Over 300 people—cartoonists and their fans combined—packed into BCAE headquarters for a short-but-delightful two-hour frenzy, complete with beer, wine, popcorn, Hoodie ice cream cups and hotdogs. 11x17 autograph sheets and indelible markers were sold, printed with the exhibit’s logo and the date, so that fans could collect the signatures of their favorite cartoonists, often accompanied by an impromptu illustration.
“It’s cartoon heaven in Boston this week,” exclaimed David Silverman, oft-times Director of “The Simpsons.” Silverman, 54, also directed The Simpsons Movie, and has been involved in the show since its very beginnings: he animated the original shorts from “The Tracey Ullman Show.”
Visiting from Los Angeles, he’s referring to the Comic Con Boston, which recently took place at the Hynes Convention Center, and the Reuben Awards Dinner (which honors members of the National Cartoonists Society), which was held at the Fairmont Copley just the night before the BCAE event. It was perfect scheduling to get an otherwise difficult-to-herd group of artists together at one time, something BCAE Executive Director Susie Brown characterized as “a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
“Not only is it really amazing to see all of the comics at once like this, but also to be able to see them in their original form,” Silverman said. “The show is a fantastic tribute to the artists and syndicates that work so hard to make sure this happens each week all over the country.”
Creators Syndicate media liaison Anica Wong, in town with the company’s executive vice president and general manager, Jack Newcombe, agreed with Silverman wholeheartedly.
“Definitely the best part is seeing the work in its original form, which is—as you can tell—much larger than how it looks in the paper,” she said.
“For me it’s overwhelming,” said “Dog Eat Doug” creator Brian Anderson, whose work is represented by Newcombe’s firm. “The ‘try-not-to-steal-it’ factor is intense,” he joked.
There was no shortage of cartoon royalty on hand, from Bill Keane (“Family Circus”) to Rick Stromoski (“Soup to Nutz," "The Mullets"), Tom Richmond & Sam Viviano (MAD Magazine), Brad Anderson (“Marmaduke”) and Greg Walker (“Beetle Bailey”) to name a few. But even if none of these names and characters are familiar to you, to see curator John Read’s selection of over 130 strips adorning every inch of the BCAE’s wall space is something to behold.
“I love to get a closer, more magnified look at everyone else’s style,” Walker said. “The first thing that strikes you is all the different sizes. It’s always great as a fellow artist to gain insight about how other people do it.”
"FoxTrot" creator Bill Amend joked, “It’s fun and refreshing to see everyone else’s strip for a change – after all, I see mine all the time.”
And while many still express concern about the imminent demise of print media (and staples of it, like the ‘funny pages’) King Features Syndicate’s National Sales Director John Killian said he believes it won’t happen anytime soon.
“The comics are still a major attraction to the newspaper,” he said. “Research shows that it remains the most highly read section of the paper – the fans are very passionate.”
Killian, also in town for the Reuben Awards Dinner from Wisconsin, holds a particularly valid opinion since King Features is an industry giant, distributing everything from family-fare like “Dennis the Menace,” to the warped, post-modern meanderings of “Zippy the Pinhead” - and so much in between.
“I honestly don’t think we’ll see print media die out in this lifetime, but even if that did happen, cartoons are safe. Have you checked out the online ‘Comics Kingdom’? It’s a huge online syndicate with a fantastic archive and it’s actively supported by advertising… problem solved.”