Interview with Jeff McClelland
Name: Jeff McClelland
City: Pittsburgh, PA
Comics: The Tick, FUBAR, Honcho, Teddy & the Yeti, Imaginary Drugs, The Naked Man at the Edge of Time
Websites: teddyandtheyeti.com, franksandbeansonline.com
QRD – How old were you when you first got into comics & did you always stick with them or did you come back to them?
Jeff – I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t reading comics. Before I could read, I guess. I got a hold of some of my dad’s books & it triggered something.
QRD – What was the first comic book you ever bought?
Jeff – With my own money? That’s a tough one. Maybe Fantastic Four #370? The first one I got my parents to buy for me was Spider-Man (1990 series) #26, which had a hologram cover & was probably the most expensive one on the rack.
QRD – How old were you when you put out your first comic?
Jeff – I wrote & drew some comics for some friends when I was in middle school or high school. That probably doesn’t count, right? My first published work came at 23, fresh out of college. I self-published my first book in 2008, when I was 27.
QRD – What decade do you think produced the best comics?
Jeff – I think many comics are still trying to recapture what was done in the 1960s. Whether those were the best comics or not is up for debate.
QRD – Why comics instead of just writing or drawing?
Jeff – I like prose, too! But I enjoy the collaborative aspect of comics. & I’ll never get over finding artwork in my inbox.
QRD – Do you see mini-comics & indie comics as paths to mainstream comics or as their own unique media?
Jeff – They can be either or both. There’s room for both independent & corporate-owned books in this world, & creators are moving back & forth between them more & more these days.
QRD – How many copies of your comic do you print in your first run?
Jeff – It really depends on what I’m trying to do with it. When I first started publishing my own comics, I over-ordered by WAY too much. I had such grand designs. Now, especially with mini-comics, I tend to order a few hundred & then immediately fret that I ordered too many.
QRD – How much do you think comics should cost?
Jeff – A standard mainstream 20-to-22-page comic shouldn’t cost more than $2.99, I think. The price of an indy comic can depend on so many different variables, from print run to paper stock.
QRD – How many books do you produce a year & how many would you like to?
Jeff – Every year is different, just as I’m sure it is for nearly every creator. If I can reach a half dozen issues a year, I’m happy. I’d like to put out about a million if I were able.
QRD – Do you think stories should be serialized or delivered as complete works?
Jeff – Again, so much of this depends on the story. There’s room for serialized stories just as there’s room for graphic novels & one-&-done stories. Complete works seem to have more sex appeal, though.
QRD – How are comic strips different than comic books & which medium do you prefer?
Jeff – They’re not that different, really. They’re first cousins in the art world. I feel that you can do more with comic books & I prefer comic books more because of this; but honestly, what recent comic book has had more of an impact than, say, Calvin & Hobbes or Peanuts?
QRD – How long is it from when you start a comic until it’s printed?
Jeff – I’ve had stories published three months after I wrote them & I’ve had stories published three years after I wrote them. Each one is different.
QRD – What do you do better with your comics now than when you first started?
Jeff – If nothing else, I understand the relationship between writers & artists much better than when I first started writing scripts. I mean, artists are still a damn mystery, but I’m not as utterly clueless as I was a decade ago.
QRD – Do you do thumbnails?
Jeff – My thumbs have nails. Does that count? Actually, I grabbed a thumbnail/rough sketchbook from Jeff McComsey at NYCC last year. I’ve flipped through it several times.
QRD – At what size do you draw?
Jeff – Sometimes I draw Bender from Futurama on packages I mail, right next to where I write, “please do not bend!” I’m sure the postmaster gets a real big kick out of that.
QRD – What kind of pens do you use?
Jeff – The Pittsburgh Penguins are in the Stanley Cup Finals right now. Let’s go Pens!!
QRD – What does your workstation look like?
Jeff – I have a pretty small desk (because I have a pretty small office-type space) where I keep my 27-inch iMac. It’s littered with toys & pens & flash drives. Somewhere next to the desk I have reference books that I sometimes look at.
QRD – At what point in the artistic process do you work digitally?
Jeff – I chisel all of my scripts into slate tablets.
QRD – What do you think of digital comics & webcomics?
