11 Cartoonist Ray Billingsley brings a black perspective! PODCAST INTERVIEW

Ray Billingsley, cartoonist, Curtis, Mr. Media Interviews
‘Curtis’ by cartoonist Ray Billingsley

When I was researching my biography, Will Eisner, A Spirited Life, one of the biggest surprises for me was learning that two extremely successful daily cartoonists, Ray Billingsley of “Curtis,” and Patrick McDonnell of “Mutts,” were once students of Eisner’s at the New York School of Visual Arts.

Eisner spoke highly of both men, and he developed an ongoing mentor-style relationship with Billingsley, who was a very young man, just about 16, when he first took Eisner’s class.

Billingsley’s strip, “Curtis,” brings a black perspective to the daily comics pages of more than 250 newspapers. It’s a steady performer recognized by the American Cancer Society for Curtis’ efforts to get his father to stop smoking. And Billingsley takes the detour from the usual story lines every December for an original Kwanzaa tale.

Ray Billingsley Website • Facebook

BOB ANDELMAN/Mr. MEDIA: Ray, welcome to Mr. Media.

RAY BILLINGSLEY: Thank you, thank you. How are you?

ANDELMAN: I’m good. Thank you. Ray, you and I have spoken a few times in the past, and I often get the sense that you don’t feel a lot of respect coming your way from your own industry. Is that true?

BILLINGSLEY: Yeah, actually, that is true. It’s been a very hard industry to maintain. I get the feeling that sometimes people of my color are pretty much ignored by the industry people. We never get nominated for Reubens. Book deals rarely come our way. It seems that many of the opportunities that are afforded to our counterparts don’t come our way. It’s a hard road to travel, and basically what it means to me is I have to work a little bit harder just to maintain my stake within the newspapers.

ANDELMAN: Have you talked to other African-American cartoonists about this?

BILLINGSLEY: Yeah, I have actually spoken with Robb Armstrong of “Jump Start” and Stephen Bentley of “Herb & Jamaal,” and we sort of share similar stories. Things just don’t come our way that we see going to people who may be of similar talent or talent that is really not as good as ours.

ANDELMAN: Some people would jump in and say, well, what about “The Boondocks”? That seems to have done okay.

Cartoonist Ray Billingsley, Mr. Media Interviews
Cartoonist Ray Billingsley

BILLINGSLEY: Well, yeah. “The Boondocks” was a product of its time, actually.

It was actually pushed because it was the angry black man. It’s almost stereotypical of what a lot of non-black people think we are about. We are not all like that. It was sort of revolutionary in its own right. And of course, for today’s times, it was just right, but just to give one person a voice isn’t really giving much of a voice at all. They need to really expand and let us all at least to have a chance to fail at what we were saying. Give everyone a chance to voice their own opinion.


ANDELMAN: Were you surprised when “The Boondocks” stopped that there wasn’t another strip like it that moved into its space? In most of the papers, I mean, I think, and I love “Lio,” I don’t want to complain about “Lio,” but “Lio” and “Get Fuzzy” and other strips seem to have filled that void as opposed to maybe another black strip.

BILLINGSLEY: Right, right. Well, I was actually more surprised that Aaron quit the job, sort of disappointed because I feel that we need as many voices as we can get that are different and diverse. But I’m not surprised that they didn’t go to replace him, because I had heard through the grapevine that a lot of people were scared of him and what he stood for. It was just sort of odd the way there was a love/hate relationship with most of the people I spoke to, a lot of editors, a lot of newspaper people. They were actually fearful of him, so “Get Fuzzy,” things like that – “Over the Hedge” is much safer. I could imagine that they would go along with something that they don’t have to worry about being controversial.

ANDELMAN: Are there white equivalents to “The Boondocks” and also to “Curtis”?

BILLINGSLEY: Well, actually, the number one I can think of is Garry Trudeau’s “Doonesbury.”

ANDELMAN: I wondered if you would say that. Yeah.

BILLINGSLEY: Yeah. He says all sorts of things political, gets away with it. I don’t know how much controversy he gets into, because I don’t hear about it, but I could imagine that he has in the past and he probably still does from time to time. But more often than not, it seems like he can just do whatever he wants.

