My weekend with the National Cartoonist Society

I spent Memorial Day weekend this year in Portland to attend the National Cartoonist Society’s annual get-together and award banquet. While I didn’t attend the actual banquet. I was around for socializing and other events.

The NCS got to visit Wacom’s Portland office, drew for sick children at a local hospital, had a signing for fans, and got to see a lot of Portland in the process. And despite any rumors that these newspaper cartoonists don’t know how to throw down...let me tell you...they can party and they can draw a crowd. I was sleepy by 9pm, these vets were going strong well past 2am. And during the book signing it was the creator of the syndicated comic strip ZITS that had a line going out the door.

Cory and I gave a talk on the new creative middle class and how the internet has changed the landscape of business so that niche content can thrive. It was a last-minute talk the president of the NCS was kind enough to cram into their panel schedule. It wasn't very well attended, but I tried not to be too offended about it. It was scheduled for Sunday morning after a long night of celebration and parties. The people who did show up were really nice and attentive and got a lot out of the talk. We ended up chatting with people afterwards in the hallway.

We record the audio of the talk and hopefully we’ll get it up online for you to hear in the near future.

I feel sad about the NCS because it contains a living history of an artform I care deeply about that is slowly being lost to time. There is a large gap between the cartoonists of the generations before and after mine. And by the time the younger realizes the importance of the elder, their direct access might be lost.

A big topic of conversation this weekend was how to get younger cartoonists to join the NCS. But nobody wanted to hear that first they need to ask themselves “What does the NCS do?” Because “We’re a fraternal organization” is going to be a tough sell to a generation that has a problem with the word “fraternal.”

I spent Sunday afternoon looking through a sketchbook that Bob Foster started in the early 70’s. I got to look and physically touch original art by Alex Toth, Charles Schulz, Gil Kane, Jack Kirby, Doug Widley, and Milt Caniff. I asked why the HELL he was carrying this around and he said “So I can watch people like you flip through it and appreciate what it is.”

Bob worked with all those people back in the day. He has stories. He has art. He has insight. That to me is what the NCS has to offer younger generations of cartoonists. The trick is getting anyone to realize it.