Jed MacKay – Back Cat! Taskmaster! Avengers Mech Strike!
Today Melissa got to chat with writer of Black Cat, Taskmaster, Avengers Mech Strike and more!
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Interview scheduled by Jeffery Haas
Theme music by Good Co Music:
Jef MacKay – Interview
[00:00:00] Melissa: This is spoiler country and I’m Alyssa searcher today on the show. I’m excited to welcome comic book writer of black cat taskmaster, and many more. Mr. Jed McGee. Welcome to the
Jed McKay: thank you for having me
Melissa: on. Thanks for being here. How’s it going
Jed McKay: tonight? Well, it’s going pretty well. It’s pretty quiet night over here.
The dog is just sitting on the couch, chewing away at a nailer. So you might hear that.
Melissa: Awesome. Whereabouts are you located?
Jed McKay: I live in Halifax, Nova Scotia. How are you supposed to Canada?
Melissa: Great, awesome. Is there much of a time difference? I’m not like a couple of hours ahead of us, I think, right?
Jed McKay: Like
Melissa: four hours.
Oh four. Okay. Well, we appreciate you being here tonight. I want to jump right in. I know you’re super busy, so much going on lots of different projects that I can’t wait to talk about. I do want to get a little background info. I know you’ve talked a lot about, you know, getting your break at Marvel and that being kind of like the first experience, [00:01:00] you know, in the comic book industry, you know, how did that come about?
What was that experience like?
Jed McKay: Well, the, the first work I did in Marvel was going on a little over 10 years ago now. I came into comics or like wanting to make comics when I was like a teenager, the you know, early two thousands. And I was at that point in time, I thought I was going to draw.
Comics. I was still quite diluted in that respect. So I was involved in message boards and stuff for a comic artists and comic creators particularly I think enter void. And so a lot of young, young artists, people who are really trying to figure it out, trying to get into it. And it was like a really exciting kind of a place to be.
Y’all had people around sort of the same level and you just got to see people really increase their abilities and stuff. It was, I hooked up with my friend, Sheldon Vela, who was a comic artist out of Australia. And as it, at that point, I realized that I could draw and I had a script [00:02:00] floating around.
I wrote for somebody. So we started making comics together and just kind of goofing around and putting this stuff on the internet, just like really kind of crass, dumb comics you make when you’re like 21, 22 or whatever. Anyways Sheldon being, you know, extremely strong artists got picked up by Marvel to do just some shorts.
He did a, a bizarre adventure, sorry, ventures, stranger ventures with all the books they did back in like 2007 or so like that. And he got tapped to do an issue of a story and an issue of X-Men serve and protect, which was a. And then the algae book and he got me into write it because he didn’t actually know any of the characters.
So we did a, a Dazzler daughters with dragon team up with like a cosmic roller Derby thing, which was extremely silly, but it was a lot of fun. Yeah. So we did that. And then [00:03:00] basically nothing came up for about four years. And then we’ve got tapped to do another Shorb. Did the the Hoby Brown spider punk thing for spider verse.
And I almost, it was pretty well received and we’re like, okay, this is it. This is gonna be the break. We’re gonna get more work after this. And then there’s just nothing for another four years.
Melissa: Slow moving downsize.
Jed McKay: Yeah. Yeah. And then We’ve got to have to begin to do another spider punk story and Sheldon was too busy for it, but I was like, well, I, I, I certainly can’t do it.
And so yeah, there was a, it was a full issue. The first issue I did is edge of spotter getting number one. And then from there I was like, okay, well it’ll probably be another four years before I get anything else. But Nick, the editor on that. So we’ll actually, I’ve got this daughters of the dragon series that we’re doing digital first series.
And we need someone to write it and, you know, would you be interested in like, absolutely. And that was just kind of my start of doing regular work from our home.
Melissa: That’s awesome. And while you were doing that, were you, and I think I read this [00:04:00] correctly. Are you a teacher as well?
Jed McKay: Yeah, I was, I was a teacher up to about a year ago when my freelance work became a little too onerous to do both at once.
