Charleston City Paper cartoonist Robert Ariail is the only weekly newspaper cartoonist to be a finalist in a national contest for excellence in local cartooning. 

On Friday, the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists named Newsday‘s Matt Davies as the 2021 recipient of the “Rex Babin Memorial Award for Excellence in Local Cartooning.” Ariail, along with David Horsey of The Seattle Times and Matt Murphy of the (Louisville, Kentucky) Courier-Journal were named finalists.  

“Robert Ariail tackles his Charleston, South Carolina territory with a new comic strip titled ‘Lowcountry,’” the judges commented. “The narrative is driven by local critters — raccoons, turtles and seagulls — who address political, social and environmental issues that affect the whole state. It’s important work staged in a local, charming style.”

Judges said the quality of cartoons in this year’s contest merited naming three finalists for the first time since the contest started in 2017.

“We had another bumper crop of Babin Award entries this year,” one judge wrote. “It does my heart good to see so many diligent cartoonists doing the Lord’s work, giving a voice to the voiceless and sticking it to the would-be bassackward corruptionistas at the local level.”

Ariail, who lives in Camden, was the editorial cartoonist for The State newspaper from 1984 until 2009, and was twice named a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 1995 and 2000.  His editorial cartoons now are syndicated.

“What an honor for Robert to be recognized nationally by his peers,” said City Paper publisher Andy Brack.  “The City Paper is proud to showcase his talented work to people across the Lowcountry, state and nation.”

The City Paper is the only newspaper in South Carolina with two original editorial cartoonists.  Longtime cartoonist Steve Stegelin, also a member of the AAEC, has won multiple state and national awards and served as a panelist on a Saturday discussion about how cartoonists stayed sane during the pandemic.