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Posted at 11:40 AM ET, 03/ 2/2011

TOM TOLES: The Post cartoonist wins the 2011 Herblock Prize [UPDATED]

By Michael Cavna


The Herblock Prize is staying in town.

A year after Politico's Matt Wuerker won the Herb Block Foundation's editorial-cartooning honor, The Washington Post's Tom Toles [right] has been picked for the prize, the foundation has announced..

Toles is the eighth cartoonist to win the award, which was created in 2004 "to encourage editorial cartooning as an essential tool for preserving the rights of the American people through freedom of speech and the right of expression." He will receive "a tax-free $15,000 cash prize" and a sterling-silver Tiffany trophy, to be presented April 26 at a Library of Congress ceremony.

The Post swept the awards: Ann Telnaes, who creates animated cartoons for, was named the Herblock Prize's first-ever finalist.

Toles inherits the Herblock Prize nearly a decade after he inherited Herb Block's job. Toles arrived at The Post in 2002, the year after the legendary cartoonist died at age 91 after 55 years at the paper. "Herblock," as he was known, won three Pulitzer Prizes in a career that stretched into nine decades.

"I walk in Herblock's slippers," Toles tells Comic Riffs. "I am highly honored."

Toles won the Pulitzer in 1990 while at the Buffalo News. A graduate of the State University of New York at Buffalo, he has also drawn for the Buffalo Courier-Express, the New York Daily News, the New Republic magazine and US News and World Report.

His other honors include the John Fischetti Award, the H.L. Mencken Free Press Award, the National Headliners Award and the Overseas Press Club Thomas Nast Award.

In addition to Wuerker, the contest judges were Signe Wilkinson of the Philadelphia Daily News and Harry Katz, curator of The Herb Block Foundation.

In picking the winner, Wilkinson commented: "Day in and day out, Tom Toles uses his minimal style to maximalist effect. ... He is a worthy heir to Herbert Block." Wuerker said: "It's a magical combination of sharp and timely political insight mixed with humor, all served up with a disarmingly whimsical drawing style." And Katz said: "Working with the cauldron of Washington politics he cooks up a potent brew of humor, outrage and irony, representing the best traditions of American political cartooning."

"PBS NewsHour" anchor/editor Jim Lehrer will give the Herblock Lecture at the awards ceremony.

Click through to view Toles's winning portfolio -- as well as extended comments from the judges about their process:

THE TOLES PORTFOLIO (click images to enlarge):





















UPDATE: To "lift the veil" some on the judging process for the 2011 Herblock Prize, jurors Matt Wuerker and Signe Wilkinson share their thoughts here in a statement:

"Judging the Herblock award this year was really, really hard. There was too much good work in way too many inventive forms. It's good news for our readers ... but hard for judges. Different judges would have ended up with a different decision.

"In the spirit of transparency, we'd like to lift the veil a little on the thinking that went into our judging this year. Think of this as a little WikiLeak of what happened on the path to awarding the 2011 Herblock Prize.

"Before the judging, it was agreed that this year the finalist would also be recognized. We knew the job was to come up with two top cartoonists.

"We had a great, broad sampling of political cartooning today: lots of traditional single-panel cartoons, plenty of stellar 'altie' work, a number of great ventures into cartoon journalism and, of course, the animation submissions. We even had cartoons rendered with actual oil from the BP spill.

In the apples and oranges comparisons that are such a big part of the process, it was hard to measure the simple punchy genius of single panels by the likes of [Lexington Herald-Leader's Joel] Pett and [the (Illinois) State Journal-Register's Chris Britt] against long-form docucomics that went beyond the headlines, like those submitted by [the (Portland) Oregonian's Jack] Ohman, [the Boston Globe's Dan] Wasserman and [Indianapolis Star's Gary] Varvel, or for that matter animated reporter's sketchbooks such as the engaging submission from [the Sacramento Bee's] Rex Babin.

"[The Free Press's] Mike Thompson's finger on the pulse of Detroit crime and [United Features's] Bill Day's attention to child abuse were both powerful uses of our medium. For taking us where cartooning had not gone before, [Universal Uclick's] Ted Rall's enterprising trip to Afghanistan was particularly noteworthy. [Salt Lake Tribune's] Pat Bagley's wonderful loose humor and engagement with his readers made him a contender. The 'Alties,' led by [Matt] Bors and [Jen] Sorensen, all made it to the semifinal pile, as did [Investor Business Daily's Michael] Ramirez, whose graphic punch and strong, clearly expressed political opinions kept him in the running right up to the end.

"We all agreed that, to the best of our abilities, we'd not judge according to our political bent but solely on the quality and consistency of the cartooning found in the portfolios we were looking at.

"Though [former (N.Y.) Journal News cartoonist] Matt Davies had what we all agreed was the single best cartoon of the year, "WikiLeaks" (by the way, a non-animated black-and-white single panel ), the quality and creativity of the Toles and Telnaes portfolios put them at the very top. Choosing between the two was excruciating and took a while, but in the end we felt the overall consistency of Toles's complete portfolio made him the winner, with Telnaes No. 2 by a hair ... or a .3 Micron line."

-- Signe Wilkinson and Matt Wuerker

By Michael Cavna  | March 2, 2011; 11:40 AM ET
Categories:  The Political Cartoon  | Tags:  Ann Telnaes, Harry Katz, Herb Block Foundation, Herblock Prize, Matt Wuerker, Signe Wilkinson, The Washington Post, Tom Toles  
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Totally deserves it.

Posted by: dkp01 | March 2, 2011 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Tom!!! Yes! Congratulations! And kudos to the Washington Post for recognizing your talent long before the award!

Posted by: livinthevidaverde | March 2, 2011 1:17 PM | Report abuse

Hate and propaganda wins an award.

Posted by: Cornell1984 | March 2, 2011 2:38 PM | Report abuse

I frequently email his cartoons to friends all over the country because in a few deft lines Mr. Toles speaks volumes of truth. He is indeed a worthy successor to Herblock and indisputably merits this recognition.

Posted by: psplus | March 2, 2011 2:48 PM | Report abuse

Congratulations, Tom! Long may your nib pierce.

Posted by: rhompson | March 2, 2011 3:41 PM | Report abuse

Hate and propaganda wins a show on FOX NEWS.

Fixed it fer ya.

Posted by: jimbo1949 | March 3, 2011 3:11 PM | Report abuse

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