By David Dissanayake
Ted McKeever's Eddy Current series changed my life. I discovered it early in my comics-reading, at a time when I was mostly reading superheroes and didn't fully understand all the different and exciting things happening in the broader medium. McKeever's work found its way into my life at one of those perfect intersectional moments of life when I was looking for something but didn't know what – until I found it. His work opened my eyes to what comics really could be, and it was because of his work that I branched out to discover the staggering diversity of this wonderful medium.
Obviously, I've been following his work ever since, and I was thrilled when his new book The Superannuated Man was announced at Image Expo earlier this year.
I was lucky enough to have a great chat with Mr. McKeever this week about The Superannuated Man, its history, and his creative approach to the story. I'm sure it's going to be a fun, dark, clever and bizarre ride, and I'm really looking forward to it.
David Dissanayake: So, tell us what The Superannuated Man is all about?
Ted McKeever: The story takes place in Blackwater, a messed up society with some major social and moral issues of underlying subversive subjects that aren't what they seem on the surface. The town borders on an ocean of carbon-based bacteria that may or not be the cause of why the town is now populated by mutated animals.
The book's protagonist is a quirky old man named HE, who's one of a handful of humans that remained after the altered-critters took over the town.
All he wants is to be left alone as he scavenges the waters edge for supplies and food. But the mutated animal populace is growing distrustful of his aloofness and are beginning to look at him less as a "neighbor" and more like dinner.
DD: When did this story start coming together in your head, and what is it about the themes or characters or whatnot that really made you want to turn this into your next project?
TM: After I completed Miniature Jesus, I had to decompress my mind from the intensity that book took of me. So I started working on a few ideas, with no set plan. Most of what I kept ending up with was as intense, if not more so, than what I had just completed. So, after my publisher, the awesomely insightful Jim Valentino, suggested I stop forcing myself and literally go take a drive, I did just that. I stopped pushing what I thought I should do, and started letting ideas and subjects that have been lingering in my head for years, move to the forefront.
And then it came to me. I've always wanted to do my take on the "Animals Who Take Over Society And Mankind Takes A Backseat" theme. We've seen that scenario in every medium possible. But it's always presented as a battle, or a war, or an apocalyptic Armageddon. But what if it happened and, for the most part, nothing really changed? The day to day life routines went right back to how they were when it was the humans in charge, only now it was the animals making deliveries, or stealing hubcaps, or wearing awesomely fabulous shoes.
I also felt, having just turned 54, that getting old was, call me crazy, actually something I enjoyed. I was more fit and comfortable with myself, and the world around me, than I ever had been. So I thought why not do my take on a world gone to hell, humanity is crushed, and animals have taken over. And then there's this peculiar old man who couldn't give a damn about any of it, because he's just happy to be knee-deep in life's crap and loving every minute of it.
DD: Does your creative approach to a book like this differ from how you came to stories like Miniature Jesus or Meta4? How so?
TM: Very much so. For me there's two types of avenues. There's personal, and then there's topical.
Personal is when I delve inwards, and touch on a subject I have either been dealing with, or have gone through and find it so overwhelmingly pungent, that it's needed to be purged.
META 4 and especially Miniature Jesus, were both very personal endeavors.
The topical stories, such as Metropol, Eddy Current, and now The Superannuated Man, all stem from something I either read in the paper, or heard on the radio, but not TV. I'm not a big supporter of the television news and their scare-tactics instilling fear to keep the viewer watching.
But I digress.
I'm an avid junky of subjects that are about the capabilities of people, and the advancement, or decline, of societies. So when something strikes me, be it anything from, say, evolution to the breaking point of the human mind, it causes me to consider if they possess that spark that makes me want to explore it more. Albeit in a much more exaggerated and fantastical way.
DD: I know we're still very early into The Superannuated Man and it'll take a while for it to be finished, but I'm curious if you might be able to hint at any other projects you might have in the works?
TM: Well, like I said before, it takes me a while for all the ideas I have in my head to gestate and come to a boil. And right now all my focus and time is aimed directly at The Superannuated Man.
But, there is something that I've been wanting to do for quite some time. It's not so much the story, but the idea to just let go and create something that is literally stream of consciousness. I've heard people accuse me of doing that form of storytelling on some of my past projects. And that couldn't be farthest from the truth. I don't write stories based on just something I "feel like drawing." Anyone who thinks that about what I have done, couldn't be more wrong.
But I would like to actually do THAT as a conscious intention. Then again, by the time that moment of pen-to-paper happens, I might have something else burning more intensely in me to go with. Who knows. One day at a time.
DD: Finally, what are you reading/watching/listening to these days? Are there any comics that you've been reading that have you excited? Any albums or films that have really resonated with you recently?
TM: As far as comics go, there's not a lot out there that I have the attention span for. I mean, I work on them every day, so when I take time away from the board, I tend to delve into books or films. That said, I'm always looking out for what my friends are doing, like Denys Cowan and Walt Simonson, two very awesome individuals, and also brilliantly talented artists.
But as far as books go, I just finished rereading Cormac McCarthy's The Road for the fifth time in as many years. I can never tire of reading that man's words. It's like he cooks each word to perfection before placing it down on paper.
Films are a crap shoot for me. There are plenty I thought I might like (insert most of the "blockbusters" over the last 5 years) and then I see them, and I'm like "that was a flat tire." But there have been some that are diamonds in a pile of cow manure. One example is Holy Motors, directed by Leos Carax. It will melt your brain and then tap-dance on the cortexual pudding. Coming from someone who thrives on metaphors and existentialistic themes, this thing had me reeling like a 10 year old watching 2001: A Space Odyssey. It's fantastic.
Music is as constant and an important part of my days as breathing. It's always on in one form or another. Lately I'm finding that there's this awesome cross-gen of bands that should NEVER work together. I find it totally distancing, and yet it allows me to focus. Lou Reed and Metallica did an album a few years back, Lulu, and it's just mind-blowingly f*cked up. I'm a huge fan of both of them. But listening to them together is like chewing on tinfoil.
I can't stop listening to it.
The Superannuated Man #1 is released June 4th, 2014. Ask your local retailer to order you a copy using Diamond ID: APR140493.
David Dissanayake is a Senior San Diego Correspondent at Bleeding Cool. Give him a shout on Twitter @dwdissanayake or come say hello to him at Mission: Comics & Art in San Francisco.