Who Will Win? Our Fearless Reuben Award Predictions for 2016!

NOMINEES FOR THE GREETING CARD AWARD: Jim Benton, Scott Nickel and Robbin Rawlings. SHOULD WIN: Rawlings brings unique flair and artistry to her greeting cards, which are often suitable for framing. WILL WIN: The work of Nickel—who also produces the comic strip “EEK!”—will speak to voters, who will feel a kinship to the way he conveys humor.

NOMINEES FOR THE ADVERTISING/PRODUCT ILLUSTRATION AWARD: Ray Alma, Anton Emdin and Luke McGarry. SHOULD WIN: It’s not a head-scratcher why companies seek out Emdin to craft their advertising illustrations, but…. WILL WIN: We already expressed our reluctance to pick against Emdin, but the guy can’t win everything. Alma, with his inventive and often subversive approach to conveying a message, takes home the hardware.

NOMINEES FOR THE NEWSPAPER STRIP DIVISION AWARD: Terri Libenson (“The Pajama Diaries”), Stephan Pastis (“Pearls Before Swine”) and Mark Tatulli (“Lio”). Pastis won this division last year and repeats as a nominee. SHOULD WIN: Libenson’s relatable, insightfully humane look at daily life is what the newspaper page needs more of. WILL WIN: Tatulli will likely not be speechless, like his titular protagonist, when his name is called from the awards stage.

NOMINEES FOR THE MAGAZINE ILLUSTRATION AWARD: Anton Emdin, Rich Powell and Julia Suits. Emdin repeats as a nominee here. SHOULD WIN: The redoubtable Powell brought superb flair to feature illustration in a category that provides an expansive canvas. WILL WIN: In a category that doesn’t often have a female nominee, we like Suits’ chances. Not because of her gender, but her more traditional “cartoony” approach to illustration (while lacking Emdin’s virtuosity) will appeal to NCS voters.

NOMINEES FOR THE BOOK ILLUSTRATION AWARD: Juana Medina (“Smick!”), Sydney Smith (“Sidewalk Flowers”) and Gitte Spee (“The First Case”). SHOULD WIN: Smith shouldered an especially heavy burden in this wordless book, poignantly balancing wistfulness and hopefulness in a story remembered long after reading. WILL WIN: NCS members recognized Medina’s abilities early, awarding her the inaugural Jay Kennedy Memorial Scholarship, and this book is a testament to the continuing flowering of her talent. Voters will reward her creative ascendancy with a plaque for “Smick!”

NOMINEES FOR THE ONLINE COMIC STRIP/LONG FORM AWARD: Meredith Gran (“Octopus Pie”), Dave Kellett (“Drive”) and Drew Weing (“The Creepy Casefiles of Margo Maloo”). Kellett is a nominee in both long-form and short-form webcomics for different titles, a feat as impressive for its prolificacy as for its versatility. SHOULD WIN: Weing does a superlative job of capturing a childlike blend of wonder and horror in “Margo Maloo,” and his webcomic will gain wider renown with the forthcoming book compilation. WILL WIN: Kellett has cultivated a large and dedicated fan base with his long-running science fiction epic, and that base’s devotion will help him carry the day.

NOMINEES FOR THE ONLINE COMIC STRIP/SHORT FORM AWARD: Boulet (“Boulecorp”), Bill Holbrook (“Kevin & Kell”) and Dave Kellett (“Sheldon”). It’s a cruel irony that so much fine short-form cartooning exists at a time when newspapers either cannot or will not accommodate it. SHOULD WIN: Holbrook was at the vanguard of web cartooning, having produced “Kevin & Kell” daily since (gasp!) 1995, skillfully developing an engagingly complex cosmology. WILL WIN: Having inexplicably overlooked the trailblazing “Kevin & Kell” since this category’s inception, voters will rectify their oversight.

NOMINEES FOR THE REUBEN AWARD: Five cartoonists are vying for cartooning’s top award: Lynda Barry, Stephan Pastis, Hilary Price, Michael Ramirez and Mark Tatulli. Having five nominees means a lot of vote-splitting. SHOULD WIN: Lynda Barry has done as much as anyone in recent years to earn mainstream literary respect for cartooning, and she continues to push herself narratively and thematically. WILL WIN: We predict Pastis as the Reuben Award winner every year he’s nominated, and we’ve never been right. Perhaps we’re jinxing him, but we’ll do it again this year, recognizing that his approach to the daily comic strip (edgy, ribald, smart and sophomoric all at the same time) is what the form needs to remain relevant to today’s reader. Plus it’s damn funny. And if we’re wrong again, Stephen, we promise to stop jinxing you.

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

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