Cartoon Crossroads Columbus’ (CXC) seventh festival was held this past weekend. The event honoured three women in its annual awards as it also introduced a new  commemorative Tom Spurgeon Award to celebrate the contribution of non-cartoonists to the field.

The respective recipients of 2021’s CXC Master Cartoonist, Transformative Work, and Emerging Talent awards were Shary Flenniken, Alison Bechdel‘s Fun Home, and Robyn Smith. Emerging Talent Award recipient Smith will receive a $7,500 prize from the festival.

On her win, Smith tweeted,

This year CXC also introduced a new award in remembrance of the festival’s late executive director, the esteemed Comics Reporter Tom Spurgeon, who passed away in 2019. The Tom Spurgeon Award is aimed at recognising the role of non-cartoonists – living and deceased – in supporting the broader medium. Due to pandemic concerns, the inaugural award went to three posthumous recipients, but future awardees will be invited to the festival – all expenses paid – as special honourees.

The three posthumous recipients of the inaugural Tom Spurgeon Award were Chicago Tribune-New York Daily News syndicate vice-president and director Mollie Slott; All-Negro Comics founder and publisher Orrin Evans; and Fantagraphics co-publisher Kim Thompson.


CXC has taken place every year in Columbus, Ohio, since 2015, though last year the festival was forced to go entirely virtual. CXC 2021 took place with a mix of virtual and in-person events, a reflection of the changing circumstances of the pandemic.

Since its first festival it has given Master Cartoonist, Transformative Work, and Emerging Talent awards to unsuspecting special guests. Previous awardees have included the late Howard Cruse, John Porcellino, Katie Skelly and Diane Noomin.

Here are the CXC awards and their videos in full:

  • Master Cartoonist Award: Shary Flenniken, Trots and Bonnie cartoonist, member of the Air Pirates underground comix collective, editor and contributor to National Lampoon.

    • Transformative Work Award: Fun Home, Alison Bechdel

Now a major Broadway musical, Bechdel’s pioneering career as the cartoonist behind Dykes to Watch Out For took a fascinating and ground-breaking autiobio turn in 2006 with her first graphic memoir Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. This year Bechdel published her much anticipated new graphic memoir The Secret To Superhuman Strength.

    • Emerging Talent Award: Robyn Smith

Smith is a Jamaican cartoonist whose works include mental health-Blackness memoir The Saddest Angriest Black Girl In Town; Wash Day (written by Jamila Rowser); and illustrating DC Comics’s Nubia: Real One graphic novel. Award video plus CXC Spotlight on Smith and Rowser:

Tom Spurgeon Awards
  • Mollie Slott (1893-1967): journalist, vice-president and director of the Chicago Tribune-New York Daily News syndicate. The first woman to reach such a senior position in the syndicate’s history. Was instrumental in the genesis of Brenda Starr, Reporter having discovered Dale Messick earlier in career.According to CXC festival Vice-President Lucy Caswell,

“the comic strips she shepherded included Brenda Starr, Dick Tracy, Gasoline Alley, Little Orphan Annie and Terry & The Pirates, among many others.”

  • Orrin Evans (1902-1971), publisher of All Negro Comics – the first known African American written and drawn comic book magazine. Caswell,

“Motivated by his love of comics and his belief that comics were a medium that could celebrate the contributions of Black Americans to history Orrin Evans published All Negro Comics #1 in June 1947.”

  • Kim Thompson (1956-2013) editor, translator, and co-publisher of Fantagraphics

“As co-publisher of Fantagraphic books, Kim Thompson played a key role in establishing comics as a medium to tell many kinds of stories for readers of all ages. He edited works by a wide range of cartoonists from Stan Sakai to Chris Ware. Thompson also played a major role in introducing American readers to Western European graphic novels, many of which he translated for publication.”

Congratulations to all the well-deserved award winners.