Daggers Drawn: 35 Years of Kal Cartoons in The Economist
By Kevin “Kal” Kallaugher
10 x 12
b/w and color
paperback in a slipcase
"A giant book for a giant talent" is the succinct way to describe this impressive collection of editorial cartoons, elegantly designed by Dellon Design’s owner, Glenn Dellon, Kal’s one-time intern. Although The Economist is an international news magazine, it is published in Britain, and Kal was born in Norwalk, Connecticut, an unlikely teaming. Upon graduating from Harvard in June 1977, Kal went to England to lead a bunch of American teenagers on a bicycle tour of the island. After which he stayed and knocked on magazine doors, seeking cartooning opportunities. He found one at The Economist, which was looking for caricatures. Kal’s first “weapon of mass distortion” — caricature — appeared in the issue for April 8, 1978.
Within a few years, Kal was doing covers for the magazine (140 so far), and he continued doing caricatures and covers even after returning to the U.S. to take a position as staff editorial cartoonist at the Baltimore Sun in 1988. Ten years later, he started doing visual commentary for The Economist, too, becoming the magazine’s first editorial cartoonist in its 145-year history.
The Editor-in-Chief of The Economist, John Micklethwait, provides an insightful and orientating Introduction. “Every Economist editor needs a Kal,” he begins. “For all the concentration on words at the magazine, nothing unhinges an editor’s mind more than a cover subject that seems impossible to illustrate.” Faced with this dilemma repeatedly, his solution was simple: “Call Kal.”
Micklethwait remembers November 2000: with the world waiting on Florida to determine the results of the Gore-Bush presidential contest, “there was no time, the result was unclear, panic was setting in. Until, of course, my predecessor called Kal. ... There is no subject that defeats or unnerves the moustachioed man from Baltimore.”
And we have only to look at a half-dozen Kaltoons to realize just how accurate Micklethwait’s assessment is. The ingenuity of Kal’s visual contrivances is stunning; the copiousness of telling detail, awe-inspiring; his mastery of color and crosshatching, nearly overwhelming — particularly considering that most of the final art is done virtually overnight, in 24 hours or less. Here, at the corner of your eye, we begin a short gallery of Kaltoons, starting with the punning cover of the book (itself a notable example of the sort of quirky inventiveness that underpins many of Kal’s cartoons) and Kal’s solution to the November 2000 dilemma posed by the Gore-Bush standoff in Florida (note their weapons, another kind of visual pun). The Economist’s editorial beat, as you can see, treads a hunk of U.S. turf as well as international political geography beyond England’s shores.