Charleston City Paper cartoonist Steve Stegelin on Saturday won a major national award for cartoon excellence for the style and snark that Charlestonians have come to love for the last 18 years.
Stegelin received the “Rex Babin Memorial Award for Excellence in Local Cartooning” at the annual convention of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists, which was held during the CXC Festival in Columbus, Ohio.
“Steve Stegelin brings a fresh, independent drawing style and delicious snark — two things Rex Babin valued greatly — to the pages of the weekly Charleston City Paper,” a three-judge panel said. “Stegelin’s fierce mockery of the entrenched power structure and the retrograde cultural politics of his red state feels meaningful.”
The award pays tribute to Rex Babin, editorial cartoonist for the Albany Times-Union and The Sacramento Bee, who passed away in 2012 at age 49 following a long fight with cancer. He was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2003.
Stegelin said today that the award took him by surprise.
“Cartooning can be very isolating in nature, where I spend my time crafting ideas in my own thoughts and then heads-down as I spill those ideas through a pen onto the art board,” he said.”To have Pulitzer-winning, career editorial cartoonists like Rob Rogers, Matt Davies and The Economist’s KAL select my work for this prize is an honor and humbling external validation that my voice has an impact in both Charleston and the larger political cartooning community.”
On Saturday, the judges praised Stegelin’s comic pen. (See his favorites here.)
“His bold and unique graphic style renders everyone, including Gov. Henry McMaster, as if they jumped off a 1990s alt-weekly comics page. His tongue-in-cheek tackling of cynical political redistricting, mask hysteria, local gun-culture and shameful treatment of women’s reproductive rights in South Carolina all led the jury to unanimously deem Stegelin’s entry worthy of the prize.” David Hosey, cartoonist for the Seattle Times, was named a finalist.
Andy Brack, editor and publisher of the City Paper, said Stegelin and other cartoonists provide an important voice because they put controversial issues in local context.
“Steve Stegelin is a gem whose wit and snarkiness fit hand in glove at the City Paper. He enriches our opinion pages with weekly twists on life and political silliness in the Palmetto State and we couldn’t be happier for this well-deserved national recognition.”
Matt Davies of Newsday, last year’s Babin Award winner and one of the judges for this year’s contest, pointed to how Babin revered the impact of local cartoons.
“We know Rex would be thrilled to see how many great local cartoons are still being eagerly inked and published, belying, against all odds, the oft-repeated complaint of the increasing dearth of local news.”
Another Babin Award-winning judge, Pittsburgh freelance cartoonist Rob Rogers, gave a shout-out to the newspaper, the only one in South Carolina that funds two weekly cartoonists: “And while we’re on the subject, a massive appreciative, Babinian tip-o-the-pen is due to the editors of the Charleston City Paper. It’s notable they feature not just Steve Stegelin, but also the excellent local work of previous  Babin finalist Robert Ariail.”
Next year, Stegelin will join Davies and Rogers as a judge for the 2023 Babin Award, one of the only journalism awards for editorial cartoonists that is selected by a jury of peers.
The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists has been the professional association concerned with promoting the interests of staff, freelance and student editorial cartoonists in North America, including political illustrators and the growing field of comics journalists. The organization is active in First Amendment, free speech and journalists’ rights issues worldwide.
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