Published on January 21st, 2016 | by JCDoyle0
Pencil Head #1 Review
Oddball Artist, Twisted Writers, Demented Editors, Office Politics, Hamburgers and a Dead Stripper are all promised on the cover of Pencil Head issue 1 and Ted McKeever delivers on each count.
It’s a comic about comics and the people behind comics. The story revolves around the hero (!?!) Poodwaddle who is becoming disillusioned with the company that he works for and the insistence on dumbing down. His creative juices are slowly drying up as he witnesses his work mangled to appease a particular audience. McKeever illustrates Poodwaddle with a permanent down cast brow and surrounds him with a circus of grotesqueries. It’s not until the introduction of Luthais does the reader meet someone recognisable as normal and even then it’s only straight faced, socially accepted outer normalcy; his tastes are as obscure as the other characters features. After all, he has an obsession with a bizarre strip club because it serves good burgers.
As the story unfolds, the world surrounding the characters grows but refuses to bow to pressure and become an easily accessible world. All of the characters are a little bit odd in one way or another, even the extras lounging around on the subway trains take on a twisted life of their own; unable it seems to accept that they are bland faces in the background. They want to be noticed and Poodwaddle notices them, he acknowledges that these passing strangers feed his creativity; at some point they will all appear in his work. And this makes you wonder about the other promise on the cover:
‘A mostly true 5-issue series about the whacked-out world of comic books.’
It may be too easy to say that Poodwaddle is McKeever but I am willing to wager that most of what the character says rings true to McKeevers own work practices. The disillusionment of a certain style of comic, the inspiration from the most obscure places and the fact that, deep down, there’s no such thing as ‘normal’.
The two central characters seem more like two sides of the same coin: Poodwaddle with his dreams and aspirations and Lothais with his respectability and power. Together they make the ideal creator of comics. But only together. Apart they lose their way despite their best intentions.
McKeever’s art is bold and brash, just like the narrative, but it also has a charm to it that will put a smile on your face. There a jokes littered throughout, some visual others not so much, and it’ll be difficult not to laugh out loud as you read from cover to cover. Even the dead stripper has an endearing patheticness to her that somehow makes her passing a little less disturbing (don’t worry, they’ll be consequences, she won’t have died in vain). The stark black and white is used to great affect not only when switching between scenes but also to gage and manipulate mood. The comical police captain has stark white backgrounds for the lighter, comedic scenes where as it all shifts to flat blacks for contemplation on the rooftops.
Pencil Head is a comical yarn underlined with a darkness and sadness that ultimately makes the whole thing more endearing. It’s a comic that will entertain, enlighten and maybe even educate, but above all, it will keep the promises that it makes on the cover.
Title: Pencil Head
Writer/artist/possible hamburger lover: Ted McKeever