You know the saying: nostalgia is a hell of a drug. It seems everywhere you turn there’s another announcement or rumor of a classic property getting the 21st century reboot touch. What makes any reboot a success is finding ways to preserve the quirky (if dated) charm of the original while adding in fresh elements to make it contemporary and relevant for 2019.
Jay Fosgitt is an artist who plies his trade partially in this nostalgia, taking on childhood classics in comics like “Fraggle Rock” and “My Little Pony” (the latter perhaps the pioneer of reboot culture) and bringing them to a modern all-ages audience. Alongside creator-owned works like “Bodie Troll” and the more adult “Dead Duck,” Jay’s cartooning is summed up best in one word: fun.
At NYCC, Jay and I dove deep into all sorts of 1970s and 1980s pop culture nostalgia, from the internationally famous to the more obscure, along with some pretty “fowl” portraits of his friends.
Your two main works are creator-owned graphic novels: the kids story “Bodie Troll,” and the more adult story “Dead Duck.” Give us a little summary about these two graphic novels.
Jay Fosgitt: “Dead Duck” was my very first graphic novel that I had published in 2008, and then it became a title under Source Point Press a few years ago. “Dead Duck,” is about a duck who works for the Grim Reaper delivering the dead with his sidekick, Zombie Chick. And “Bodie Troll,” l is my all ages comic, it’s published through BOOM! It’s about a fairy tale troll who wants to be big and scary, but he’s too cute and cuddly, so no one takes them seriously.
In addition to your creator-owned work, you’ve done a lot of what I like to call the Gen X nostalgia, everything from My Little Pony to Fraggle Rock to Sesame Street. How do you balance keeping the nostalgic spirit of the original property but making it fresh for 2019? In other words, how are you balancing it so that you can have the parents who grew up watching the original show be able to read it with their kids?
JF: I tried to be very faithful to the characters that they remember, while still keeping that fun. Fun is universal, obviously. Cute is universal. And that’s what I try to instill in all my artwork, be it popular characters like Fraggle, Sesame Street, or even my own character Bodie Troll. But I think you can see my own love and appreciation for those particular franchises because I’ve kind of begged my way onto some of those projects. If you can tell the person’s having fun when they’re working on it that’s going to come through and you’re going to enjoy yourself, even if you’re not familiar with the material.
So now what is easier for you to draw – – the creator-owned work, or the licensed work?
JF: Licensed work is easier, because the expectations are pretty black and white. Creator-owned, because I’m the one responsible, I will nitpick the heck out of a page. I have an editor but he defers to me for the most part. So it’s definitely easier to do something where I have an editor saying, “Good. Turn it in.”
Is there a property from the Gen X era – – 1970s, 1980s that you’d like to take on?
JF: What I have wanted to tackle for the longest time is “Rocky and Bullwinkle,” which is 1960s admittedly. And it’s been done by other people and they’re doing a good job, but I’ve always had my own idea for it. So I would love to one day do my own “Rocky and Bullwinkle” book. I don’t know how familiar you are with H.R. Pufnstuf . . .
I have heard of it. It was a little before my time but like five years before my time.
JF: Well, it was a pretty wonky live action puppet show from the early 70s. I would love to revive it. I have a pitch for it. I think I’m probably going have to wait until the creators pass away because it’s far too weird for them.Continued below
In addition to all your comics work, you actually did illustration portfolio work for the National Wildlife Federation for their magazine. Tell us a little bit about that.
JF: A friend of mine is the art director, or at least was at the time, for Ranger Rick magazine. And he just reached out to me out of the blue and asked me if I could illustrate this art column that a young man had written and is being published in the magazine. So basically, I had to draw a cartoon alligator with an outboard motor boat going along the swamp, selling swamp tours, and that was so much fun. I put so much into it. I wish I had more work through Ranger Rick after that, because I love drawing cartoon animals. It was a really nice group to work for and a nice opportunity.
One of the other fun ways I discovered your work is that you like to draw your friends . . . as chickens.
