The Ninjabot

Under the Radar with JAY FOSGITT of BODIE TROLL

Posted on May 4, 2014 at 6:00 am by Heather Antos

011Once upon a long, long time ago, in a land far, far away, there lived a troll named Bodie whose greatest aspirations included nothing more than to be scariest being ever to be! Very recently I sat down to talk with National Cartoonist Society member Jay Fosgitt about his experiences creating Bodie Troll as well as his other works!






HEATHER ANTOS: Let’s start out with some fun easy questions. How are you, Jay?

JAY FOSGITT: I’m fine. The weather’s nice, I’m happy with that. I got to drive with the windows down and the music loud finally!

HA: [Laughs] Finally indeed! Would you mind telling the readers a bit about yourself?

JF: Uh…Well, I’m pale…short for a man my age…Raised in Saginaw, Michigan. I’ve been drawing since I was two years old. I knew I was going to be a cartoonist by the time I was five years old. I started working as a paid cartoonist by the time I was, I don’t know, thirteen, maybe? And it really just grew from there! Steadily I’ve worked in comics strips, comic books, greeting cards, you know, to the point where now I’m a fulltime cartoonist working primarily in comic books.

HA: That’s very exciting! So, what was the first comic you ever remember reading?

JF: The first comic strip I ever remember is definitely Peanuts. It was always the first top strip in any newspaper I read. It was right there! And the animated specials gave it an extra boost in my appreciation because I loved those specials just as much, if not more.

HA: It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!

JF: Oh my God, I LOVE Great Pumpkin! Bill Melendez, who directed all those specials is as much my hero as Charles Schulz, who created the comic. First comic book I can remember reading, or at least buying, was Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew, which was a DC comic. That was from 1981. And I guess, you know, I already had an appreciation for cartoony comics, anyway, so that just fit in to my appreciation. It was co-created by Scott Shaw, one of the greatest cartoonists of all time!


HA: So what got you interested in actually making comics? I know you began drawing when you were two, and read them as a kid, so did it just go from there?

JF: Yeah, it’s one of those things I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, because when I started drawing at age two, I was never, you know, pushed in one direction or another to draw still life or buildings or anything. I guess it was just in my blood that I was gonna like comics. I don’t know where it came from other than I had comics around me as a kid. We all did! I just gravitated to them. So I kind of feel like if there is such a thing as fate I was fated to work in comics.

HA: Not a bad fate!

JF: No! I’m totally okay with that!

HA: So then what’s the first comic you ever created?

JF: Oh, you know I believe it was a Muppet comic. I’m a huge Muppet fan, which may or may not be apparent yet. Yeah! So, I did a Muppet comic it was called The Muppets Like a Lot of Things. And so I would Untitleddraw, say, Miss Piggy doing something on one page and Kermit doing something on another page. And I would tell my mom, “These are the words I want!” And she would write them in this flowery and mock cursive. She was my letterer, I guess you could say.

HA: Did you do a series of this Muppet comic?

JF: I did, you know, it was sporadic. I did a Sesame Street comic, I did a Popeye comic book that was my interpretation of the Popeye movie from the 1980s. I would’ve been maybe five or six years old. That began my appreciation for Popeye. So yeah, back then I was doing a lot of interpretations of things I liked. I think I was in first or second grade when I started creating my own characters – which were still indicative of the characters I had a fondness for. I had a character named Power House who was like a Popeye parody, and things like that.

HA: So you started getting paid for drawings at thirteen. That’s really young!

JF: Well I was showing an aptitude for drawing around five and so I had people encouraging me. So I knew one way or the other it was what I was going to do. So by the time I was thirteen and people outside of my family started to notice I could draw they would hire me to do greeting cards. I think at that time I did a t-shirt design for somebody and it was all paid work. People were cool enough to appreciate my talent and throw a couple of bucks my way.

HA: So then you began working in college as a cartoonist, correct?

JF: Yeah! I worked there for a number of years doing comic strips, I illustrated stories, and I did a lot of writing and editing as well. During this time I submitted pitches for comic strips to the newspaper syndicates and I did that for about ten years. I created a number of strips, I’d retool them and whatever, but eventually my interests switched from comic strips to comic books. I think I was a year, maybe two out of college, and I decided to dust off an old concept I created when I was fourteen called Dead Duck. This was back in ’88 or ’89. I retooled it, added some new elements, and I still had books full of notes and sketches I used to build off of. And then Dead Duck would become my first published graphic novel. Once I created some stories for it I would go around to publishers at the major conventions and that’s where I ended up meeting my publisher Ape Entertainment.

HA: And from 010there what happened with Dead Duck?

JF: Well it terms of small press publishers it was a big success! It was, at the time, their biggest selling graphic novel that they’d ever published. It completely sold out of its first printing. Inexplicably Ape said they weren’t going to do a second print run, they wanted to jump right in to doing a follow up Dead Duck book. I said, “You know, there’s still a lot of mileage in this first book, and if you’re not going to reprint it…” Well I had this bit in my contract where I could take the contract back and do what I wanted with it. So, you know, we still worked on other projects together after that, but I got Dead Duck back and starting doing it as a web comic. But at that point I was ready to start moving on to other concepts anyway.

