20th Anniversary of Kit Kaleidoscope Goes to the Masked Ball

I was looking through some old files and realized that the mini of Kit Kaleidoscope Goes to the Masked Ball came out in 2000, twenty years ago. So I thought I’d do a few things in honor of this anniversary.

Because I am a compulsive archivist of my own history, I also decided to trace the origins of the character of Kit Kaleidoscope. So if you want to humor my self indulgence, you can read on…

A History of Kit Kaleidoscope Goes to the Masked Ball

I often refer to Kit Kaleidoscope Goes to the Masked Ball as the first Kit Kaleidoscope story. This may be true in an ideological sense, but it’s not entirely accurate.

Kit first appeared as “Kid” in 1996 and had a masculine appearance.

The next appearance was in 1997 and you can see aspects of their final look taking shape.

This initial version of the character appeared in the third issue of my title, Litmus Test, which came out in August of 1997.

At the time, I was a big fan of Angela Carter and Italo Calvino, and both authors pointed to fairy tales as inspiration and both also edited collections of these types of stories. So I was reading a lot of fairy tales and this story that “Kid” appeared in was based heavily on a Brothers Grimm tale.

So “Kid” Kaleidoscope spoke in word balloons and existed in a fairy tale world that was supposed to be funny and, at moments, satirical. Still, I was discovering who this character was.

As you can see, the “Kaleidoscope” of Kit’s name was literal. Though it may be hard to believe, I wasn’t thinking of “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” when I gave “Kid” these eyes.

This fairy tale version of the character appeared one more time in Litmus Test issue 9, August 1999. As you can see, the name changed from “Kid” to “Kit.” I thought “Kid” was too patronizing and I liked “Kit” as a name.

I sent this mini to Dan Clowes and he actually wrote me back and told me that he liked how this gag worked (what a nice guy).

I started drawing Kit Kaleidoscope Goes to the Masked Ball in September of 1999, immediately after the story above came out. So what accounts for the change?

It’s twenty years later, but I recall that my fairy tale phase quickly came to an end. As I said, my initial interest was inspired by Angela Carter and Italo Calvino, so I wanted to do stories more like theirs. I also read a brief story in the August 1999 issue of Harper’s Magazine: “The Masked Ball” by Klaus Mann.

I had also just discovered Jim Woodring’s Frank. It was this work that convinced me to try a wordless story.

The film Eyes Wide Shut came out the same year I started working on this, 1999, but I didn’t see it until years later. So while there may be some surface similarities, there is no direct influence.

Keep in mind that I had no idea how to create print-ready art work and had no idea about things like “live area.” Also, the final intended form of Kit Kaleidoscope Goes to the Masked Ball was a photocopied mini. So I needed original artwork that would fit easily onto a photocopier. So I would buy 11 x 14 bristol board and cut it in half. All the pages above are on 7 x 11″ pieces.

The mini was printed on 8.5 x 11″ pieces of paper– standard photocopy paper– that were cut in half. So 4.25 x 5.5.” The image for the cover came from a vintage edition of The Night Before Christmas that a friend gave me.

And that’s how the character who would later appear in Carnivale came to be. Twenty years ago, they made their silent debut.

One thought on “20th Anniversary of Kit Kaleidoscope Goes to the Masked Ball

  1. It is fun to read a history of this small and powerful piece of work. I remember it sitting in stacks on your table at APE and people picking it up with interested faces. I think you got the cover art from a Christmas card sent by an eccentric friend.

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