Cartoonist Kevin Kallaugher’s Kickstarter Project a Roaring Success

When Kevin Kallaugher, a freelance cartoonist for The Economist for all of 35 years and currently at The Baltimore Sun, set out to produce a coffee-table book, he didn’t seek out a literary agent or publisher. Instead, on Jan. 14, he set up a project on the crowdsourcing site Kickstarter, aiming to raise a modest $20,000.

By Jan. 21, Kallaugher had gotten pledges of $73,424, as fans, friends and well-wishers backed his project. With 23 days to go before the crowdsourced project closes, Kallaugher will likely to end up with much more.

Already, the 56-year-old who describes his career with the British news weekly as “long and colorful” has raised his ambitions in order to fully utilize the funds being raised. He is eyeing a classier coffee-table book than he initially imagined, besides planning a documentary. Kallaugher plans to present a DVD of the documentary to his backers on Kickstarter.

Excerpts from an interview:

Why Kickstarter? 
The advent of a crowdsourcing  site like Kickstarter is perfect...By offering to pre-sell copies of my book (along with original artwork and prints) I can achieve two things:  I can reach a large audience of prospective customers and defray the large upfront costs of such a project.

Were you surprised by the response?
Yes, very much so. There have been great stories of Kickstarter projects that have captured folks’ imaginations, netting impressive sums for worthy projects. It appears that I have been one of those lucky ones. I am flattered and delighted by the outpouring of support for Daggers Drawn.

What do you do with the surplus money?
First, we are going to be ambitious about the scope and quality of the book. I aim to create a first-class large format full-color coffee table book of cartoons and covers spanning my 35-year career with The Economist. This will be expensive to produce.

To honor all the great Kickstarter supporters I am creating a special limited edition of the book encased in a custom box sleeve. Other plans include building a dedicated website for the book project at www.daggersdrawn.net.

Finally, if more money is raised, I have been in discussions with Baltimore-based documentary film-maker (and cameraman for Ken Burns) Allen Moore in regard to creating a documentary about my career with The Economist. It is my hope that I could have such a film made and have a DVD of this available to all Kickstarter backers.

What has driven you as a political cartoonist?
Primarily, I am driven to make the world a better place. Cartoons are wonderful and powerful little parcels of information. They engage, inform, entertain, educate and sometimes enrage... in the about 7 seconds it takes to read them. If, in any small way, my cartoons have helped to further the public discourse and elevate our democracy then I have done my job.

What's Harvard got to do with your cartoons?
I drew a cartoon strip for the Harvard Crimson as an undergraduate called, "In the Days of Disgustus.” My senior thesis was a 13-minute long animated cartoon based on the characters in the strip. I practiced drawing caricatures of pedestrians in Harvard Square...Those, together with a good education in Art and Economics, got me going in this unlikely career.

Your favorite cartoonists.
French 19th century cartoonist/caricaturist Honore Daumier who spent time in jail for his irreverent depictions, David Levine and Al Hirschfeld, both terrific American caricaturists... then three contemporary international editorial cartoonists, U.K.'s Steve Bell, South Africa's Zapiro, and Switzerland's Chappatte.

Your cherished subjects for cartoons.
There are way too many! Favorite faces like Schaefer, Glendening, Reagan, Dubya,Thatcher and Clinton. Subjects like, guns, elections, Middle East, China, schools and the environment.

Your experience: British vs. American publishers?
The main difference between the two country's publishing industry lies in the basic difference of the geography of the two nations. Britain is about the size of New England and has the nation's entire publishing industry in one city, London. This includes a dozen newspapers a host of magazines and websites. As a result it is much easier to stitch together a freelance career as it was for me when I was starting there in the 1970's.

Here in the USA we live in a continent of a country. Newspapers are scattered across the landscape leaving just one or two cartoonists per town. It is tough to get started as a cartoonist over here as a result...very few opportunities to freelance. However, there is a similarity between the two countries... the newspaper industries on both sides of the pond are hurting badly these days.

Your experience with political ire/censorship etc, especially the Indira Gandhi cartoon for The Economist.
When you work for a truly international publication like The Economist (read in every country) it is inevitable that intolerant nations will do their best shield their citizens from open thought. There are great stories at The Economist telling of its magazine distributed in foreign countries with offending photos and stories meticulously cut or blacked out.

In my case back in the 1980s, the then government of India was less subtle. The government confiscated the entire delivery of the magazine because of a cartoon of mine that graced the cover depicting the Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi as the Hindu Goddess Kali.

What can we expect in your coffee-table book?
This will be my 6th book and I expect it to be my best. I will be choosing my favorites from the over 4,000 cartoons and 140 covers I have done for The Economist over 35 years. I will have essays sharing some of my experiences working as a cartoonist for one of the world's great publications.

It has always been my dream to create a quality coffee table-style book to share hundreds of my cartoons from my long and colorful career. With the help of a top-class designer, printer, and over 1,000 supporters from Kickstarter, I can now make that happen.

Join my Kickstarter Campaign!
Daggers Drawn: 35 Years of KAL Cartoons in The Economist

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