TO KEVIN KALLAUGHER, cartooning is more than a career. It’s a conversation.
The esteemed editorial artist for the Economist and the Baltimore Sun — widely known by the nom-de-toon “Kal” — has been crafting his opinions through cross-hatch and animation for 35 years. That’s a long and enduring time to build not only a fan base, but also a dialogue.
Which goes a long way to explain why when Kal began to ask his fans for $20,000 to back a Kickstarter project, they responded by happily ponying up nearly five times that much.
The project — to fund a coffeetable-book-sized retrospective collection of Kal’s Economist cartoons — now sits at more than $92,000, with just more than a day to go. (Yes, there’s still time if you want to contribute — as the campaign grows its “stretch” goals.)
“I’m incredibly flattered and delighted by the overwhelming response,” Kal tells Comic Riffs of his Kickstarter outpouring. “I think it might be a testament to my 35 years in the trenches. You have a long conversation with people, and you build a relationship with them. Even if you don’t know them.
“I’m always amazed by that,” continues Kal, 56, who will celebrate his 35th anniversary at the Economist in April. “People have been telling me for years: ‘I grew up with you.’ What a badge that is.“
And to Kal, turning his longtime dream of a retrospective book into a reality is another badge he’d like to stitch to his illustrious career.
In setting up this Kickstarter, Kal says, “It really helped that I’d published a couple of books before, and I knew that my last book cost $20,000 to $25,000 to put together. I thought: Well, I could do that. Why don’t I try to do that maybe [reach] my wildest dreams. If more money comes, I could do this amazing coffee-table book,” which will be 10 by 12 inches.
Kal calibrated his multiple goals carefully. “I wanted to give people value,” says the artist, who was recently among the featured political cartoonists at an Art Soiree event in Georgetown timed to the presidential inauguration. “I wanted it to be something I would [be willing to] pay money for. ... And I wanted to also make it special to those who [donated more] to get a special book. I share my appreciation to these backers.”
For the retrospective, Kal will cull from more than 4,000 cartoons and 140 Economist covers. “The more support we can rally,” Kal notes on his Kickstarter site, “the better quality the book can be.”
And with just hours ago, that next big stretch goal looms close. Working with Whamix!, Kal plans to create “Daggers Drawn,” an interactive iPad/iPhone app that will offer interviews and animations and hundreds of cartoons. The fiscal trigger to make it happen: $100,000.
“I’m the first one to use their software in a commercial project,” Kal says of Whamix! “The idea is that 10 to 15 cartoons will get the full treatment will interactive features. It’s going to be really cool. ... It’s about software for storytellers.”
For Kal — who seems to move fluidly between static and animated images — such digital storytelling is the way ahead for cartoonists like him.
“This is the future of visual satire,” Kal tells Comic Riffs. “I do this old stuff [as an editorial cartoonist]. But in fact, I almost eschew that term ‘editorial cartoonist.’ I’m a ‘visual satirist.’ You’ve got all these [digital] tools at your disposal that can do almost as much as the imagination will allow , You should harness them and gladly embrace them.”
And to get there, Kal has more than embraced Kickstarter, as well.
“It’s clear to me that this crowdfunding is here to say and will grow,” Kal says. “Kickstarter last year funded 18,000 projects to the tune of $323-million. There are a lot of people hungry out there for this.”