Who Will Win? Our Fearless Reuben Awards Predictions for 2017!

One weekend each year, cartoonists from across the country (and some from around the world) convene for the National Cartoonists Society’s annual meeting to have drinks, talk shop, have drinks, attend seminars on the craft and business of cartooning, have drinks, and generally enjoy each other’s company. (Some drinking also takes place.) The highlight of the weekend is always the Reuben Awards banquet, where awards in a bevy of categories are given out. As we do each year, we’ve fearlessly gone out on a limb with our predictions about who will—and won’t—walk away with the hardware, and why. Good luck to all the nominees, and without further ado, our predictions:

NOMINEES FOR THE COMIC BOOK DIVISION AWARD: Gabriel Rodriguez (“Locke & Key”), Stan Sakai (“Usagi Yojimbo”) and Max Sarin and Liz Fleming (“Giant Days”). The always delightful “Giant Days” repeats as a nominee, indicating its sustained popularity among NCS members. SHOULD WIN: “Giant Days” (penciled by Sarin, inked by Fleming and created and written by John Allison, who rightly should be one of the nominees) is a welcome and much-needed antidote to the grim-and-gritty milieu of too many comic books. WILL WIN: Sakai has been producing the consistently excellent “Usagi” for more than 30 years. Its longevity and quality (not to mention name recognition) will prove tough to overcome.

NOMINEES FOR THE EDITORIAL CARTOON AWARD: Ruben Bolling, Mike Luckovich and Jen Sorensen. Two years running with two men and a woman nominated, and Luckovich repeats as a nominee in this division. And an election year unlike any other provided a wealth of source material, which all three nominees exploited to brilliant effect. SHOULD WIN: We’re unabashed fans of Luckovich, whose consistently mordant commentary on the Bizarro World of 2016 was must-see cartooning all year long. WILL WIN: Sorensen (a past winner in this division) was also in the running for a Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning, but in this category she takes home the plaque.

NOMINEES FOR THE GAG CARTOON DIVISION AWARD: Pat Byrnes, Joe Dator and Will McPhail. All three boast a New Yorker connection, naturally. SHOULD WIN: Dator has produced innovative, well-crafted work for both MAD and the New Yorker, and such a versatile approach merits recognition. WILL WIN: Byrnes had a brilliant year, producing a substantial amount of clever and idiosyncratic work, and being well-liked by NCS colleagues never hurts one’s chances.

NOMINEES FOR THE ANIMATION FEATURE DIVISION AWARD: Eric Goldberg (character animator, “Moana”), Cory Loftis (character design, “Zootopia”) and Erick Oh (character animation, “Finding Dory”). SHOULD WIN: The kinetic inventiveness of “Zootopia” camouflaged a timely message of tolerance, and Loftis played a big role in appealingly delivering that message, but… WILL WIN: Goldberg—a 2D animation legend—applied timeless animation principles to cutting-edge animation technology in “Moana,” earning the respect (and votes) of enough NCS members (many of whom are strongly attracted to traditional methods) to walk away with the plaque.

NOMINEES FOR THE TELEVISION ANIMATION DIVISION AWARD: Eric Goldberg (“The Simpsons”), Steve Lambe and Alan Stewart (“Atomic Puppet”) and Chris Savino (“The Loud House”). Goldberg earned nominations in both animation categories, a rarity. SHOULD WIN: Savino’s “Loud House” is a smart and funny cartoon that manages to evoke both the joys of classic TV cartoons and the spirit of the comics page, but… WILL WIN: Remember what we said about NCS members’ love of tradition? Goldberg’s affectionate hat-tip from the Simpsons to iconic Disney characters in the episode’s intro segment will prove too seductive to overcome. (Yes, we’re predicting two wins for Goldberg, which we only rarely do, but Anton Emdin’s unprecedented hat trick last year remains fresh in our minds.)

NOMINEES FOR THE NEWSPAPER ILLUSTRATION AWARD: Anton Emdin, Glen LeLievre and David Rowe. Emdin and LeLievre are both nominated in this category for the third straight year, and—Down Under coincidence alert!—all three nominees are Australian. SHOULD WIN: We’re huge fans of LeLievre’s brilliant, buoyant illustrations, but… WILL WIN: As noted just above, it is never advisable to pick against Emdin. The lushly illustrated exuberance of his newspaper illustrations will pull enough votes in an extremely competitive category.

NOMINEES FOR THE NEWSPAPER PANEL AWARD: Dave Blazek (“Loose Parts”), Nick Galifianakis (“Nick and Zuzu”) and Mark Parisi (“Off the Mark”). SHOULD WIN: We’re big fans of Parisi’s work (a past winner in this division), but we have a crazy hunch that voters will want to reward a panel that has never taken home the hardware. WILL WIN: Galifianakis’ erudite, eye-pleasing panels and his uncanny knack for wryly capturing small, relatable moments—honed through years of illustrating Carolyn Hax’s Washington Post relationship-advice column—will make him a first-time winner in this category.

