[Art: Tom Richmond cover for the NCS conference with Mo Willems, Brad Anderson, Drew Freidman, Jason Chatfield, Lee Salem, Rob Rogers, Joe Wos and Terri Libenson.]

This weekend the traditional Memorial Day annual meeting of the National Cartoonists Society will be held in Pittsburgh, PA. Although Saturday’s Reuben Awards banquet is a private affair, the rest of the weekend has been turned into a public comics festival, starting today with the FIRST EVER art show of Reuben Award winners at the Toonseum. The Pittsburgh Comic Arts Festival (which no one is calling PCAF) takes place Sunday with a block turned into a comics fair:

The 900 Block of Liberty Avenue downtown will become a veritable living funny pages block party with visits from Betty Boop, Popeye, Olive Oyl, Dennis the Menace, and the Care Bears. Fun vendors, art activities, chalk artists and caricaturists and will round out the festivities and help to literally draw a crowd!

Inside the Bricolage theater is a full day of discussions and signings. There’s also an exhibition of original art from Fat Albert at the August Wilson Gallery. More in this link and in this preview. While many events are free, there is a $5 charge for panels.

This is one of the best ideas ever, and a big boost for Pittsburgh’s growing comic arts scene. The NCS meeting moves around every year, but it has never been turned into a public festival of this kind. Comic strip cartoonists have traditionally been much shyer than comic book artists—partly because of their higher status in the culture until recently—but with the social media making everyone more approachable, this is a great way to celebrate comic strips and the people who make them.

Times and locations:

opens Thu., May 23 ($150 VIP ticket for 7:30 p.m. reception).
Exhibit continues through Aug. 25.
945 Liberty Ave.,


10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sun., May 26. Various venues
900 block of Liberty Avenue
Street fest is free, other ticket prices vary.


Sunday Schedule:

• 10-11 a.m. (ToonSeum, 945 Liberty Ave.): Jan Eliot (“Stone Soup”), Patrick McDonnell (“Mutts”), Brian Walker (“Hi & Lois”).
• 11 a.m.-noon (August Wilson Center, 980 Liberty Ave.): Brian Crane (“Pickles”), Greg Evans (“Luann”), Rob Rogers (Post-Gazette editorial cartoonist), John Rose (“Barney Google and Snuffy Smith”), John Stevens (caricatoonist), Carolyn Belefski (“Curls”).
• Noon-1 p.m. (Wilson Center): Paul Fell (“Paul Fell Cartoons”), Jeff Keane (“Family Circus”), Bunny Hoest (“The Lockhorns,” “Laugh Parade,” “Howard Huge”), Bill Morrison (“Simpsons Comics”), Laurie Triefeldt (“World of Wonder”), Sandra Bell-Lundy (“Between Friends”).
• 1-2 p.m. (Wilson Center): Donna Lewis (“Reply All Comic”), Mark Tatulli (“Lio”), Jerry Van Amerongen (“Ballad Street”), Greg Walker (“Beetle Bailey”), Tom Richmond (“Mad Magazine”).
• 1:15-2:15 p.m. (Bricolage, 937 Liberty Ave; ticketed event): Women in Cartooning Panel — Lynn Johnston (“For Better or For Worse”), Cathy Guisewite (“Cathy”), Terri Libenson (“Pajama Diaries”) and Hilary Price (“Rhymes With Orange”), Jen Sorensen (“Slowpoke”).
• 2-3 p.m. (Wilson Center): Jason Chatfield (“Ginger Meggs”), Barbara Dale (“Dale Cards”), Jeff Knurek (“Jumble: That Scrambled Word Game”); Mo Willems (“Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus”).
• 3:15-4:15 p.m. (Bricolage): Dan Piraro (“Bizarro Quick-Draw Jam Session!”).
• 3-4 p.m.: (Wilson Center): Daryll Collins (“Scholastic, Highlights and Boys Life”); Paul Combs (“Drawn by Fire”), John Hambrock (“The Brilliant Mind of Edison Lee,” King Features), Bill Holbrook (“On the Fast Track”), Jim Horwitz (“Watson”), Rick Kirkman (“Baby Blues”).
• 5-6 p.m. (Wilson Center): Andrew Farago (curator, Cartoon Art Museum, San Francisco), Michael Jantze (“The Norm”), Mahendra Shah (“I Said it Too”), Rick Stromoski (“Soup to Nutz”).


  1. Everything about this is great!

    It’s always bugged me how few comic fans pay attention to the Reubens, the most prestigious award comics have and its only (as far as I know) black tie event.

  2. 1) The Reuben is one award, for outstanding cartoonist of the year. Since the rules now only allow one to win it once, it’s a bit of a de facto lifetime achievement award. But NCS has that too, The Caniff.

    Everything else are divisional winners.

    2) The most prestigious award comics have? Probably the Pulitzer for Editorial Cartoon (which have been won by comic strips three times). $10,000

    And then there is le Grand Prix de la ville d’Angoulême.

    3) Comics fans (that is, comic BOOK fans) don’t follow comic strips for a variety of reasons:
    a) different media. Newspapers vs newsstands/shops
    b) Senate hearings, when the NCS (via Walt Kelly) distanced themselves from comic book publishers.
    c) Different marketing. Comic strips were routinely collected and sold via bookstores, frequently making the New York Times bestseller lists (since at least 1951). Comic books/graphic novels were a sideline up until the late 1990s.
    d) Comic strips are mostly gag-a-day, or soap operatic. Comic book fans generally read the superhero genre, which is rarely seen in newspaper comics.

    These distinctions are changing, due to web comics, the Internet, and the growing general acceptance of comic books and graphic novels, as well a broadening of genres and stories told.

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