ANDELMAN: And is there a white strip that’s a counterpart to “Curtis”?

BILLINGSLEY: Not really. Not really. I sort of made my strip to be the type where I could do just about anything I want. I can go from the absurd with Gunk, the character from Flyspeck Islands, and I can hit on very contemporary things. Gunther, my barber, he can speak on anything that’s relevant at the time, and he gets away with it, because that’s what happens in barber shops. They talk about what’s going on. And yet I have the innocence of Curtis and little brother Barry, so it was a strip where I could do just anything. Most of the strips don’t complement a lot of the stories that I can handle. Their characters aren’t suited for a lot of the things that I talk about.

ANDELMAN: How has the strip changed? You started doing it in what year?

BILLINGSLEY: It launched in 1988.

ANDELMAN: My goodness, you’re coming up on 20 years.

BILLINGSLEY: Yes, I am. Yes, I am.

ANDELMAN: How has it changed over the years?

BILLINGSLEY: I think actually the writing has become stronger. The character is much more rounded, and that’s what I feel is very important to the maturity of any comic strip, that the characters grow along with the times, especially in my case. Now, if you have something like “Wizard of Id” or “Broom Hilda,” of course, they can just stay in one time, and you know, it’s just gags, so whatever they do, it goes. But strips like mine need to progress, and that’s what’s happened. I’ve kept up with the happenings of the times. Instead of Barry listening in on Curtis’ little phone calls to Michelle, things like that had to drop, because now the kids are mostly into cell phones. Oh, and you know, one of my favorite things I used to do was an imaginary record shop that Curtis and Barry would visit, and it would always change its name and its location because it featured the hardest rap that you could find, and most parents when they found out about it they would burn it down. The thing of it is, that was when rap wasn’t really accepted. Now that it’s so mainstream, it was a theme that I had to drop. So yeah, the strip grows.

ANDELMAN: What would be the equivalent of rap in the strip today? I mean, one generation is pushing in something, and the older generation is fighting against it. If it isn’t rap, what is it?

BILLINGSLEY: Right. Well, right now, I still have Curtis dealing with rap, much to his father’s dismay. But I am not on it the way I used to be. There aren’t any rap stars right now that are really hitting the charts like Public Enemy used to do. Those guys, they’ve now retired, so it has sort of lessened its impact in the strip.

ANDELMAN: Could we use a different word than retired, because I think I was still a music critic when they were playing, and I don’t like to think that they retired. Could we just say that they’re doing other things?

BILLINGSLEY: Yeah, they’ve gone on. As you see, right now, one of the hardest rappers that used to be out there, I think it’s Ice Cube?


BILLINGSLEY: He’s now doing family movies, Are We Done Yet? And this is a guy that people used to fear just seeing him. Now he’s doing family comedies. So time and age change everything.

ANDELMAN: I had asked you how the strip had changed in this almost 20 years, and one of the reasons I asked you that was to get into this other subject, there’s no way for someone who just started reading “Curtis” to know what the strip was like 20 years ago because it hasn’t been collected in how many years?

BILLINGSLEY: Well, actually, I started trying to get it collected in 1993, and I haven’t met with any success. I had two small pocket-sized books published by Ballantine back in like 1990 or ‘91, something like that, and I haven’t had any success since. Now, the popular books that are out there now, I have tried to get in with that company for eons, and time after time, they would just reject me. Sadly enough, my last rejection really turned me away from them. I spoke with a senior editor there, and she told me that she loved the material and this is what the company is about, and they would like to put the thing out. We were even talking covers and all. I had three books under consideration, and the last time I spoke to her, she said that the three books were on their way to Acquisitions. Now, to me, acquisition means they are going to buy it. So I sat back, and I was waiting and waiting. On December 27th, two days after Christmas, I get this large package back with all my work back in it with a rejection letter that said basically, “We’re not interested in this property now nor will we be in the future.” So basically they told me don’t even try any more.

A Boy Named Curtis, cartoonist, Ray Billingsley, Mr. Media Interviews
Order ‘A Boy Named Curtis’ by Ray Billingsley,’ available from Amazon.com by clicking on the book cover above!

