Want to know where cartoonists go for vacation?
I just got back from attending the Reuben Awards, held this year in the heart of movieland. The Reubens are the pro cartoonist equivalent of the Oscars, except cartoonists are friendly and don’t have egos the size of Manhattan. Awards are given for various types of cartooning prowess, culminating in the announcement of the Reuben Award for the Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year – the top award in the cartooning world. Such greats as Charles Schulz (Peanuts), Gary Larson (Far Side), and Mort Walker (Beetle Bailey) are Reuben Award winners, (click here to see the complete list), and this year’s nominees were among the best in the country: Stephan Pastis (Pearls Before Swine), Dan Piraro (Bizarro), and this year’s winner, Dave Coverly (Speed Bump).
Dave is an unassuming fellow from Michigan, and one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet – plus his cartoon is a crack up. His acceptance speech was typically gracious and the crowd gave him a warm and well-deserved standing ovation. But there is more to him than most people know.
Dave Coverly (NCS photo)
Dave, along with about a hundred other cartoonists around the country, has taken time to visit with wounded warriors. He recently returned from a trip to Walter Reed, Bethesda and Landstuhl (Germany) where he talked and drew for the troops (click here to read about his trip).
Dave Coverly (fifth from left, holding the banner) at the USO’s Warrior Center in Germany
So has Michael Ramirez, winner of this year’s Editorial Cartoonist of the Year, and a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner (he’s in the black coat standing next to Dave Coverly). Michael arranged for a giant banner to be printed up for the Reubens, and all weekend long cartoonists could be seen doodling on it – the finished product will be presented to the USO to display for the troops.
Stephan Pastis, one of the other nominees for the Reuben, has also visited the troops in the U.S. and in Europe. He regularly corresponds with soldiers in the field, and even donated art to decorate a soccer stadium that had been built in Iraq.
Stephan Pastis (far right) at Landstuhl
Bil Keane, creator of the Family Circus, and Mell Lazarus, creator of Momma, were inducted into the NCS Hall of Fame that evening. Both had visited troops in Vietnam. Bil’s son Jeff is the President of the NCS. He has been to Walter Reed, Bethesda and Landstuhl, and will visit the Marines at the Naval Regional Medical Center in San Diego this summer.
I also met Julie Negron, creator of the outstanding cartoon “Jenny, the Military Spouse”, which appears in Stars and Stripes. Her husband is still serving on active duty. This is her first year as a member of the National Cartoonists Society, and let me tell you, she’s going to be a star.
All weekend long, cartoonists talked about the men and women who serve – not just about those who are hurt, but all of them. Many wanted to participate in future visits, or provide encouragement to our forces in other ways. Some had family members in uniform. Some have been working behind the scenes for years on projects that benefit the armed services.
So the awards were neat, but it was a truly special experience because of the undercurrent of heartfelt support for our troops that was tangible all weekend long.
Plus we had the chance to hang out with the wonderful people who draw funny pictures for a living, and who wouldn’t enjoy that?