A LITTLE MORE THAN a decade ago, gifted caricaturist Tom Richmond was trying to crack the pages of MAD magazine. Now, he’s achieving levels of success that may merit others caricaturing him in their cartoons.

Richmond received the National Cartoonist Society’s “Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year” award over the holiday weekend at the 66th Reuben Awards just outside Las Vegas.

“I was so stunned when [strip legend] Mell Lazarus read my name at the podium, I just sort of sat there for a second or two, trying to process it,” Richmond tells Comic Riffs. “I did not consider for a second I would actually win, and had nothing prepared to say.”


THREE-RING CIRCUS: Brian Crane (top), Stephan Pastis and Tom Richmond were the Reuben Award finalists for 2012. (courtesy of the NATIONAL CARTOONISTS SOCIETY )

The other Reuben finalists were “Pearls Before Swine” creator Stephan Pastis and “Pickles” creator Brian Crane — syndicated comic-strippers whom Richmond calls “two of the best cartoonists working today [who are] at the top of their game.”

“It is all still very surreal,” Richmond, who is also the new NCS president, tells Comic Riffs. “I don’t think I will ever really believe my name belongs on the list of Reuben winners that includes Milton Caniff, Hal Foster, Charles Schulz, Jack Davis ... it goes on and on and is literally a list of the greatest cartoonists ever. To be included in that company is mind-boggling.”

It was Jack Davis, in fact — Richmond's fellow MAD contributor — who was on hand to present the NCS’s Divisional Award for Advertising Illustration. He handed the award to Nick Galifianakis, who won for his poster art for Washington’s 2011 Commedia del Media standup comedy event that Galifianakis also emceed.

“The approbation of your peers is a great thing ... ,” Galifianakis told Comic Riffs contributor Tom Racine at the Green Valley Ranch Resort ballroom, shortly after hoisting the hardware. “I still think [the NCS could] separate a few out from each category and celebrate all of those — it’s maybe not necessary to elevate one above the others.

“But having said that, I’m completely a hypocrite.”

Galifianakis, the longtime cartoonist for Carolyn Hax’s Post-syndicated relationship-advice column, acknowledged the thrill of receiving the award from Davis — one of the many MAD men in a room that included Al Jaffee, Sergio Aragones, Sam Viviano and Ray Alma.

“To get the award from ... Jack Davis, somebody who I’ve been stealing from since I’ve drawn on walls, which you could say about pretty much every other cartoonist [in the room] ... these are the guys we wanted to be. ... ,” Galifianakis says.

“To share a moment like that with a man like that — who’s accomplished so much — it’s perspective in a way of one moment.”

Elsewhere, “Doonesbury” creator Garry Trudeau presented the Editorial Cartooning divisional award to Michael Ramirez of Investors Business Daily. The runners-up in that category were two other conservative cartoonists, both carried by the Post syndicate: Lisa Benson and Mike Lester.

Benson was among several female finalists this year; there were no women winners in the 15 categories, although the NCS Foundation presented its 2012 Jay Kennedy Memorial Scholarship to SCAD student Sarah Miller.

Glenn McCoy was again a multiple winner: His “The Duplex” won the comic-strip divisional award, beating “Dustin” and “Mother Goose and Grimm” (whose creator, previous Reuben winner Mike Peters, was among the night’s presenters). McCoy also won the Greeting Cards division.

Mark Parisi’s “Off the Mark” won for Newspaper Panels.

For the first time ever, the NCS — in a nod to the evolving industry — included an Online Comic Strip award: Jon Rosenberg’s “Scenes From a Multiverse” won the inaugural honor over “Penny Arcade" and “The Oatmeal.”

The legendary Edward Sorel won for Magazine Feature/Illustration; John Rocco won for Book Illustration; and Bob Rich won for Newspaper Illustration.

Rising New Yorker contributor Zach Kanin won for Gag Cartoons.

J.H. Williams (Batwoman) won for Comic Books, and the exquisite Ben Katchor (“The Cardboard Valise”) won for Graphic Novels.

In the screen-related awards, Erik Wiese won for Television Animation (production design for Nickelodeon’s “The Mighty B”) and Mark McCreery won for Feature Animation (for character design in “Rango”).

The night’s previously announced honorees included former NCS president Steve McGarry, who received the Silver T-Square Award (for ”outstanding dedication or service to the society or the profession”) and comic-book great Stan Goldberg, who received the Gold Key Award, inducting him into the NCS Hall of Fame.

Tom Gammill (“The Doozies,” “Seinfeld” and “The Simpsons”) hosted the night between the Elvis impersonations.

The weekend’s events included sessions with such featured speakers as Goldberg, “Garfield” creator Jim Davis, “Curtis” creator Ray Billingsley, “Sheldon” creator Dave Kellett and cartoonist/SCAD professor Michael Jantze. There also was a “Mad Men”-themed party — or rather, a MAD Men shindig — to honor all the talent from Bill Gaines' fabled magazine. (Aragones, Jaffee, Mort Drucker and Jack Davis all preceded Richmond as Reuben winners who are regular contributors to MAD.)

And it was announced that the 2013 Reuben Awards will head to Pittsburgh, the land of Rob Rogers, Andy Warhol and the ToonSeum.


[NCS NOMINEES: ‘Rango,’ ‘Rio,’ McCoy and Galifianakis among the divisional finalists]

[2012 REUBEN FINALISTS: Crane, Pastis and Richmond up for “Cartoonist of the Year”]

[2011 REUBENS: “Cul de Sac” creator Richard Thompson leads field of winners]

[2010 REUBENS: “Bizarro’s” Dan Piraro wins “Cartoonist of the Year”]

[2009 REUBENS: “Speed Bump’s” Dave Coverly wins the big award]