ANDELMAN: I’m thinking there had to be an angry black man in Connecticut that day.

BILLINGSLEY: Oh yes. Actually, just very disappointed. It’s like the rug is being pulled out from under you, and that’s part of the thing I talk about, the not getting respect from the industry. Because they print everyone else, but for a person like me that keeps trying over and over and over again, they don’t do it. And of course, they offer no explanation why, and actually, I tried calling her back, and she wouldn’t even take my calls from that point.

ANDELMAN: What about the other strips you mentioned, “Herb & Jamaal” and “Jump Start”?

BILLINGSLEY: They don’t reprint them, either.

ANDELMAN: That’s what I wondered. And so, I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but is this racism, or is it something else?

BILLINGSLEY: I think it’s just ignorance, actually.


BILLINGSLEY: Yeah. It’s a bit of racism, also, because I’ll tell you this: this is something that has eaten at me for years and years, but an editor once told me, and not from this book company, but

an editor once told me that it was thought that blacks don’t read and what white person would buy this for their kids?

And I mean, they said this right to me, so it’s just been a thing that I’ve been living with all these years. That’s why I try so hard to overcome it, because I think they’re wrong. I wonder sometimes if it’s a backlash of the whole rap industry where a lot of non-blacks think that we’re all like that. And that’s not the case. That’s why “The Boondocks” made it the way it did. It spoke of an angry revolutionary black man, and that’s been our stereotype. Most times when you see us in movies and all, we’re angry, we’re out of control, and they just feed into that sort of thing instead of doing something where the rest of us are basically family-type strips, and they just don’t want to deal with it. The bad part about that is that we’re not given the chance to fail. At least give us a chance to see whether or not it can go. Robb (Armstrong) has a great strip. They won’t give it to him. But it’s something that they have to be educated on, and I don’t think they want to be educated.

ANDELMAN: Does a black publisher need to step up and do this?

BILLINGSLEY: That might be the case, but also, it would have to be a black publisher who has connections with the bookstores more. You know how things go with bookshelf space and all that, and they would have to be strong enough to command a good spot. Right now, this other company that I don’t want to mention currently commands all the best spots.

ANDELMAN: Now, my sense of these things is that if a publisher or a TV network senses that there is money to be made, they tend not to see black or white, they see green.


ANDELMAN: Is it possible that they just don’t see a market here, or are they just ignorant of what the market is or how to reach that market?

BILLINGSLEY: I think they are ignorant, because there is plenty to be made in terms of bucks if they really want to sit down and put out a good product. Basically, that’s what I’m really dealing with. I want “Curtis” to be a good product, which is why I work on it so hard and why the stories are, in my opinion, very good. I try to be very original in things like that because I want people to see that we can put out a good product. All they have to do is work with us and sit down and do it. Now, one of the things for like TV, it would help if I did have some compilation books, because I could sit down with them, send them a book, and then discuss things with them. But without any sort of compilation, that work is hindered.

ANDELMAN: It is kind of surprising that BET or someone else hasn’t acquired the rights to “Curtis” to do, whether it be a cartoon or a sitcom of some kind. Has that ever come up?

BILLINGSLEY: The times have changed so much, especially with things like BET, where they would be more apt to take something like a “Boondocks” than “Curtis.” Curtis is a nice kid, and you know, he’s not really into, let’s say, Ebonics or anything like that, and I don’t know just how much they would welcome something like that.

ANDELMAN: Ray, do you need to “F” the poor kid up a little bit to get some attention?

BILLINGSLEY: Some times, I think so! (Laughs.) Many times when I try to stretch out too much, I might get censored, so you know, I try not to let that happen, because I really don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings or step on any toes or anything like that, not through my work, anyway.

ANDELMAN: Let me ask you a question. I am going to play devil’s advocate here for a minute for people who may hear this and go, it’s not racism, it’s whatever. I think this is the second time since I’ve done Mr. Media I’ve used this example, so stop me if I’m wrong, but the “Cathy” creator, Cathy Guisewhite, is successful, but she’s not always accepted as doing important enough work in certain circles, and she doesn’t get a lot of respect. But the strip runs and runs and runs. Is there any sense of that as what’s happening with you or with Robb Armstrong?

