This past Thursday evening, Sara and I had a great opportunity to go hear a lecture at ISU in Ames by comics guru Scott McCloud. I read Scott’s book, Understanding Comics, during high school and later it was required reading in my sequential art classes at SCAD. The lecture incorporated some of the ideas I remember from that book, and some from his other books which I have yet to read, but are next on my list.

One segment of the lecture (culled, I’m sure, from Reinventing Comics) focused on the ways new media is changing how comics are both presented and read; how simply shoehorning a traditional comic page full of panels onto a computer screen doesn’t begin to take full advantage of what is possible. As he talked, I began thinking about my own plans for self-publishing Drendel online. On the ride home I told Sara all about what I have in mind – and began to feel a renewed sense of excitement and energy about making my plans a reality.

It’s obviously taken me a bit longer to write an update here than I had anticipated. The last time I posted, I mused about my ability to devote some kind of regular schedule to this project of mine. That notion was immediately put on the backburner by preparations for (and execution of) moving in with my wonderful, lovely, amazing girlfriend, followed by a marathon Holiday season. It’s been an amazing four months, but I’ve been a little uprooted for a while.

As everything settles into place in the New Year, however, I’m beginning to see a clearer picture of how all the pieces can fit together; how I’ll be able to work my way into a rhythm of sorts and finally achieve some momentum with this unwieldy beast I call “Drendel.” The first step has been re-establishing base camp at Casa de Ankeny, a.k.a. getting an office set up here in the house, and now a secondary room in our basement is in transition from storage room to studio.

There’s still work to be done, but it’s all coming along nicely! A big part of writing and drawing and creating is the environment in which you work, and this room is shaping up to be the environment I’ve always pictured for myself: comfortable and relaxing, with plenty of space to work and be surrounded by the things I love and that inspire me. I’ll post some more pictures later as things progress!

The past month has been a busy one. Between working late, cleaning up after the second-wettest summer in Iowa history, weddings, birthdays and a well-deserved Labor Day vacation, I haven’t had much extra time over the last 34 days to spend working on Drendel. Which has brought up a very important question: how do I make time in an already busy schedule (and destined to get busier) for this crazy project of mine? Where can I fit an hour here or there and make them add up into something resembling progress? I think I’m going to need to spend some time coming up with a game plan. I’ve made it my goal, for starters, to post something here at least once a month until I figure all this out and get into a good routine.

Wish me luck. :)

Two of my earliest artistic influences were Garfield and Looney Tunes, so when I was eight and was tasked with creating a character, I produced something of a combination of those two influences: Daffy Duck as filtered through Jim Davis’ style as interpreted by an eight-year-old’s drawing ability. The end result was Drendel.

Drendel - 1989

1989 - Drendel's first appearance in "Drendel and the Ice Skating Adventure"

“Drendel Duck is a very short duck. His eyes are gigantic and also very drowsy. Drendel is also slightly plump.”
From “Drendel and the Ice Skating Adventure” by Jamie LeMosy, age 8

In “Drendel and the Ice Skating Adventure,” our hero spends the entirety of the story evading all manner of obstacles – exploding cars, speeding traffic, malicious hunters and an angry bear – while making his way to an ice skating rink, and still manages to win an ice limbo contest once he gets there. Another early influence of mine, Disney’s DuckTales, is also evident in the story: Drendel’s home is stated to be in Duckburg (where, it’s been said, life is like a hurricane).

Clothes make the duck

Drendel - 1990

1990 - Early version of Drendel's sweatshirt.

Drendel - 1991

1991 - First appearance of Drendel's blue sneakers

After achieving literary success with “Ice Skating Adventure,” I continued to draw and write characters and stories. Drendel quickly became my favorite subject, and within a couple years he’d evolved into a somewhat recognizable version of his modern self – mainly through his acquisition of clothes. His signature red sweatshirt came about as part of a well-intentioned, but ultimately overzealous claymation project that I attempted at 9 or 10 years old, during the Great California Raisin Craze of the late Eighties/early Nineties. The blue sneakers were another direct Garfield influence: in an attempt at the sincerest form of flattery, I copied them from either a Garfield coloring book page or Trapper Keeper folder – I forget which.

Somewhere along the way I must have deemed pants unnecessary. To this day, Drendel follows in the grand “pants optional” tradition of anthropomorphic characters throughout history.

Further refinements

Drendel - 1994

1994 - Drendel begins to closely resemble his final form

As I continued to develop Drendel, he began to take on more of his own distinct style as I began to rely less heavily on imitation and experimentation. Changes to his design became more subtle as the years passed, but Drendel had the curious habit of growing vertically at nearly the same pace that I did. What started out as a “very short duck” became taller and taller as years went by.

Along the way, I created a family for Drendel, the members of which went through their own series of changes. Drendel’s family grew to include a sister, parents, and a niece and nephew. Other aspects of his identity went through changes as well: “Drendel Duck” became Drendel McFeather, and his hometown moved from Duckburg to a city called Checkerpeak Bay. Drendel’s occupation became an inventor, and he has utilized his skills to engineer and build a flying minivan called the DukTruk.

Ready for another adventure

Drendel - Present Day

Drendel as he appears today

Drendel’s current incarnation is how I’ve drawn him for several years now, and is what I think represents the end of his evolution. But this is in no way the end of Drendel’s story! I’ll be sharing more details about Drendel’s family, the DukTruk, Checkerpeak Bay and more in upcoming posts – along with continuing updates about the development of the next great Drendel adventure! There’s way more in store for Drendel this time around than a trip to the skating rink…

When I was eight years old, I got an assignment at school: create a character, then write and illustrate a story about them. My story was about Drendel, a cartoon duck who had a heck of a time dodging hunters, speeding traffic and angry bears while trying to get to a skating rink.

As time went on, I continued to draw and Drendel continued to evolve. He gained a family, grew a bit taller and acquired a signature red sweatshirt. He made his way into paintings and claymation films and onto schoolroom ceiling tiles – and all the while, I continued to concoct a new story for Drendel and his family.

Eventually, I began my four years at Savannah College of Art and Design and Drendel came right along with me. I pursued my sequential art degree, not with dreams of becoming the next hot artist at any comic book studio, but of someday self-publishing my own Drendel stories. I was (and continue to be) heavily influenced by the Jeff Smith way of doing things. After graduating, however, I found myself on another path; one which turned my web design hobby into my full-fledged career, while Drendel became more and more of a “someday” idea.

Well, that someday is here, and I’ve decided to repurpose my former personal blog/freelance portfolio into (as the tagline below the logo reads) “a production journal” that fulfills two purposes: 1.) chronicle my development of Drendel’s story and 2.) motivate me to continue that work on a regular basis. I hope you’ll follow along as I work to bring Drendel’s story to life! I’ll be back with more soon. In the meantime, I’d love for you to leave me some comments and share this with your friends!