Jerry Craft is the creator of Mama’s Boyz, an award-winning comic strip that has been distributed by King Features Syndicate since 1995, making him one of the few syndicated African-American cartoonists in the country. He’s illustrated a number of children’s books, comic books and book covers, and he’s the former editorial director of the Sports Illustrated For Kids website.
Artist Interview with Jerry Craft
Q: Can you give us a little personal history and tell us something about your experiences growing up?
JC: I grew up in the Washington Heights section of New York City. Just above Harlem. I was the youngest of three kids. I live on a great block where me and my friends played all day. Stick ball, football, softball, skateboards, bikes… It was awesome.
Q: Have you always had an interest in the arts?
JC: From the time I’ve been able to hold a crayon and not try to eat it, I’ve always loved to draw. When I was a kid, I used to go see movies then draw them as little stick-figured comic books that I would then send to my brother who was stationed in Japan as a marine. In seventh grade, I began to make my own comic books based on superheroes that I had created.
Q: Was there a particular artist or art style that influenced or inspired you?
JC: The artists who influenced me the most at that time were all working for Marvel comics. People like John Buscema, Jim Sterenko, Gil Kane and John Romita.
Q: What lead you into seeking the arts as a career?
JC: I always felt that if I could make a living doing something that I was passionate about, I would be very lucky. And I was right. I can’t imagine making a living doing anything else.
Q: Do your personal beliefs or feeling affect your work?
JC: Yes, most of my comics, comic strips and children’s books have a wholesome family theme. I don’t do any work that I can’t let my kids see.
Q: Has your education had any influence on your work?
JC: I am a graduate of the School of Visual Arts, so obviously I learned a lot of what I do today. But I’ve also learned a lot on my own. But since I publish my own books, I also use a lot of my math skills and writing skills. So, yes, my education, even though I draw all day, is put to good use.
Q: Do you favor any particular medium (paints, pencils, computers, etc.)?
JC: I prefer to draw in pencil, ink with a pen or brush, then scan into my computer and color in Adobe Photoshop.
Q: What kind of assignments have you worked on?
JC: I’m the creator of the award-winning Mama’s Boyz comic strip, distributed by King Features Syndicate since 1995, so I’m one of the few syndicated African-American cartoonists in the country. I’ve, published 3 books based on my comic strip: Mama’s Boyz: As American as Sweet Potato Pie!, Mama’s Boyz: Home Schoolin’, and Mama’s Boyz: The Big Picture (S’Indie Award Winner for best children’s book). I’ve also illustrated comic books, board games, and 4 children’s books: Hillary’s Big Business Adventure; Looking to the Clouds for Daddy; Please Don’t Yell at We; and A is for Anacostia.
Q: Does any single art assignments, or works, standout in your mind?
JC: When I worked at Sports Illustrated for Kids, I did a lot of Flash animation that I’ve since put up on YouTube. Cartoons such as “The Randy Moss Driving School,” became more popular than I had imagined.
Q: Do you work at anything other than the arts?
JC: Not really, I also teach, but it’s in cartooning or Flash animation.
Q: Why did you choose to participate in the Color of Comics exhibit?
JC: I think it’s important to show the diversity that is out there. Not only for our own benefit, but to help inspire new artists.
Q: Since exhibiting the depiction of people of color is an aim of the COC, what part does cultural and/or racial diversity play in your art, and your art assignments?
JC: It plays a HUGE part. Some people say that they are “not Black artists, they are simply artists.” But I’ve always had a difficult time separating the two. My goal is to represent my culture in a way that’s both positive and entertaining. As a result, I feel that my Mama’s Boyz comic strip and books can be enjoyed by kids as well as their parents.
Q: As an artist, what are your goals for the future?
JC: World domination. But as a back up plan, I’d like to keep creating positive work and have it spread throughout various communities, not just my own.
Q: Do you have any advice or suggestions for young artists just starting out?
JC: Don’t be embarrassed. Lots of kids stop drawing if their friends make fun of it. The next thing is to keep drawing, and keep learning.
Q: Do you have any final comments for us?
JC: Thanks for putting in the hard work to introduce the world to my work, and that of others like me.