BILLINGSLEY: Oh, sure. Sure. Definitely that’s what’s happening. We’re appreciated, we’re just not respected. I guess Cathy is getting it because you know, being a woman does have, I don’t want to say it’s drawbacks, because there are a lot of very talented women cartoonists out there, but I don’t think they get a fair shake, either. There is Roz Chast from The New Yorker. I think she has a beautiful book that’s just come out, but she should have had it a long time ago. She’s been working at it for quite a while, and she’s just getting it now. Lynn Johnson, she was different. She proved to be a heavy hitter, and I think it was because of her beautiful artwork and her sensitive stories that really, really got her over. But in terms of respect, I don’t know how much she gets other than being a moneymaker. If the strip was floundering or something like that, I doubt if they would really pay much attention to her.

ANDELMAN: Let’s change gears a little bit. The recent death of King Features editor Jay Kennedy hit you pretty hard.


ANDELMAN: What can you tell us about your relationship with Jay?

BILLINGSLEY: Jay and I, we were very close. He would always warn me in case of what he thought I was doing that might be controversial.

He looked out for me a lot, and he was a good sounding board. When I first started doing controversial ideas, I would always go to Jay and ask him what he thought of it, and Jay would always say, “Well, Ray, we’ll take a chance. I think this is good, so we’ll take a chance.”

And more often than not, we had good response. Sometimes, even during the worst controversial ideas that I put out there, Jay was always on my side. He would tell me different ways of handling the media and all that, because, actually, I am a very sensitive person, and when people say that they don’t like my stuff, it bothers me. Jay would just calm me down and send me on the right path. So it was very unsettling when I heard it, but the really bad thing about it was, Jay had called me up to tell me about a recent controversy I was going through with the Boston Globe.

ANDELMAN: I was just going to ask you about that, yeah. That was the last time you spoke to him?


ANDELMAN: For folks who may not have seen it — I think it was a Sunday panel, wasn’t it?

BILLINGSLEY: Right. It was March 13th, actually. I’ll always remember that strip because of Jay. Jay called me on March 12th, which was that Saturday, and he told me that the Boston Globe was censoring that strip, and he told me not to worry about it, that it should blow over, hopefully it doesn’t get bigger, and thankfully, it didn’t. But he told me he was going away and he would be back in a week on that Monday, and he offered to take me to lunch that Tuesday at the new King Features office because I hadn’t seen it yet. A few days go by, I had sent a “Thank you” note to him over the last controversy saying thanks for watching my back again and talk to you when you get back. Then like a couple days later, I got an email from Claudia Smith at King Features. She’s the publicist, and it was saying that Jay had died, and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I couldn’t believe it because I had just spoken to him, and I was waiting to have this lunch with him. We hadn’t seen each other since the last Ruebens. I really liked getting together with Jay, so it really hit me hard.

ANDELMAN: How long had you worked with Jay?

BILLINGSLEY: “Curtis” started in 1988. Jay came on, I think, in 1989. So yeah, we had basically grown up in King Features there.

ANDELMAN: Do you have someone else there at King that will provide you with that kind of support?

BILLINGSLEY: Well, hopefully, hopefully. I know there are some other editors. There is one woman named Evelyn Smith, and I know she’s been a good editor for the past few years, but we have yet to really get close the way Jay and I did. It’s so strange, because a lot of deaths in the industry have hit me personally because I really knew these people. Jud Herd was one of them. We used to get together for lunch, and we would go to the Society of Illustrators. (Charles) Schulz was a big one for me, because we spoke so often, and it was a strange thing. I would call Schulz, and many times he was busy, so I knew he would call me back. I called him this particular time, and I waited for a week, and he didn’t call back. So I called him again, and he didn’t call back. The oddest part was, I got a phone call one early morning from some editor from Baltimore, and he asked me what did I feel about Schulz’ death? And that’s how I found out about that. So that floored me.

