Each week, Callari publishes in newspapers and on the Internet a new one-panel comic strip that features the character Kidd Millennium. He uses the strip to satirize current events from politics to pop culture. "I'm an avid reader," Callari said last week. "I read both newspapers and magazines, and I'll write on whatever is topical and whatever we can get a lot out of from doing the cartoon."
In one comic strip, an attorney cross-examining Kidd Millennium asks, "Did you know in your parents' day, we had to go to a store to buy music?" Wearing a Napster t-shirt, Kidd Millennium replies, "And you think surfin' the Net doesn't take a few steps?"
One year ago, Callari read about a potential baby boom coinciding with the new millennium.
"I thought, 'What could I use as a representational figure to discuss the issues of the time?'" he said. Inspired by Richard Outcault's 19th century comic strip named "The Yellow Kid" - the source of the term "yellow journalism" - Callari envisioned a voice for the new generation spoken by a wisecracking baby.
This was Callari's first venture into the world of cartooning. Ten years ago, he ditched an advertising career in the hotel industry, in which he won the Silver Award in Advertising from the Hotel Sales & Marketing Association, to become a freelance writer.
Callari works from his home in Port Liberte, a gated community on the edge of Jersey City. By creating Kidd Millennium, he was taking another leap into new territory.
Despite a solid idea for a comic strip, Callari was missing one crucial prerequisite - the ability to draw. "I've always been interested in cartoons and always interested in art," he said. But while he had visual ideas, he needed someone to transform his verbal details into visuals.
So Callari embarked on a worldwide search for the partner who would illustrate his comic ideas - and he did this over the Internet.
"I went to a lot of cartoonist sites and did a mass-emailing to hundreds of cartoonists and asked if they liked the concept," he said.
The idea interested 55 cartoonists from around the world, including folks from Finland, Australia, Bulgaria, and the United States.
"I gave each cartoonist two ideas with exact details of what I wanted," Callari said. After receiving the entries, he analyzed the submissions for two weeks and narrowed it down to five potential partners. "I decided to give those five a final cartoon and then narrowed it down to Jack Pittman."
Pittman, a resident of North Carolina, created a few comic strips in the past: Leozard & Otis, a strip about two lizard buddies; The Tarpits, a strip about a dinosaur family; and Enviroglyphics, a compilation of humorous panels dealing with science, the environment, and animals.
Since Callari and Pittman became partners a year ago, they have never seen each other or even spoken to each other on the phone. The entire relationship exists in cyberspace.
"I think what separates this comic strip from others is that the vehicle is the Internet," Callari said. In his opinion, he would have never been able to find a partnership like the one he has with Pittman otherwise. "We were able to create a character even though traditional means would not have allowed him to be created," he said.
Aside from being posted on the Kidd Millennium web site (www.kiddmillennium.com), the cartoon is published in lodging.com's newsletter - an online travel publication - and the Fort Bend Southwest Sun
. "The good thing about a baby character is that he can grow just like a real child," Pittman said. "It will be interesting to see how he matures, just as it is with our own children."
But before the kid grows, Callari and Pittman are writing a children's book about the birth of Kidd Millennium. "Kidd Millennium has an opportunity to be enjoyable for kids and adults," Pittman said. The book targets children 8 to 10 years old.
Callari has promoted the comic strip via the Internet by offering a free weekly newsletter that includes the latest gag. Today, the electronic newsletter boasts 3,500 subscribers.
"I'm feeling a momentum now," Callari said. "In the last two months, I've picked up 1,000 subscribers."