Jeff – They’ve got their place & they’re becoming more popular. It seems that they sometimes cater to different audiences & there are benefits to both. I’m something of a holdout in that I don’t read a lot of digital comics, although the folks at Panel Syndicate are dragging me into the 21st century.
QRD – Do you prefer working in color or black & white?
Jeff – Color, though I like black & white as well.
QRD – How many different people should work on a comic & what should their jobs be?
Jeff – Three: me, an accountant to safely manage all of my comic book money & a lawyer to keep the accountant honest.
Actually, I’ve had good experiences working with lots of people on a comic & good experiences when it’s just an artist & me. The opposite is true as well.
QRD – How do you find collaborators?
Jeff – It involves a lot of crying.
QRD – How tight do you think a script should be as far as telling the artist what to draw?
Jeff – My scripts tend to be fairly detailed when compared to some others that I’ve seen. I try to give an artist the freedom to change details as he or she sees fit, though. It really comes down to what a writer & artist are comfortable with.
QRD – Do you think it’s important to have a full story arc completely written before starting to draw?
Jeff – No, but it helps. Knowing where you’re going can save you some hassle later on.
QRD – What comic book person would you be most flattered to be compared to?
Jeff – Who’s the most beautiful comic book person? That one.
QRD – What do your friends & family think of your comics?
Jeff – Some people in my family still think I draw comics. It’s a mysterious field, I guess.
QRD – What do you think of superheroes?
Jeff – They probably inhabit a disproportionate number of books right now, but it’s okay. I wish I was one.
QRD – Marvel or DC?
Jeff – Ugh, I don’t know. Marvel probably has it together a little better right now, but it’s fluid. They’re both pretty much the same.
QRD – What comic characters other than your own would you like to work with?
Jeff – Well, I currently write The Tick for New England Comics, for which I’ll be forever grateful. I’d love to write something for Futurama Comics because I love the show so much. I know that I’ve got at least one good Thing script in me.
QRD – Ideally would you self-publish?
Jeff – Yes, & don’t call me “Ideally”.
QRD – What conventions do you try to attend & why?
Jeff – I guess I’m kind of a convention snob, as I mostly do the biggest conventions. I make sure I do SDCC & NYCC every year. A lot of it has to do with my schedule & the location of the show. Every so often I make it to the Baltimore Comic-Con & I do a tiny show called the Pittsburgh Indy Comix Expo.
QRD – How do you feel about doing work for anthologies?
Jeff – I like anthologies! I feel that some of my strongest work is in short stories. & there’s power in numbers, too. A lot of people working on a book means that a lot of people can help promote it.
QRD – What do you do to promote your books?
Jeff – This is something that I need to do better. Either that or hire a manager or something. I try to have an online presence (teddyandtheyeti.com, folks!), but that only does so much. I’ve been lucky to be involved with books that have much better promoters than I.
QRD – Do you think your comics are well suited to comic shops or would sell better elsewhere?
Jeff – I’d sell ‘em on the moon if I could. Plus, I’d be on the moon! But I guess I have a fairly mainstream style, so yeah, I guess my comics are suited to comic shops.
QRD – What other medium would you like to see some of your comics made into (television, film, games, action figures, etc.)?
Jeff – I don’t think it lends legitimacy to a comic to have it adapted as a movie or show or dinner entrée. That said, I can’t see myself saying “no” if Hollywood comes calling.
QRD – Do you consider yourself a comic collector or a comic reader or both?
Jeff – You should see my comic book collection. It’s embarrassingly gigantic & most books are worth exactly zero dollars. I have a problem.
QRD – What do you see as the most viable mediums for comics distribution 10 years from now?
Jeff – The comic industry will be different in ten years, just as it is different than ten years ago. Most people think that digital comics will be the preferred source, but a lot of people also thought that in 1997. We’ll have to wait & see.
QRD – What would you like to see more people doing with comics?
Jeff – Wearing them as hats? That’d be a really interesting fashion statement. I’d also like to see creators take more chances with new things & I’d like to see audiences take more chances on those chance-taking comics.
QRD – Anything else?
Jeff – I’d like a number six with a root beer & some ketchup packets. To go, please.