ANDELMAN: Well, going back to my introduction of you, I think a lot of people will be surprised to learn that you were a student of Will Eisner’s.

BILLINGSLEY: Oh, yes. His death, that crippled me.

ANDELMAN: What do you remember about Will if you could tell one quick…

BILLINGSLEY: Oh, I can tell you this:

Will was a tough MF’er!

(Laughs.) He was not to be played… He wasn’t one of those teachers that came in and had all the jokes and we had a good time. You were there to work. and actually, by the time I had gotten to Will’s class, I had been published quite regularly in New York. I was becoming a fixture. I was like the kid artist of New York, and I would show my stuff to Will, and Will would just look at it and basically yawn and say, “Okay, what else can you do?” He always challenged me to do more than I could do. I had credited Will with my superhero, Super Captain Cool Man. I draw that like in a superhero style just to show people I can draw other things, and that comes from Will making me do different styles. He also helped with the styling of the Kwanzaa stories, just stretching out. You know, actually, Schulz had a lot to do with the Kwanzaa stories, also, because some of his advice was, “Put things in your strip that are unique to you, something that no one else can touch,” and that’s how the Kwanzaa stories came up. So those were two of the men that actually influenced a great part of my career.

ANDELMAN: What cartoonists, as you were starting out and I guess over the years, have you looked to for influence, others than Schulz and Eisner, that you admired over this time?

BILLINGSLEY: Well, this will sound odd, but my number one favorite was Al Capp.


BILLINGSLEY: Yep. Who did “L’il Abner.” I have his entire series of books, and I mean, what the guy did was phenomenal with the space that we are all afforded. He gave us strong characters, strong dialogue, the stories, he was just an incredible artist and writer, and I looked to him for a lot of my inspiration.

ANDELMAN: But Al Capp, Ray? I suspect right now I am not the only person hearing this who is scratching their head, going, Al Capp? Okay.

BILLINGSLEY: You know, all those people who may be scratching their heads, they need to pick up some of those books and read them through. If you really want to see a fine example of good characterization, good artwork, check out “L’il Abner.” It’s really incredible stuff.

ANDELMAN: Wow. Okay, I’m still scratching my head, but we’ll move on. What about new strips? When you open the paper, and obviously you open the paper and you make sure your strip is in there every day, but what new strips can you not get through the day without reading?

BILLINGSLEY: Oh, let’s see. One of my favorites of the brand new strips, I think it’s called “Gals and Football.” I think that’s the name of it. I also like, wow, I can’t think of the name of this one. It has to do with a waitress. I know she’s one of the six chicks, cartoonists. I forget the name of it, but I check her stuff out every day. I just like the artwork. She reminds me of Betty Boop, the characters with the big heads and big eyes. If I had my computer on, I could look it up right quick.

ANDELMAN: That’s all right. We’re playing a game of “Stump the Cartoonist.” Any others?

BILLINGSLEY: Right now, those two are my favorite ones of the brand new ones.

ANDELMAN: Whose career would you most like to have?

BILLINGSLEY: Hmmm…. Right off the bat, I would say Jim Davis.


BILLINGSLEY: Because Jim Davis (“Garfield”) has been seen everywhere, and the marketing has been everywhere. I would love to be in that sort of position, and when you talk to Jim Davis, he’s so down to earth. He’s a cool guy. Also, Dean Young, between him and his father doing “Blondie, “these people are so highly successful, and they’re just regular, down to earth people. Also Mort Walker. Mort Walker has had a steady stream of success with several strips, and that sort of thing I would also like to get into. I don’t know how well he has done with the merchandising. I haven’t seen much more than the books. He’s probably had a bit more franchising, but I’m not really up on that. It’s the longevity and the quality of the strips that I really like.

ANDELMAN: So you’re not one of those guys who thinks that these strips that have been around for 30 or 40 years, they need to just stop, move out of the way for a younger guy?

BILLINGSLEY: Well, no, not as long as they are still pumping out good stuff. That’s one of the reasons why I really like “Blondie.” “Blondie” changes with the times. I’ve watched it ever since I was a little kid, and I see all the changes. The artwork is still superior to many that I’ve seen, and the ideas are still there.

