A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I had drawn a comic in honor of the 2013 Reuben Awards, the National Cartoonist Society’s award for outstanding cartoonists. This year’s awards were held in my hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
I’m not an NCS member, but The Pittsburgh Toonseum hosted some NCS events and sold some VIP passes to the general public as well. I bought my ticket before they were even advertised.
My VIP pass entitled me to attend three different events on three different days: The opening of the Reuben Winner’s Comic Exhibit on Thursday, Cartoonist Karaoke on Friday, and the Comic Arts Festival on Sunday (The Saturday events and award ceremony were for members only.)
As there were three separate events, I will be writing about my experiences in three separate blog entries.
I’d like to thank the Pittsburgh Toonseum for hosting the event. I have never purchased a VIP pass to anything before, but the Toonseum gave me every penny’s worth and treated me like royalty.

Sunday, May 25 – The Comic Arts Festival

This one was not exactly a VIP event. The Comic Arts Festival was a free street festival that took over the Toonseums’s block for most of a day. However, my VIP pass covered my admission to the museum gallery, saved me a seat at the panels and got me a place in line for cartoonist autographs.

But I’ll get to that.

The festival itself was spectacular. Artist and vendor booths lined the street. Balloon sculptures of popular characters stood on tall balloon pedestals. And the whole street was quickly covered in chalk drawings, as the Toonseum staff passed out sidewalk chalk and invited guests to add to the scenery.

I drew Saber.

Then some kid drew an animal that looked kind of like Saber.
(But, clearly, his name was Spike)
But this was not just a day of drawing on the road. I also met a slew of cartoon celebrities, many of whom gave me sketches. All of whom gave me stories.
First, I met Mutts cartoonist Patrick McDonnell, who drew Mooch and a turtle for me.
This sketch was made in honor of my own pets.
(“Oh, that sketch is an easy scene to renact. Ajax and Noko Noko can do that in five seconds,” said no one, ever.)

Patrick must be sick of people telling him stories about their pets, but he was very polite and took the time to ask a few questions about Noko Noko (Noko’s so interesting.)
Then I met Brian Walker, the son of Beetle Bailey’s creator, Mort Walker. Brian takes the lead on the Hi and Lois comic, but I asked him to draw Beetle anyway.
I didn’t want to miss Jan Eliot, creator of Stone Soup. We talked a bit about imaginations and she said I was “an absolute joy to talk to.” <3
I got a sketch from John Rose, who currently draws Snuffy Smith. (This sketch was partly for my dad, who once knew most of the Barney Google theme song.)
Next, I met Brian Crane, who draws Pickles.
I also snapped a nice photo of Brian next to the Pickles-themed balloon sculpture. Apparently, he didn’t know that he was stationed next to his sculpture until I mentioned it.
(The light was a little uncooperative, but that’s a balloon sculpture of Opal and Earl dancing a waltz.)
Greg Evans, who draws Luann, asked me if I had a favorite character from his strip. I chose Bernice. I mentioned that Bernice probably has quite a following of fans who like geeky girls (like the guys who think Velma is cuter than Daphne.) Greg acted like he had never thought about that, but I can’t imagine that I’m the first person to bring up that idea.
(For the sisterhood of girl geeks!)
Finally, I met the man himself. The president of the National Cartoonist Society – Jeff Keane (AKA Little Jeffy)
(That’s right. He’s the president)
Jeff asked me if I drew comics, then personally assured me that there has no longer any bad blood between syndicated newspaper cartoonists and web cartoonists. Those days are ancient history. You heard it straight from the top, folks.
After the signings, it was time for the panels. At this point, my cousin and habitual partner in crime, Kristine, joined up with me so I have at least one eye witness for the things that happened next.
We attended the first panel “Women in Comics.” Lynn Johnson (For Better or for Worse) Cathy Guisewite (Cathy) and Hillary Price (Rhymes with Orange) told some amazing stories about starting their careers and which of their comics were based on personal experiences. If you ever get the chance to hear any of these people talk, I suggest you take it.
“Women in Comics” was well-organized, thoughtful and heartfelt. Then we attended Dan Piraro’s panel… which was different.
(There are no words for what, exactly, happened here.)

Dan Piraro (Bizarro) talked about his comic, what it means, and what people think it means. He also talked about whatever was running through his head at the moment. Kristine and I ran into Dan afterwards and we got to tell him how much we liked his act. I didn’t get a sketch, but it was one of the most fun conversations of the day. This was one of those rare cases where words are worth a thousand pictures.
So, that concludes my review of the NCS weekend and the Pittsburgh Comic Arts Festival. I hope to see all of your there next year.