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How Getting Fired At Hallmark Led One Kansas City Man To Cartoon Success

Brian Gordon

In his 18 years working for Hallmark, Brian Gordon saw plenty of people get fired.

Even so, he'd convinced himself that it wasn't his turn.

"Well, surely Hallmark thinks so highly of me they wouldn't dream of letting me go in a million years," he told Steve Kraske on KCUR's Up To Date.

But in June of 2015, he received an email informing him that his time with the company was finished.

"You would have thought I'd get a card or something," Gordon says.

He jokes about it now, but at the time, Gordon was stunned. He never considered that it might end up being a good thing.

Two hours later, the same day he was laid off, he got another e-mail. This time, it was from The Huffington Post, inquiring about some of his cartoons.

For the previous few years, Gordon had been drawing cartoons about his own parenting experiences using a family of ducks as his principal characters. The Huffington Post had run a few of his comics before.

"So I crawled out from underneath my desk and answered the e-mail, and I'm like, 'Yeah, you can have my cartoons. You can have all the cartoons,'" Gordon says.

The online news blog wrote a story featuring Gordon and his quirky cartoons. "It kind of set the wheel rolling for me," he says.

This March, Gordon published his first book — a collection of his comics, under the title Fowl Language: Welcome To Parenting.

He already has a strong social media following, with more than 100,000 followers on Instagram.

Why ducks? Gordon can thank Hallmark for that one.

"After 18 years at Hallmark, the big four, animal-wise, on cards are kitties, dogs, bears and bunnies...over 19 years I'd drawn ten bajillion of each, so I was like, 'I need to draw something else.'"

Most of Gordon's cartoons stem from real-life experiences (and frustrations) with his two children and juxtaposing the rosy expectations of fatherhood to the real thing.

In a way, writing the cartoon helps break up tense moments at home. When his kids interrupt his work for an emergency — a shortage of yogurt pretzels, for example — he turns what was a moment of anger into content for his comic.

"The thing that interrupts and frustrates me the most is the source of my inspiration," Gordon says.

As his kids get older, however, they're beginning to catch on. He says the other day at the park, his eight-year-old son belly flopped while leaping for the monkey bars.

"We all kind of laughed, and my son just turned to me like, 'That's going to make it in the cartoon, isn't it,'" he says.

Luckily for Gordon, his five-year old daughter hasn't quite caught on yet. She just pretends to be a duck.

Lisa Rodriguez is the associate producer for KCUR's Up To Date. Connect with her on Twitter @larodrig.

Slow news days are a thing of the past. As KCUR’s news director, I want to cut through the noise, provide context to the headlines, and give you news you can use in your daily life – information that will empower you to make informed decisions about your neighborhood, your city and the region. Email me at lisa@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @larodrig.