ANDELMAN: You know, that’s funny. I agree with you on “Blondie.” As a matter of fact, when you mentioned Dean Young, I was thinking, I can’t remember the last time that there was some other type of Blondie product. I think, “Boy, this would make a great TV show” sometimes or a great movie, because it has changed. Blondie has gone from just being kind of curvy to kind of busty, and she’s very attractive, and you know the situations are very modern, if you will, in terms of the…

BILLINGSLEY: Everything is up to date.

ANDELMAN: Dagwood’s office…


ANDELMAN: I did see that they have launched, after all these years, a Dagwood’s Sandwich Shoppe.

BILLINGSLEY: I can imagine what that’s like, a little bit of everything.

ANDELMAN: Yeah. Franchising those things.

BILLINGSLEY: Jared wouldn’t like that.

ANDELMAN: No, I think you’re right. I think that would definitely not be a place that we would see Jared.

BILLINGSLEY: Now here’s something for you. One of my favorite strips used to be Russell Meyer’s “Broom Hilda.” It was about a fifteen-year-old witch, and I mean, she was mean, crotchety, she drank, she smoked, she pinched men, she did everything, and I liked it because it was such outrageous humor, so you know, from time to time, I go that way, also. I like the good stuff, like the “Blondie”s, to the old-fashioned slap-stick sort of things.

ANDELMAN: Ray, let me ask you about one other thing, and we sort of touched on it, that you started very young in the business. I remember the first time that we spoke, you were telling me you worked for a kids’ magazine.

BILLINGSLEY: Right, right.

ANDELMAN: Is that what it was called, Kids?

BILLINGSLEY: Yeah, it was called Kids.


BILLINGSLEY: I started off in this business when I was twelve years old, so I have literally grown up in this business.

ANDELMAN: And how old are you now?

BILLINGSLEY: Boy, wouldn’t you like to know?

ANDELMAN: Well, I think I have an idea. I think we’re about the same age.

BILLINGSLEY: Okay. How old are you?

ANDELMAN: Late 40s.

BILLINGSLEY: There you go. I’m looking at 50 in the face.

ANDELMAN: Okay. And that’s why I wanted to mention the name of that kids’ magazine, because for a generation of us, I think, in the early ’70s, that was a magazine that a lot of us picked up, and it had a big influence on us.

BILLINGSLEY: A funny story about that. I remember I was 12 years old, I was in my art class, and we had this, I think it was a 20-foot tall aluminum Christmas tree project that we had to build out in front of this hospital in New York, and I mean, it was cold, it was snowing, and I thought it was a dumb project. So by 12 years old, I was already carrying around like a little pad and pencil, and I was always doodling something. Mind you, my teachers hated that. But I was sitting off to the side, and I noticed there was a little media coverage. I saw a couple of people from the news hanging about. A woman approached me, and she asked me what I was drawing, so I showed it to her. She asked if she could keep it, so I said, “Sure, why not?” And she wanted my name and phone number, so I gave it to her. Back in that time, you didn’t have to worry. Kids were safe. So I think that was on a Thursday we were working on that project. On that Monday, I got a call from this woman, and come to find out she was the editor of Kids magazine, and she wanted me to come down and try my hand at doing some spot art for a couple of articles. So sure, I went on down there. I received $5 for my first illustration, and the first magazine came out, everything was fine.

Then they called me up, and they hired me as like a staff artist! Life changed for me right after that. I would go to school, and as soon as school was out, instead of going to play ball or something like that, I was going to work, and I remained with Kids magazine until I was 18, and I retired from there as an associate editor at 18 years old.

And from there, I just kept on going. I found out that people paid you to draw. See, my father was very strict. He didn’t believe in allowances or things like that, so it was a good way for me to make money legally. I just kept on doing it, then I found out about the world of freelancing, and that was actually a lot of fun, because you never knew what you were going to be doing next.

ANDELMAN: Oh yeah, it’s a thrilling job.

BILLINGSLEY: It’s hard. It takes a lot of pavement work, but see, at the time, I was living in New York, so all the magazines were right there.

