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!



Chris E. said...

It's really something when you look back and see how your style changes. Zombie Chick's design influenced by Goldie Hawn? I can actually see it. Look at those eyes.

Tony Francetic said...

Jay, I absolutely love the take-off of He-Man characters. I can completely see the original characters in yours, and it's awesome. I can't wait to see more of that line.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the behind the scenes, sneek-peaks! I really enjoy them & look forward to the next. Your work has always been so distinctive, I could pick it out a mile away & then when I get close enough to peak, seeing "Foz" in the corner, it just made me smile ;) cuz I already knew it was your work. You are well on your way my friend!!! its always just been a matter of time! Until the next time...

Doc Shaner said...

You know, now that you put Zombie Chick next to those pics of Goldie Hawn, it all makes sense. I can't believe I didn't catch it before.

I like the story with the panels using music staves, that's a great compositional effect. Looking forward to that one buddy.

Bill Drastal Blog Mode!! said...

Hey man thanks for the kind words on my blog. I love going through your stuff, I like the simple line work and energy your drawings have. I've seen your work on Deviant art as well, but I never knew you had a sketch blog as well. Awesome stuff man keep it up.

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Anonymous said...

Grrrr Spam!
Jay this is a fantastic insight into the conception of Dead Duck and Zombie Chick. It's always facinating to see artists works from a younger age so you can clearly see the progression of their style and skills. I can see this in a DD Compendium down the line :)


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