ComicsVerse’s Schane Flowers had the pleasure of speaking to Jerry Craft at the Black Comic Book Festival!

The following transcript has been edited for clarity.

ComicsVerse: Hi everyone, I’m Schane, I’m interviewing Jerry Craft at the Black Comic Book Festival, and you’re watching Comicsverse. I know that you originally started doing comic strips with “Mama’s Boyz”, and then you went and crossed over to being a children’s book illustrator.

Jerry Craft: Right.

ComicsVerse: What was the reason that you decided to make a change in the type of media that you focused on?

Jerry Craft: I think the main thing is I first did the “Mama’s Boyz” comic strip cause I grew up here in Washington Heights. I was born in Harlem, grew up in Washington Heights. I did the comic strip because I didn’t see characters that looked like me and my friends when we were growing up. And then the comic strip got picked up in local papers and then eventually by King Features, but then I wanted to do the book thing because I want to help promote literacy. Because I was not a reader when I grew, I did not like to read, so whenever I do school visits, I always say that I was a reluctant reader. So now by doing either graphic novel or more of a young adult novel, I can encourage kids to read a little bit more by telling stories I really want to tell.

ComicsVerse: Great, awesome, and I really do appreciate that cause when I was a kid, I didn’t have a lot of heroes or stories that represented me in my day, well, the 90’s, I’m not that old but I wanted to ask you, what was the inspiration for “The Offenders?”

Jerry Craft: So, when my kids, my two sons were in middle school, there was a lot of talk about bullying, and they would bring in people that would talk about bullying and present to the schools, and there are a lot of books about kids who are bullied, and there was never one that I saw about kids who did the bullying. So this is literally like five kids who are kind of the bullies of this school, and they get zapped, they get super powers, but instead of looking cool like Spiderman or Black Panther, they look like the kids that they pick on, so one kid gains like 50 pounds, one gets these two big metallic buck teeth, one gets super skinny, one gets super tiny, one gets super smart, but kind of physically uncoordinated. So all of my books, cause I’m a little older than you, but all of my books have some kind of a learning aspect without being too preachy, that’s why I like to do humor as well.

ComicsVerse: And for the learning aspect, is that also why you do illustrations for board games as well?

Jerry Craft: Yep, I love stuff that I can teach kids, so this one I was fort, this was one of my first jobs illustrating these board games. I did three of them for this company, and then simultaneously as I started to branch out, cause I grew up Fat, with Fat Albert, and Fat Albert always had a lesson, the School House Rock. So I loved the idea of having fun stuff, but when the kid comes away from it, they’re like, oh yeah, okay, you know what, when I did this to someone, maybe they didn’t like that, or maybe I should learn to respect my mom a little more, or maybe I should try to read a little bit more. So those are the things I love to do.

ComicsVerse: And is that why you opened up the Comic Book Festival to children specifically for the last six years, or?

Jerry Craft: So Professor John Jennings, Professor Jonathan Gayles, Deirdre Hollman and myself started the event here in 2012, so this is the 6th year. The last two years, we’ve added Friday, where we specifically had it more kid-oriented, so this morning we had probably 300 school kids come through and then a few of us went up and presented to them, Jamal Igle, Jamar Nicholas, Micheline Hess and myself, and we showed slides and presentations and really talked about what it was like for us growing up.

ComicsVerse: It’s good, and I want to ask, cause you write of them so much in terms of your published works, the works that you’ve helped out with, and then with this festival, what’s in store for you and for the Black Comic Book Festival in the future?

Jerry Craft: For me personally, I just finished a 250 page middle grade graphic novel for Harper Collins, it’s called “New Kid”, and it will come out this time next year, hopefully if I see you next year you’ll have, see the proof.

ComicsVerse: Oh, absolutely.

Jerry Craft: And it’s about a boy, much like myself, growing up in Washington Heights and then going to a private school in Riverdale, New York, and having to go and stay in, in out of these two vastly different communities. So “New Kid” Harper Collins, 2019.

ComicsVerse:  All right, I will mark my calendar. You, mark your calendars.

Jerry Craft: Mark your calendar, and you can follow me, just on my website, jerrycraft.net, has all this stuff on it and Twitter and Facebook and all that.

ComicsVerse: All right, thank you, will do. Well, thank you so much for your time. I know that it’s going to get a little bit crazy.

Jerry Craft: It will get very crazy. We’ve had like 40,000 people in the last, since it’s inception come through.

ComicsVerse: Oh, that’s, that’s a lot of people.

Jerry Craft: That’s a lot of people.

ComicsVerse: All right, for more interviews like this, please check us out at comicverse.com I’m Schane, and you’re watching Comicsverse.

For more Jerry Craft and Comic Con Videos, subscribe to ComicsVerse.com!

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