How a Wisconsin Artist is Making His Comic Book Dreams Come True

Kalemon comic book by Craig Knitt

Picture a world in which threatening monsters hide deep in the woods of Wisconsin, venturing out into the fields during the dark of night to terrorize the honest, hard-working people of America’s Dairyland.

But what if there was also a mysterious hero with the mission of protecting us from those backwoods beasts? That’s the world of Kalemon the Monster Hunter from the offbeat imagination of Craig Knitt.

It’s just one of the many works you can attribute to this prolific, multimedia artist. Although you could say this particular project has come back from the dead…

Start talking to Craig about big plans for a creative project and he’ll get just as excited as you are…before you even finish explaining it.

Ask him for some help on that project, and he’ll probably have a hard time saying “no.” Craig gets involved in a lot. He’s been an art teacher for many years, co-founded the Fox Valley’s Wildwood Film Festival, performs regularly as a member of the ComedyCity Improv Theater, and that’s just getting started.

He’s a painter and a puppeteer, an amateur standup comic and a graphic designer. He shoots, directs, produces, edits and acts. He’s willing to try just about anything in the name of creative expression.

But all those different things, coupled with a willingness to help others, can sometimes get in the way of true passions. Now, after almost two decades, one of Craig Knitt’s personal projects is finally nearing completion. He’s self-publishing a comic book featuring a Wisconsin monster hunter known as Kalemon.

You might question whether a horror-themed comic book based in Wisconsin would have much appeal. Could something like this actually find an audience?

Knitt launched a Kickstarter campaign for Kalemon the Monster Hunter and quickly found out. At first, he was nervous about the response.

“It’s been scary! You sit back and wait to see if the world will see merit in your hard, hard efforts,” he says.

The project, which asked backers for financial support so he could have his comic digitally printed, ended up getting fully funded with 20 days to spare. Typical Kickstarter campaigns last one month.

That was encouraging news, and now Knitt is pressing on with plans to bring his comic book creation to the public.

How it All Began – Changing Times Bring New Opportunities

Craig Knitt Kalemon Monster Hunter

Craig Knitt displays his new comic book project

As Craig was growing up in Wisconsin, comic books were a big part of his life. He talks about it in the back-story on his Kickstarter campaign page:

“When I was a kid my brothers and I would head down to our grandpa’s laundromat and fish out the loose change from under the machines with a coat hanger. Then we’d head to Rulseh’s Drug Store and buy as many comic books as we could.

From a very early age I was an addict! I couldn’t get enough ‘Frankenstein’s Monster’, ‘Tales of the Zombie’, ‘Man Thing’, ‘Werewolf by Night’, ‘Swamp Thing’ or ‘Supernatural Thrillers’. The monster comics spoke straight to my soul, and I read each issue until they were confetti!”

A love for those kinds of characters and stories stuck with Craig into adulthood. Then in the mid ’90s, he took a independent study course through UW-Green Bay along with two friends who were also aspiring artists.

Waupaca County Art Show, 1996

Waupaca County Art Show, 1996

Kalemon first came to life during that class in the form of storyboards intended for a movie, which would feature the monster-hunting character.

Craig received some praise and recognition for the 16 concept pages he’d drawn. He won several awards at local art shows. But then Kalemon slipped into the creative abyss – just another idea filed away somewhere inside the artist’s brain.

That is until this spring. That’s when Craig Knitt participated in a small art show at the Green Room Lounge in De Pere. The event was called “Comics on Comics.” So Craig decided to dig out his work from years ago, dust it off and put it on display.

That’s when the comic book bug bit him once again…

“As I hung the pages for the weekend I quickly became reinvigorated with the project. It was time to make my comic real!”

Craig got busy cleaning up the original artwork, developing the story and drawing new pages.

The world has evolved quite a bit since 1996. Changes in technology – like digital printing – have made it much easier and more affordable for someone like Craig Knitt to take an idea and turn it into a reality. Before he knew it, Craig was looking at a physical copy of a comic book just like the ones he loved as a youngster.

“Holding a real comic book in your hands that was created by those very same hands is amazing! My first mock-up nearly brought tears to my eyes,” Craig told WhooNEW.  “While you’ll always spot some of the areas where you could improve you also recognize that, as a whole, you’ve created something pretty darn incredible! It’s hard not to swell with pride, at least a little bit!”

Find Out More About Kalemon in this Kickstarter Video

How You Can Still Be a Part of the Kalemon Story

Part of the reason Craig Knitt finds himself working in so many different mediums is that his favorite art form is the art of storytelling.

Whether it’s a film, a comedy sketch, a painting or a comic – he’s always looking for a story.

“This is part of a constant struggle I embrace,” he explains. “I ask myself if I’m an illustrator or a painter. A painter’s first concern is the design and composition while an illustrator’s first concern is the tale being told.”

Without a story, Craig says he’s just not that interested.

“While I can understand the appeal of abstract art I was never all that passionate for it. Nearly everything I get excited about has a connection to stories. Even my paintings engage a viewer on a level that is beyond the surface image. I hope to create a curiosity in my audience that will allow their own imaginations to run wild.”

When people like you support projects like this – either by helping fund it or purchasing the finished product – you become a part of that artist’s story.

But Craig says you shouldn’t stop there. On the Kalemon Kickstarter page he says he hopes any success he has inspires others to pursue their own creative ideas.

“I strongly encourage YOU to get out there and reach for your own personal goals. It might take 18 years but it’s never too late! Dust off your own secret ambitions and get started today!”

What’s Next for Kalemon the Monster Hunter?

Odis from Kalemon Monster Hunter

Meet Odis

While the Kickstarter campaign is now fully funded, Knitt is still able to accept additional support from backers.

And those backers can still take advantage of the rewards and incentives, which include digital downloads, a collectible version, original pages from the comic, other unique art from Craig Knitt and even advertising opportunities within the book itself.

Additional funds raised through Kickstarter will go towards other aspects of making and marketing the project. He hopes to get Kalemon listed in a catalog from the comic website – which goes out to comic book sellers.

Craig says another thing he’d love to be able to do is get a table at a convention like Comic-Con.

There are also plans to give out some bonus gifts as a ‘Thank You’ to Kickstarter backers. An idea that Craig loves is making Odis pins based on another character from his comic book (pictured on the left).

There’s something vaguely familiar about Odis – but we can’t quite put our finger on it.

Of course, the end of this project only means Craig Knitt’s time and energy can be focused on his next idea. A documentary film detailing the making of Kalemon the Monster Hunter could be in the future.

woodsbaby filmKnitt has also been working on a feature film called Woodsbaby, that apparently ties into the Kalemon story.

According to the artist the film will be “a horror/comedy about a small Wisconsin town that is terrorized by a horrific beast… an adorable baby.”

He expects the Kalemon comic to help generate some attention for the upcoming film. He’s definitely got our attention.

Check Out an Early, Improvised Scene from Craig Knitt’s Woodsbaby

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