JF: Oh gosh, yeah, I call them “Poultraits” And it just started this year. I drew Sorah Suhng, who’s a very talented artist, as a chicken. And she shared it and it blew up, like a bottle rocket in a chicken coop.
They’re absolutely adorable. So I have to ask: why chickens?
JF: Chickens are just fun to draw. They’re like little fluffy dinosaurs, and they look dorky, and cool and scary at the same time.They’re just an amalgam of things, so I love them.
Now, I also know you’ve done some work on Deadpool. And I got intrigued thinking that you do work on a very adult character like Deadpool (even though I joke that Deadpool, like Wu-Tang, is always for the children), but you’ve also written all-ages books. Pitch to me what you think a Deadpool children’s book would look like.
JF: Deadpool would probably be blowing up toys. He’d be getting a fight with wind up GI Joe type figures or toy robots, and just destroying them. If Max from “Where the Wild Things Are” can exhibit bad behavior in that classic book, 50 or 60 years later, we could do that with Deadpool in a children’s book.
Who are some of your artistic inspirations?
JF: Certainly Maurice Sendak, who did “Where the Wild Things Are.” Jim Henson’s my all time biggest hero. I’ve worked for the Henson Company. I have friends out there. It’s a wonderful symbiotic friendship. I’m very influenced bySergio Aragonés, who created “Groo the Wanderer,” and did a lot of those column illustrations for MAD Magazine the last 50 odd years. I tend to lean toward the more cartoony guys. Skottie Young is a friend of mine, and as far as I’m concerned, the most talented cartoonist in the proper term in comic books today.
Since you mentioned Jim Henson, have you watched The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance on Netflix yet? And what do you think, especially as someone who’s had some closer involvement with the Henson family and the Henson Foundation?
JF: I came into it just totally optimistic and it was even better than I could have dreamt up. It is such a fantastic continuation, even though it’s a prequel, to what Jim had created in that original series. And the Hensons have to be so proud and I just hope it bolsters them to revive some of their other older properties. Fraggle Rock, I think would be great. They were talking for 15 years about doing a sequel to The Dark Crystal, which never manifested.
And The Dark Crystal also has some life now in comics, through BOOM! Studios.
JF: Yeah, which is why I got to work on those!
You talked a little bit earlier about wanting to revive H.R. Pufnstuf in comics. Is there another character – – Marvel, DC, any other publisher right now – – that you haven’t drawn yet, and you look at and you’re like, “Damn, I want a chance to draw that character.” So first, who would that be?
JF: I would have to say the Muppets. Surprisingly, I’ve drawn Jim Henson characters that aren’t the Muppets. I’ve drawn Sesame Street, which is not owned by the Muppets anymore. But I haven’t got to draw the Muppets proper and that is a gig I would love to do. I’m born to do it. I know the Muppets. As far as I’m concerned, I know them as well as Frank Oz or anyone who’s worked for the Muppets. So hopefully I’ll get that chance someday.Continued below
And now would you either do a graphic novel retelling of one of the major films like The Muppets Take Manhattan, an ongoing series about The Muppet Show, or would you do a completely original story?
JF: I’d say completely original. I did a pitch about close to 10 years ago, where I did Muppets take on Sleepy Hollow. I had Beaker as the Headless Horseman. It was really cute. And they liked it at the time, but they just passed on me for whatever reason. So I wouldn’t mind doing fairy tale recreations with the Muppets, but I would like to do a brand new story that’s about them. And I couldn’t even tell you where it would come from. I’ve got a million different ideas.
Finally, do you have any other projects that you have upcoming later this year, or into 2020, that you can share with us?
JF: I’m currently working on Volume Two of “Bodie Troll.” It’s called “Bodie Troll: Hungry for Adventure.” That is hopefully going to be out this time next year, end of summer early fall of 2020. [Note: A few days after this interview, our October 9th edition of The Rundown announced an August 2020 release date for “Bodie Troll: Hungry for Adventure.”]
And then I am drawing three children’s books for Disney right now, based on the Disney characters as little kids.
Thank you so much!
JF: Thanks for talking with me!