Stephen Pastis, creator of Pearls Before Swine is one of the three nominees for the 2012 Reuben Award for “Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year.” Yes, it's the cartoonists' equivalent of the Oscars -- a an award recognizing outstanding achievement as selected by fellow professionals.
If you've followed Off Topic'd for any length of time, you'll know that -- just from the sheer number of "Pearls"-related posts -- I believe Pastis earned the nomination -- and then some. Part of what I like about his strip is its meta-humor. Sometimes the joke expands outward, the characters being completely aware that they exist inside a comic strip.
Take the following sequence, for example (click on images to enlarge):
Don't get me wrong -- Brian Crane (Pickles) and
Rick Kirkman (Baby Blues) are also worthy nominees. Their strips are consistently of high quality. Pastis, however, just goes past the boundaries -- which is why his strip gets more mention here that the other contenders.