ANDELMAN: That is an advantage. There’s no doubt.

BILLINGSLEY: I had to take a subway or a bus, and there I was. Like I said earlier, I was starting to build up a reputation there in the city because I was a kid artist, so many times when I got to magazines, people would just be surprised to see me. “So you’re that kid we heard about? Yeah, we’ll put you on this job.” Okay. I’ll take it, I’ll take it. I mean, throughout this business, throughout all the years, I have done everything you can think of. I’ve done advertising, I’ve done storyboards, magazine covers, clip art. I’ve done all sorts of things. As a matter of fact, I actually did designs on underwear before they became popular. Those were my designs way back. I did a tuxedo shirt way back. It is like 25 years now, and these things really caught on. I used to see people wearing this stuff.

UPDATE: May 23, 2007

Curtis by Ray Billingsley
Curtis by Ray Billingsley

The most talked about “Mr. Media Interview” to date – by far – was the one above with “Curtis” cartoonist Ray Billingsley. He hit a nerve by taking issue with book publishers who have been unwilling to produce a collection of his strip in nearly two decades. The interview led to not one but two stories on EditorandPublisher.com – including a condemnation of his remarks by the current president of the National Cartoonists Society, Rick Stromoski (“Soup to Nutz”) – and a lengthy discussion on the popular web site, The Comics Curmudgeon.

Billingsley isn’t letting the issue die down, either, with the NCS’ annual Reuben Awards just around the corner. A recent Sunday strip has generated even more controversy, this time on The Comics Journal Message Board. Read the strip and what’s been written here. Or feel free to click on “Comments” below and add your thoughts here.

Cartoonist Ray Billingsley
Cartoonist Ray Billingsley

What I find interesting is that Billingsley hasn’t directly mention the name of the publisher of the vast majority of comic strip compilations – even though it’s pretty obvious with whom he’s so frustrated.

I also wonder why no Black-oriented book publisher has stepped forward – yet.

If you’d like to hear more from Billingsley on this subject – live and in person, he’ll be one of the guest speakers at the Festival of Cartoon Art, Oct. 25-27, 2007, sponsored by Ohio State University’s Cartoon Research Library.

Will Eisner: A Spirited Life by Bob Andelman, Mr. Media Interviews
Order Will Eisner: A Spirited Life (2nd Edition) by Bob Andelman, available from Amazon.com by clicking on the book cover above!

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6 thoughts on “11 Cartoonist Ray Billingsley brings a black perspective! PODCAST INTERVIEW

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  1. I had the honor of speaking on a cartoon panel with Ray and a number of other cartoonists in New York while back.

    I got to sit next to Ray and he’s such a nice guy. He had a lot of good things to say, and a lot of good questions as well.

    Thanks for the interview! Great read!

  2. Excellent interview, Bob. Very interesting – your Eisner book really sent you off on some surprising paths. Fortunately the Washington Post publishes Curtis so I get to read it regularly. When he mentions it, you can see where G’unk lets RB stretch reality like Capp used to do.

  3. Ray is a great guy and a super talent…I love that he’s not afraid to tell it like it is, even when regarding his peers. We’re lucky enough to get Curtis in the local paper!

  4. My Delaware paper only carries the Sunday Curtis strip but I always enjoyed it more than Boondocks because Aaron was too “one-note” after a while, while Ray’s strip had more back-story and depth.

    Also, what a mind-blower when Ray alluded to Jenette Kahn. I match his “racing to fifty” demographic and Kids had a big impact on me.

    I guess I’ve been following Ray’s career longer than I suspected.

    And tell your publisher, as a Late Baby Boomer White Guy, I’d buy compendia of both your strips and Rob Armstrong’s.

    It’s not the pigment of the skin but the quality of the artist that counts.

  5. I can’t figure out why ‘they’ don’t think Curtis, or Jump Start wouldn’t sell to the same crowd that might buy Baby Blues? parenthood is parenthood. Everybody Hates Chris has done OK on TV, and it has reminded me of Curtis from the first episode.

  6. Pingback: Daily Cartoonist interviews on Mr. Media | Mr. Media® Radio Interviews

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