Taking a Leap with Sheldon

Author: Carol Schaal '91M.A.

When Dave Kellett ‘96, drew the Four Food Groups of the Apocalypse comic strip for The Observer, his favorite character was Sheldon, a child prodigy who also was enrolled at Notre Dame. Kellett graduated, and so did 10-year-old Sheldon. Now the title character in Kellett’s online strip, Sheldon has become the second-richest person in America through his own software company. He’s also invented a talking duck.

Billionaire status hasn’t come Kellett’s way, but the strip Sheldon has given him a rich bonus. In November, United Media told Kellett they were picking up the strip. “I literally have been working toward this since I started my comic strip in the Observer,” says an obviously elated Kellett. About 6,000 strips are submitted to the syndicate every year, he says, and United Media chooses two or three to launch. Through the syndicate, Sheldon appears online under their auspices and also can be sold to other web sites. “If it does well,” says Kellett, “then maybe they will launch him in newspapers.”

That possibility is still a couple years in the future. Kellett, who lives in Los Angeles with his writer-actress wife, Gloria, continues to work part time as an editorial cartoonist for The San Diego Union-Tribune and full time as a senior copy writer for Mattel toys. “Naming toys for a living is a pretty fun thing,” he says. “I’m a very popular uncle, especially around Christmas.” Drawing Sheldon takes several hours of his “free” time, but Kellett doesn’t mind. “I recharge my batteries when I do cartooning.”

Despite the humor of the family-friendly strip, Kellett has always taken cartooning seriously. After graduation from ND, he earned two master’s degree, one in literature from the University of California at San Diego and the second in cartoons and caricature from the University of Kent in Canterbury. In 1998 he was awarded a Rotary Scholarship to England, where he studied WWII cartooning.

Kellett didn’t draw or post a strip the day after the 9-11 attacks, but his September 13 strip, a wordless series of Sheldon turning off the television, walking outside, then sitting on his swing set, crying, touched a chord with readers. “I got hundreds of e-mails,” he says. Within a week, Kellett decided it was more important than ever to keep the strip going. “I definitely saw a need to be funny,” he says. “It is part of what you live for, those joyous moments in life.”

Carol Schaal is managing editor of Notre Dame Magazine.