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 Cartoonist Society has nominated cartoonists in a range of categories, and the winners will be announced on May 24. (Longtime readers of this newsletter are aware of our predictive abilities, so go ahead and place your wagers accordingly.)

NOMINEES FOR THE COMIC BOOK DIVISION AWARD: Sergio Aragones (“Sergio Aragones Funnies”), Jay Fosgitt (“Bodie Troll”) and Chris Samnee (“Daredevil”) SHOULD WIN: Rebooting an established character, as Samnee did with Hornhead, is no mean feat, and he pulled it off masterfully. WILL WIN: Aragones–a longstanding NCS member with many close friends in the organization–is rightly regarded as a living legend, astonishingly still at the top of his game.

NOMINEES FOR THE EDITORIAL CARTOON AWARD: Clay Bennett, Mike Ramirez and Adam Zyglis. Bennett repeats as a nominee in this division, an honor in itself. SHOULD WIN: Ramirez’s rock-ribbed conservatism is as unsubtly in-your-face as it gets, and his ideas and draftsmanship put him at the top of his class. WILL WIN: We predicted that Bennett would win this division last year, and we were wrong then. We get it right this year.

 NOMINEES FOR THE GAG CARTOON DIVISION AWARD: Matt Diffee, Bob Eckstein and Mike Twohy. The NCS really should consider renaming this division the New Yorker Cartoonist Division. SHOULD WIN: Eckstein’s gag cartoons were as ubiquitous in 2013 as they were excellent. WILL WIN: Matt Diffee’s idiosyncratic ideas are as sharp as any today in the venerable New Yorker, and that’s saying a lot. Plus, his book collections of rejected New Yorker cartoons are enormously entertaining.

 NOMINEES FOR THE ANIMATION FEATURE DIVISION AWARD: Michael Giaimo (production design, “Frozen”), Hayao Miyazaki (director, “The Wind Rises”) and Jonathan del Val (animator of Lucy in “Despicable Me 2”). One Pixar flick against two Disney offerings; sounds like a fair fight to us. SHOULD WIN: Miyazaki justifiably inhabits deity status among animation fans. WILL WIN: “The Wind Rises” marks the beginning of Miyazaki’s retirement from animation, and NCS members will help send him off with the hardware.

 NOMINEES FOR THE TELEVISION ANIMATION DIVISION AWARD: Craig McCracken (“Wander Over Yonder”), Paul Rudish (Disney Channel’s “Mickey Mouse” shorts) and Douglas Sloan and Art Edler Brown (“Dragons: Riders of Berk”). SHOULD WIN: Rudish has done an outstanding job of authentically evoking the feel of pre-war Mickey Mouse theatrical shorts, not a simple thing in a hyperkinetic media environment that prizes modernity. WILL WIN: McCracken continues his run of excellence, from “Powerpuff Girls” on, and will be rewarded accordingly.

 NOMINEES FOR THE NEWSPAPER ILLUSTRATION AWARD: Bob Eckstein, Miel Prudencio Ma and Dave Whamond. Whamond, who also produces the “Reality Check” syndicated panel, is a repeat nominee, winning the division last year. SHOULD WIN: As much as we like Whamond’s work, we tend to pick against back-to-back winners, so… WILL WIN: Eckstein, also a regular New Yorker cartoonist, takes home the plaque.

 NOMINEES FOR THE NEWSPAPER PANEL AWARD: Dave Coverly, Scott Hilburn and Mark Parisi. Coverly was also nominated in this division last year, and the absence of panel titans Dan Piraro (“Bizarro”) and Chad Carpenter (“Tundra”) opens up the field. SHOULD WIN: We’re big fans of Parisi’s work, and he won this division a couple of years ago, but… WILL WIN: Scott Hilburn’s too-often-overlooked “The Argyle Sweater” had an outstanding year and impressively refuses to fall into predictable patterns.

 NOMINEES FOR THE GRAPHIC NOVEL AWARD: Dan E Burr (“On the Ropes”), Rick Geary (“Madison Square Tragedy”) and Andrew C Robinson (“The 5th Beatle”). SHOULD WIN: “On the Ropes” is a worthy sequel to the landmark 1988 graphic novel “Kings in Disguise” and deserves all the acclaim it has garnered–but for many voters 1988 is an eternity ago. WILL WIN: Robinson’s book—a look at longtime Beatles manager Brian Epstein—gins up the ghosts of Beatlemania, an irresistible force for the large boomer voting bloc.

