Notes From the Boston Reubens 2011

I've just returned from Boston, Massachusetts after attending the National Cartoonists Society's 65th Annual Reuben Awards weekend - and what a great time I had! The 'Reubens' are like the Academy Awards of cartooning, and attract some of the biggest names in the industry. But it's not just one night - it's a whole long weekend of eating, meeting, singing, dancing and learning. Breakfasts and dinners are included, as are seminars such as ones by New Yorker legend R.O. Blechman and illustrator extraordinaire Roy Doty. There was also Zippy the Pinhead's Bill Griffith and a panel on webcomics by Randall Munroe (xkcd), Kate Beaton (Hark! A Vagrant) and the very nice Dave Kellett (Sheldon).

I went with fellow Aussies Jason Chatfield (Ginger Meggs, ACA President) and Luke Watson (caricaturist and illustrator) and we did our damndest to uphold the precedent set by Australian cartoonists that had blazed the Reubens trail before us; drinking like fish and drawing like demons. The Australian Cartoonists Association (ACA) and the NCS have had a brotherhood for many years.

So, where do we start? After a shocker journey from Sydney, I arrived in Boston's Fairmont Copley Plaza at 5am. This seemed to have set some sort of precedent, as I didn't get to bed before this time for the next five nights!

Not too shabby, eh? After waking late, I ventured down to the lobby, seeing some familiar faces such as Stan Goldberg (Archie) and Chad and Karen Carpenter (Tundra). Who would have thought that a couple of days later Chad would be tackling a guy outside the hotel who had just assaulted someone, holding him down until Police arrived!? All the while, Batman sat inside nibbling his poached chicken.

Hey! You got the wrong guy!

So that's the new NCS President, and excellent MAD Magazine illustrator Tom Richmond beating me senseless. Tom took over from Jeff Keane (Family Circus) who has been at the helm for four years. As you can see below, Jeff took his job very seriously.

Meeting your idols is always a surreal moment. Walking down into the lobby and being introduced to MAD's Sergio Aragones by Sam Viviano was one of those.

In fact, there were so many famous cartoonists there, that I can't even try to name them. Besides, that would just be name dropping, wouldn't it? But let's just say that I was very pleased meet Jen Sorensen (Slow Poke), Bill Amend (Foxtrot), Bill and Greg Walker (Hi and Lois, Beetle Bailley), Jeff Parker (Dustin), Mark Tattuli (Lio) and meet up with friends like Dan Thompson (Rip Haywire), Mark Parisi (Off the Mark), John Kovaleski (Bo Nanas, MAD), Mike Lynch, Adrian Sinnott, and a lot of the guys and girls pictured below.

One of the highlights for me was talking at length to legendary illustrator Roy Doty. Here he is teaching me the fine art of negotiating freelance rates.

Roy has some great insights, which he was happy to share with a laugh and a slap on the back. The man is still going full steam ahead, working seven days a week, morning till midnight. At the age of 89 he has more work than he can handle, and has just signed a five year book contract! Truly inspirational.

And speaking of inspirational, these Yankee Doodlers have great singing voices! One of which was MAD's Sam Vivano, who worked the room like a pro.

Unfortunately, Jason sang Mel Lazarus' "song", and was taken into the alley for a beating. I went to console him, only to catch him defacing Mort Drucker's cartoon board (check out some of the cartoons on there! Unfortunately Mort and Barbara weren't able to make it this year).

Let's name drop a little more, shall we? From left we have Mel Lazarus (Miss Peach), Sean Parkes, Jenny Robb, David Silverman (The Simpsons, Monsters Inc. etc) and Tom Gammill (The Doozies, The Simpsons, SNL). We hung out with Silverman quite a lot over the weekend, and he had us in stitches! What a character.

Here's an oddity. It seemed that a few minutes before the free bar was about to run out, a stack of beers would mysteriously appear on our table. I still can't explain how this happened, but I can only suspect it had something to do with the NCS's version of 'Stifler', Sean Parkes (left).

Every night we also somehow magically stumbled into Jeff Keane's presidential suite for more late night/early morning malarky. I became some sort of drunk vampire character, falling into bed as the sun rose, emerging in the afternoon, my skin shimmering in the sunlight (ok, it just seemed that way, ok).

In the red chair, Stephan Pastis (Pearls Before Swine) contemplates his Reuben 'Cartoonist of the Year' nomination.

Rick Stromoski (Soup to Nuts) and Rick Kirkman (Baby Blues) enjoy a laff. And a wine.

