Curtis comments on his relationship with his younger brother. Artist: Ray Billingsly.

CURTIS

Medium: Newspaper comics
Distributed by: King Features Syndicate
First Appeared: 1988
Creator: Ray Billingsley
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Curtis Wilkins came to be when cartoonist Ray Billingsley woke up in the middle of the night and sketched him in the dark. Next morning, Billingsley …

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… began to get acquainted with his new character. Years later, complete with family and friends, Curtis became a comic strip star. King Features (Moose & Molly, The Piranha Club and much, much more) launched his daily and Sunday comic on Monday, October 3, 1988.

Curtis is an 11-year-old boy who lives in an apartment with Mom (Diane), Dad (Greg) and younger brother (Barry). He's in love with Michelle, who sometimes finds him amusing and sometimes annoying, but doesn't think much of another girl, Chutney, who is in love with him. Others frequently seen in the strip are Gunther the barber, classmates Sheila and Verbena, and a bully named Derrick. All these characters are black, but no particular point is made of the fact — the situations they face are those everybody faces. Curtis also has a friend named Gunk, who hails from a magical land called Flyspeck Island.

The fact that the cast "happen to be black", rather than getting a lot of the humor from their blackness, doesn't mean Billingsley (who also happens to be black) ignores serious issues. In fact, in 2000 he won the American Lung Association's President's Award, for a sequence in which Curtis tried to get Greg to quit smoking. The association's Florida chapter gave Billingsley its Humanitarian Award in 1999.

Curtis hasn't branched out into TV animation or comic books, but his comic strip is read by millions, in over 250 newspapers, all over the world.

— DDM

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Text ©2004-07 Donald D. Markstein. Art © King Features.