Cartoon and Illustration

“You’re Chairman of SECNCS? What the heck does that mean?”

While I haven’t actually gotten that literal comment yet, I suspect it’s been going through the minds of several people (who are much too polite to say it that way).

Okay, yesterday I was officially voted in as Chairman of the Southeast Chapter of the National Cartoonists Society (or SECNCS).  An appointment that seems to raise more questions that it answers.

If you’re the sort who’d rather go do his or her own digging, go to and poke around.  You can get all the story there–or nearly so.

I should point out that all the “T”s have yet to be crossed and a considerable number of “I”s left to be dotted as well.  But it’s official.  Of the 33 full members of the National Cartoonists Society (NCS) in our chapter, 17 of them filled out the ballots they’d been sent and mailed them back voting in all three of the proposed candidates unanimously.

On the proverbial podium beside me stand John “Shep” Sheppard who draws a military panel called INCOMING! among other things–Shep is now Vice-Chairman taking over my old office.  On the other side is Julie “Jewls” Negron (you have to have a cool nick-name to be in this club) who draws Jenny the Military Spouse.  She’s returning as our Secretary and Treasurer (and doing a bang up job of it too).

Apparently I’m the only one of the three of us who doesn’t have a military comic.  Hmmm.  Maybe I should start some GI Joe samples.

Anyway, none of this answers the question does it?

The NCS was started by a bunch of superstar cartoonists back in the 1940s when they were doing USO shows for the troops fighting WWII.  After the dust settled guys like Milt Caniff and Reub Goldberg decided that it was kind of nice to hang out with one another and formed a club for cartoonists that would continue the tradition of public service they’d begun.

I first heard of the NCS when I was 13 years old and checked a book out of local library (Haywood County Public Library, I love you); the book was called How to Draw and Sell Cartoons by Dave Breger.  I’d never seen his panel, Mister Breger before that time, but I really took to the wealth of information he included in the book, and a whole appendix on the NCS with profiles of various members therein.

From that time on I was salivating to join up.  It possessed me nearly the same way that I longed to have a girlfriend–not quite, but close.  In my early twenties I found out that my mentor, Sam Grainger, was a member of the NCS and so began hinting that I’d really like to join up.

But it’s not as simple as that.  Seems that you have to be recommended by two NCS members, submit a portfolio of work, have been working for at least 3 years, and earn most of your income from cartooning.  It would be years before I’d qualify for that.

About 10 years back I was invited to participate in an NCS chapter meeting by comic book letterer, Steve Haynie.  Steve was at that time serving as chapter Secretary and Treasurer (in fact he’d continue to hold the office until Jewls took over).  I, of course, jumped at the chance to have anything to do with this group.  So I got myself over to the hotel where they were meeting in Asheville, plunked down my chapter “non-member” dues and never looked back.

Looked forward a lot though.  Almost before I knew it I was asked to head up a local sub-group of the chapter, and I took up hosting regular monthly meetings of people in and around Asheville, NC who were also interested in cartooning and comics (or as I joking refer to us “the similarly affected”).  Soon I was recruiting folks into the SECNCS left and right (I had help, for sure, but developed a reputation as the “flag carrier” for the SEC).

In 2006 I was awarded the Tim Rosenthal Award for Volunteerism within the group–sharing this honor with my buddy Greg Cravens (who I’d met that very first weekend in 2003), and started looking forward to joining the NCS proper.

And so I began marking off those various items on the list to submit an application to join NCS.  I got our Chapter Chairman, Bruce Higdon, and Vice-Chairman Jack “Cass” Cassady to recommend me to the NCS membership committee.  I assembled a portfolio of work.  I could show I’d been working professionally for more than the required three years, (and was prepared to show them my tax returns if necessary).  The dues for joining up were a bit of a difficult thing, at the time they had just been increased to $150 annually–but I scraped that together, mailed the whole thing to the proper address only to have it returned, unopened.

Long story short, it took three times of submitting my stuff to the NCS before I got in in late 2007.

As soon as I was in my name was floated for holding office.  The reason being that any of the three offices is a lot of work–not paying work, just work.

At first I begged off any nominations, but eventually gave in, and after serving 4 years as Vice Chairman under Jack Pittman, I was nominated by him to take over the reigns.  Now the work begins for real.

I’ve been informed that as Chairman I’m supposed to attend the Reubens Award Weekend this year–in particular the Chairman’s Breakfast.  I’m also informed that it’s usually about two grand to make the weekend costs–minimum.

 That’s probably a slight exaggeration based on the cost of flying to the host city, booking a room at the host hotel, renting a tux, paying for one’s wife to buy a suitable formal gown, paying for the program track (that alone usually runs $325 per person–not counting annual dues that have to be paid in advance of that date), meals, and gratuities.

Thankfully the event is in Pittsburgh this year.  So I won’t have to fly to the West Coast.  Maybe we can drive up.  We’ve done that trip before.  Maybe I can finagle a cheap tux from another source.  Host hotel though?  Probably stuck with that.  They do try to get a good group rate every year.  Meals?  Does the phrase “you want fries with that?” ring any bells?  I can always smuggle in some Pop-Tarts for breakfast.

But for sure, I’m going to be needing more income and doing more saving that spending.  I may not make it anyway–but I’m going to be praying for it to work out and doing my best to make it happen.

So that’s what this all means?  I have to spend a lot of money?

No, it’s more than that.  It’s a great opportunity to network with other cartoonists.  The folks who attend Reubens are in many cases big names in publishing, television, and movies.  For the past several years Tom Gammill (Simpsons, Seinfeld, It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, etc.) hosted the Awards ceremony.  So even though you won’t see it on Network Television, or cable, or public access–it’s a big deal.

On the regional front this means I get to work to put together our regional annual meeting–a scaled down version of the national get together, but still a lot of work.

I hope this answers the question.  My fingers are tired.


2 thoughts on ““You’re Chairman of SECNCS? What the heck does that mean?”

  1. Cris says:

    I just know you and Karin will make this work and you’ll do a fantastic job. God works in strange ways. This is an amazing opportunity for you both!

  2. Much appreciated, Chris. God does indeed work in strange ways. I think a big part of His working in this was in order to get me more motivated in a job that can often be frustrating to the point of depression. I failed to mention that Karin was the one who really encouraged me to be part of the SECNCS, even when I often felt that it was more than we could afford. She’d seen how despondent I’d gotten with no other artists around to share my struggles with and give feedback. So the various meetings have been a huge boost to me in all sorts of ways. Couldn’t have done it without her.

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