Thee Comic Column #88: Ted MCKeever’s Superannuated Man

image courtesy of ign.com

Any comic that begins with a quote from Hunter S. Thompson already gets a massive “plus” in my book. But guess what? That’s not the only reason that I absolutely LOVE The Superannuated Man.

Ted McKeever – I’m so very familiar with this man’s name from prowling the shelves of the comic shops of my youth that it amazed me to realize that I’ve never actually read anything he’s worked on.

How is that possible?

Chalk it up to the time McKeever’s name began to appear on the comic book shelf. 1987 I would have been eleven years old and although I’d been reading comics for a few years I was still really only dabbling in anything other than Larry Hama’s GIJOE. At this time I was still a year or so away from Claremont’s Uncanny X-Men propelling me into another full-time passion (mutants) and Eastman and Laird’s original TMNT run (specifically the Return to New York storyline) setting me on an exploration of the world of indie comics that was so ripe in the 80’s. However, what I did read in 1987 that birthed in me a taste for the darker side of comics was J.M. Dematteis and Mike Zeck’s Kraven’s Last Hunt storyline, which ran through the three Spiderman titles of that era (Web of, Peter Parker the Spectacular, and of course, The Amazing) and which, much like the titular Kraven, really blew my mind and opened me up to seeking out things that were… different. Darker things; things that felt like they were older and weird and maybe even a little dangerous.

And it was around this time that I remember seeing Ted McKeever’s Eddy Current. These were the days when I was on an allowance that only went so far at the local comic shop (at the time, Heroland Comics in Worth, Illinois). Because of this I would spend hours browsing the shelves, looking at all kinds of different books but being careful to never draw the ire of the shopkeep by being rude enough to actually stand there and read what I wasn’t buying. It was in this way that I absorbed a wide variety of comics and creators at the time, and this is knowledge that has remained cemented in the deepest tiers of my memory, informing my reading habits as I’ve aged and spitefully fending off long division on several different occasions over the years. McKeever belong to the ranks of amazing independent creators of the time. Along with the likes of Bill Sienkiewicz, Paul Pope, Eddie Campbell and Rick Veitch, these men burrowed their varyingly abstract and often disturbing artistic styles into my mind long before I ever had the cash and the guts to pick up their books. The other gentlemen mentioned above made their way into my hands over the last twenty years and endeared themselves to me. McKeever has remained an oversight on my part. His recent Miniature Jesus – also through Image – didn’t pop up on my radar until it was almost finished. But time and circumstance was with me this time, as The Superannuated Man was literally the first thing I saw when I walked into The Comic Bug last Wednesday, and I am very thankful for that.

So here’s the set-up, and though we do not have all of the pieces of the puzzle yet, we have enough for me to tell you a bit about The Superannuated Man - without venturing into spoiler territory of course.

image courtesy of needtoconsume.com

 

Within the region this book takes place in – the limits and parameters of which we do not yet have a full definition of –  human life appears to have been replaced by something… different. The town in which we begin is seaside and inhabited by strange, anthropomorphic animal-people. As issue one opens we learn from two of the denizens of this village that there is a mysterious ‘man’ that lives on an old abandoned boat just off one of the piers. And yes, we do meet this man and he is, endearingly, a near exact stand-in for the author insofar as his appearance. This is our Superannuated Man and he is, as the adjective suggests, obsolete and thus unique in this age of half-breed monsters. Is he the last man? The last human?  Is any of this related at all to the essay of Charles Lamb? These are questions we do not yet have answers to, however what we do learn is that this man and his dwelling are something of a legend in this place – the equivalent in this new society of the local haunted house all the kids in our own neighborhoods fear. I really like this particular turn of the story; it feels natural but also bold to make the sole human in a town (world?) of mutants the object of at least some of their fear and superstition. And the ways the man uses this set-up to his advantage is clever and pleasing to watch unfold. Immediately we get the sense that we are going to like this character because he has not been defeated by his situation but instead learned to adapt and perhaps even carve out a new definition of ‘thrive’ within it. Mr. McKeever draws and writes the book and as such it carries within its pages the kind of cohesive storytelling energy that only the writer/artist can perform.

Industry wise, I feel as though The Superannuated Man is another triumph in publishing for Image Comics, specifically this time Jim Valentino’s Shadowline imprint. I really can’t stress enough the good I feel that Image has done for the comics industry over the last few years with their commitment to fostering indie books and bringing them into the national and sometimes world spotlight. By really making the effort to go after and publish a lot of books that, while thirty years ago might have had a chance in the fertile indie market that put books like Heavy Liquid, TMNT, Boris the Bear and Puma Blues in comic shops all over the country, today might not have the kind of market penetration that Image can provide. Of course, I’ve outlined and interviewed successful comic-oriented Kickstarter projects in these pages before and yes that paradigm is helping a new indie underground emerge, however these books must find their audience, and that can be hard, especially if you want your book to find people who otherwise might not ever hear about it. A great example is one of the books I’ve talked about here before is Larime Taylor’s brilliant A Voice in the Dark. Mr. Taylor began with a Kickstarter and then used that to put out two issues of his book. However he didn’t stop there. Larime took those two issues and a proposal and went out to find a publisher that could grow his audience. And sure enough, Top Cow – another imprint under Image Comics – picked up A Voice in the Dark and it’s hitting comic shop shelves all across the country every month! Now we’ve got Ted McKeever’s new book – in the over-sized ‘Golden Age’ format no less. And I thought the size was simply a gimmick that would annoy me at first but you know what? The slightly larger size feels really good in the hands as you’re reading the book and what’s more it, it somehow fits with the theme of the book: an out-dated model, unique in an age that is suspicious of it.

Nicely done Mr. McKeever. About time I went back and read all those books that I remember from those long-ago shelves in Heroland, beginning I think, with Eddy Current!

……………………..

Can’t find a comic shop? You can always use old reliable Comic Shop Locator at 1-800-COMIC-BOOK. Or you can take some of my recommendations. If you live in the greater Chicagoland area I recommend any of the wonderful four locations of Amazing Fantasy Books. In Los Angeles it’s The Comic Bug. Las Vegas it’s Alternate Reality Comics. San Francisco? Try the Isotope Comic Lounge and if you happen to venture a little further North I’d say you have to visit The Escapist Comic Book Store in Berkley (with the wonderful Dark Carnival Books next door and owned by the same folks). Read on!!!

 

 

 

 

Shawn C Baker

Shawn C Baker

Shawn lives in Los Angeles where he co-hosts Drinking w/ Comics, writes screenplays and fiction and has been known to drink quite a bit of beer. Good beer.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Translate