Saturday, April 19, 2008


I wouldn't say a ton has changed since last week's blog, but certainly enough to warrant showing you guys the goods. And as long as there's something fresh on the drawing board, I'll be here to share it.

This is the latest page from my Zombie Chick adventure, "DAY'S END." As I've mentioned before, there's absolutely no dialogue in this story, which has been a lot of fun. In this scene Zombie Chick hears a song she likes, jumps up on the bar and starts to dance. I didn't feel I was betraying my format to include musical notes, indicative of why she'll be going all "Coyote Ugly" in a few more yet-to-be-drawn panels. This story is becoming more fun the further I get into it, and the dance scene will be unbridled cool to create.

Going back just a bit, I want to show you some preliminary sketches for a couple Dead Duck stories that I've already created.

I know, I know. It's drawings of cows. Whoopty doo, right? Well, I'm actually quite proud of these little sketches, and I think the story I used them for is damn near the best on the book. It's a story I've mentioned before about the primeval cow Audumla from Norse mythology, and how Dead Duck and Zombie Chick have to help her out. I researched a lot of photos of cows to draw it because I didn't want to just draw a stereotypical cartoon cow, like Clarabelle from the old Disney shorts. I wanted a real cow. So these sketches helped a ton. I approached my cow as I would a rabbit, by focusing on those big beautiful ears. The rest was just a walk in the pasture. I'm anxious for you guys to finally read the story to see how cool it turned out.

These are character sketches for a story I actually completed around the end of last summer/beginning of fall. The idea was to loosely parody the He-Man franchise from the early 80's, and these sketches show my earliest designs. I didn't want my interpretation to be too literal, so I made sure to keep my designs a bit more than arms length from the properties that inspired them. I only got close enough so that readers would get an idea of what I was parodying. I'll also note that the final looks of the characters I used are pretty far removed from these originals, so you should still be surprised when you read the story. But these were a lot of fun to create, and perhaps later on I'll go into greater detail about how I sketched them while sitting in a mall during a very lousy and unproductive caricaturing gig.

Now for a peek into the vaults. I've dug up every Dead Duck drawing I've ever done, and I'm pretty sure I have for you guys the first EVER drawing that I did of Dead Duck, circa 1990/1991. Drum roll please, or perhaps even a nice kazoo solo...

And there you have it, in all his black and white, low-grade water-based felt tip markered glory. My initial inspiration, as I've mentioned before, was Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen, but my imagination veered off into a cornfield and headed to places unknown from that point. The circa 1900 era swimsuit look he's wearing was inspired by one of the original drawings of Donald Duck, as was his long bill and round belly. And the DD on his torso was an obvious borrow from Daredevil. I look at this character and think it wise that I waited twenty years to shape the character, shed him of his obvious influences and make him an original.

Now this is the cover of my very first attempt at putting Dead Duck in a comic book. It's from 1991, probably days after I created him. I managed to draw three pages, then I lost my steam. I wasn't the most focused cartoonist when I was seventeen, and if I got further than drawing the cover of a book it was a real accomplishment. Though I look at this artwork and shudder just a little (what the hell is that guy in the lower right corner wearing?!), I actually think this was the best drawing of Dead Duck I'd done at the time. The expression and the exaggeration of line really tickle me, and make me understand why I held onto this character for so long.

I would also like to show you guys the evolution of Death within the world of Dead Duck. According to the artwork I've dug up, there were four versions of Death that I used before sticking with the current version I use. But as I recall, there was one earlier version, based, I believe, off a skeleton cartoonist Kyle Baker had drawn in the early 90's that just blew my mind. The cartoon showed Dead Duck lecturing his boss about the dangers of smoking and Death waving him off saying, "I'm already dead" or something like that. Sadly, that piece, assuming I didn't imagine it, has disappeared, but the versions of Death that followed are fully intact, and interesting in their own right.

