Lynda Barry: Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year nominee

“Here are your finalists for the NCS ‘Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year’ award” / The Washington Post / Michael Cavna / April 2, 2018

No father and son have ever both won the esteemed Reuben Award. That could change this May.

Over the weekend, the National Cartoonists Society announced that Oscar-winning animator Glen Keane is one of five finalists for its annual Reuben Award for outstanding cartoonist of the year. Thirty-six years ago, his father, “Family Circus” creator Bil Keane, received the same honor.

This year’s other finalists for the Reuben are cartoonist-educator Lynda Barry(“Ernie Pook’s Comeek”), “Pearls Before Swine” creator Stephan Pastis, “Rhymes With Orange” creator Hilary B. Price, and “Lio” and “Heart of the City” creator Mark Tatulli.

The Reuben Awards are sometimes described as “the Golden Globes of cartooning.” All five of this year’s nominees are previous finalists.

Glen Keane, a “Disney Legend” and character animator on such films as “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Pocahontas” and “Tangled,” received the Academy Award last month for his animated short “Dear Basketball” with Kobe Bryant. His son, Max Keane, worked on production design and storyboarding for that short.

“I’m extraordinarily grateful that I get to do what I love — animate — for a living,” Keane told The Washington Post’s Comic Riffs in January.

Besides being an Eisner Hall of Fame cartoonist, Barry teaches at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, where she helps people learn to “speak” in the language of comics. “My personal reaction as a cartoonist is a feeling-combo of honored, giddy and delighted,” Barry says of the Reuben nomination. “My deeper reaction as a professor … is much more than that. Showing people how to make comics and tell their stories by drawing and writing things by hand on paper in a way that is nondigital, non-searchable, non-‘scrapeable’ or monetizable now feels like something of a revolutionary act. Being a cartoonist and being recognized as a cartoonist means more to me now than it ever has.

“Also, I get to go to the awards ceremony, and it’s like the most dreamy version of a cousins’ picnic I could ever attend.” Price, who has won the NCS’s newspaper panel award four times, cited the Hebrew word “dayenu” to illuminate her deep gratitude when reacting to the nomination news Sunday. “Wow! What an honor,” Price says. “Lynda Barry is such a bright light to me, and Mark, Stephan and Glen are so talented and accomplished. So it’s a good warm feeling to get to stand next to all of them.” Pastis describes the nomination as a great honor. And Tatulli says he is “thrilled and humbled to be mentioned in the same breath as his four colleagues.”

“Honestly, they are all great cartoonists, but, I mean, Glen Keane? My God, the guy who animated ‘the Beast’ and ‘Tarzan’!” Tatulli adds. “Winner of the this year’s Academy Award for best animated short? I’m almost embarrassed to be nominated for the same award. But I’m very grateful to the NCS members who think I may be worthy.”

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