At age nine, during a family garage sale, I was betrothed a battered stack of my cousin’s old Marvel comics. The colorful angst and vibrant violence of the books overtook me, and within a few years I’d be taking 10 1/2 mile round trip bike rides to the closest comic book shop for my regular fix. My professional goal from age five (preceded by my habitual drawing from age two) had been to draw comic strips. Now, residing in Marvel’s fabled Bullpen as a staff artist became a segue in my creative pursuit. The problem was, I was a cartoonist in the classical sense. Squashy bodies, exaggerated expressions, four fingers, and no sense of anatomy, perspective, light value or any other attribute of superhero comics. Not to be discouraged, I hastily mailed off some original drawings (photocopies were the stuff of science fiction to me at the time) to the house that Lee and Kirby built.
To Marvel’s credit, they did reply. To my dismay, they politely declined. At least they returned my drawings, on their own dime no less (a self addressed stamped envelope for returning materials to the sender was also a foreign concept to me). Despite a few comic books to the contrary (Spider-Ham, Groo the Wanderer and Howard the Duck were three of my Marvel-published favorites), I convinced myself that cartoonists couldn’t work for Marvel. Illustrators could, and maybe I could grow my talent in that direction. But deep down, my heart was in the silly, the wonky, the cartoony. So I moved on.
Cartooning paid the bills throughout my college years, and I created various strips for my college newspapers, while caricaturing on the side. But toward graduation, with comic strips becoming my career focus again, Newspapers were on the way out, being overtaken by digital media. Comic strip creators didn’t yet know how to adapt, and the already shaky sub-genre of cartooning was all but shaking apart.
My love of comic books hadn’t faded, and word was that graphic novels were the hot new thing in cartooning. I dug out an old comic strip creation, long since rejected by the syndicates, and retooled it for the graphic novel format. Before long, “Dead Duck” was sitting on comic retailers’ shelves, making ripples if not waves in comic circles, and giving me enough clout to be invited into The National Cartoonists Society, brotherhood of a bazillion famous comic strip creators and a smattering of comic book and animation pros.
My comic work outside of Dead Duck had me toiling in the obscure characters of indie publishers. Eventually I was hired to create comics based on Dreamworks Animation, Cartoon Network, and a lifelong dream gig of mine, Sesame Street. These brushes with popular properties coincided with the creation of my own all-ages comic, Bodie Troll. Bodie gained positive recognition within the industry, and that brought me to IDW, who hired me as an artist on their “My Little Pony” comics. Things were looking brighter in my career. But there was still one comic nut that I longed to crack.
Marvel had recently begun moving in a direction that appealed to my cartoon sensibilities. Artists like Humberto Ramos and Skottie Young were breaking ground there, proving cartoon art had a place in superhero comics. With encouragement from folks of this caliber, I made inquiries with some Marvel editors. Surprisingly, I found I was somewhat known there. Dead Duck was fondly remembered by one editor, and Bodie’s “Disney animation style” was putting me in the sights of another editor who saw my potential. After four months of e-mail correspondences, and no shortage of anxiety on my end, the editor had found just the right project for me.
Marvel had dropped a new character into their revamp of Howard the Duck (fate was at play already. As mentioned, Howard was a longtime favorite of mine, and a huge inspiration on Dead Duck). On the surface, it seemed Marvel was continuing their recent success with their Gwen-Stacified versions of superheroes with their aptly named Gwenpool. But the character proved to be a subversive comic romp that surpassed even her fourth wall-shattering predecessor, Deadpool, in concept. This is who I was to draw, on the cover of a mini series called Avengers: Standoff.
I was given a synopsis of the book, then set free to come up with my own concept. I concocted a scene right out of a 1950’s Archie comic, with prototypical teenagers bopping around a malt shop, while a poodle skirted Gwenpool makes short work of a rival girl’s beehive with a swish of her katana. My editor liked my sketches, and only suggested I make the accosted teenager and her boyfriend be Maria Hill and a now old Steve Rogers (Captain America). The changes only enhanced the lunacy of the scene, and 35 hours and several pots of coffee later, I had the completed cover. The issue comes out as part of a major publicity campaign in early March. From the reaction I’ve gotten at Marvel, I’m encouraged at the prospect of more gigs to come. If those gigs were to in any way involve Spider-Ham or Howard the Duck, I wouldn’t be the least bit disappointed. Quite the opposite, actually.
To say landing a gig with Marvel is a dream come true is an understatement. It was more a destination on a map that I drew years ago, though the destination had gotten a bit smudged for awhile. And coupled with some side paths that took me in amazing and unforeseen directions, I finally made it. Where the map leads from here, I have no idea. But I’m charting new destinations all the time, and the travels I experience along the way will no doubt fulfill more dreams I’ve had, and create more to come. The only thing I know for sure is this–I’ll make a point to hit plenty more garage sales along the way.
Want your own Jay Fosgitt artwork? Get it now.
Get a 9″x12″, black and white commission; cross off that Valentine’s gift for your sweetie (or yourself); give to an amazing cause (we’re giving a portion of proceeds to ExtraLife.org); and feel like a rockstar. I’d say that’s a win-win-win-win.
We only have 20 spots left for orders though, and we can only take them until February 1st – so place yours now.
More cool stuff?
If you’re in the GTA, you get to meet Jay (um, photo opp!) when you pick up your commissions in person at our Valentoon’s Family Geek Boutique event on February 12th*. Stay tuned for more exciting info!