Life Imitates Art In A Brief History Of The "Love Is..." Comic Strip

Date February 23, 2018

One of the earliest comic strips that I remember seeing in the newspapers, alongside Garfield and Peanuts was a simple single panel called "Love is." It always began the same way. I mean, how long could you possibly keep completing the phrase "Love is," right?

Well, a lot more than you can imagine. You see, the "Love is" strip has in fact been in print since January 1970. But do you know the love story behind these cartoon strips is just as inspiring as their sweet words?

What is 'Love Is'?

It is the name of a comic strip created by New Zealand cartoonist Kim Casali in the 1960s.

A single-frame piece. The upper left-hand corner starts with a simple phrase which always begins with "Love Is...", the drawing appears in the middle and the remainder of the words at the bottom. The main characters are a man and woman depicted unclothed.

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They have been featured in various stages of romance: just meeting, as boyfriend and girlfriend, and as a married couple.

The touching true story of 'Love Is...'

The cartoons began as illustrations to messages which the shy Kim left for her future husband Roberto during their courtship in Los Angeles.

"I began making little drawings for myself to express how I felt . . . It was a little bit like keeping a diary that described how my feelings had grown."

The very first drawing, which served as a thumbnail signature to a private note, featured Kim herself with freckles, large eyes and long fair hair, a male figure with equally large eyes but with shorter dark hair, representing Roberto, followed.

When the two began to spend weekends together, she would leave little sketches under his pillow and in the drawers and later Roberto, to her delight, revealed that he had kept all her cartoons and encouraged her to draw more.

When she left to become a receptionist in a design company, she started producing small booklets containing her "Love is" drawings which she sold to visitors for $1 each.

One day a friend suggested that she show them to a contact on the Los Angeles Times. The paper published the first of the series on 9 January 1970 and from then on they were syndicated in the United States and overseas; they have since been reproduced in 50 countries worldwide.

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"Love Is": an enduring legacy that continues today.

They were married in 1971, moved to Britain in 1972 and had two sons, Stefano and Dario. In 1975 Roberto was diagnosed with having testicular cancer, and he died a year later. However, a third son, Milo, was born through artificial insemination in 1977, nearly a year and a half after his father's death. Kim sadly passed away in June 1997 after a long battle with illness. Her eldest son has inherited her legacy, and the comic strips are now in its 40th year.

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More than 25 collections of "Love is" have been published since 1972. As well as in books, newspapers, and magazines the drawings have been reproduced on T-shirts, watches, clocks, jewelry, underwear, pajamas, lamps, notepaper, posters and greetings cards all over the world. Do you own any? What's your favorite Love Is cartoon? Do share with us in the comments.

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