Hey, all you necrofowliacs! Welcome to the first installment of this “Dead Duck” episode, “THE BALLAD OF THE LOTTO”! Here’s your trivia fix:

  • The Lotto is a character that I created around the same time as Dead Duck, around 1989/1990 when I was in high school. At the time, I was very big into taking common words and phrases and building characters around them. That’s how Dead Duck was created. The Michigan Daily Lottery, or Lotto, was very big in my community when I was young (probably still is), and I liked the sound of the word Lotto, so I decided to build a character around it.
  • Like Dead Duck, I spent years developing The Lotto. Unlike Dead Duck, I never quite figured out what to do with the character, though he had cameos in a lot of my work (again, like Dead Duck). The Lotto had been shelved for many years up until I began work on the Dead Duck graphic novel. When I realized I could tell all sorts of different stories within Dead Duck, I decided I had to put a Lotto story in there.
  • I decided to write the story as a ballad to connect it to classic American folk tales, such as “The ballad of John Henry”. I also liked being able to tell a story where the words and pictures were visually independent of each other, unlike most comics. I’ve written poetry for almost as long as I’ve been drawing, so it was fun to return to this style of writing.
  • I chose Chester, Illinois as the setting for this story as a tribute to “Popeye” creator E.C. Segar., who grew up there. This story actually has a kind of Popeye vibe, from the characters, the melodramatic plot, and the knockabout violence I put in there.
  • I’m sure Chester Il. is a much nicer place than what I conveyed here, and it’s only out of tribute to its native son’s work that I wrote it as a roughneck town. I actually based MY version of Chester on the Sand Hill, which was a very rough neighborhood where my grandpa grew up in Saginaw, MI. His dad, my great grandfather, owned The Sandhill Tavern, was a bootlegger during prohibition, did some jail time and was in shoot-outs with the cops, and held illegal cockfights behind his bar. It’s family lore like this that informed my crooked and brutal interpretation of Chester.
  • Unlike most Dead Duck stories, I didn’t cite a specific year that this one took place. I thought leaving it out this time with give a mysterious, timeless quality to the story. But really, I intended this story to take place at the dawn of the 20th century.
  • I typically do most of my shading in the coloring stage of my work, using different gradations of color. But with this story, I wanted it to be kind of film noir-ish, so I created almost all my shading and shadows with exaggerated black areas to achieve the effect. I had the work of cartoonist Mike Mignola (“Hellboy”) in mind as I employed this method.

See you on the next page!

–Jay