So yeah, I was. I graduated 2012 with my bed. And I worked at various schools here or there as in China, I was in Montreal. I was working here in Halifax. So yeah, I was teaching. And then, so when I started my Marvel stuff, I was teaching for the next year and a half, I believe. I was teaching a lot.
I wrote daughters while I wrote now fear was started black hat. And then after a certain point, I was like, well, I can’t really do both of these, so I’ve got to go make a choice. And I decided to go with writing.
Melissa: Yeah, absolutely. I bet it was cool for your students. I mean, did you, were you open with them about, Oh, I’m a writer for, you know, comics when you were teaching?
Jed McKay: Yeah. It’s actually, they’re less impressed with it than you might think they want it. They’re like, what does that mean? You know, what’s going on to the movies. I’m like, now I’d be like, okay, [00:05:00] well, I guess we don’t really care about that then. Well, fair enough. Where’s your homework.
Melissa: Oh, that’s a, what age group are you teaching?
Jed McKay: At that point I was teaching junior high, so I was teaching grades seven, eight, and nine. Okay.
Melissa: Yeah. So they have a short attention span. Yeah.
Jed McKay: Wow. And I mean, they’re, they’re just not that interested in comics. Like I said, I was working for Ford Knight. Did it psyched, but yeah.
Melissa: It’s like I’m working in the movies.
Jed McKay: Yeah. They’d be like, can you tell us what happens in the second vendor’s movie? I’m like, Whoa, why would I know that
Melissa: here? Like, I want to know that actually
Jed McKay: that if you find out, let me know.
Melissa: Yeah, well, that’s cool. Well, I’m, you know, it’s a hard decision to make, you know, when you, when you have like your day job, quote unquote, and then you do get that break of being able to write full-time.
I mean, that is the dream I think, for, for most writers. So I bet that was exciting when you finally got to that point where you’re like, okay, I can do this, you know, financially and everything. Yeah,
Jed McKay: for sure. I mean, I [00:06:00] was, I was very lucky in that I was getting work coming in, but also that I live in Canada.
So I wasn’t worried about losing my health insurance
that was supposed to be paid, you know, get paid in us dollars. You live in Canada. It’s like getting a raised.
Melissa: Wow. Yeah. I’ve heard that actually that the the exchange rate I think is better for you guys right now. Isn’t it?
Jed McKay: I mean, it has been for about the last 20 years. Yeah.
Melissa: Yeah. My grandfather was from, you know, born in Canada.
And so I’ve never had the chance to go, but I remember my mom telling me when I was a kid like, Oh, you know, the exchange rate, I think at some point was great. Cause she’d be like, I can go over and buy all this stuff. And then of, you know, it’s cheaper, but yeah, I’m sure that’s changed.
Jed McKay: Yeah, it’s been a, it’s been gone back and forth, but for the last, most of my lifetime, it’s been pretty pretty slanted with a higher us dollar.
Melissa: But that works out for you as the writer.
Jed McKay: Yeah, it certainly does.
Melissa: Yeah, well, let’s talk about black cat. I’m, I’m just starting to get familiar [00:07:00] with it and was reading up on it and everything. It looks amazing. The art is absolutely beautiful for one that’s. So eye catching and all the variant covers.
So, so tell for anyone who’s listening that doesn’t know, what is the the premise of black cat? I mean, she is an iconic character. That’s not getting her own series, but kind of give us a little bit in your own words, what it’s about.
Jed McKay: So black archives are, or excuse me, black cat. We pick up on Felicia Hardy, the, you know, the titular black cat, and she has gone back to what she does best life grime.
She’s she’s you know, a glamorous breezy thrill-seeking thief. Do you know, she’s not, not out to hurt anybody. She’s just there to have, you know, have a good time and to. Live a life outside of the limits of the law and the way that she she wishes. And so she’s got, she’s got her crew with her.
She’s lining up jobs, she’s running a hustle on some of the biggest names in the Marvel universe, and generally making everyone around her look like chumps.
