Sunday, October 19, 2014

NEW YORK TRIP PART 2: Bodie Troll in the fur!

I don't do a lot of promotion for my comics career. I have a web presence that covers most of the typical social media sites, and a really nice website that I should update far more often. But with New York Comic Con, I knew I wanted to have something really special to introduce people to me and my work. So what did I do?

I brought Bodie Troll! Well, technically, Bodie met me in New York. Let me explain...

A year and a half ago, I got it in my head that I wanted to have a Bodie Troll puppet built. I'm friends with several very talented puppet builders, and one whom I'd always wanted to work with was James Wojtal. James has a history of working with the Jim Henson Company, and continually has his hands in both the building and performing of puppets for various productions today. James and I briefly discussed it, agreed to make it happen one day, and we both sat on the idea while other projects took priority.

While at San Diego Comic Con this past July, the idea came back to me in a big way. My friend Kelly had recently dyed her hair a bright orange, and we both agreed that she could make a great Cholly (Bodie's best friend from the comics)...

A major promotional opportunity was forming. I immediately wrote James, asking if he was still game for creating a Bodie puppet, and in time for New York Comic Con. He agreed without hesitation. I did a geeky little fanboy dance of jubilation, and set to making some designs for James to work off of.

This is the turn-around model sheet I provided James with.
And these are some progression pics that James sent me of the Bodie build.

James ended up bring Bodie right to my hotel room on my first night in New York. I'd only seen the progress pics of Bodie, so I had no idea what was in store. My confidence in James' skills was well founded, because what was in store was AWESOME!!!

James is not only a fantastic puppet builder, but an amazing guy whom I'm thrilled to call my friend. Here he is at the con, posing with Bodie, me and Kelly, who walked the con floor dressed as Cholly and with Bodie in her arms. 

As I expected, people were entranced with the little guy and his best friend, and soon, loads of people came to my table to find out more about them. The Bodie comic is now in large circulation amongst my East Coast fan base, thanks to James, Kelly and Bodie!

One of several cool encounters I had was with Dave Hulteen and Jerome Green, fellow Muppet fans and creators of the puppet web series, "The Bang and Bump Show". We three had been online pals for years, and now, with all our fuzzy creations in tow, we had a big ol' puppet play date in the middle of artist alley!

I also took Bodie out into the streets of New York. With Sesame Street and so many other puppet productions being recorded in the city, one more puppet wasn't going to necessarily stand out. That said, Bodie had some nice reactions from people. We took Bodie to Good Morning America's studio, where we tried to get him and Cholly (Kelly) on TV. We actually got in the door before security realized we weren't cleared to be there, and they politely showed us the way back out. A highlight from that moment was having security feign concern while talking into their headset, saying, "We have a suspicious looking lady and a monkey..."

On our last morning of the show, we got up early and took Bodie over to Rockefeller Center, and attempted to get him on camera there. No such luck, though we did get some nice shots around the area, and with another security guard.

But the coolest Bodie moment of the whole weekend was on the last day of the con, when a very special visitor came to my table. Leslie Carrara-Rudolph, who performs Abby Cadabby on "Sesame Street", had heard about the Bodie puppet on the first day of the con, and brought Abby by to meet him on Sunday! As we popped our characters onto our arms, we immediately started improvising through our characters about everything from fairy farts to dirty roots--it was pure puppet bliss!

Ever the professional puppeteer, Leslie hunkered down out of shot so that Abby would be in the forefront. I was too giddy, and stuck my goofy mug into the shot each time! The best part was how Leslie helped me pose Bodie for the camera--I was being directed by one of the best and most popular puppeteers of the last twenty years! I was performing with the Muppets! Childhood dream #2 fulfilled! SQUEE!!!

Leslie and I had a wonderful conversation outside of the characters, and I gave her this piece that I drew for her. It was just so amazing to connect with her, and I was teary eyed when she left. I can barely talk about it now without getting choked up--but they're tears of absolute joy!

There were plenty of other fantastic memories from that weekend that are better documented by friends--great meals, midnight trips to 30 Rock, subway rides and angry cab drivers...but that whole trip was just one big golden memory, of wish fulfillment achieved, of new opportunities being born, and of friendships being forged and cherished. Thank you to those who shared it with me then, and who share it with me now through these words.

Love to all!


