Cartoonists, Cartoons, and the Reuben Weekend

This year, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, went all out to welcome the National Cartoonists Society, which had chosen the city to host its annual Reuben Award weekend, and the cartoonists responded enthusiastically and generously.

Joe Wos, executive director of the ToonSeum, working with Andrew Farago from the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco, curated a show for the cartoonists and Museum visitors consisting of art from the Reuben winners in its 67 year history.

The exhibit, which is up through August 2013, featured many remarkable one-of-a-kind pieces. While there are too many to list them all, a few highlights include the very first Pogo by Walt Kelly, an enormous Hal Foster Prince Valiant, as well as pieces by Mort Walker, Pat Oliphant, Otto Soglow, Sparky, Will Eisner and a who’s who of cartooning luminaries!

Also in the exhibit was the Reuben itself and the original bronze maquette designed and made by Rube Goldberg. The piece has never before been on exhibition and is on loan from his granddaughter. The glass case also includes an early Rube Goldberg, featuring the iconic stacked human figures that would be a theme throughout his work and the inspiration for the Reuben Award itself.



This is just a smattering of the total cartoons in the exhibition.

Joe Wos, Mandi Bridgeman, director of events, and their hardworking volunteers also created the Arts District’s first ever street fair. Sunday, after the Saturday night awards, cartoonists and Pittsburghers mingled at the street fair – a cordoned-off block in front of the ToonSeum – with booths of all sorts, music, street artists and performers.


Balloon artist Sean Miller was able to fashion these wonderful cartoon characters. Above is his balloon of Beetle Bailey, and standing beside it is Bill Janocha, one of the artists in Mort Walker’s studio who works on the foreign comic books and art assists on the Beetle Bailey comic strips.



All ages enjoyed the fair.

The generosity of the cartoonists shone through as many of them signed books and made drawings for happy street fair goers beginning at 10:00 am and going into the afternoon. Below are two I happened to capture.


Patrick McDonnell, creator of Mutts, drew this wonderful cartoon for admiring fans.


Brian Walker, artist for Beetle Bailey and Hi and Lois, signs for an appreciative fan.


Jan Eliot, the creator of Stone Soup, also drew and signed art for visitors.

Joe also presented a panel of women cartoonists featuring: Hilary Price, Lynn Johnston, Cathy Guisewite, Jen Sorenson, and Terri Libenson, where they discussed their art form, process, struggles and triumphs as cartoonists who just happen to be women.


Drawing by Cathy Guisewite, creator of Cathy


Drawing by Lynn Johnston, creator of For Better or Worse


Drawing by Terri Liebenson, creator of The Pajama Diaries


Drawing by Jan Sorenson, editorial strip cartoonist

The final speaker was Dan Piraro, creator of Bizarro, who explained how to decode the symbols in his strip.



Dan ended his talk with a demonstration of his blindfolded drawing skills.


Joe Wos will be teaching half-day cartooning classes at the Museum on July 25 and 26. He is also the creator of the world’s largest hand drawn maze, and he’ll be creating a special maze for the Museum on Saturday, July 27, and performing his popular Once Upon a Toon program combining storytelling and live cartoon illustration.

— Jean Schulz