Who Will Win? Our Reuben Awards Predictions!

It’s almost time for cartoonists from around the country to convene at the annual meeting of the National Cartoonists Society. To be held in Philadelphia this weekend, the meeting allows old friendships to be renewed, the art and business of cartooning to be discussed, and staggering amounts of alcohol to be consumed. And as always, the marquee event of the weekend will be the Reuben Awards banquet, where more than a dozen awards in a variety of categories will be given out. (Divisional awards are known as Silver Reubens, and the evening’s top award, the Reuben Award, goes the year’s most outstanding cartoonist as selected by the NCS membership.) Ahead of this august event, as we do each year, we boldly present our predictions of who will win (barring voting irregularities caused by hostile foreign powers). Good luck to all the nominees, and without further ado, our predictions:

NOMINEES FOR THE COMIC BOOK DIVISION AWARD: Cliff Chiang (“Paper Girls” No. 15), Dean Ormston (“Black Hammer Secret Origins”) and Sana Takeda (“Monstress, volume 2: The Blood”). Image Comics publishes two of the three nominees (Paper Girls and Monstress), a reminder of how far the company has moved from its 1990s superhero roots. SHOULD WIN: We’re big fans of “Paper Girls,” with its time-traveling blend of fantasy, science fiction and nostalgia (“Stranger Things” fans, take note). WILL WIN: A story about young people delivering the daily newspaper and set in the pre-internet 1980s? Could “Paper Girls” have a more tailor-made to appeal to that bloc of NCS voters whose bread and butter is the newspaper strip? We think not.

NOMINEES FOR THE EDITORIAL CARTOON AWARD: Clay Bennett, Mike Peters and Michael Ramirez. A head-spinning political environment has provided the nominees (and all editorial cartoonists) with artery-clogging amounts of material, though the ultraconservative Ramirez has at times struggled for worthy targets since the election took his longtime foils, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, off the table. SHOULD WIN: Few cartoonists have thrived on the surreal spectacle of the headlines like Peters, the Old Faithful of political cartoonists. WILL WIN: The exterior polish of Bennett’s sublimely crafted work enhances the impact of his dagger-sharp ideas, and his cartoons perfectly capture the lunatic zeitgeist.

NOMINEES FOR THE GAG CARTOON DIVISION AWARD: Pat Byrnes, Joe Dator and Will McPhail. Um, the same three nominees as last year? Can someone discreetly elbow the nominating committee? SHOULD WIN: In an era when New Yorker cartoonists sometimes lack a high level of technical facility (we’re being diplomatic), McPhail couples lusciously rendered drawings with trenchant humor. WILL WIN: We picked Byrnes to win last year (though McPhail took home the hardware), but we’re sticking with Byrnes as the pick this year, expecting that the NCS membership will honor his outstanding, eclectic work for a variety of magazines in a very tough landscape for gag cartoons.

NOMINEES FOR THE ANIMATION FEATURE DIVISION AWARD: Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina (“Coco”), Nora Twomey (“The Breadwinner”) and Benjamin Renner and Patrick Imbert (“The Big Bad Fox & Other Tales”). SHOULD WIN: Twomey’s tale of female empowerment and triumph against a patriarchy received an Oscar nomination and perfectly captures the tenor of the times. WILL WIN: Unkrich and Molina delivered a thoughtful, multicultural visual feast that NCS voters were most likely to see—and it’s never wise to bet against the Pixar juggernaut.

NOMINEES FOR THE TELEVISION ANIMATION DIVISION AWARD: Alan Bodner (Disney’s “Tangled, the Series”), Rustam Hasanov (DreamWorks’ “Trollhunters”) and Sean Jimenez (Disney’s “Duck Tales”). Disney represents two out of three nominees, further evidence that it’s Mickey’s world and we just live in it. SHOULD WIN: “Trollhunters” is an ambitious, imaginative adventure that has won fans of many ages for good reasons. WILL WIN: Engaging characterizations and inventive stories make the rebooted “DuckTales” a credible addition to the post-Carl Barks canon, and Doctor Who alum David Tennant voicing Uncle Scrooge is a masterpiece of casting.

NOMINEES FOR THE NEWSPAPER ILLUSTRATION AWARD: Greg Cravens, Glen Le Lievre and Dave Whamond. This is LeLievre’s fourth consecutive year as a nominee, an impressive streak that underscores the sustained excellence of his work and the regard of his NCS peers. SHOULD WIN: Just as we said last year (and before that), we adore LeLievre’s masterful illustrations, but… WILL WIN: Although Australians have dominated this category in recent years (we’re looking at you, Anton Emdin), Whamond takes home the Silver Reuben on the strength of his detailed but uncluttered, richly layered compositions.

NOMINEES FOR THE NEWSPAPER PANEL AWARD: Dave Blazek (“Loose Parts”), Harry Bliss (“Bliss”) and Mark Parisi (“Off the Mark”). Parisi and Blazek repeat as nominees this year. SHOULD WIN: We’ll vote for Parisi every year he’s eligible, but since he took home the prize in this category before, we’ll predict that a majority of NCS voters will opt for a creator who has never won. WILL WIN: Bliss’s panel is distinct from anything else on the comics page, and we think such a unique stylist will be rewarded for his unique vision.

