Bill Griffith (Zippy the Pinhead) won the National Cartoonists Society's highest honor, the Reuben Award in Jersey City, NJ, Thursday night. Even though it's officially for the "Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year," it's really kind of a general achievement award.
The other nominees were Hilary B. Price (Rhymes with Orange), Jeff Smith (Bone), Will Henry (Wallace the Brave), and Mark Tatulli (Lio).
In his acceptance speech, Griffith said that he's always coveted this award, not so much for the honor, but because the trophy is a beautiful sculpture designed by cartoonist Rube Goldberg.
He talked about his transition from underground comics into the world of daily newspaper cartooning. In the mid-1980s, William Randolph Hearst III took over the San Francisco Examiner newspaper, and brought on board Griffith, fellow underground cartoonist Robert Crumb, and gonzo journalist Hunter Thompson to contribute.
Griffith turned his Zippy the Pinhead comic into a newspaper daily, and began contributing, with the strip at one point appearing not on the comics page but on page 2 of the main section. Crumb submitted his first comics, featuring nudity and graphic sex, and was quickly fired. Thompson, as Griffith recalled, wrote a couple of columns and then never made another deadline.
At one point, Griffith and Hearst went to have a meeting with Thompson at his hotel room in San Francisco's Fairmont Hotel. As they got to the door to his room, they heard gunshots, which they assumed were aimed at the door, and fled. That was the end of Thompson's tenure at the Examiner.
So Griffith attributed his success at the paper to his ability to refrain from drawing graphic sex and from shooting at the publisher. His daily strip was soon picked up by King Features Syndicate, and Griffith continues it to this day.
Griffith has two new pieces out now. Earlier this year, he published The Buildings are Barking, a comic book eulogy to his late cartoonist wife, Diane Noomin, who died just over a year ago. I wrote about that book here.
And just a couple of weeks ago, his new book Three Rocks: The Story of Ernie Bushmiller, The Man Who Created Nancy was published.