 NOMINEES FOR THE GREETING CARD AWARD: Glenn McCoy, Mark Parisi and George Schill. Schill is a repeat nominee in this division, having also made the cut last year. SHOULD WIN: We thought Schill would win last year, and we also think he should this year as well, after having seen another year of his imaginative greeting card humor. WILL WIN: What’s a cartooning awards event without one of the McCoy brothers walking off with a plaque?

 NOMINEES FOR THE ADVERTISING/PRODUCT ILLUSTRATION AWARD: Cedric Hohnstadt, Sean Parkes and Rich Powell. Three nominees with wildly dissimilar styles combine for a tough category. SHOULD WIN: Powell,’s lushly illustrative approach to advertising illustration is as versatile as it is appealing. WILL WIN: Parkes’ cheery, traditional take on product design appeals to the widest cross-section of voters.

 NOMINEES FOR THE NEWSPAPER STRIP DIVISION AWARD: Isabella Bannerman (“Six Chix”), Terri Libenson (“Pajama Diaries”) and Mark Tatulli (“Lio”). Two of the three nominees are women, a welcome sign of inclusiveness in the organization. SHOULD WIN: Libenson’s quasi-autobio strip is consistently sharp in its writing and always beautifully executed. WILL WIN: Tatulli’s strip continues to amaze, and its commercial success in a difficult environment will be rewarded with the prize.

 NOMINEES FOR THE MAGAZINE ILLUSTRATION AWARD: Daryll Collins, Antom Emdin and Dave Whamond. Some familiar names here: Collins repeats as a nominee in this division, as does Emdin (who took home the divisional plaque last year). SHOULD WIN: Although we’re big fans of Emdin’s work, we don’t think the smart money is on a repeat winner in a division. WILL WIN: Collins won this division in 2007, so he’s due to take home another prize after an impressively consistent year.

 NOMINEES FOR THE BOOK ILLUSTRATION AWARD: Matt Davies, William Joyce and C.F. Payne. Payne is the only former division winner among this year’s nominees. SHOULD WIN: Joyce is surely a force to be reckoned with, and he’s tough to pick against, but… WILL WIN: Payne’s children’s book on the life of Teddy Roosevelt, “To Dare Mighty Things,” is a remarkable depiction of a remarkable man.

 NOMINEES FOR THE ONLINE COMIC STRIP/LONG FORM AWARD: Jenn Manley Lee (“Dicebox”), Dylan Meconis (“Family Man”), Eddie Pittman (“Red’s Planet”) and Jeff Smith (“Tuki”). Yes, four nominees—as if choosing from three weren’t hard enough. But it speaks to the amount of quality work being produced for the online audience. SHOULD WIN: Lee’s “Dicebox” tells a gradually unfolding and deepening fantasy story, yet one that speaks meaningfully to an adult audience. WILL WIN: Smith’s “Tuki” tells the story of man’s first migration out of Africa, set against a backdrop of calamitous climate change, a relevant and compelling element for today’s reader (and NCS voter).

 NOMINEES FOR THE ONLINE COMIC STRIP/SHORT FORM AWARD: Jim Horwitz (“Watson”), Ryan Pagelow (“Buni”) and Mike Twohy (New Yorker Online). It’s not enough that the New Yorker practically owns the gag cartooning division; now it has to stick its head into another tent? SHOULD WIN: Horwitz’s strip mixes an eclectic surreality with a nostalgic twist (and an offbeat trivia question to boot), a neat balancing act. WILL WIN: Pagelow’s strip serves up the sort of bleakly nihilistic, caustic bite to which online readers especially respond.

NOMINEES FOR THE REUBEN AWARD: In the running for cartooning’s top award (contrary to common belief, only one Reuben Award is handed out each year; the others are divisional awards) are Wiley Miller, Stephan Pastis, Hilary Price and Mark Tatulli. (Yes, four nominees rather than the traditional three.) Pastis’ Reuben nomination is his sixth. Notably, none of the nominees produce a traditional family-humor strip. SHOULD WIN: Pastis’ strip represents everything the comics page needs more of to ensure its creative (and economic) viability: edgy subversion and a willingness to push the envelope of what is considered typical fare for the comics page. WILL WIN: Longtime readers of this newsletter know that we felt sure that Pastis would win cartooning’s top award last year. We were wrong then, but we think 2014 will be the Year of the Rat.

ANSWERS TO TRIVIA TIME:

B (1905), A (1907), F (1916), D (1917), C (1922), E (1925)

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 24, so start following us today to get the results in real time!

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