By Gary Symons
TLL Editor in Chief
The award-winning comic strip Curtis will be featured in a new book in a partnership between King Features and Drawn & Quarterly.
The book will be a collected edition of favorite strips over the years from the classic syndicated comic by artist and writer Ray Billingsley.
The new tome is a collaboration between King Features Syndicate, a unit of Hearst, which owns the rights to the comic strip, and the publisher Drawn & Quarterly, which is best known for publishing the works of the world’s best cartoonists. D+Q has previously published books on many of the top North American cartoonists, like Adrian Tomine, Lynda Barry, Nick Drnaso, Kate Beaton, Barbara Brandon-Croft, Aminder Dhaliwal, Ebony Flowers, and Seth. But Drawn & Quarterly also focuses on the best international authors, including Tove Jansson (Finland); Guy Delisle (France); Tom Gauld (UK); Astrid Lindgren (Sweden); Yoshiharu Tsuge (Japan); Rutu Modan (Israel); Shigeru Mizuki (Japan); Keum Suk Gendry-Kim (Korea); Zuo Ma (China); and many more cartoonists from across the globe.
The company’s dedication to high production values, editorial integrity, and artistic autonomy has led to it being described by Time as “the most elegant comics publisher in North America,” and critics have taken notice. D+Q books have been nominated for the Man Booker Prize, the Governor General’s Literary Awards, the Giller Prize, NAACP Image Award, Lambda Literary Award, the Story Prize, and many Eisner, Harvey, and Ignatz Awards.
Tom Devlin, executive editor at Drawn & Quarterly, says the publishing house was thrilled to get the chance to publish a book with King Features on Billingsley and the Curtis comics.
“Ray Billingsley is an all-time great cartoonist,’ said Devlin. “Rereading Curtis you realize that the strip is not just a daily laugh but a whole world, the creation of a living breathing boy who argues with his father, has an unrequited love interest named Michelle, has a best friend named Gunk who’s absolutely puzzling. With a lesser cartoonist, they would just exist for punchlines, but in Ray’s hands, we care about each and every one of them.”
The latest work featuring strips from Curtis is coming to shelves in February 2025, and follows the stories of a Black middle-class family navigating everyday life. The book also contains much more than just the collection of top comic strips. It features extensive interviews, supplementary writing, and never-before-seen early comics, as Billingsley’s career takes center stage in this landmark career retrospective.
As a comics veteran, Billingsley used his own childhood of growing up in 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. Curtis has been long praised by community leaders and educators for its sensitive portrayal of urban life and family values.
In 2021, Ray Billingsley was awarded Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year at the Reuben Awards, the highest honor in the cartooning industry, for his work on Curtis.
“I would like to extend my warmest thanks to all my readers, both loyal and new, who have embraced Curtis and made him part of their family,’ said Billingsley. “I have lived a career that some would dream of and I’m more than happy to have you accompany me on this journey. And a mighty thanks to all at King Features Syndicate who actually put up with all my eccentricities. This book is my gift to you all everywhere.”
Christina Nix-Lynch, senior director of licensing at King Features, says the company felt it was important to focus a spotlight on the acclaimed writer’s work.
“Curtis has made a huge impact on its readers and we are thrilled to work with Drawn & Quarterly to bring fans this beautiful collected edition book,” Nix-Lynch said. “It’s a priority for King Features to continue offering comics that educate and entertain our diverse audience of comic fans.”
The upcoming book is suggested to retail for $29.95 and will be available wherever books are sold.