Once upon a time, I actually believed I could become a syndicated cartoonist. The syndicates, as you may have guessed, didn’t.
I don’t remember when I started drawing the strip, but I believe it was sometime in Junior High. I know I was definitely drawing it by 9th grade (1983-84), because I took French that year (no other languages being available - the Senior High school I went to offered German, which was a lot easier, seeing as how I’m fairly fluent in the language), and did a strip in English, German and French (it wasn’t for class - I drew it while on a trip to Germany with my Mom during the school year, very likely in the hopes of justifying it as studying for French class).
Whatever the start date, the first strips (now long gone) were done on lined tablet paper with no gutters between the panels. The title was hyphenated (“Fatso-Saurus”), and the character had “white and pupil” eyes instead of “dot” eyes. The dot eyes came about because I saw a special on the Disney Channel. I forget the title, but it was a monthly series where they’d interview a different important Disney-related person each episode (there was one with Clarence “Ducky” Nash, for example, that I regrettably missed), and this one featured Ward Kimball. It was fascinating, but the part relevant to this story is when he talked about designing Jiminy Cricket and the difficulty in making an insect look cute. I decided then and there that I’d make my dinosaurs look cute as well, so, noticing that the Smurfs looked their cutest when they were in long shot and had dot eyes (say what you will about the Smurfs, Peyo’s style is a strong influence on my own, especially the “evil eyebrows”), I changed the eyes.
I also decided - possibly influenced by an interview I read with the cover artist of several John Carter of Mars novels who sculpted a Martian out of clay to act as a model - that I would make a clay model of Fatsosaurus, thus ensuring that, unlike other cartoonists, my character’s appearance would never change (Ha!). I wasn’t originally sure what color to make him, since for all we know dinosaurs could have been any color (as Mr. Rogers said, they could even have been spotted) and I was thinking of indicating this with his coloration, but the decision was made for me when I discovered that the only clay I had enough of was green (later on, when I became acquainted with the Pantone Matching System, I decided his color should be PMS 534 - not the same shade as the clay, but the one I thought suited him best. This clay model might still exist, and if I find him I’ll post some pictures.
In order to draw the comics, this time on unlined paper with gutters (just like a real comic strip!), I made a “Strip Stencil” (a rectangle to trace the borders of the comic) from, I believe, frosted acetate. Not a bad idea, except that it was the wrong size. And I don’t mean it was printing size instead of half-up, I mean it was even smaller than the standard printing size of approximately seven inches by two inches. I don’t know how I arrived at those measurements (and if I ever find the old strips I’ll let you know what those measurements were). In order to draw the comics I’d trace the strip stencil, then (when I got to that part) draw the gutters using a protractor. Not a bad idea, actually, though not as good as a T-square and triangle. Eventually I read in (I believe) Garfield: His 9 Lives that a newspaper strip is seven inches wide, so I measured a Garfield strip, found it was seven by two inches, and created a new Strip Stencil (I found out later the correct measurement is something in picas, but I figured “Ah, close enough!”). Eventually, in 9th or 10th grade Art class, I was introduced to the wonders of the T-square and triangle, which made things a lot easier, despite requiring a bit more setup (not to mention making the strips easier to scan, as the edge of the paper and the edge of the comic were now more-or-less parallel).
In retrospect, I wish I’d drawn the comics half-up (it certainly would have made them easier to scan - and harder to lose!), but although I was familiar with the technique (which is more than I can say for most people), but I figured that if they were going to print it small I might as well draw it small. Besides, I didn’t (initially) have any paper that big. I figured it wouldn’t cause any problems for the printers, but I probably figured wrong. A moot point now.
I may not know for sure when I started drawing the strip, but I know exactly when I stopped: Early Summer, 1990 (well, that’s pretty exact. I could probably pinpoint the exact date if I had to). I had just finished my 8th quarter at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh (though I had to repeat the “Portfolio” class the following quarter before I could graduate), and my Mom was in Germany. What does the last part have to do with anything? Just this: My Mom really knows how to pack (she used to give demonstrations while wearing a gorilla suit. No, really.), my Dad knows much, much less about packing, and the Idiot Friend my Dad brought to help me move out (it was the Idiot Friend’s pickup truck) knew so little he made my Dad look like my Mom.
Experience has taught me to never overestimate the intelligence of Dad’s friends, and this guy proved true to form. An example:
Place: The cab of the aforementioned pickup truckTo make matters worse, my Dad has this Zelig thi ng where he tends to act like the people he’s around. He also never defends family members in front of other people, even when he very strongly agrees with the family members, because it “might cause problems.”
At any rate, when a naive 19 year old who’s used to having an expert help him pack gets help from a frikkin’ idiot and a non-expert who’s temporarily a frikkin’ idiot through empathic osmosis, things get overlooked. In particular, no one thought of securing the drawers on my dresser. The big drawers, with clothes and records in them, were heavy enough and had heavy enough contents that this was negligible (see diagram),
Many of the comics were lost and, though I’ve drawn the occasional picture of a Fatsosaurus character, I’ve had no desire to draw another Fatsosaurus comic since that time.