"The Current State Of The Comic Book Industry Is The Lowest" – Ted McKeever Talks To Bleeding Cool About Quitting

Ted McKeever is a multi-talented creator, but my love for him stemmed from his realistic portrayal of the publishing world in his limited-series Pencil Head from Image Comics. When I stumbled upon some surprising news on his blog, I was curious to know more. Luckily, Ted was ready to talk.

Christine Marie: Hi Ted. Thank you so much for joining me here on Bleeding Cool.

Ted McKeever: Hi Christine. Good to be here.

CM: You've been working in comics for the past thirty-years. Can you sum up what that's been like? What were the highs and lows of the journey?

TM: What best defines my last thirty years in comics can be summed up in what Dickens wrote:

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness."

As for the highs and lows . . . working with my good friends, Archie Goodwin and Lou Stathis, were the highest points. The current state of the comic book industry, is the lowest.

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CM: Your comic Pencil Head has been such an enjoyable read for me. What inspired/motivated you to tell a story like this?

TM: I wanted to write a comedy after completing the mentally exhausting Superannuated Man series. And considering that I find humor best served when it's based on reality, what better a joke than thirty years working in an industry that's more whacked than anything conjured up for the printed comic book page.

CM: The comic certainly paints a picture of what the industry can be like. Beyond that, I think many people can relate to the creative process, and what it's like to work alone. Was there a certain message you wanted to get across to readers with the limited series?

TM: Yeah. The message is: take nothing for granted. It all can change in the blink of an eye. For as much of a blast it can be when everything's going good, being a creator in the comic book industry isn't all willy-wonky-chocolate-factory-happy-time fun. I mean, there are exceptions to the rule. But, for the most part, it's more like standing in a food line, holding an empty plate, while waiting for meals to be handed out by over bloated, egotistical, wannabe-creators posing as editors. And that's all before a project even gets green lit. After that . . . it gets worse. At least, that's how it is nowadays. Used to be where you didn't even have to get along with anyone in the editorial offices, just as long as you turned in the work on time, and had a following, you were gold. Whereas, these days, it's all about which editor you're buddy-buddy with, and how far you're willing to bend over. No thanks. 

CM: I think a lot of times writers tend to put a piece of themselves into their characters, was that true for you and Poodwaddle?

TM: More than a piece, Poodwaddle is me 100%. I decided early on, that since I was going to write this as a true to life story, that it had to be pure. No filler. Nothing added. Nothing false. And so, if I was going to do it right, I had to show everything from my perspective. Warts and all.

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CM: Last week on your blog you announced that after the completion of Pencil Head next month, you'll be stepping away from the comic book industry. What led you to that decision?

TM: There's a few reasons. Mostly because I'd reached a point in my life that I just felt like I was banging my head against the proverbial wall. Not sure how to explain it . . . but I just started to feel like I was throwing a party that took me huge amounts of time and work to put together, with not knowing if anyone would even show up.

CM: Are you done with comics for good, or just for now?

TM: I don't dwell on yesterday, and I sure as hell don't plan on tomorrow. I'm more of an in-the-moment kind of guy. So, as far as today goes, yes. I'm done with comics. At least as far as the mainstream format is concerned. Y'see, as I neared the completion of Pencil Head, I kind of lost that sequential mojo. I just woke one day and all desire, and thoughts, of what the next "series" might be, was . . . gone. I just didn't feel like I had anything new to contribute to an industry that nowadays wants projects that mostly rely on hyped-up flashiness, short-term immediate gratification, that's smothered in garish doses of nauseating digital effects. None of which I'm built for. Never was. Never will be.

Aside from the amount of time necessary for proper, and detailed art, my perception of what makes a good story are two simple elements. Reader involvement, and depth of content. That's it. Which, these days, is appreciated about much as an asshole on your elbow. So, I decided it was time that I moved on.

Jump ahead a few months, and I started doing these little 5" X 5" paintings of characters from my past works, films, and comics. At first, it was almost therapeutic. Y'know, keeping the gears greased, and all that jazz. But then, I couldn't stop. It was all I could do to keep from chain-painting these things. (pictured below.)

So, I decided to just keep producing them, and then selling them directly at the cons I attend, and then eventually, once I get the store set up on it, my blog.

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CM: Is there anything you'd like to say to your fans and our Bleeding Cool audience?

TM: To those fans who have stayed with me over the last three decades, you have my eternal gratitude for your unwavering support, through every facet of that journey. You guys have pulled me through some seriously dark times, with allowing me the ability to create my stories, and have appreciated and accepted me, and my works, for what they are.

And for those fans that have only recently found my works . . . welcome. These 5" x 5" paintings might not be the same kind of "vehicle" I used to drive, but I can assure you, it's going to be one hell of a ride.

CM: It's truly a pleasure to have the opportunity to talk with you. I hope you'll keep in touch and share some of your art with Bleeding Cool in the future.

TM: You guys will definitely hear from me again, as this isn't the end of my doing comics, as much as the beginning of a new chapter in my career.

So that's it. Stay up to date on all things Ted McKeever on his blog and Twitter. The last issue of Pencil Head releases next Wednesday, June 15th and with that comes the end…or "an end" to Ted McKeever's involvement in comics. Be sure to pick up a copy to see how Poodwaddle makes out…

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