This version of Death was drawn for that very first Dead Duck comic book back in 1991. His look was inspired by old cartoon renditions of Death, ghosts, and creepy villains. Many years after the creation of Dead Duck when I discovered Disney's character The Phantom Blot, I was surprised to see the unconscious similarities. In this version, Death went down to his private lake and plucked Dead Duck from his surrounding to make him a Minion. In later version, Death wouldn't be quite so hands-on.

This version of Death followed his predecessor by days or months (kinda hard to recall after twenty years). I guess I figured Death should be more original looking, and by this time in my youth I was in full infatuation of movie monsters. So it was no surprise that I made Death scary looking. Looking at him now, he reminds me of gremlin with no ears, which would not shock me to find out that that's exactly what I was going for back then. I also introduced the smoking element to Death, not because I thought smoking was cool (I never smoked), but because it was a good prop, like Popeye's pipe.

This version of Death appeared in what was almost my first fully completed Dead Duck comic, a retelling of his origin with Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales thrown into the plot (You'll recall I mentioned this a few blogs back, and how I retooled the story to be included in my upcoming Dead Duck graphic novel). I suppose I figured I could do an even cooler version of Death than before, something more expressive and cartoony. To me he looks a bit like something you'd see in Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal, and it would be a likely influence then and now. I switched him from cigarettes to cigars and made him a little more upbeat, but he was still Death. The downside was that I had a hell of a time figuring out how to draw his mouth in any pose but the closed position, which may be why I abandoned the look after I drew this comic. Ironically, I dusted off the head design this past year to use for the villain of my He-Man parody story, and by then I'd figured out plenty of ways to animate that huge hinge of a jaw.

Which brings us to the modern version of Death, otherwise known as J.P. Yorick. In 1994 I retooled my three-year-old Dead Duck concept for a comic strip format, and decided I needed a Death who was easily animatable, and whose head wouldn't be so huge and cumbersome that it couldn't easily fit in a comic strip panel. I used Jim Henson's classic puppet Yorick for inspiration, both in appearance and in name. I added the J.P. because it sounded like the name of someone in charge of a company and because it's my own name, too (Jay Patrick Fosgitt, y'see). At the time J.P. had a cigar, but I switched it to a cigarette in the last three years. It just looks better, I think. This was also the time I conceived the names Rigormortitropolis and RIP Inc., a lot of concepts that still stuck today. I sent out my Dead Duck comic strip to all the major syndicates, and it was shot down by each one. However, the editor in Chief of King Features Syndicate, the late great Jay Kennedy, wrote me a personal note and suggested I try and publish Dead Duck as an indie comic. So now, fourteen years later, that's exactly what I'm doing, and I thank Jay for being the first one to push me in that direction.

As one last little treat, I'd like to share with you probably the biggest inspiration for Zombie Chick...

Goldie Hawn's look in the 1960's TV show laugh-In had a profound influence on me. The shaggy mop of blonde hair, the bikini, even the painted tattoos suggested the stitches Zombie Chick would sport. And the fact that Hawn personified the iconic dumb blonde only solidified the connection between the two characters. There were other influences in Zombie Chick as a character, but for her look, Hawn was where it all began.

Well gang, thanks for sticking with me through this behind the scenes peek at Dead Duck. More news to come for those who are interested. The countdown to November 2009 ticks louder with each new page I draw!


Tuesday, April 15, 2008


There's plenty going on at the duck factory (a term I'm borrowing from a long forgotten and short lived 80's sitcom starring a young Jim Carrey as an animator. Man I loved that show…) and I'm anxious to show you a little of what I've got.

Having just completed a six-page story about Dead Duck's history of encounters with The Nova Scotia Cosa Nostra (a very fun story with lots of cool Canadian history and tributes), I've been hard pressed to choose what sort of story to tackle next.

I have a small backlog of scripts I've written, some complete, some sketchy outlines, and some short synopsis that I'm waiting to create into fully formed Dead Duck stories. But after the Scosh' story, I felt like I needed to create a story or two that were less about Dead Duck and Zombie Chick's adventures and more about them personally. Having already done two stories that dealt with different chapters of Dead Duck's origins, I felt I was long overdue for a story focusing on Zombie Chick.