But when visiting a new city it is very important to see the sights, not just schmooze and booze in the hotel. After a short stroll down the road Chatfield and I were confronted with (literally) thousands of zombies.

We raced into a cafe to seek refuge, only to be confronted with a greater horror...

It was time to head back to the safety of the hotel, and resume drinking at once.

But not before Luke got carded and denied a beer over lunch, much to our amusement (he turned 30 this year). The same happened to Jason later, too! I, on the other hand, was not asked once and am now very depressed.

The Big Night

The NCS knows how to throw a party. The Doozies creator and Simpsons/SNL writer Tom Gammill was the MC last year, and returned again to put on a brilliant show for the Awards Banquet. Along with the hilarious videos shown throughout the evening, there were songs, streamers, dancers, baton twirlers, and flag wavers.

Plus ol' Abe Lincoln sat in the balcony the whole evening. Amazingly, he thwarted an assassination attempt, and stayed to enjoy the rest of the show.

Now, as you might be aware, I was lucky to be nominated for two awards: Advertising and Magazine Illustration. All the nominees were presented on boards at the cocktail reception. Chatfield snapped these pics...

My fellow nominees are all great artists - Lou Brooks and Tom Richmond for magazine, and Jack Pittman and Dave Whamond for Advertising. I'm honoured to be counted among them. But more on that in a minute. Let's look at our table...

Simpsons animator and director David Silverman and the Aussies: Luke Watson, Me, and Jason Chatfield.

Newspaper Illustration winner Michael McParlane and his wife Katie (and that Silverman guy again!). Unseen are Daryl Cagle and Michael Kandalaft (That Monkey Tune)

After a brief break in the ceremony, we sat down to the awards part. My heart raced as the Advertising Illustration nominees were announced, and to my relief the brilliant Dave Whamond took the honour. Don't get me wrong - I would have loved to win it, but my fear of public speaking often affects rational thought!

More categories were announced, and when it came to the Magazine Feature/Magazine Illustration division, I was sure that Tom or Lou would get it. Quite seriously, I wasn't even nervous. In fact, I was looking over at the other tables waiting for the spotlight to land on one of them.

As my name was called out I felt my whole body melt. All I can remember is my head falling into my hands. As I forced myself to look up, I saw Jason, Luke, and the rest of the table leaning towards me, cheering. The spotlight found me and I was floating towards the stage, where I was handed my plaque by Patrick O'Donnell (Mutts).

When I turned around, I realised I had a speech to make, and after I uttered something into the microphone, I'm sure I heard crickets chirp. After a few official photos I found myself floating back to my seat. I still couldn't believe it had happened.

Luke bought me a celebratory beer...

... and I gotta say that it tasted pretty good!

Courtesy of the NCS site, here are all the winners of the 65th Annual Reuben Awards. Congratulations to everyone, including all the nominees.

THE REUBEN AWARD for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year:

Richard Thompson


Dave Filoni - Supervising Director / Production Designer, “Star Wars: The Clone Wars”


Nicolas Marlet, Character Designer (How to Train Your Dragon)


Michael McParlane


Gary McCoy


Jim Benton


Jeff Parker and Steve Kelley “Dustin”


Glenn McCoy “Flying McCoys”


Anton Emdin


Mike Lester “The Butt Book”


Gary Varvel


Dave Whamond


Jill Thompson “Beasts of Burden”


Joyce Farmer “Special Exits”

One Fine Sunday

Sunday was the opening (actually closing!) of the One Fine Sunday in the Funny Pages exhibition, curated by Stay Tooned's John Read. The concept is simple - original art from every comic strip that appeared in papers on one particular day.

It was a great afternoon. The gallery was packed with cartoonists and fans marvelling over the inked lines from our favourite artists. I've never been to an art exhibition that had popcorn, hot dogs and beer, but when in Boston..! We all sat down and did drawing and signing for the punters, too. Hmm... I recognise those characters...

This girl promised to head straight to the tattoo parlour afterwards, while the immensely talented Richard Thompson (Cul De Sac, and Cartoonist of the Year winner) spend time with this adoring fans.

And if you've had the patience to scroll down this far, please enjoy some more random pics from the weekend, below. (A few are duplicated above, but I'm not sure how to work it differently.)

A quick note about the photos - they are from different sources and copyright © 2011 Anton Emdin, Jason Chatfield, Luke Watson, Ray Alma, Sean Parkes, and The Fairmont Copley Plaza.

Thanks for stopping by, and thank you for all your kind words on my Facebook page. I really appreciate it. I'm now looking forward to settling back into 'normal' life and sinking my teeth into some drawing.

Cheers, Anton