Curtis details the day-to-day life of a close-knit contemporary African-American family living in the inner city. It is a comic work that does not fit easily in any category. Though it mainly features children, it is not necessarily “child-themed.” It can be humorous, thought-provoking, topical in subject and have bursts of pure zany fantasy.
Sometimes falling victim to censoring, Curtis is best welcomed by those modern free-thinkers who appreciate it for the work of art it is. It is often called "The Thinking-Man’s Strip,” for its witty approach, satire and use of storylines with an unexpected twist.
Veteran cartoonist Ray Billingsley uses his own childhood of growing up in New York’s Harlem in a tight-knit family as the template for Curtis. Some of the experiences and featured characters throughout are directly influenced by real people and happenings the author has known and experienced.
At the end of each year, Billingsley celebrates Kwanzaa with a completely original fable that is always completely different from any Curtis theme. Anti-smoking gags, along with gentle teasing of the hats the church ladies adorn themselves with, are always eagerly anticipated. Even the superhero genre is satirized through Curtis’ favorite hero, SuperCaptainCoolMan, which is a strip within a strip. Curtis has been long praised by community leaders and educators for its sensitive portrayal of urban life and family values. Billingsley is eagerly sought after by up-and-coming artists who are inspired by his style and craft and seek his advice and guidance.
Awards and Distinctions:
The President's Award from the American Lung Association
Humanitarian Award from the American Lung Association
Society for Public Health Education
NAACP Arts & Entertainment Achievement Award
"Who's Who in Black America," "African-Americans in the Visual Arts," "Garfield at 25:In Dog Years I'd Be Dead," "Blondie's 75th Anniversary," "The Great American Comic Strip," "Mort Walker's Private Scrapbook," "Cartoon Success Secrets," "The Comics Since 1945," "100 Years of American Newspaper Comics," "Will Eisner/A Spirited Life"
*Especially proud of the first two Curtis collections that can be found at www.thecartooniststudio.com when mainstream tried to prevent these anthologies from ever seeing the light of day. He is also proud of the wonderful line of merchandising in connection with King Features Syndicate’s DailyINK.
A good-natured yet mischievous 11-year-old whose ideas of fun and temptations almost always wind up in humorous catastrophe.
A harried workaholic who juggles his job at the Department of Motor Vehicles, while providing for his family, paying bills and keeping his children on the straight and narrow path. For relief, he turns to smoking cigarettes, which Curtis intensely dislikes.
Definitely a no-nonsense type who keeps a rein on her household and family. She makes sure that her children do as they are expected and don't step out of line. She is the true backbone of the Wilkins family.
The youngest of the Wilkins family, a true mama’s boy who holds tight to his teddy bear “Snackers,” whose innocent-looking baby boy face often disguises his true bad boy tattletale interior.
Curtis’ best friend, who is just a little bit odd and unexplainable, and who comes from Flyspeck Island. By description and stories, Flyspeck Island is an almost magical place where anything can happen and things are not always as they seem.
The object of Curtis’ affection, Michelle is a diva in her own mind. She is spoiled by her affluent yet mostly absent father. She is quite vain and condescending towards practically everyone, but especially Curtis. She constantly chases the limelight that she thinks she justly deserves to be in.
A sweet, smart girl who is in Curtis’ class and hopes for the day when Curtis feels for her like she feels for him. She lives with her single-parent father and often thinks of her mother, who passed away after a battle with cancer. Chutney is mostly good-natured and willing to put up with Curtis until she is rubbed the wrong way.
Rules the local neighborhood barbershop with a smile, many tall tales of celebrities he personally knows and topical discussions. This is a typical barbershop found in any African-American neighborhood where all is discussed and no topic is taboo. He serves as sort of a second father to Curtis, although he can never remember his name correctly.
Curtis’ strictly-by-the-book teacher, who constantly pushes her students to be the best they can be. She always catches Curtis reading his favorite comic book, SuperCaptainCoolMan. She has also authored a few children's books.
Derrick and Onion
The school bullies who continually try to rope Curtis into joining their juvenile misdeeds. From swindling lunch money to defacing school property with their "poetry" and "artwork," Derrick and Onion are the last two people that Curtis' parents want influencing their young, impressionable son.