It was a harder task than I imagined. Choosing to do a story where, for example, Dead Duck and Zombie Chick have to save the life of a giant primordial cow is considerably easier than conceiving a story about their personalities. In the case of the cow, it was as simple as my saying, "I want to draw a giant cow. Now I just need to write a story around that." Seriously, it was that easy (and in my opinion, one of my best stories). But when it came to me writing about Zombie Chick, I was truly stumped. "Should I tell her origin?" "Should I do something less funny and more dramatic?" A few days passed before I even had a slight idea. So I did what I always do when creatively constipated.

I took a shower.

And as always, it loosened things up for me mentally. I began to form my story. The title came first: "DAY'S END." I wanted my story to show life outside of the 9 to 5 world of minioning for Death. I wanted to explore Dead Duck and Zombie Chick's relationship outside work. And most of all, I wanted to define the relationship between minion and zombie, and show that class division in the land of the dead. I know, it sounds heady for a book that's supposed to be funny, but I dig depth in my characters.

The real interesting thing with Day's End, for me anyway, is that there's no dialogue. About six or seven years ago I'd drawn a one-page comic with no dialogue about very serious subject matter and it was some of my best comic work ever. I wanted to try and recapture that quality of storytelling with Day's End, and now, being three pages into the story, I'm feeling like I'm getting close.

Here's the penciled first page of Day's End (click on the image for a closer look)…

My biggest conflict with telling this particular story is ignoring the obvious comparisons to previous creations. Tim Burton cornered the market on cool representations of the afterlife, and Pixar established the time clock-punching workday world of monsters. Much as I want to create something wholly original, it's inevitable that there will be similarities between my representation of a creature-filled workday and those guys' concepts. So in the end I have to bite my lip, trudge through and do my best to be individual while accepting unavoidable connections, unintentional though they may be.

I do admit to plagiarizing myself in drawing some of the background characters. The minion behind Zombie Chick in the top panel is based on my Pinhead character from as far back as 1988 when I created my own superhero comic (for fans of my Mother's Goofs comic strip, I also used Pinhead as a model for The Krazybread Man about eight years later). The zombie with an axe in his head (3rd panel) is based on my character Chok'o from a comic book concept I created in high school.

I've also got a couple fan tributes in there, such as the minion with his arm around Dead Duck in the last panel. He's very loosely based on 60's TV dragon H.R. Pufnstuf, who despite being a very shitty puppet had a very cool design. And hopefully horror fans will notice the blatant plug for the godfather of zombie movies, George Romero, in the sign on the wall pointing the way to the zombies' homestead.

In the midst of my struggles to create this story, I found myself debating which movies I should play in the background to inspire me. I went through two or three, great as they were, that didn't produce the needed effect. Finally I dug out this little gem, discovered when I was thirteen and solidifying my standing as a full-fledged fan of animator Ralph Bakshi:

Fritz the Cat was Bakshi's first animated movie, and became notorious for it's rating (the first X given to a cartoon) and its subject matter (drugs, violence, race issues, profanity and all kinds of cartoon erotica). No, this is not cartoon porn, any more than the 1969 Oscar winner "Midnight Cowboy" was porn. It's a very dark and trippy movie, which is Bakshi to a fault. I’d be remiss not to mention that it's based on underground cartoonist R. Crumb's characters and stories, but given that Crumb despised the production, it seems pointless to dwell upon.

Fritz really helped me get into the frame of mind to create a seedy bar district on paper, which is a major stage that the story plays upon. Suddenly I could really envision how dark and haunting a tavern called The Grand Guignol would look, and was able to let my mind wander with some of my design elements, much as it felt that Bakshi did in Fritz. My leering moon at the top of this page is a perfect example of letting my imagination lead me around. And the spare sky behind the complicated building is my attempt to break away from the claustrophobia of the first page, with the dark buildings baring down on everybody.