NEW YORK TRIP PART 1: The Henson Company and artist alley

I'm finally getting caught up with life after the whirlwind trip last week to New York City. My time there  was such a tremendous experience, filled with such wonderful moments, that one blog post alone cannot contain it. So, I'll give you two!

My trip to NY served two purposes--the main one was for me to set up in artist alley at New York Comic Con. But just as importantly, I had been invited to tour The Jim Henson Company, courtesy of Karen Falk, archivist for the Jim Henson Company. Visiting the shop was a lifelong dream come true, and I say that in absolute honesty, and without exaggeration. Five year old Jay wanted to see where the Muppets came from. Forty year old Jay got a private showing, when he was old enough to fully appreciate it, and better yet, remember every little moment and detail with the same vivid hues that imbued the puppets there on display.

Along with my friend Kelly (who I have to thank for documenting the entire NY trip), Karen showed us the puppet builders at work, costuming existing characters, and in one case, building a photo-ready Cookie Monster for a publication. We saw drawers of puppet eyes and noses. We saw Grover, Mr. Johnson (the blue, round-headed customer Grover torments at his restaurant job), and we saw a Prairie Dawn puppet being specially built for her performer, Fran Brill, who just retired this year after 44 years with the Henson company. What a great and fitting retirement present!

We saw stacks of sketches done by Jim, Muppet design Michael Frith, and many other puppet designers throughout the company's history. We got to peek at Jim Henson's personal files, that had items ranging from his driver's license, to notebooks containing ideas for puppet productions and daily reminders. And in one particular file, which Karen had sitting out for my arrival, I got to see the original letter I'd written to Jim back in 1986 when I was eleven years old. Jim had even kept the manila envelope that I'd drawn Animal on. That was pretty breathtaking. Karen had found that letter, and a photocopy of Jim's response to me, over a year ago. She had sought me out online to tell me about the find, which is how we became friends and how I ended up at The Henson Company. It's amazing how that all came together, and just in time for my 40th birthday. Karen and Jim gave me the best present ever with the combined experiences they'd provided me.

Understandably, the inner workings of the Henson Company are pretty secretive, so photo opportunities were few. But the few that I was permitted to take were golden, and all I'll ever need to symbolize this incredible experience.

Here I am with none other than Cookie Monster. Cookie has always been my favorite of the classic Sesame Street characters, and one I could identify with (c'mon--who doesn't love cookies?).

Me and Snuffy. Just as soft and loveable as he is huge! 

And here I am with Karen Falk. That wonderfully ornate chair I'm sitting on is the actual throne that the Emperor Skeksis sits on in Jim's first fantasy film, "The Dark Crystal" (1982). The proximity that I was allowed to come within these classic bits of Jim's films was mind boggling, and such a grand gift.

The rest of the weekend was dedicated to my other purpose--attending New York Comic Con. The show is put together by Reed Pop, the same company who puts on C2E2 in Chicago. Both shows are huge in size and attendance, but somehow manage to be run like a small, personable comic con, which is so rare. Mike Negin , who runs artist alley, knows every artist, and offers up himself to take care of the smallest tasks rather than assigning it to one of his assistants--also a true rarity. Based on those factors alone, I would love this show. But beyond that, the fans, my fellow creators, and the overall vibe of the con made this the biggest and best show I've done all year.

Here are a few pics of some commissions I drew at the show:

Batman villain, Poison Ivy...

My characters, Bodie Troll and Baby Fat Scott...

Bodie trying to move Thor's hammer...

And Calvin and Hobbes as Green Lantern and Green Arrow.
A huge thank you to Karen Falk, Jim Henson, Mike Negin, and all involved in making this weekend so wonderful. I'm still shaking my head in disbelief that so much awesome could all happen at the same time. But it did, and there's more to share.

See you in part two of my New York trip blog post!


Monday, October 06, 2014

Second star to the right, and straight on 'til morning...

Well, it happened. Today's my birthday. The BIG one. The one that causes most men to have midlife crisis's. MOST men.

Jay P. Fosgitt just turned 40.

Of course, I'm a professional cartoonist. Started drawing at age two. Determined I'd be a cartoonist at age five. Started getting paid to cartoon at age thirteen. And now I draw comics that are enjoyed by kids, and by adults with childlike sensibilities. I create those comics in an apartment with walls bedecked with posters of superheroes, Muppets, and cartoon characters, and with shelves piled with comic books, toys and puppets. Seems to me, with all that evidence, that I was born into a midlife crisis. But if this is a crisis, don't anyone try to help me. I'm having a grand ol' time.