NOMINEES FOR THE GRAPHIC NOVEL AWARD: Jules Feiffer (“Cousin Joseph”), Rick Geary (“Black Dahlia”) and Bryan Talbot (“The Red Virgin and the Vision of Utopia”). Can we briefly scratch our heads about the fact that no volumes of U.S. Rep. John Lewis’ superb MARCH trilogy were ever even nominated in this division? SHOULD WIN: Geary brings his customary meticulous eye, thorough research and peerless craft to a macabre unsolved-murder story yet never allows unnecessary detail to overwhelm his finely crafted narrative. WILL WIN: Normally, we would not be predisposed to predict that the second book of a trilogy would earn the category’s top spot (victories are more likely for the final book), but Feiffer has produced a remarkable book that, with its social and political overtones, takes on newfound relevance and resonance.

NOMINEES FOR THE GREETING CARD AWARD: Dave Blazek, Maria Scrivan and Debbie Tomassi. Historically a category hospitable to female creators, two of the three nominees are women. SHOULD WIN: Tomassi—the last woman to win this category, at the 2010 Reubens—combines a traditionalist’s approach with a quirky wit. WILL WIN: Scrivan’s work will woo enough voters with her offbeat, deceptively simple concepts and masterful execution.

NOMINEES FOR THE ADVERTISING/PRODUCT ILLUSTRATION AWARD: Anton Emdin, Luke McGarry and Dave Whamond. McGarry and Emdin repeat here as nominees. SHOULD WIN: Anton swept the three categories in which he was nominated last year (including this one), and his protracted excellence merits another piece of hardware. WILL WIN: We try never to pick against the redoubtable Emdin, but Whamond (who won this category in 2011) brought a fun and frenetic approach to his work, attracting eyeballs (and votes).

NOMINEES FOR THE NEWSPAPER STRIP DIVISION AWARD: Brian Crane (“Pickles”), Steve Kelley and Jeff Parker (“Dustin”) and Terri Libenson (“The Pajama Diaries”). Libenson won this category last year, making her nomination this year a strong indication of the regard her peers have for her strip, and Kelley and Parker won the category in 2010. SHOULD WIN: We tend not to predict back-to-back wins, but Libenson’s continued excellence deserves to be rewarded. WILL WIN: In an era of boomerang kids and downward mobility, Kelley and Parker’s strip stands out as not only timely but bitingly funny.

NOMINEES FOR THE MAGAZINE/FEATURE ILLUSTRATION AWARD: Jon Adams, Teresa Burns Parkhurst and Peter Kuper. SHOULD WIN: With his versatile stylistic toolbox and winkingly novel perspective on cultural icons, Adams would typically walk away with the plaque in this division. WILL WIN: Parkhurst’s blend of subversive humor and belly laughs (National Lampoon AND Mad?) will appeal to a broad segment of voters.

NOMINEES FOR THE BOOK ILLUSTRATION AWARD: Mike Lester, Mark Tatulli and Dave Whamond. SHOULD WIN: In “Daydreaming,” Tatulli effortlessly and convincingly broke new creative ground, demonstrating chops not seen in his daily strip work. WILL WIN: Whamond—also behind a daily strip (“Reality Check”)—produced a virtuoso turn with “Oddrey,” a timeless story about celebrating idiosyncrasy, and he might need his own reality check during his acceptance speech.

NOMINEES FOR THE ONLINE COMIC STRIP/LONG FORM AWARD: Meredith Gran (“Octopus Pie”), Kathleen Jacques (“Band by Band”) and Nigozi Ukazu (“OMG Check Please”). Gran repeats as a category nominee. SHOULD WIN: The pleasingly retro “Band by Band” camouflages incisive and unique characters and plots. Let’s call it a “Love and Rockets” for the webcomic set, with an extra helping of LGBTQ. WILL WIN: Jacques’ weekly strip is a graphical and narrative marvel, and its frank but authentic depiction of sexuality should attract votes from NCS members who want to applaud a strip unapologetically written for adults.

NOMINEES FOR THE ONLINE COMIC STRIP/SHORT FORM AWARD: Sarah Anderson (“Sarah’s Scribbles”), Ruben Bolling (“Donald and John”) and Dave Kellett (“Sheldon”). Bolling is also nominated in the editorial cartooning category, and Kellett repeats as a nominee in this category. SHOULD WIN: We’re big fans of Anderson’s work, and we foresee her name in this category for years to come, but… WILL WIN: Bolling’s satirical evocation of Bill Watterson in service of devastatingly skewering Donald Trump will prove too much for NCS voters to resist.

NOMINEES FOR THE REUBEN AWARD: The nominees for the NCS’s top award as Cartoonist of the Year are Lynda Barry, Stephan Pastis, Hilary Price, Mark Tatulli and Ann Telnaes. Four of the five cartoonists in the running for the Reuben Award were also nominated last year (only Telnaes was not a Reuben nominee last year). SHOULD WIN: We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: the comics page needs more boundary-pushing creators like Pastis. (And his foray into political satire with Rat as president was as cathartically trenchant as it was timely.) After several years of wrongly predicting he would win the Reuben Award, we’re not jinxing him this year. WILL WIN: Barry has won over a generation of readers who love her honest and uninhibited work. From Ernie Pook and Marlys in the 1980s to groundbreaking graphic novels like “The Good Times Are Killing Me,” Barry has been consistently great and will take home the night’s most prestigious hardware. Also, Barry’s longtime close friend, “Simpsons” creator Matt Groening, will be attending the banquet, and he’s not coming for the chicken dinner.

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

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