During this process, I also experienced proof that inspiration comes when its wants to, not when you want it to. The struggles I've had (and am having) creating this Zombie Chick story have been palpable. Essentially I'm working with no script whatsoever.

And as I drove home from work the other day, my conflicts with creation ran through my head as I listened to my car stereo. A CD I'd burned awhile back played a couple cool songs that brought to mind, for me at least, massive characters throwing cars around and causing all sorts of destruction. Ironically, I think I was listening to Journey. Anyway, by the time I pulled in my parking lot, I had the seed of a story that was already beginning to write itself in my head as I hurried up the stairs. I managed to type out the synopsis and what little dialogue that came to me.

It's going to be a very cool story concerning Zombie Chick, her status as a zombie, and how protective she feels for Dead Duck. It'll begin production as soon as I finish Day's End.

If you've stuck with me this long, as a special treat, I'll show you some long buried artwork from my personal collection (it's all my personal collection, after all. I'm not Charles Schulz, where people have their own collections of his work. I'm just a dork who draws and throws away nothing).

These two pieces are from my sketchbook from early 1991, which would make me 17 at the time. Dead Duck had been bouncing around my sketchbooks for two years at this point, and these drawings mark my first attempt to put him in a comic.

As you can see, he originally wore a turn-of-the-century man's bathing suit (a tribute to an early design for Donald Duck), with an insignia on his body that was obviously borrowed from Marvel's Daredevil. Part of me misses this costume, and it may pop up in some way in a future story, if only to embarrass Dead Duck about his dorky past.

This was also around the time where I drew everything in pen (low-grade gas station-stock water based black felt tip marker, to be exact). I used to think drawing things out in pencil, the way comic pros do it, then inking after was a waste of time. It only took me a year after this to figure out I was wrong, and saw how much more control you have over your art when you sculpt it out in pencil first, then polish it in ink. If you read the whole story you'd also see how I was tailoring Dead Duck to be an undead superhero, which today seems like a huge mistake but back then seemed "totally awesome." He even zaps some bad guy with an inexplicable hand ray at the story's end. Thank god for twenty years of hindsight and continual refining.

In this page we see for the first time Dead Duck's fellow minions. It's interesting to note that while they all wear spiked armor, Dead Duck wears beach attire. Yet according to what I wrote, he was one of Death's rowdiest minions. Weird. The spiked armor thing stuck with the minions up until this year when I decided they'd all wear black hooded cloaks like Dead Duck, as seen in Day's End. What still sticks is how boozing it up in a bar is still crucial to the fabric of Dead Duck. Ironically, I didn't drink when I was 17, I don't really drink now, but I feel very comfortable and knowledgeable in drawing bar scenes.

So that's it for now. Hope you enjoyed this production blog, and hope to see you when the next one comes around. More cool stuff's a' coming, folks!


Tuesday, April 08, 2008


If I haven't mentioned it yet, the contract has been signed and I'm now officially slated to produce my first graphic novel, DEAD DUCK, published by Ape Entertainment and released in bookstores in November of 2009! I've been plenty busy producing new stories for the book which is partly why I haven't been heard from in about a month. But now I'm back with a behind the scenes look at the production of my DEAD DUCK graphic novel.

To begin, here's an expansive look at my studio. Not long ago I'd cleaned the space up and took a bunch of pictures with the purpose of showing my studio in all its immaculate glory. That never happened. Instead, I'm choosing to show you the gritty truth of creation. It's messy, it's not always pretty, and it comes with lots of empty pop cups from the gas station across the parking lot. Anyway, this is where the magic happens.

My computer is 1/2 the nerve center of my artistic complex. In the old days, I used to carry around vast notebooks so that whenever an idea struck or I wanted to work out a gag or story idea, I'd have something to record it in. These days I've streamlined the process a tad. Little bits of scrap paper litter my backpack and jeans pockets with tons of notes and ideas that I've jotted down off the cuff. I then take those little crumpled gems and refine them at my trusty Dell PC and turn them into polished Dead Duck stories. In a way my computer has become a kind of crutch, and I'd eventually like to get back to the point where a notebook will be good enough to write complete scripts. But for now, I need my computer like a sugar fiend needs Ho-ho's.

