Who Will Win? Our Fearless Predictions!

reuben_hardwareCartoonists spend 364 days a year hidden from the world in their cork-lined garrets, suffering for their art. But for one glorious day a year, cartoonists emerge to honor the best in the profession with awards (the top award being the legendary Reuben Award). So we’re breaking out the tea leaves and the sophisticated statistical models (not to mention a bottle of single malt) to predict the winners, as we do each year. The membership of the National Cartoonists Society has nominated cartoonists in a range of categories, and the winners will be announced on May 23 in that wretched hive of scum and villainy better known as Washington, DC. (Longtime visitors to this site are aware of our predictive abilities, so go ahead and place your wagers accordingly.)

NOMINEES FOR THE COMIC BOOK DIVISION AWARD: Jason Latour (“Southern Bastards”), Babs Tarr (“Batgirl”) and J.H. Williams III (“The Sandman Overture”). Seeing Tarr’s nomination in a male-dominated category leads us to note that of the 16 NCS awards categories up for grabs, 10 of them have at least one female nominee, a welcome inclusiveness in an organization not always known for its diversity. SHOULD WIN: Williams’ work on the venerable Sandman is remarkable in its lyricism and visually literate style, but…. WILL WIN: Superheroes are super-hot, and the newcomer (and fan favorite) Tarr’s contemporary take on the iconic Batgirl carries the day.

NOMINEES FOR THE EDITORIAL CARTOON AWARD: Clay Bennett, Mike Ramirez and Jen Sorensen. Bennett and Ramirez repeat as nominees in this division (and Ramirez won last year), and this is Bennett’s third consecutive nomination in the division. SHOULD WIN: Sorensen—also a former winner in this division–remains both unapologetically progressive yet refreshingly elusive to pigeonhole ideologically, making her cartoon a weekly must-read. WILL WIN: We predicted (wrongly) that Bennett would win this division last year (and the year before), and we were wrong then. He takes home the hardware this year.

NOMINEES FOR THE GAG CARTOON DIVISION AWARD: Liza Donnelly, Benjamin Schwartz and Edward Steed. Can the NCS please just go ahead and rename this category Best New Yorker Cartoonist? SHOULD WIN: Schwartz’s cartoons run the gamut from absurd to current events, always displaying keen wit and fine draftsmanship. WILL WIN: Donnelly’s work is universally relatable and insightful, and given her long tenure as a New Yorker cartoonist (since 1979) and the glass-ceiling-shattering role she helped play there, she gets the hardware.

NOMINEES FOR THE ANIMATION FEATURE DIVISION AWARD: Paul Felix (production design, “Big Hero 6”), Tomm Moore (director, “Song of the Sea”) and Isao Takahata (director, “The Tale of Princess Kaguya”). An impressively diverse group of nominees underscores the innovative work being produced in feature animation. SHOULD WIN: Takahata is a legend, and his traditional, hand-drawn approach to animation will appeal to a certain NCS voting bloc, but… WILL WIN: The thoroughly charming “Big Hero 6” enjoyed boffo box office (inevitably, a sequel is in the discussion stage) and benefits from its familiarity to fans of the Marvel comic book.

NOMINEES FOR THE TELEVISION ANIMATION DIVISION AWARD: Mark Ackland (“Wander Over Yonder”), Patrick McHale (“Over the Garden Wall”) and Kyle Menke (the “Star Wars” parody episode of “Phineas and Ferb”). SHOULD WIN: With “Over the Garden Wall,” McHale has created a visually distinctive cartoon with idiosyncratic, lyrical and literate elements—no mean feat in children’s programming. WILL WIN: Menke’s homage to Star Wars was delirious, clever and—especially—heartfelt and appealed to enough grown-up children (aka NCS members) to take home the plaque.

NOMINEES FOR THE NEWSPAPER ILLUSTRATION AWARD: Anton Emdin, Glen LeLievre and Ed Murawinski. Two of the three nominees (Emdin and LeLievre) hail from Sydney, Australia…what’s in the water Down Under? SHOULD WIN: We love LeLievre’s imaginative, technically virtuoso illustrations, but… WILL WIN: Cheers, mate! Emdin is producing simply astonishing work and will be justly recognized by his peers.

NOMINEES FOR THE NEWSPAPER PANEL AWARD: Dave Blazek (“Loose Parts”), Mark Parisi (“Off the Mark”) and Hilary Price (“Rhymes with Orange”). SHOULD WIN: When Parisi (a former winner here) is nominated in this division, we’re loath to predict against him, but… WILL WIN: Price won’t take the night’s top honor, the Reuben Award (it might as well already have Stephan Pastis’ name engraved on it), but top honors in this division ain’t chopped liver.

NOMINEES FOR THE GRAPHIC NOVEL AWARD: Jules Feiffer (“Kill My Mother”), Mike Maihack (“Cleopatra in Space”) and Jillian Tamaki (“This One Summer”). Two nominees for younger readers and one (Feiffer’s) decidedly NOT for younger readers. And can we talk about the glaring omission of Roz Chast’s brilliant “Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant?” from this division? We’re still scratching our heads about that one. SHOULD WIN: With “This One Summer,” Tamaki produced an emotionally authentic coming-of-age tale, but it’s aimed at the young adult category—not a big voting bloc in the NCS. WILL WIN: Much like his onetime mentor Will Eisner, Feiffer continues to stretch himself creatively, and his modern-day take on the classic film noir genre should attract plenty of voters. Plus, he’s a cartooning legend, which never hurts a nominee’s chances.

