Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson was the surprise winner of the National Cartoonists Society's Reuben Award as "Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year."
The 28-year-old Watterson, who is not an NCS member and didn't attend the 41st annual Reuben dinner at New York City's Plaza Hotel May 23, has been in syndication for only 18 months.
But Calvin and Hobbes has already amassed over 300 newspaper clients, won several reader polls, and received high praise from cartoonists, editors, and syndicate executives.
Watterson, contacted Tuesday at his Ohio residence, said he was "caught off guard" when told about the award May 24 and noted that it was "generous" of the NCS to honor a non-member. "I'm very flattered," added the cartoonist (who was profiled in E&P, February 8, 1986). "To be held in esteem by my peers is very gratifying."
Universal Press Syndicate president John P. McMeel accepted Watterson's Reuben from NCS honorary chairman Milt Caniff, who called the winner a "damn good cartoonist."
This is the second year in a row that a Universal cartoonist has won the award, which is voted on by NCS members. Last spring's recipient was For Better Of Worse creator Lynn Johnston.
Despite taking this year's Reuben, Watterson did not receive the humor strip category prize earlier in the evening. The winner was Hagar the Horrible creator Dik Browne of King Features Syndicate, who received a level of applause indicating that he was a sentimental favorite among many of the over 300 people in attendance.