After the script is written, I do research. Each Dead Duck story brings its own set of challenges, so having the internet at hand is a real coup. Take for example the story I'm currently working on. It details Dead Duck's long history of encounters with the Canadian Mafia, or The Nova Scotia Cosa Nostra. Because the story takes place in different eras and different locations throughout Canada, I did a fair amount of research online to make sure I drew accurate Mountie Costumes. This also required some preliminary sketches, which is a lot of fun.

A Native American woman figures largely into the story, so I made sure to accurately reference her tribe (The Micmac, native to Nova Scotia) and to get a fairly accurate look for the character rather than drawing her with the stereotypical feather in the back of her headband.

For another part of the story, the action takes place in an old 1950's TV studio, so I wanted to make sure I accurately drew old 1950's TV cameras, which turned out to be a lot of fun.
For another story I wrote (the first one to appear in the graphic novel, actually) I needed to create three roughneck characters, and could think of no better models than me and my two best friends, Pat and Justin. Though the caricatures are highly exaggerated, it's still a loving tribute, and it's always fun to draw your friends into your art.

After research and preliminary sketches, I like to surround myself with inspirational material; works that inspire me to do what I love to do. In the realm of comics, especially Dead Duck, that falls under three categories...

Hellboy, Scrooge McDuck...

And Cheech Wizard.

Mike Mignola's Hellboy is a huge influence on Dead Duck thematically. I've always been a fan of folklore, gods, fairies and monsters, so Hellboy was a perfect fit for me. I've even attempted Mignola's usage of huge block shadowing in several instances, though nobody can be Mignola but Mignola, so the end result is still decidedly my own style. I've always been a closet fan of Carl Bark's Scrooge, but recently got my hands on the work of Bark's successor, Don Rosa, and saw parallels between my work and what he was doing. The art is great and the stories are very rich and intriguing. And lastly, the late great Vaughn Bode's immortal Cheech Wizard is my biggest influence, in theme, in dirty humor, and certainly in art. His cartooning is untouchable, and makes me want to be a better cartoonist every time I read it.

My influences do not end on the printed page, however. While at the drawing board, I like to pop in a DVD while drawing. It helps me concentrate, all the more so when it's a film from my childhood that really inspires me. And these two top the list of most watched....

Ralph Bakshi's animated film Wizards has been one of my favorites since I was thirteen. It's a dark post apocalyptic fairy tale with incredible visuals and a haunting story.

And the other most watched film...

Rock & Rule, another post apocalyptic fairy tale, this time a rock and roll fable produced by the once great Canadian animation studio Nelvana. This movie has been stuck in my psyche since I was ten. I absolutely adore it. And whether it's this film, Wizards or another inspirational flick, there's always something playing in the background within my view to help keep my creative furnace stoked.

Dipping into my well stocked art supply cubby, I begin the process of illustrating the written story. Using a t-square and ruler, I measure out the borders of the page, break the story down into panels (or boxes), carefully letter the word balloons and then sketch out the action. When that's done, I use a myriad of different pens to ink the penciled drawings.

I used to go through a ton of markers, but these days I've become a bit more economical. Any big black areas will be left empty until the next stage when I scan the artwork into the computer and color it all in Photoshop. This saves me money on markers (which are more expensive than you would imagine) and makes for a very glossy finished product when completed.

And basically, that's how I do it. I hope this has given you some insight into my creative process, for what it's worth. Next time I'll show you some potential marketing ideas we're considering, plus take you deeper into the well from which I draw out my story and character ideas (if your psyche ain't already scarred, you're in for a rude awakening)! So until them, take care, thanks for sticking with me, and be her in November 2009 for the release of DEAD DUCK!!!