MICHAEL RAMIREZ can now add the National Cartoonists Society’s big award to his raft of NCS honors.
Ramirez, who had won the professional organization’s Editorial Cartoons honor five times over the past decade, received the group’s “Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year” Reuben Award on Saturday evening at the 70th annual NCS Reuben Awards ceremony at the Peabody hotel in Memphis.
“I am thrilled to walk in the shadows of the greats who have preceded me,” says Ramirez, who notes that he didn’t prepare an acceptance speech because he didn’t anticipate receiving the honor.
Among the other big winners at the 2016 Reubens — which many consider “the Golden Globes of comics” — was the Australian artist Anton Emdin, who hit an Illustration trifecta by taking home the Silver Reuben divisional awards for Magazines, Newspapers and Product/Advertising.
“I’m still reeling — quite overwhelmed,” Emdin tells The Post’s Comic Riffs, who adds that he “honestly didn’t see this happening, especially considering the high caliber of my fellow nominees.”
“Cartoonists rarely get recognized on the street,” Piraro tells Comic Riffs, “but we are occasionally fortunate enough to garner the recognition of our peers, which is a thrill, an honor and a humbling joy.”
“I’m thrilled! The nomination itself was fantastic, but this is beyond words,” Libenson tells us. “I’ll give myself one more day to bask in this — then it’s back to work. Cartoonists know the drill.”
Also among the newspaper recipients was Washingtonpost.com’s Ann Telnaes, who won for Editorial Cartoons. “Of course, it was thrilling to win a Silver Reuben,” Telnaes, a past Pulitzer winner, tells Comic Riffs. “However, the support and expressions of solidarity I’ve received these past several months from my wonderful colleagues, I treasure above everything else.”
Elsewhere in magazine-related categories, David Sipress won for Gag Cartoons — a category that New Yorker cartoonists have won each of the past five years.
“Being recognized by one’s peers is the highest honor,” Sipress tells Comic Riffs. “The last prize I won was the 1958 Hunter Elementary School acting prize for my performance as the Grinch. … Now maybe I can stop following around people on the subway who are reading the New Yorker to see if they’re going to laugh at my cartoons.”
Also last night, Dave Kellett and Drew Weing won for online comics; Ben Caldwell won for comic books; and Ethan Young won for graphic novels. “Mentally, I still feel like a little kid in the cartooning world … ” Kellett tells us, “so I feel like I’m getting a pat on the back from the cartooning heroes I grew up reading.”
The animation awards went to director Steve Martino, for the Blue Sky Studios feature film “The Peanuts Movie,” and filmmaker Drew Hodges, for Amazon Studios’ “Tumble Leaf.” (Disclosure: Amazon founder Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post — but you knew that.)
“It was a little intimidating, having ‘The Peanuts Movie’ be up against a movie that had already won an Oscar (‘Inside Out’) and a Brazilian ‘art-house’ movie (‘Boy and the World’) that just might please the Reuben voters as being unique and innovative,” says Jean Schulz, widow of “Peanuts” creator Charles M. Schulz (who won the Reuben Award in 1955 and 1964).
“After my father’s two previous Reubens,” producer-writer Craig Schulz tells us, “it is with such pleasure and pride that my son [Bryan] and I could have his wonderful gang come to life in ‘The Peanuts Movie’ and bring home the third [NCS award] for him.”
“Steve Martino was sitting at our table, and as it came closer to the Feature Animation category, I was increasingly nervous,” Jean Schulz says. “So it was truly exciting when they announced ‘The Peanuts Movie’ as the winner, and I was very happy for Steve — a very gracious winner.”
Martino, for his part, acknowledges that some of the biggest skeptics of adapting “Peanuts” from page to 3-D screen may well have been “Sparky” Schulz’s longtime colleagues in the Memphis room — thus rendering this NCS win all the more affirming.
“If you would have told me I’d be attending this event four years ago, I would have imagined myself as Charlie Brown and the members of the NCS playing the familiar role of Lucy holding the football,” Martino tells The Post. “These are a special group of people, because they were Sparky’s peers and friends. … What motivated all of us on the film was to not disappoint these fans of Sparky’s work. I didn’t want to land on my back having whiffed at the football!”
And so, the morning after the win, Martino enthuses: “I believe I know how Charlie Brown would feel if he ever did kick that ball. Oh, what a feeling!”
Here is the full list of 2016 Reubens ceremony winners:
The Reuben Award: Michael Ramirez
The Silver Reuben divisional awards:
Newspaper Panel Cartoon: Dan Piraro (“Bizarro”)
Newspaper Comic Strip: Terri Libenson (“The Pajama Diaries”)
Editorial Cartoon: Ann Telnaes (Washingtonpost.com)
Graphic Novel: Ethan Young (“Nanjing: The Burning City”; Dark Horse)
Comic Book: Ben Caldwell (Prez; DC Comics)
Online Comics – Short Form: Dave Kellett (Sheldon)
Online Comics – Long Form: Drew Weing (The Creepy Casefiles of Margo Maloo)
TV Animation: Drew Hodges (creator/director/executive producer: “Tumble Leaf”)
Feature Animation: Steve Martino (director, “The Peanuts Movie”)
Magazine Feature/Illustration: Anton Emdin
Newspaper Illustration: Anton Emdin
Advertising/Product Illustration: Anton Emdin
Book Illustration: Sydney Smith (“Sidewalk Flowers”; Groundwood Books)
Greeting Card: Jim Benton
Magazine Gag Cartoon: David Sipress