One day during his 2001 summer break from SVA, Erik Craddock (BFA 2003 Cartooning) was at his part-time job at a gas station and sketched out a character on a scrap of paper. “I was thinking of a more simplified version of myself,” he says, “and then I added ears to him.”
That sketch turned into Stone Rabbit, a character that Craddock returned to again and again while a student at SVA and later in self-published comics. Now, Stone Rabbit is the star of a major series of kids’ graphic novels, published by Random House. Aimed at readers ages 4 – 8, the series has kicked off with volumes 1 and 2—B.C. Mambo and Pirate Palooza, which are out now; volume 3, Deep-Space Disco, is due out in September.
Craddock talked to the Briefs about the series and the “secret sauce” in his comics.
How did the series for Random House come about?
I’d finished working on some animation for a client and I found out he worked as a designer at Random House. We were having lunch and I asked him if anyone there was looking for graphic novels. He wasn’t sure how it would fly over there, but he was willing to give it a shot for me. It turned out they loved it. They were publishing Babymouse, aimed at girls in grade school, and now they wanted something for boys. So I came to them at just the right time.
What kind of kid do you envision liking Stone Rabbit books?
Anybody who likes slapstick humor. It’s kind of a mix of slapstick and epic adventure. The primary focus of the artwork of the series—the “secret sauce,” I think—is that the characters play off each other in comical ways. Not because of the situation but because of their personalities. I think that if you like Pixar films, you’ll love this series—it’s wholesome entertainment that’s also a wild ride and a lot of fun. Each book has a different theme, so it never gets old.
Is there an artist or book that is a big inspiration for your work?
Over the past several years I’ve been influenced by the world of 80s animation, specifically Don Bluth and several Japanese animators. I’m making it a point that each Stone Rabbit book is more than a comic book—I want it to be an experience. You feel a real connection with the characters, and how they deal with impossible situations can be inspiring for kids. Nothing’s impossible, no matter the odds. But I really want the stories to be funny. If you don’t laugh out loud at least once while reading the book, then I’ve failed.