Stone Rabbit author and illustrator Erik Craddock sat down with Dominique Cimina (Random House) for an interview recently. Erik is a graduate of The School of Visual Arts (SVA) and worked on several interesting animation projects before creating the Stone Rabbit series of kids’ graphic novels. They’ve become pretty popular (and with good reason – they’re fun).
Check out the interview below to hear Erik talk about his work, his rabbit protagonist, and anything else that pops up along the way like favorite video games.
Tell us about the hero of your graphic novel series, Stone Rabbit. Why a rabbit?
Well, to be honest, even I’m not 100 percent sure why I chose a rabbit to play the hero’s role. It just kind of came out of left field for me. I think subconsciously I chose a rabbit to act as the vehicle of the story because a rabbit is a very vulnerable animal, in that it’s not something that you would expect to do any form of heroics or show any kind of bravado. Plus I like playing with oxymorons in my work. For example, Henri Tortoise is very macho and athletic. This is contrary to the nature of a tortoise. The same goes for Andy Wolf, who’s generally a wimp and wouldn’t hurt a fly. As for Stone Rabbit, he’s a reluctant hero, short tempered and impatient. But underneath that, he’s a genuine humanitarian who believes in good and doing the right thing. Believe it or not, Stone Rabbit is almost a carbon copy of my own personality, so writing for him is pretty darn easy. Plus, when I first created him, I was actually trying to think up a simplified way to draw myself . . . and for some reason I added two bunny ears to the head of the doodle Nine years later, I have a full-blown graphic novel series with the biggest publisher in the history of the known world. Go figure!
With Stone Rabbit, the constant theme is that there is no constant theme. So I’ve taken an opposite approach to storytelling than most writers typically do. The only elements that bond the stories together are the characters and their hometown. After that, it’s anybody’s guess. To me, my characters are more like actors than anything else, each playing different roles from book to book. But despite the fact that all of them are animals, they’re far more human in nature. They have flaws, they make mistakes, and they are highly emotional with one another. I chose to make them vulnerable because doing so makes it “real.” People keep forgetting that it’s easy to be superman when you’re bulletproof…
Stone Rabbit #3: Deep-Space Disco hits stores on September 8th. Anything to warn your readers about, or prepare them for?
There are quite a lot of surprises in book three, primarily the introduction of Stone Rabbit’s first real villain. In the previous books, I gave the villains some redeeming qualities so that they weren’t so monstrous. This time around I made the villain cold, calculated, and vindictive. Make no mistake–he is a villain.
Also, this book is for all the fans of space opera and galactic star-fighting out there. It has photon sword fights, spaceships, and even mech-fighting in a coliseum filled to the brim with cheering alien spectators.
That’s a very tough one because I have quite a few of them that I like and all of them taught me a valuable piece of my craft. I cannot single it out to one teacher. But there is one who, without her guidance, I would never have had the opportunity to be writing this article. And that person is my mother, Judy Craddock.
She was my first real teacher. During my childhood, she was a folk artist, a watercolorist, and an art teacher who taught local women in the neighborhood how to paint and draw. To help make ends meet, she would paint in her studio (which later became my room) and I would be in my crib next to her, watching her as she painted. One day I wanted to try it out, and she let me give it a shot. Surprisingly, I was good at it. So from that point on, I became an artist.
Throughout the years, she helped me by not allowing me to give up and to always go the extra mile in my work. She helped instill the philosophy that I have to this day that either it’s excellent or I don’t bother. That and hard work is its own reward.
Tell us about your work in the field of animation, and how you came back to comics.
While I was working in the animation field, I did background clean-up, character design, storyboarding, directing, voice acting (a minimal amount, though), and writing over the course of -two to three years. I’ve worked on television cartoon shows (Venture Bros., SKWOD), movies (Duplex), and web animations. Towards the end, I was a freelance director as well as doing animations for anyone who wanted to hire me (a Ronin of sorts) under my own company banner of Erik Craddock Entertainment. What got me back into comics was an e-mail from Raina Telgemeier (Baby-sitters Club, Smile). At the time, she was working as a designer for Quirk Packaging and heard that they needed an illustrator for a graphic novel they were producing called Manga Claus. So I threw my hat into the pile and a month or two later found that I had gotten the job. I worked with writer Nathaniel Marunas on the book for several months and almost a year later it hits the shelves. With that book, I became I mainstream artist.
Can you imagine a world without comics, video games, and cartoons? What are your favorites?
Yes, and historically speaking, they referred to that period in time as the “Dark Ages.”
My favorite comics are Calvin and Hobbes, Dr.Slump, Wolverine, Parasyte, Dungeon, Penny Arcade (online), Gastrophobia (online), VG Cats (online), Life Meter (online), Perry Bible Fellowship (online), PVP (online), Domu, and Ode to Kirihito.
My favorite video games are The Revenge of Shinobi, Mortal Kombat, Super Mario Brothers, Chrono Trigger, Sword of the Berserk, The Legend of Zelda, Ninja Gaiden (NES), Rygar, Contra, Mystic Defender, Strider, Samurai Showdown I-IV (the “bloody and violent” arcade versions), Shadow of the Colossus, Dragon Force, Altered Beast, Soul Caliber, Ninja Spirit, Golden Axe, Space Ace, Frogger, Black Hole Assault, Metal Slug I-VI, Dragon’s Lair, Tenchu: Stealth Assassins, and the Last Blade I & II.
Favorite cartoons/animé are Inspector Gadget, Cowboy Bebop, Roujin Z, Tenchi Universe, Legend of Zelda, Captain N: The Game Master, Thundercats, Ronin Warriors, Sealab 2021, The Happy Tree Friends, The Venture Bros, and Rock & Rule.
What’s a typical day of writing and illustrating like for you?
Music and madness. Basically I sit my butt in the chair, fire up the iPod and cut loose on the Cintiq (a special video monitor that I can draw on). My work is entirely digital, start to finish (which is a plus because I don’t have to worry about paper storage). The downside is that you don’t have anything tangible until it’s printed in its final form, and you can’t work through a thunderstorm either. So it’s a rather cerebral form of creation. All in all, I find that working digitally cuts my production time to half of what it used to be (and it’s easy as pie to edit).
What are you working on now?
Well, currently I am working on Stone Rabbit books five and six. There are some other things that are in the works, but I’m rather superstitious and don’t want to jinx them. You’ll just have to wait and see…