Binky’s creator passes, leaving a legacy with Hinckley Record

by Chris Studor

For decades now, there hasn’t been much question as to what would be featured on the cover of the March edition of the Hinckley Record. After all, Hinckley is renowned for its annual Buzzard Day celebration and to those who call the township home, there’s nothing more important than celebrating the return of the famed turkey vultures every spring.

To help mark the occasion, Hinckley resident Karl Kastl Jr. always found the time to pen a drawing featuring his famed cartoon character, Binky the Buzzard, delivering a message pertinent to the times. His illustrations have been featured on the magazine’s March cover every year since 1981.

Sadly, Kastl Jr. passed away on June 9 at the age of 79.

A well-established professional artist, Kastl Jr.’s 43rd and final Binky drawing appeared on the cover of the March 2024 Hinckley Record. The illustration featured Binky high on his perch overlooking Hinckley Lake, which has recently been drained to make way for repairs to the Hinckley dam. Binky’s message was, “Without water, fishing or boating, I hope the buzzards find their way back, we have to get back to normal, before everyone calls it Hinckley Lack.”

The very first Binky appeared on the Record cover when Kastl Jr. was employed as an artist at American Greetings. In the article that accompanied that first Binky drawing, Kastl Jr. described his work “as a gift from me to you, young and old citizens of Hinckley to enjoy this moment of everyday life, comical or otherwise.” The drawing showed Binky perched nervously, quivering on his nest preoccupied with worry about falling only to realize that down below were all his friends and safety forces waiting to guarantee his safety.

Binky often let the public know how old he was in a clever way. In the 2006 issue, Binky remarked on that year’s mild winter, commenting, “I don’t know what to call this winter, global warming or a gift from nature for my 25th birthday.”

Binky was no stranger to national politics either. The March 1999 cover included the face of then President Bill Clinton overlooking tables at Buzzard Day’s annual pancake breakfast.

“Don’t forget. You never saw me inhale all those sausages and pancakes,” Clinton said.

Binky also addressed sports, and at the time of the major league baseball strike he was shown looking through binoculars searching for the arrival of the buzzards. Binky said, “If they don’t settle the baseball strike soon, this could become the new spectator sport.”

To make the 2023 cover, a little magic had to be worked, given that Kastl Jr. injured his hand and was unable to draw. Thankfully, Karl Kastl’s Jr.’s son, Karl Kastl lll came to the rescue.

Kastl lll located a drawer full of his father’s drawings and extended an invitation to the Hinckley Record to come and search though the work and collectively come up with a cover. After locating the very first drawing of Binky, the idea was to run the original Binky drawing on the cover along with the antique cupola Kastl lll had restored and had installed on top of the Binky Commons buildings a few months prior.

But how could we get Binky on top of the cupola? Thanks to Tyler Kastl, son of Kastl llI, that problem was quickly resolved.

“If the Record takes a photo of the very top of the building showing the new cupola, I can photo shop the original Binky drawing on top of it,” he said.

And with that, another Binky cover was born.

Marge Palik, longtime editor of the Hinckley Record who is now retired, recalled how Kastl Jr. would often stop by her house to deliver  his most recent Binky drawing.

“He always had original ideas and said how much he enjoyed doing it,” Palik said. “People always looked forward to what would be on the March cover.”

In preparation for his funeral services, Kastl Jr.’s family made several collages of Binky artwork and offered to share them with the Record. Kastl lll recalled how much designing the cover meant to his father and how much his father loved Hinckley.

“My dad consistently evaluated current events in Hinckley and the world prior to designing Binky the Buzzard day covers,” he added. “His love for Hinckley was apparent in each cover he masterfully created. We would like to continue his legacy of the March Hinckley Record covers with Binky art that no one has ever seen before.”

When next March arrives, while we won’t have a brand new Binky drawing, the community will surely welcome never-seen-before Binky art. Binky will always be a part of Buzzard Day culture as will his creator, and our friend, Karl Kastl Jr. ∞

Karl Kastl lll (right) sits with his son, Tyler, as the pair sorts through a drawer of Binky art left behind by his father, artist Karl Kastl Jr. Photos by Chris Studor.

Karl Kastl Jr.’s cartoon character, Binky
the Buzzard, has graced the cover of the
Hinckley Record every March since 1981.

Photo (main/above): Karl Kastl Jr.