Chickens From My Archives!

By | Monday, July 05, 2010 Leave a Comment
I stumbled across some files in my archives by accident the other day; I had completely forgotten about that I'd worked on this project. I had evidently managed to save many of development work on it, and thought I might share the creative process here since it is somewhat comic related.

A friend of mine was working on some postcards for a publisher that was focusing on reader-friendly accounting textbooks. They wanted some postcards to promote the books, and liked the idea of doing some cartoons as the primary hook. They somehow latched on to this chicken & egg idea, thinking they could play up both the "which came first" angle as well as speaking to the notion of "balance." (As in, trying to balance an egg.) They also liked the notion of making the chicken a superhero.

My friend is a good designer, but wasn't so great at cartoon illustration so he came to me with the idea. I think we both recognized that was an odd selection of criteria to land on for what the company was, but, hey, who are we to argue when we're getting paid? In any event, my first step was to come up with a design of this chicken character...

Cartoon aficionados might recognize that guy in the lower left bears more than a passing resemblance to Jay Ward and Bill Scott's Super Chicken. That was very deliberate. Even though I didn't want to duplicate their character, it was an obvious concept and I find it often helps to jot them down just to get them out of my head.

Eventually, I came to a design I liked and presented...They liked the basic idea, but wanted him to be more heroic-looking. More muscular and confident. Also, the company already had a chest-logo in mind.

The resulting design, which you can see in the remaining images, ended up being visually reminiscent of a cartoon character called Doofus Duck, which I developed back in high school. He had a duck bill and webbed feet, but was pretty similar otherwise. How much of that is part of my overall design aesthetic and how much was self-plagiarism, I don't know.

Next, my friend and I started working up gag ideas and I did some initial sketches. There were a dozen or so concepts, and some variations. These were done on postcard-sized note paper to make sure I had a good sense of how the actual visuals would work on the page. I found a fax along with these, for example, where I note that the wedding scene might get a bit overly complicated for the size and what needed to be conveyed.

We settled on three ideas and I drew those up in Adobe Illustrator, probably tracing scanned versions of my pencil sketches. There were several sketches of the marriage counselor's office, many of which depicted the chicken tossing playing cards into an upside down hat on the floor. I quite liked the bored indifference pose he was in, but I don't recall why I didn't use that ultimately. I do note, though, that the chicken in the final diner scene does bear some of that posture.

The final execution is not great. The lines look very stiff and mechanical since they don't vary in weight. The colors aren't very smooth either, since I also colored everything in Illustrator as well. (No idea why I didn't use Photoshop for that!)

I did a cursory search and couldn't find any of my electronic source files for this project. As I think back on how I archived stuff back then, it's possible those files are all lost now. But that's not necessarily a bad thing! But, in any case, that's a quick at how I went about developing some comics a decade ago.
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