“I’m honored to win the award and so thankful to the Herblock Foundation,” the cartoonist told The Washington Post’s Comic Riffs. “I’m also sad that it’s pretty much an award for satirizing, lampooning, parodying and railing against Trump throughout his rise to power.”
The judges praised the originality in the multipanel political strips of Bolling — the nom-de-toon of Ken Fisher — who was the Herblock Prize finalist a year ago.
“Ruben Bolling created his own unique style of political cartoon, one that’s full of sly allusions and clever twists,” wrote judge Matt Wuerker, the Politico cartoonist and 2010 Herblock Prize recipient. ” ‘Tom the Dancing Bug’ pushed the form into new territory with imaginative tropes, deft imagery and provocative allegory.”
“Ruben Bolling’s cartoons are consistently sharp, funny and incredibly original,” wrote judge Mark Fiore, the freelance political animator who won the Herblock last year. “His use of recurring characters, like Hollingsworth Hound and Lucky Ducky, [adds] a wonderfully inventive richness to his masterful satire.” (Also judging this year was Martha Kennedy, Library of Congress curator of popular and applied graphic art.)
“ ‘Tom the Dancing Bug’ is an unusual comic strip because it’s totally free format; it can deal with australopithecines and giant wombats, or real-world politicians and topical issues,” the creator said. “I made a decision early in 2016 that Trump was the political phenomenon of my lifetime and just about devoted the strip to that.”
Bolling’s win continues the Herblock Prize’s trend of recognizing artists who work largely outside the traditional single-panel editorial-cartoon format. Besides Fiore’s animation, the prize has recently been awarded to Jen Sorensen, Matt Bors and Dan Perkins (a.k.a. Tom Tomorrow), who generally work in multipanel formats.
The New York-based Bolling has also won the Society of Illustrators Best Cartoon Award and the Sigma Delta Chi Award from the Society of Professional Journalists.
The Herb Block Foundation annually bestows the prize — named for the legendary Post cartoonist — upon “distinguished examples of editorial cartooning that exemplify the courageous independent standard set by Herblock.”
Bolling will receive the honor — which includes a $15,000 after-tax cash prize — in a March 29 ceremony at the Library of Congress. And a $5,000 prize will go to this year’s finalist, Marty Two Bulls Sr., a freelance cartoonist who has drawn for the Indian Country Today Media Network.
Also at the ceremony, Rep. John Lewis — a National Book Award winner for his civil rights graphic memoir “March” — will deliver the annual Herblock Lecture.