First of all, let's wish a very happy Lunar New Year to those of you who celebrate!!!!
We're celebrating Black History Month all February as well! Ray Billingsley spent last week honoring Black History with Curtis, who has his own opinions about how it should be celebrated:
Ray Billingsley, the creator of Curtis, was born in Wake Forest, North Carolina, but moved to Harlem, NYC, when he was young. It was his childhood growing up in Harlem that inspired the life and antics of Curtis, and Ray has always strived to bring authenticity and honesty about growing up as an African-American boy in New York City to his comics.
Ray was kind enough to talk with us a little bit about how Curtis relates to Black history, and why Black History Month is important for him to celebrate:
In creating CURTIS, I would like to believe that I bring something other to the comics world. That quality is diversity. I like to sometimes touch upon certain situations I believe cannot be utilized in other forms of artistic wizardry. I also like to stretch my imagination and writing, and to somewhat experiment, at times pushing the boundaries, getting my beloved readers to actually 'feel' for the characters, to think about what I bring to the table.
Along with the Church Ladies Hats, the Kwanzaa tales, and Gunther's neighborhood barbershop, I feel the need to bring an open truth, and maybe seldom thought-about, experiences occurring in African-American Communities. An artistic slice-of-life, if you please.
During Black History Month, I like to create short vignettes into the lives of the characters in CURTIS, and how they exist and are affected by them. Not always an easy road, as I have no prior template for inspiration, as these have not been done before in what is classified as "popular strips". I have never backed away from a challenge, the hardest being the ones I put on myself. Black History Month has always been an interest of mine, even though I know it's a subject not everyone is open-minded enough to accept. It's a time when characters like mine have a responsibility to respond with actions and feelings that are appropriate, for it affects them directly.
Early on, CURTIS was considered a "Thinking-Person's Strip". I like that because, to me, I feel it means my readers are highly-intellectual and like to believe the strip offers more when it comes to conversation and even debate. But above all else, it's a strip that I hope everyone will like and hold dear.
To them, I give my many thanks. They have made this cartoonist feel like the luckiest cartoonist ever.