In Review: Pencil Head #2

You have to laugh, otherwise you’d cry. Absolutely recommended.

The cover: Poodwaddle defends himself from the characters that populate the two big publishers of comic books. If one were to look close enough one would recognize that some of the monstrous mouthed characters are the Hulk, Batman, Captain America, the Punisher, the Flash, and Iron Man. Will he be able to defend himself with his giant pencil? Or is this merely a thematic cover that shows how he feels about his profession? There’s only way to find out what Ted McKeever intends, and that’s to pick this book up. Talk about wearing your heart on your sleeve—Woof! Overall grade: A

The story: Poodwaddle wakes up in typical fashion and sits down to read the paper only to have a Charlie Brown exclamation while coming upon a story that he and his friend are responsible for: the death of a stripper. Thinking he’s going to prosecuted, his depression turns to surprise upon noticing writing on the brick wall outside his kitchen window: No Graffiti I watch you. He thinks about the significance of the words before returning to his paper. The story then shifts to the police station where the Captain in charge of the investigation into the stripper’s death wants to know what’s been discovered with the evidence. Sadly, nothing has—it’s just a piece of hamburger. To prove it’s just a piece of meat, the officer in charge of the evidence eats it. Frustrated at his case going nowhere, he heads for the men’s room to answer nature’s call, but his “Wonder-Whiffer”, aka his nose, smells that Poole is in the stall next to him. Having a conversation while sitting down is not something Poole craves and he tells the captain to wait until he’s done. Naturally, that doesn’t happen. Their conversation is funny, with Poole being completely frustrated by the captain. Meanwhile, Poodwaddle works on his book, haunted by a character that tells him he should return to super hero books. The next day he goes to Happy-Time comics, turns in his pages and realizes he might want to try working at Cleverland Comics. He has a painful, yet funny encounter with the publisher, and runs into a famous name who asks if he’ll work with him. Meanwhile, in the morgue something is going on with the dead stripper. Ted McKeever is weaving a weird and wonderful tale that, hopefully, isn’t completely autobiographical. Readers can’t help feel sympathy for Poodwaddle, who’s trying to do the best he can as an artist, but it seems as if every turn in his life some obstacle comes his way. The fantasy elements of the book have a major conflict coming his way, but what it will end up being is anyone’s guess, save McKeever who always creates intriguing tales. Overall grade: A

The art: Eddy Current and Transit are two early works by Ted McKeever that caught my eye because of the style and instantly transported me to a new realm of comic storytelling. Nothing else looks like a McKeever comic and when a new one comes out it should be acquired and devoured as soon as possible. The humor of his art is like listening to Louis C.K.: it’s painfully honest. One moment a reader will be laughing, the next he or she will be thinking beyond the book and into his or her own life. The first two panels of the book illustrate where McKeever is headed; it made me giggle. The fifth panel is jointly shocking and humorous for its content and the image used by the newspaper. The captain is a great looking character, whose height only magnifies the size of his schnoz. Page 6 can’t be too far from reality, showing Poodwaddle at work, giving a good example of what’s required for an artist to create. His journeys into both comic book offices is painful. I’ve seen pictures of the two megapublishers’ offices and this, sadly, isn’t too far from the truth. The two individuals that Poodwaddle encounters elicit disappointment and awe: with their likenesses being very keen. The final three pages book bring the horror into the comic: is that actually happening, or is it just a manifestation of Poodwaddle’s mind? Only next month will tell. I love McKeever’s work. Overall grade: A

The letters: Not just a writer or an illustrator, Ted McKeever also provides his own lettering. He creates narration, sounds, newspaper text, dialogue, graffiti that’s not graffiti, yells, and screams. They text can be frightening, such as on the final two pages, or hilarious, such as with the introductions done at Cleverland. As with the art, I love the lettering. Overall grade: A

The final line: “A mostly true 5-issue series about the whacked-out world of comic books” is the byline of this series. It’s more than that. This is the tale of one man trying to make his way through an industry that doesn’t know what it’s doing. You have to laugh, otherwise you’d cry. Absolutely recommended. Overall grade: A

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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