Guest Column: Jarrett J. Krosoczka on his early influences

The creator of ‘Hey, Kiddo’ and the ‘Lunch Lady’ series shares his love for Batman, the X-Men, Gummi Bears and more.

Before becoming an award-winning cartoonist and the author of Hey, Kiddo, the Lunch Lady series and other books, Jarrett J. Krosoczka was a fan, wearing his love for the Smurfs, Gummi Bear, X-Men and more on the sleeve of his Batman T-shirt.

Now, with the re-release of the Lunch Lady series as two collected editions, we’re happy to present this guest essay from Krosoczka about those early influences on his work and the escape they provided for him as child.

by Jarrett J. Krosoczka


The onomatopoeia blasting from my grandparents’ television is what got me speedwalking home after school to catch the reruns of Batman ’66. One second of delay, and I would miss that earworm of a theme song—and I didn’t want to miss a moment of the campy adventures.

When I was a little older, it was that same pace of walking that got me home in time for another one of comicdom’s iconic theme songs. On Saturday mornings, my grandparents made sure I went to catechism, but there was no way I’d miss a second of the animated X-Men ’92. I was never a Marvel or DC guy—I was character-specific. The aforementioned heroes, along with Spider-Man, made up my own personal trinity of comic book icons.

As a kid, I was a sponge for popular culture, soaking up everything it had to offer me throughout the ’80s and early ’90s. With pride, I proclaim that I saw Snorks on Ice. I was an official member of the Smurfs Fun Club. I can still recite every single lyric to the Gummi Bears theme song. Childhood toys adorn my art studio, connecting me to imaginative play, the first stories an author tells. Optimus Prime, Fraggles, The Real Ghostbusters, Super Friends all serve as reminders of the kinds of stories I devoured as a kid.

Like artists have always done, I learned how to draw by emulating the artists who came before me. Armed with markers and poster board, I would redraw Jim Lee’s X-Men covers, Matt Groening’s Bart-man, Jim Davis’s Garfield, and Jim Aparo’s run on Batman.

When making comics for young readers today, I strive to make them feel all of the wonder and excitement I felt as a kid thumbing through the pages of a comic. A fair amount of chaos and trauma surrounded me when I was a kid, and these fictional worlds offered a wondrous escape. I lost myself in the adventures of these characters, and within the fan fiction I would create.

I love when I see kids’ renditions of my Lunch Lady characters. I feel like I am getting to hold the baton ever so briefly for the next generation of writers and artists. And when kids or their parents tell me what the Lunch Lady books have meant to them, it fills me with awe. It is an honor to be a part of their reading and artistic journeys! 

Jarrett J. Krosoczka is the author of the National Book Award finalist Hey, Kiddo and the New York Times bestselling Star Wars: Jedi Academy: A New Class, as well as such popular picture books as Punk Farm and Punk Farm on Tour.

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