't feel they had the time for this contest, maybe they have more than enough things to do. Maybe they didn't even know about this contest.
Maybe they prefer a different media to work in. I know a lot of women who "draw" in Flash and animate their work, which was disqualified for entry in this contest.

There's no reason for a separate contest just for women. That just reinforces the stereotype you seem to think is being displayed. A good cartoonist is a good cartoonist, no matter what their color, creed, sex, or sexual orientation.

Speaking of 'female humor':one of the funniest comic strips I've ever read was drawn by a guy and written by his wife's gay girl friend. That was back in the early '70s in California (sorry, I can't remember the name of the strip).

Posted by: InkSlingerz | June 17, 2010 1:39 PM | Report abuse

How about an opportunity to write in a candidate. Some in the gallery are better than the top 10...better drawing and more creative concepts

Posted by: ckd2swimmer | June 17, 2010 1:56 PM | Report abuse

Now there's an idea. besides voting for the fav out of the top 10, let the readership pick one of their own from the top 120-something. Then you can have a run-off between the 2.

Posted by: InkSlingerz | June 17, 2010 10:25 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, M.C., for your suggestions and encouragement. Now back to the drawing board, literally. (-:

Posted by: tiara123 | June 18, 2010 8:02 AM | Report abuse

Don't anyone get discouraged! I am working harder than ever on my strip. Personally, I think I screwed up by trying to present my storytelling ability rather than displaying my zingers... either that or I really just stink. Hey, as long as YOU are having fun with it, do JUST that. Have fun with it. Setup a page on Facebook like I did for Just Say Cheese and you will get all the encouragement you need. Trust me! Set up a blog too. The internet is your best tool for getting all the feedback and encouragement you will ever need.

Don't give up! and GOOD LUCK TO ALL!!!

Posted by: FugCheese | June 18, 2010 9:43 AM | Report abuse

Inkslingerz - I like the idea of readers choosing from a much larger group. I would have liked to choose from the group of 100+ samples, for instance - there seemed to be more diversity of perspective in that group.

I agree that a good cartoonist is a good cartoonist (and a bad cartoonist a bad cartoonist). I also think that there's a level where the criteria for determining what is good tend to follow certain trends, patterns or assumptions about style. I thought a few of the female submissions were really funny and no less funny or skillfully drawn than the top 10.

M.C., as a reader, I want to be able to pick humor from a more diverse crop of material that increases the odds of feeling a connection to the subject matter. I was raised in a generation where most cartoonists and comedians were male. The humor might make me laugh, but that doesn't mean I connect with it. I appreciate that Steve Carell and Mike Meyers are funny, but I really 'get' the perspectives of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler and would actively seek out their work given the choice. It's not because they are female. It is because I relate to their chosen subject matter and characters more often.

I like a strip that hits so close to home that I when I cut it out or email it to my mom, female colleagues and girlfriends, they all think it was written based on their lives.

Thank you for the discussion. Hopefully the Washington Post will run another contest in the future and we'll get to vote on a broader group of submissions. Maybe the judges can weed out the awful or poorly constructed attempts at cartooning and then provide the readers with a group of decent strips so the readers can tell the Washington Post what they think is funny.

Posted by: itsjustanapple | June 18, 2010 4:03 PM | Report abuse

>> @itsjustanapple:

Thanks to you, too, for the discussion. Post contest producers are gleaning many as-we-go lessons with this first "Next Cartoonist" Contest. Next time, I'd like to see readers getting to vote on a larger pool of first-round contenders.

Side note: As for Fey and Poehler, specifically (I'm quite the vocal fan of both), you might enjoy this piece if you haven't read it already:
"Eight Things You Can Learn from Twain Prize's TINA FEY"

LINK: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/comic-riffs/2010/05/comedy_eight_things_you_can_le.html

--M.C.

Posted by: Michael Cavna | June 18, 2010 7:57 PM | Report abuse

@itsjustanapple

I agree with you about the need for a more diverse pool of humor and style. (Please accept my apologies for being strident with my response.) I have a far longer timeline to pick from. Many of my favorite comics have been the women who pushed the boundaries. Some succeeded, some didn't. I got a lot of enjoyment and an education from watching and listening to them.

I pointed out the bias that the judges might have toward 'family humor' strips in my second cartoon that I submitted, knowing it would probably knock me out of contention right then. I noticed that many, many strips had the same drawing style. The ones I particularly liked in the top 100 were different, and IMHO, better all around (by only a few degrees with some of them). My style was somewhat looser than many, certainly not as good as it was when I drew the strip in college (many, many years ago)and certainly not as funny as many of the strips and panels I read in the Top 100.

I participated in a discussion on The Daily Cartoonist about changing one's strip to match what the editors where looking for. I felt that was pandering and cheapened your product. One should do what one feels comfortable with, not what someone else wants them to do. Yes, being syndicated makes your cartoons a commercial art, but cartooning is a very personal art made by someone who wants to communicate in a way that uses many different modes-visual, verbal, and situations. It uses writing skills, art skills, and social observation.

Thanks to Mike and the WP and the great panel of judges for the opportunity to tell our stories.

I hope to give it another try sometime in the next few years.

Posted by: InkSlingerz | June 19, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse

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