For many creators the week of NYCC is a pretty big and exciting week. For others, let’s say Jed McKay it might be a huge week where you release three different Marvel titles and also attended NYCC 2019. On October 2nd Jed’s issues of “Black Cat” #5, “Spider-Verse” #1 and his story in “Bizarre Adventures” #1 all hit comic shops. On October 3rd he was at NYCC 2019 hanging out at Ed Brisson’s table. I know all this because I read all three issues that week and also was able to interview Jed in Artist Alley that Thursday at NYCC.
Below you will find the interview with Jed as he discusses all three books, the convention, and what he has in store for Black Cat as the series moves into 2020. A huge thanks to Jed for taking the time to talk on a very busy first day of NYCC. Be sure to look for all of Jed’s work in stores and online.
It’s been a big week for you. We’re talking about two, I guess anthologies. I don’t know how you would describe them. “Spider-Verse” is kind of anthology-esque.
Jed MacKay: Well, “Spider-Verse” is going to be an anthology series, but I wouldn’t say “Spider-Verse” #1 is an anthology in itself. I have a huge team of artists, but it’s one story going through. But “Bizarre Adventures” is definitely an anthology, in the sense that it has a bunch of stories. But it’s an anthology in the sense that it’s harkening back to those black and white Marvel magazines, with 10 pages of Ka-Zar, 10 pages of Conan, 10 pages of Shang-Chi.
To have you guys start it off was perfect because it read like an old pulpy book. Was that was that your idea going into it?
JM: No, no. Jake Thomas got a hold of me back in December, and he’s like, “We’re doing this book, it’s a homage to black and white Marvel magazines, the oversized ones. And I’d really like you to do something for it. What do you have in mind?” So my favorite of those magazines was always “Savage Tales,” specifically “Savage Tales” #2 and “Savage Tales” #3 that had the Barry Windsor-Smith Conan-Red Nails story. It was unbelieveable, such a good story. So I was like, “hell yeah, I’ll do a Conan story.” And he was like, “you can’t do a Conan story. We have a Conan book out right now.”
So I went back to look at one of those weird one-off characters that would appear in the magazines, stuff like “Marvel Premier,” Monarch, Star Stopper, or like Wood God and those guys. And I settled on Bloodstone, because he was active in the Marvel continuity, in the Hyborian era. I took a lot of inspiration from the Barry Smith Conan short comic called “Cimmeria” which is entirely silent, but has captions with this poem from Robert E. Howard also called “Cimmeria.” And as it goes on, Conan is hunting this wild beast, and it is gorgeous.
So I thought to do something like that with Bloodstone. We’re not going to have any dialogue. It’s all going to be super high, super pulpy, narration laid over top. And so that’s where we went with that. Sent it off to Jake, and then he went to grab an artist to collaborate on that, bring it to life. And we got Chris [Mooneyham] to do that. When I saw the final product, I was amazed, because it’s amazing to see an artist so well suited to a subject, and then a colorist who works so well with that material. The colors were super bold and sleek, more of the alien glows of the Bloodstone. I was amazed. I was thrilled with how it came out.
A lot of the issue is one-dialogue. Are you scripting out a lot of this stuff for them?
JM: Yeah, I would give a panel-by-panel description of what is going on, and then, instead of dialogue, I have that in my script instead of captions, until the very end, where there’s that one bit of dialogue. But that was all scripted and plotted out. And of course, re-interpreted and put together as need be for the actual art. As usual, the artist is going to know better.Continued below
“Spider-Verse” came out this week. You worked with Spider-Man before, and obviously working with Black Cat, you were familiar with the world. Did you know who were writing for, in the sense of your approach, in some cases?
JM: Yeah, like I said I have a list of these different worlds that I wanted to hit, because every two pages is going to jump to a different world, different artist showing that to everybody. So I put together of the whole list of worlds I was going to do. I had a whole pile of them, and then sent them off to Nick, and he said, “this would be good, this would be good.” And as I sent them off, he matched them up with different artists. Going back to Planet Spiral with Japanese Spider-Man, I knew I wanted to get Sheldon [Vella] to do that because he annihilated them the last time he worked the character back in “Vault of Spiders.”