NOMINEES FOR THE GREETING CARD AWARD: Gary McCoy, Glenn McCoy, and Maria Scrivan. It’s not a Reuben competition without a little sibling rivalry from the McCoy boys. SHOULD WIN: Scrivan’s card illustrations are gems of humor and craft and rise above merely transposing a gag panel onto a card, but statistically the odds are in favor of a McCoy. WILL WIN: Predicting a McCoy win here is taking the safe route, but which McCoy take home the hardware? We’ll go with Glenn on the strength of his many biting and mischievous card concepts.

NOMINEES FOR THE ADVERTISING/PRODUCT ILLUSTRATION AWARD: Kevin Kallaugher, Ed Steckley and Dave Whamond. In an era of diminishing newspaper prospects, advertising illustration represents one of the potential growth opportunities for cartoonists, and the nominees bring idiosyncratic perspectives to their work. SHOULD WIN: The venerable Kallaugher is a masterful advertising illustrator, making the message memorable in the way the best campaigns do. WILL WIN: Steckley’s graceful, engaging illustrations, balanced skillfullly between cartoony and illustrative, will carry the day.

NOMINEES FOR THE NEWSPAPER STRIP DIVISION AWARD: Brian Bassett (“Red and Rover”), Stephan Pastis (“Pearls Before Swine”) and Glenn McCoy (“The Duplex”). Another division, another McCoy nomination—those McCoy boys get around. SHOULD WIN: We’re big fans of Basset’s strip, which has won in prior years, but… WILL WIN: Nothing is stopping the Pastis Express this year, given the outstanding year he had in 2014.

NOMINEES FOR THE MAGAZINE ILLUSTRATION AWARD: Ray Alma, Anton Emdin and Tom Richmond. Truly a murder’s row of nominees here and one of the toughest categories to call this year. SHOULD WIN: Alma had a brilliant year, demonstrating a wide range of approaches, all of which clicked. WILL WIN: We think Emdin takes this division on the strength of his prolific, lush and simply gorgeous magazine work (including for the Australian edition of Mad magazine), but we won’t be surprised if 2011’s Reuben Award winner (and outgoing NCS president) Tom Richmond ends up on the dais making an acceptance speech (never underestimate the power of Mad magazine).

NOMINEES FOR THE BOOK ILLUSTRATION AWARD: Marla Frazee (“The Farmer and the Clown”), Yasmeen Ismail (“Time for Bed, Fred”) and Shaun Tan (“Rules of Summer”). A category that often includes a nonfiction book exclusively features fiction this year. SHOULD WIN: Tan created an effectively atmospheric, moody work and is still remembered for his landmark graphic novel “The Arrival,” but… WILL WIN: A two-time Caldecott Honor recipient, Frazee has created yet another book that has garnered a great deal of critical acclaim. An NCS plaque will add its voice to the chorus.

NOMINEES FOR THE ONLINE COMIC STRIP/LONG FORM AWARD: Vince Dorse (“The Untold Tales of Bigfoot”), Mike Norton (“Battlepug”) and Minna Sundberg (“Stand Still, Stay Silent”). SHOULD WIN: Dorse won this category two years ago, and we said then that he SHOULD win it (but we didn’t predict he WOULD win it). So again we say he should win, but… WILL WIN: Sundberg’s post-apocalyptic epic has a fully and imaginatively realized mythology and has attracted a passionate fan base. (But if Dorse wins again, we’ll be unsurprised and gratified.)

NOMINEES FOR THE ONLINE COMIC STRIP/SHORT FORM AWARD: Danielle Corsetto (“Girls with Slingshots”), Jonathan Lemon (“Rabbits Against Magic”) and Rich Powell (“Wide Open”). It’s a shame that there’s no room for fine strips like these in newspapers’ comics pages; the reading experience would be more vital and compelling. SHOULD WIN: We’re big fans of Lemon’s strip, but this year being against magic is not enough to overcome… WILL WIN: Corsetto’s popular, long-running (just over 10 years) strip recently came to a self-imposed conclusion, and we predict NCS voters will want to honor its impressive achievement.

NOMINEES FOR THE REUBEN AWARD: In the running for cartooning’s top award are Roz Chast, Stephan Pastis and Hilary Price. We think this is the first year in which two of the three nominees are female—you’ve come a long way, NCS. SHOULD WIN: We’re on the record as believing that Pastis’ “Pearls Before Swine” has elements that today’s comics page needs more of—mordant and misanthropic humor, boundary-bending ribaldry and a regular willingness to push the envelope with its jokes–to remain vital. WILL WIN: Too many times the Reuben runner-up, Pastis would have won the Reuben Award this year anyway simply on the strength of his work. We’ve wrongly predicted his victory before, but after enticing Bill Watterson back to the comics page for three glorious days in June? Clear some space on the mantel, Stephan.

As always, shortly after the National Cartoonists Society’s awards weekend, we’ll unveil this year’s online photo album capturing moments both dignified and mortifying, and we’ll let you know here when it’s available. We’ll be live-tweeting the NCS awards on May 23, so start following us today to get the results in real time!

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