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Bill Watterson, creator of the phenomenally popular comic strip "Calvin and Hobbes," has been presented the 1988 Reuben Award for "Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year," an award for "Best Humor Strip" from the National Cartoonists Society.

"The Far Side" by Gary Larson was awarded "Best Syndicated Panel" for 1988 by the society during a black-tie gala in Toronto, culminating a three-day 43rd annual gathering of some 150 cartoonists from Canada, the United States and Europe.This is the second time that Watterson's peers, members of the NCS, have cited "Calvin and Hobbes" for its extraordinary appeal and originality. Watterson won the "Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year" award in 1986 after only one year of syndication. Today, "Calvin and Hobbes," distributed by Universal Press Syndicate, appears in nearly 900 newspapers. Dozens of comic surveys have documented the popularity of the strip among readers of all ages and in all parts of the country.

"The magic of `Calvin and Hobbes' has captured us all," said Universal Press Syndicate president John P. McMeel, "and this kind of recognition is well-deserved. Bill Watterson possesses a tremendous talent and remarkable imagination that continues to take newspaper readers of all ages to a special place with each adventure of the young boy and his tiger."

The award to "The Far Side," also distributed by Universal Press Syndicate, is also Larson's second from the society. His work was first honored by NCS in 1985.

"Gary Larson's unmatched humor and style are deserving of this kind of recognition from his peers," McMeel said. "It is a great honor for Universal to bring `The Far Side' to Larson's insatiable fans."

Larson is currently on a 14-month sabbatical and will resume drawing "The Far Side" on Jan. 1, 1990.

"The Far Side" appears in more than 900 newspapers. The bestselling book collections of "The Far Side" number over 12 million copies in print and the latest, "Wildlife Preserves," is currently on national bestseller lists across the country. Larson's 10th anniversary collection, "The PreHistory of the Far Side: The 10th Anniversary Exhibit," will be published in the fall.

Best-selling collections of "Calvin and Hobbes" include "Calvin and Hobbes," "Something Under the Bed is Drooling," "The Essential Calvin and Hobbes" and "Yukon Ho!" have sold more than 5 million copies. A new collection, "The Calvin and Hobbes Lazy Sunday Book," is scheduled for publication in the fall.

The Reuben is the Oscar of the cartooning world and has been given to such outstanding cartoonists as Milton Caniff ("Steve Canyon," 1946), Mort Walker ("Beetle Bailey," 1953), Pat Oliphant (Editorial, 1968), Bil Keane ("Family Circus," 1982) and Lynn Johnson ("For Better or Worse," 1985).