Whereas others, the editor was just getting stuff together and he was like, “well, I know we’re going to get Art Adams to do two pages.” Art Adams to do two pages? That’s amazing! So let’s do something that plays to his strengths, that he really likes. Something with monsters, like Spider-Monster. And others, I just asked the artist, “what do you like? What are you excited about?” The new worlds we made up, I just took the artist’s name and put it into numbers, like Earth-whatever. There’s Earth-Stacy. Monster Earth is like Earth-Adams.
And Juan Frigeri, absolute champion to work with, getting stuff done so fast, so clean, so nice.
When you pitched worlds, were you then scripting through those worlds? Did you have an outline of what you wanted Miles to get to, from the beginning to the end of the issue?
JM: In order to start writing the script, I had to make an outline to send it off. So I started off with the final story. Miles is going to start in one place, end in one place. I think I actually wrote that off first, to send it to Juan. And then I filled in the different worlds in between, because each one of those is self-contained. So that’s how it works. Some of the stuff came together a little later than others, because schedules or getting stuff together with people. So it was a bit piecemeal coming together but it’s not to say that we slapped it all together. Jake saw a puzzle and made it work. But there’s a lot that has to come together when you’re working with five different artists.
Going over to your other book, “Black Cat,” where you’re scripting out a longer arc. Is that more Jed, in the way that you’re getting to tell a larger story?
JM: I think so. Thing is, to date it’s the longest story that I told in comics. My longest series before that was “Daughters of the Dragon,” which was six issues. So now entirely undiscovered territory. So I know where I’m going with this story to get to our big climax. But things do mutate a little bit. Like originally I was going to have this plot done in issue #10, but then I decided to push it a little bit further. I think around issue #12 we’re going to end that.
So yeah, unscripted territory. I’m kind of feeling it out as I go along. I like to keep stuff going to give a long satisfying read, but in the end you don’t want to overstay your welcome on a particular concept. And then planning for the future from that, but also not planning too far in the future, because as with any ongoing comic book, you’re not exactly sure how many issues you’re going to get. You don’t want to have your comic book pants down halfway and then find out, okay, you’ve got to wrap this up in two issues.
It’s challenging, but it’s a rewarding kind of challenge. I’m getting to work in a form that I’ve not done before, and one that I really love. I’ve read comics my whole like. Comics are one long serial drama that keeps going and going and going. To be able to work in that manner is really awesome. And it’s a little more straightforward too.Continued below
So you’re tackling “Black Cat.” That’s character’s obviously been back and forth, good and bad. Have you settled on who you feel she is for you?
JM: Yeah. When I was offered the job for “Black Cat,” one of the things they wanted was something that was a lot of fun: a lot of energy, there’s a lot of action. Basically, they were looking for a spiritual successor for “Daughters of the Dragon.” We even have the same artist who drew “Daughters of the Dragon” – – Travel [Foreman] drew “Daughters,” Travel’s drawing “Black Cat.” Again that bounce, character, charm. And I think Felicia’s a great character for that. I think she was due for kind of a shine, bring her back to what she works best after the Thieves Guild days. Not a bad person, and not a great person. She’s out there, she’s living in this world, and she’s doing it on her own terms. At the end of the day, she’s going to do what she wants, whether or not that’s a particularly good or healthy decision, as we’re going to see as we go further on in the series.
I grew up on the animated “Spider-Man” series. I always felt she was better than MJ. MJ was a real downer.
JM: I never really watched that show, to be honest. When I was growing up, I lived out in the country, and my parents never really had a TV. That’s why I read so many comic books.
What should readers expect going forward?
JM: Going forward, issue #5 just came out on Wednesday. We’ve had a lot of fun up to this point. Moving forward, we’re going get a little more series. In issue #6, Felicia’s going out on a date. And we’re going to get a little more of a view into her perspective on things, how she views the world, if she does recognize her own moral flexibility or failings. And then it’s going to get a little more serious after that, because we’re going to raise the stakes. Felicia’s crossed with the Thieves Guild. They’re not particularly happy about that. Things are just going to generally escalate. That said, we’re still generally going to have a lot of fun. But the stakes are definitely higher, as vague as that may sound.