The New York Times crossword for Friday January 22, 2016 befuddled me in the southeast corner with the clue "Comic book writer with a National Medal of Arts". Normally, I can drop in comics-related crossword clues with EASE (8 down), as I did here with EC Segar's SWEEPEA (13 across) and INATREE (54 across, clued as "Like Charlie Brown's kite, ultimately"), but this stopped me dead in my tracks. I knew that the National Medal of Arts is the highest award an American can win for a contribution to culture, and that they are presented by the president, but which comic book writer had won one?
Spiegelman was too long. Bechdel fits, but she seems far too young for a lifetime achievement award of this stature. It wasn't until I filled in some of the across clues that I had enough information to place STANLEE.
Looking at the list of NMA winners, it seems that Lee is the only one with a comics connection. The awards are remarkably unorthodox, recognizing makers of both elite and popular culture. Still, an interesting reminder about the circulation of prestige in the comics field from an unlikely source on a Friday morning.