Love is… is the name of a comic strip created by New Zealand cartoonist Kim Casali (née Grove) in the late 1960s.The strip is syndicated worldwide by Tribune Media Services.The cartoons originated from a series of love notes that Casali drew for her future husband, Roberto Casali. The strip was first published in 1970, under the pen name “Kim”, and was syndicated soon after. One of her most famous drawings, “Love Is…being able to say you are sorry”, published on February 9, 1972, was marketed internationally for many years in print, on cards and on souvenirs. The beginning of the strip coincided closely with the 1970 film Love Story. The film’s signature line is “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” At the height of their popularity in the 1970s the cartoons were earning Casali £4-5 million annually.
Roberto Casali was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 1975 (Roberto died in March 1976, aged 31) and Kim stopped working on the cartoon to spend more time with him. Casali commissioned London-based British cartoonist Bill Asprey to take over the writing and drawing of the daily cartoons for her, under her pen name. Asprey has produced the cartoon continuously since 1975.Upon her death in 1997, Casali’s son Stefano took over Minikim, the company which handles the intellectual rights.
About Kim Casali
Kim Casali (9 September 1941 / 15 June 1997)
Born Marilyn Judith Grove in Auckland, New Zealand, Casali left home aged nineteen to travel around Australia, Europe and the United States. In 1967 she moved to Los Angeles where she met and began a relationship with Roberto Alfredo Vincenzo Casali, an Italian computer engineer, at a ski-club where they were both taking lessons.Casali had been drawing cartoons of humorous incidents on the ski slopes, which Roberto encouraged, and she soon began adding cartoon illustrations to messages which she left for him. The very first drawing was created as a “signature” to a note, and represented Casali herself with freckles, large eyes and long fair hair. She said later of these cartoons: “I began making little drawings to express how I felt… It was a little bit like keeping a diary that described how my feelings had grown.” In the September 1981 Cartoonist Profiles magazine she said: “I drew a round blob of a girl who was supposed to be me, the one who was feeling all these fantastic things. Then I added a blob of a boy who was the reason I was feeling these things.”
Fourth edition print of one of the many LOVE IS…. books written and drawn by Kim Grove, published by Signette. The frontspiece carries the message “FOR MY MOTHER”.
Syndication and success
Casali’s obituary published in The Times related that after she and Roberto became engaged, Casali took a job as a receptionist for a design company, “and made up little booklets of her winsome cartoons, which she sold for a dollar apiece. Word soon spread and the demand for Love is… escalated. Roberto recognised their commercial potential and showed them to an American journalist.” Although other sources differ regarding whether it was Roberto or Casali herself who first showed the cartoons to an acquaintance working for the Los Angeles Times, the newspaper picked them up for publication and published the first of the series on 5 January 1970, under the pen name “Kim”. The cartoon’s release coincided with the wave of success of the novel Love Story (1970) by Erich Seagal, and the subsequent movie of the same name starring Ali McGraw as a girl dying of an incurable disease and Ryan O’Neal as the student who worshiped her. The film’s slogan was: “Love is never having to say you’re sorry.” Casali altered it into one of her most famous cartoons: “Love is… being able to say you’re sorry.”
While the cartoons proved to be very popular and were soon syndicated in the United States and overseas, being published in newspapers in fifty countries world-wide, Roberto’s company had closed down and the couple “found themselves living in the US illegally, ‘trying to find jobs that would keep us one step ahead of the Immigration Department’”. By 1971 they had travelled to New Zealand, where they were married on 24 July 1971 at St. Andrew’s Church, Epsom, Auckland – the same church in which her parents were married in 1936. Casali wore a crown of daisies and a shoulder-length veil that she had previously drawn on ‘her’ character in the cartoon. Casali said of the marriage: “My father had died when I was young, so when Roberto asked me to get married I agreed, but said, ‘Whatever you do, don’t die on me.’ He laughed and promised to stick around.” In January 1972, with Love is… by now a successful and lucrative product licensed for reproduction on mugs, T-shirts, calendars, T-shirts, posters and greetings cards, they moved to Weybridge, England, and bought a second home in Los Angeles.
By 1974 the couple had two sons, Stefano and Dario, and planned to have two more children.
Kim Casali died due to cancer of the bone and liver in 1997.