It is appropriate to the point of almost being ridiculous that I'm spending my 40th birthday (well, the day after) in New York City, with my first (and best) stop being a tour of The Jim Henson Company. My wildest dream since childhood has been to step into that fabled workshop, and just BE. To breathe in the collective imagination and constructed conjurings of over fifty years of creative legacy. My heart skips a beat just considering how this IS happening. The only way this could possibly be better is if I could step back into 1987 and bring twelve year old Jay with me. Right after he'd written Jim, and gotten his fabled response, he was interviewed by a local newspaper:

The punch line to that article, other than twelve year old Jay having eventually worked professionally on the Muppet characters, and having worked professionally in comics, is that Jay thought of 40 as OLD. That's truly hilarious to me now. Mainly because 40 is proving to be a fantastic turning point in my life, and I've never felt a day over twelve.

I'm blossoming in the comics industry, both with my characters and licensed characters. I'm getting recognized by fans and professionals. I'm traveling to big cities promoting my work alongside my friends. I'm seeing things, experiencing life in ways I'd dreamt of but was never certain it could actually happen. But it could. It IS. And this is just the beginning.

So where so many men my age have lamented the loss of their youthful ambitions and cashed in those dreams for a fancy car or some other luxury items, I grin contentedly knowing I had my eye on the dream from the start, and never let go of it. True, I live modestly, and my car is nothing to brag about. But having the satisfaction of doing what I love, and knowing that the me from my youth would be so happy and proud of what I'm accomplishing, is all the wealth I need. I welcome 40, and all the rest of the years of my perpetual youth.

"All children, except one, grow up."
 J.M. Barrie--Peter Pan


Saturday, September 27, 2014


With just a week and a half left, I should probably announce that I'll be at New York Comic Con on October 9th-12th, set up in artist alley at table D12. I'll have my usual offerings there--copies of the "Bodie Troll" trade paperback, prints, original artwork, comic pages, and I'll be taking commissions all weekend. Rumor has it Bodie Troll and his pal Cholly will be at the show too. Find me at D12 and find out for yourself!

Besides the con, there is another very significant purpose for this trip, something that I've waited a lifetime to accomplish, and had almost given up hope that it would ever come to be.

I'll be visiting the Jim Henson Company.

Through the kindness and generosity of Karen Falk (archivist for The Jim Henson Company), I'm getting a personal tour. If I ever had a bucket list, this was the only thing on it. Regardless of what the rest of the weekend holds--and I have high hopes for the con and my time spent in Manhattan--I'll board my flight back to Michigan with a smile on my face, knowing the once again, Jim Henson put it there.

Switching gears from promoting my comics to creating them, I've been very productive these past few months. I wrapped up my illustration work on "My Little Pony: Friends Forever" issue #11 two weeks ago. It was a fun challenge to contribute to this highly recognizable and much appreciated series, and I'm pleased with the results. The comic comes out November 19th in comic shops worldwide. I've posted this before, but here's another peek at my cover (and check out the cutie mark on the purple Pegasus on top):

 I was one of many contributors to a crime comic anthology called "Unlawful Good". The book is edited by Heather Antos, who spearheaded a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund it. At present, they're still accepting donations for even more bells and whistles on this already incredible book, so consider contributing here if you'd like to be a part of its success. My story, which I wrote and drew, is called "Man of a Thousand Faces", and it's a darkly comical 50's noir detective story. It's unlike anything I've ever done before, and I'm extremely proud of it, and of the book as a whole. Here's a sneak peek:

I've also been hard at work on the next issue of "Bodie Troll", which will kick off an all new four-issue mini series. This first issue introduces a new character to Bodie's world, and expands the underlying mythology of the comic. It's going to be filled with laughs, suspense, and no shortage of fun. The first issue will come out next spring, coinciding with Free Comic Book Day. It's already been written and drawn, and I'm coloring it as we speak. Here's a sneak peek:

Speaking of which, Bodie will be the headliner of Red 5's Free Comic Book Day issue next year, being featured on the cover, and taking part in an all new adventure. I'm working on that one right now, and it's going to be a (gasp) ROMANTIC FARCE! Never thought you'd see Bodie in a love story? Neither did HE!

That's it for now, friends. Count on seeing photos upon my return from New York, and more Bodie news to come!