HA: So did you leave Ape Entertainment?

JF: Well it wasn’t immediate. A year or two after I hung up Dead Duck that I was doing work for hire, primarily for Ape Entertainment, they would have some ideas for kid’s comics, they had full ownership, but I was fine with doing work-for-hire stuff, and I had a lot of fun. I did about three different books for them and also began doing licensed sketch cards for Star Wars, Marvel Comics, and most recently Adventure Time. But I wanted to get back into comics. I wanted to start fresh.

HA: And was that when Bodie Troll came about?

JF: Well I wanted to do something that would appeal to children, to adults – something like The Muppets. I had a cast of characters that had been in comic strips of mine previously that didn’t go anywhere and I decided to use them as a supporting cast for this little character that I would create called “Bodie.”

Bodie, the character, came from me pitching a story to Mike Mignola, who is the creator of Hellboy. I wrote and drew a two page kid ­Hellboy story where kid Hellboy’s first crush would be this girl troll. I thought it was a cute story and Mike liked it a lot, his editor Scott Allie liked it a lot. However, they didn’t have a place for it at the time because they weren’t doing a lot of anthology stuff with Hellboy. Well, I really liked the troll I had created for that and so I had the idea of creating this whole comic boo008k about this character. I ended up making the troll a boy because as I was writing the story I started to identify more with the character. It became somewhat biographical in the way that Bodie was as a character. So I took these old characters I had from years back and mixed them with Bodie, threw in my love of fairytales and monsters, and made it an all-ages thing. That’s where the whole thing came from.

I ended up actually only creating four pages of content. I had the whole first issue written, but I only drew the first four pages. I had a friend of mine, Evan Shaner – who’s now pretty big working on the Flash Gordon comic – who I commissioned to color those pages. I took them and went to San Diego Comic Con and showed it to a ton of different publishers and met Red 5 Comics. They’d known me from Dead Duck so they were very interested in having this all-ages book because that’s their thing, and that’s where I’ve since!

HA: So when did all of this happen?

JF: July of 2012 and I signed the contract within a month or two. I actually expected to have a year of lead time before issue one came out. I wanted to complete everything of all four of the first miniseries at once but they were very eager to get it out right away because they believed in it that much. The characters really did introduce themselves to me as I was writing them in that process. I was able to crank out all four of these issues in 2013.

HA: Could you describe the Bodie Troll series for us?

JF: Bodie Troll is an all-ages comic about a fairytale troll who wants to be seen as big and scary, but he’s too cute and cuddly to be taken seriously. He resides in the village on Hagadorn and takes on odd jobs for Miz Bijou, a retired fairy godmother. Bodie’s best friend is Cholly, an aspiring playwright. Many of Bodie’s adventures come from running errands for Miz Bijou, or his getting dragged into Cholly’s creative endeavors. The rest derive from Bodie’s failed attempts to be scary.Untitled

The story takes place in an anachronistic fairytale world. It’s not as broad as The Flinstones’ using a baby elephant as a vacuum, but the way the characters in Bodie Troll talk and react to things is very much of our time. The best example is my character Socko, who is the star of a Punch and Judy style puppet show – something that was very common to medieval times. But the anachronism comes from Socko’s show being a big media outlet for Hagaforn, with Socko popping up to do news reports and commercials while beating up another character.

As a personality, Bodie is a cranky ten year old. His attention span is so thin as to barely rate mentioning, except when he’s focused on his two favorite pursuits – trying to be scary, and eating the driest, grubbiest, moldiest, blandest roots he can get his paws on. But Bodie has a deep down soft spot for his friends, which is his real Achilles Heel. He gets in more trouble  coming to their aid than from any harebrained attempt to scare folks or steal roots. He’s the hero of his fairytale despite his wishes to be the villain.

HA: What is your process when you sit down to create an issue of Bodie Troll?

JF: Initially I’ll get the idea and I will start doing sketches on scraps of paper. I’ll take those sketches and start taking rough notes. Sometimes if I’m in a coffee fit, you know, I plotted out my most recent issue of Bodie within an hour! From the notebook of all these scribbles I’ll move on to the keyboard, type out a full script, and from there it’s to the drawing board! I do all my own pencils, my inks, and I do my coloring in Photoshop.

HA: What motivates and inspires you as a creator?

JF: For me, particularly with working on Bodie Troll, it is escapism. It’s the same experience I have with going to a movie, or reading a good book. It’s that I’m out of the mundane world of bill paying and the harsh realities we all face. And working on Bodie I’m creating literally a fairytale world that I am absorbed in to as I create it. That’s been a gift. For me that’s what it’s all about, getting to escape to this world! It’s a very privileged life in that regard and I couldn’t be happier or more appreciative.

 To learn more about Jay, visit: www.JayFosgitt.com007

Follow Jay on Twitter: @JayPFosgitt 

And be sure to pick up your own copy of the BODIE TROLL trade at a local comic retailer near you!

Under the Radar is a column where I, Heather Antos, interview comic creators, writers, and artists of all kinds about their talents, skills, and projects to come! If you know of a comic creator who is Under the Radar and waiting to be discovered by the comic industry, contact me: @HeatherAntos

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