I restate the fact that I try to only post blogs when I have news or at least some new art to share. And given that I've spent the past month and eleven days working on the final Dead Duck story in the book, I haven't had much to say or much time to say it. But last night I finished said story, and now I've got some stuff to share. So dig in, my friends.
The final story is called, "A MINION OF DEATH TAKES A HOLIDAY." The plot is such:
For over a century, once every five years in Chigger Creek, Ontario, on the exact same date and time, there is a totally unexplained grizzly death. Eventually the town turned the freak occurrence into a celebrated occasion, and Chigger Creek Death Days has been presided over by Dead Duck, the sole deliverer of Chigger Creek souls, ever since. This year, however, no one has died, and the town is beside itself. It's up to Dead Duck, local Chigger Creek celebrity Chum Blockwell and Zombie Chick to solve the case. But can Zombie Chick stop romancing here toaster long enough to heed the warnings of the town see'er?
Intrigued? Hell, I wrote the story and I am.
Here's the first page.
I'm very proud of this opening page. As usual, I did a lot of research to get certain things bolted down, like the look of a Toronto Maple Leaf jersey and helmet. I actually used no reference at all for my panoramic view of Chigger Creek. I'd seen enough movies that took place in coastal towns that I was able to design my own with little difficulty. And living in Michigan, scenes like this are pretty commonplace. The Trojan Pork factory is a name I derived from "Trojan Horse." It didn't occur to me 'til after I drew it that people might think of condoms. The original name for the factory was going to be Pig Chum, but I thought that might make unintentional connections with my character Chum Blockwell, so I changed it. Pig Chum would've been nice, though.
Here's a panel showing the actual Death Days celebration.
Though I was mostly inspired by "Twin Peaks" in creating this story, there are loads of other things which inspired this as well. Both the book and movie of Bradbury's "Something Wicked This Way Comes", as well as the defunct HBO series "Carnivale" are definite influences. Carnivals by nature are just creepy as hell, so it was easy to derive inspiration from such a popular institution. To a smaller degree, Stephen King's book "IT" was in the back of my mind, but mostly just from the semi-annual murder concept.
But what really influenced me was "The Red Green Show." Chum Blockwell is a caricature of Harold Green, after all. And I'm currently waiting on a response from Patrick McKenna, who played Harold on the show, to see if he'd like to write a forward for my book. The Red Green influence also gave my story a warmth and humor that, without it, might have left the story genuinely horrific.
But I'm also a fan of small town life and stories about them. I grew up in a small town, and I know and understand the idiosyncrasies and strange, dark underbelly to even the most wholesome appearing communities. I have a real love for that kind of tale. And that's what I've told here.
This panel took me an entire day to draw.
With this story I really wanted to stretch myself artistically, and that meant coming to grips with perspective, an artistic method that's always given me headaches. But as you'll see from this diner scene, I very carefully made sure everything was in perfect line with the vanishing point, which would have been in the middle of Dead Duck's head. Sure, maybe it makes me anal-retentive. But I say, what good's an anus if you're not going to use it? Yeah.
Just to prove how anal I really was, here's the schematics I drew of the diner, just so I knew where all the booths and tables would go, even if I never drew them in the final piece. Sooooo anal….
Because there's so many characters in this story, I wanted to make sure each character looked unique and individual. For a story that takes place in a fantasy world (which most Dead Duck stories did), that's easy. But this was a story that, for the first time in Dead Duck's adventures, took place in the real world with real people. So I decided to use real people for reference.
I was watching one of my favorite horror films, "Jason Goes To Hell," while working on this story, and really liked the look of actor Richard Gant, who played the coroner who ate Jason's heart and took on his persona.
So, Gant became the model for Jeff Geoffenheimer, a Chigger Creek resident. In the course of writing this story, I decided I wanted everyone to have a really unique name. And believe me, Jeff Geoffenheimer is hardly the strangest I came up with.
Because "Twin Peaks" is such a major influence in this story, I had to have just one blatantly obvious plug for that show. And that came in the form of my character, Cotton Goodly, a waitress at the Hunka Hunka Burnin' Loaf Diner who has a massive crush on Dead Duck. Cotton was based off the character of Shelly from "Twin Peaks," as played by Madchen Amick. I still have a huge crush on Madchen and her character, so this is a very fond tribute to her (obviously I'm living vicariously though my duck).
Here's a couple preliminary sketches of Cotton when I was trying to get her look down.
For other characters I decided to use friends and family. After all, Madchen Amick, Patrick McKenna and Richard Gant may never know they appeared in my comic, but my loved ones will be first in line to buy a copy.
In this panel, though you may not recognize her from the back, is my beloved wife Laura. I put her in here in part because I thought it'd be a nice tribute, and in part because I thought it'd be something to see the love of my life and my dream crush in the same panel (god, I'm pathetic).
In this panel, I've drawn the only person I actually know from Canada personally, my good friend and fellow cartoonist Chad. He's been a loyal supporter of Dead Duck from the beginning, and it mean a lot to me to be able to put him in this story, even in a small cameo.
These two panels feature a character based off my old friend Erin.
Erin has loads of freckles, which I thought would be a great feature for any character, so I made her the focus of this awkward situation.
And lastly, I drew myself as a little kid in this panel. I figure, hey, I created Zombie Chick, so I can sit in her lap if I want to. It's good to be me.
So that's it for this little behind the scenes peek at the final Dead Duck story. This is far from the end of the road for work on the book, however. I still have to color at least forty pages, design the cover, and work on getting the online Dead Duck comic up and running on my publisher's website. So I'll be filling you all in later. In the meantime, if I don't talk to you before, have a great Thanksgiving. I miss you guys and hope to talk to you all soon.