A brief introduction to the inaugural NCSFest, coming to Huntington Beach, CA in May, 2019.

The National Cartoonists Society is delighted to announce that we have confirmed that the city of Huntington Beach, California, will host the inaugural NCSFest, a celebration of comics and cartoon art from all over the world. Based on the comic art festivals that are hugely popular in Europe, the festival will be held over the weekend of May 17-19, 2019. Hundreds of the world’s most celebrated creators are expected to attend the three-day event, participating in seminars, exhibitions, workshops, panel discussions and signing sessions, the vast majority of which will be free to the public. Downtown Huntington Beach will be the setting, with all events staged beachside, on the iconic pier, at the city’s Arts Center and library and in local hotels and businesses, all within easy walking distance.

The city of Huntington Beach has given us use of the pier and we will have marquees and tents just yards from the beach and the Pacific ocean. They are closing off three blocks of Main Street, at the Pier, to traffic and that is where we will have our “Artists Alley.” We will be staging extensive programming aimed at families in the City library, with artists conducting “how to” classes in one room, while renowned children’s book creators read excerpts from their books in the other. Across the street from the library, we are staging four world class exhibitions at the huge Arts Center, and local businesses will feature art displays in their windows. At the beach we will be staging free seminars and signings open to the public, there will be a marketplace and we will be enlisting an army of artists to create a giant mural along one side of the famous pier. There are plans to involve local schools and we anticipate that there will be many, many thousands of people congregating at the beach to celebrate all things comics and cartoon related.

Formed in 1947, the National Cartoonists Society is regarded as the most prestigious organisation of professional cartoonists in the world, with such legends as Peanuts creator Charles M Schulz, Walt Disney, Rube Goldberg and Milton Caniff among its alumni. Today’s membership numbers more than 400 eminent cartoonists. The NCS will stage its annual Reuben Awards – the comics and cartoons equivalent of the Oscars – during the Festival.

To create NCSfest, the Society has partnered with the Lakes International Comic Arts Festival, a much-admired annual festival held in the town of Kendal, in the picturesque Lake District of the UK. Julie Tait, Director of LICAF, will act as Assistant Director of NCSFest.

“This is probably the most ambitious comic arts festival ever staged in North America,” said NCSFest Director Steve McGarry, who also serves as President of the National Cartoonists Society Foundation, the charitable and educational arm of the NCS. “We’ve long admired the great comic arts festivals of Europe and we wanted to adopt that model for an American audience. We were hugely impressed with the work that Julie Tait has done, in a very short time, in establishing The Lakes International Comic Arts Festival as the UK’s premier festival, so we are delighted that Julie and her team have agreed to lend their expertise.”

Julie Tait notes that the bonds between The Lakes and NCS are already pretty strong, with many NCS luminaries having appeared at the British festival, including MAD magazine legend Sergio Aragones and For Better Or For Worse creator Lynn Johnston. “Bringing together the best of European-style festivals with the phenomenal force of the NCS is dynamite,” she says. “It’s a world first in this respect and we are honoured and excited to be part of this new collaboration.”

To further cement bonds between United States and European creators, NCSFest is staged in association with France’s Lyon BD Festival, whose director Mathieu Diez is part of the NCSFest advisory team. Diez expressed his delight at being involved in NCSFest, commenting:

“I am extremely excited to be part of this new project aimed at bringing Europe’s fashion of comic art festivals in the United States. I look forward to building a strong French comics presence and wide and innovative programming around the interaction of both cultures of comics.”

“Comic book conventions have become commonplace in every big city in America, but this is something different,” says NCS President Bill Morrison, the editor of MAD magazine. “NCSFest will offer cartoonists and fans a rare opportunity to share in a weekend celebration of comic and cartoon art together in a way that few in this country have experienced.”

Photo credit: @SurfCityUSA

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