NOMINEES FOR THE GRAPHIC NOVEL AWARD: Emil Ferris (“My Favorite Thing Is Monsters”), Tillie Walden (“Spinning”) and Campbell Whyte (“Home Time”). A very tough category—three standout works in one of the few print cartooning categories to exhibit significant growth. SHOULD WIN: Walden’s deeply heartfelt (and autobiographical) coming-of-age story about competitive ice skating is a powerfully moving work. And Walden is only in her early twenties! WILL WIN: Ferris and “Monsters” have won nearly every cartooning award available. Her book is an arresting blend of murder mystery, movie-monster nostalgia and youthful isolation, and Ferris will add to her accolades with a Silver Reuben.

NOMINEES FOR THE ADVERTISING/PRODUCT ILLUSTRATION AWARD: Farley Katz, Johnny Sampson and Dave Whamond. Whamond repeats here as a nominee. SHOULD WIN: We’re big fans of Whamond’s exhilaratingly fizzy, filled-with-eye-candy approach to advertising illustration. WILL WIN: Sampson’s cleanly spare and economical style captures today’s aesthetic for everything from graphic novels to New Yorker covers, and advertising illustration follows the trend.

NOMINEES FOR THE NEWSPAPER STRIP DIVISION AWARD: Mike Peters (“Mother Goose and Grimm”), Terri Libenson (“The Pajama Diaries”) and Mark Tatulli (“Lio”). Ironically, the relative whippersnappers Libenson and Tatulli have previously won this division but the stalwart Peters has not (though he has the top Reuben Award under his belt). SHOULD WIN: Libenson’s heartfelt, semiautobiographical work, which moves seamlessly from sweet to sardonic, is what the comics page needs more of, but she took this division two years ago, so… WILL WIN: Tatulli’s sustained run of wordlessly macabre surreality in “Lio” gets him the hardware.

NOMINEES FOR THE MAGAZINE/FEATURE ILLUSTRATION AWARD: Peter Kuper, Tom Richmond and Johnny Sampson. SHOULD WIN: Also a nominee in the advertising/product illustration division, Sampson produced innovative and elegant magazine illustrations, but he’s overshadowed in this category. WILL WIN: Richmond’s astonishingly virtuoso (and versatile) magazine illustration work will have the former NCS president onstage to accept the plaque.

NOMINEES FOR THE BOOK ILLUSTRATION AWARD: Ryan T. Higgins (“Be Quiet”), Adam Rex (“The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors”) and Ed Steckley (“Rube Goldberg’s Simple Normal Humdrum School Day”). SHOULD WIN: Steckley showcases the genius of Rube Goldberg for a new generation with a flawless design sense and a puckish sense of humor. WILL WIN: Steckley—who illustrated the tale written by Jennifer George, who is Rube Goldberg’s granddaughter—demonstrates a clear affection for Goldberg’s zany, brainy school of engineering. And since the Reuben is named to honor Rube Goldberg, Steckley’s win in this category is (dare we say?) engineered to work out.

NOMINEES FOR THE ONLINE COMIC STRIP/LONG FORM AWARD: John Allison (“Bad Machinery”), Vince Dorse (“Untold Tales of Bigfoot”) and Ru Xu (“Saint for Rent”). SHOULD WIN: Allison’s stylish thriller weaves a complex and compelling tale, but its sizable cast and complex mythology might cost it some votes. WILL WIN: Dorse’s strip won this division a few years ago, and if anything, his work on “Bigfoot” has grown even more impressive since then.

NOMINEES FOR THE ONLINE COMIC STRIP/SHORT FORM AWARD: Gemma Correll (“Gemma Correll”), Lonnie Milsap (“Bacon”) and Mike Norton (“Lil’ Donnie”). SHOULD WIN: Like a Roz Chast for the millennial gang, Correll distills her generational cohort’s fixations and phobias into tightly packed cartoons that demand (and reward) close reading. WILL WIN: Norton’s satirical skills–and his impressive caricatural gifts—turn his anti-Trump fusillades into catnip for Reuben voters.

NOMINEES FOR THE REUBEN AWARD: The nominees for the NCS’s top award as Cartoonist of the Year are Lynda Barry, Glen Keane, Stephan Pastis, Hilary Price and Mark Tatulli. If those nominees ring a bell, it’s because most of them were in the running for the Reuben Award last year (among them only Keane was not a Reuben nominee last year). SHOULD WIN: This is only Pastis’ umpteenth nomination for the NCS’s most prestigious award, and we have numerous times predicted that he would win it, believing that his peers would reward the type of edgy, personal, pointed work that the comics page needs more of. But though we remain convinced that he merits the award, we have learned from our string of mistaken predictions. WILL WIN: We predicted (again, wrongly) that Barry would win the Reuben Award last year. Despite that unsuccessful bit of prognostication, we think she’ll emerge with the statuette this year. Her body of work, her years spent using cartooning as a teaching tool and her endearing presence at last year’s Reuben Awards weekend collectively engendered enough votes to deliver the win.

How did we do? You can find out soon: We’ll be live-tweeting the results of all of these awards from the Reuben Awards banquet on May 26, so you can check the accuracy of our predictions in real time. So start following us now at https://twitter.com/hoganmag to get ready!

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