[00:08:00] Melissa: Nice. Yeah. And you have 12 issues out. So is this going to be an ongoing series or do you have like a cap on, on one when you want to wrap it up?
Jed McKay: Well, basically this was the first ongoing series I’d ever done previously. I’d done you know, the dragon was six issues. Well, two, three double sized issues. A man without fear was five issues. Ghost Panther was two issues. But this was the first time, excuse me, that an aunt had an ongoing and, you know, with an ongoing, with the market being the way it is, you’ve always got that cancellation acts over your head.
So when we started out, I asked Nick, I’m like, well, what should I plan for? Like what, what realistically should we expect to get here? And he said, well, if you, if we get 10 issues, we’ll consider it a job all done. So I plan my story. I plan my story for 10 issues. Having a lot of slot of new series, just get canceled at five issues.
It’s just the way the industry works. [00:09:00] I know it’s a bomber, but what do you do about it? So if I pretend issues, but then it, you know, it did well. People were excited about it. I found an audience pretty quickly and so that 10 issues then moved up to 12. And then we were approved further out. Then COVID hit.
When COVID hit diamond stopped shipping. The whole industry was kind of in a bit of an upheaval and we had to basically go on a hiatus, which meant that the first, the first series ended at issue 12. So realistically it just kind of went on hiatus before relaunch. So number the new number one came out last month.
We’re on schedule monthly. And basically number four, when that comes out is, was the original number 13 for the first series. We just slotted this King of black three-part series in, at the beginning. And then we’re basically picking up where we left off.
Melissa: Okay, perfect. So you can, so you’re back on track [00:10:00] essentially.
Jed McKay: Oh yeah, no, we’re, we’re, we’re back up and running. You know, all pistons firing we’re we’re good to go.
Melissa: Oh, cool. Yeah. So I brought up the covers because I was just literally spent like half an hour just like looking at every single variant cover. The art is absolutely gorgeous. So what, what inspired the art?
I mean, do you have any input on that or are they just kind of going off of your panels that you’ve written and then they’re inspired by that? How does that work collaboratively?
Jed McKay: There’s not a whole lot of collaboration from my end with the covers, generally that’s handled with the cover artist and the ed and editorial.
They, they tried to strike a balance of having some covers, reflect the story, some coverage, just kind of you know standalone sort of iconic pieces. And it’s just kind of a balance balance of that. Unless it’s something that’s, you know, particularly important to the story like that since. Our relaunch, we’ve got popularized Mardi Gras.
Yeah. [00:11:00] Doing the covers. So with this King of black tie, they want the covers to be very very, you know, a block above that. So we have King of black imagery and stuff. Whereas when we get later on, you’re gonna have some stuff that’s more, more like kind of the J Scott Campbell covers where you have, you know, a standalone image or standalone cover that may or may not reflect the elements of the story.
Melissa: Okay. I see. And are all of the different covers available for people to buy or are they like limited additions?
Jed McKay: That’s a, that’s a very complicated question. I’m not entirely sure of myself. Like I’m still not sure. Like the first run blackout. Number one, when it came out in came out when it did, there were a huge swath of variant covers.
Some were incentive covers, you know, stores will get one. One cover for ordering habit, many the the standard cover and there’s a store exclusives. You can only get certain stores, others, I think J Scott Campbell had, I think three or four that only came from his store. So yeah, if [00:12:00] you wanted to collect all the covers, I don’t reckon it would be super easy.
Sounds like a lot of different sources for it, but yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s pretty amazing seeing such a wide variety of Artists and a wide variety of interpretations of the character put out there.
Melissa: Yeah. And they all still, even though there’s different artists, they still seem to capture the same essence, you know, which is nice.
It made it still look like, you know, a black cat cover essentially.
Jed McKay: Oh yeah. Like, you know what you’re getting.
Melissa: Yeah. And well, the character, a black hat, you know, she’s obviously been around for a very long time. Yeah. How do you feel like the character has evolved since 1979? And you know, how, how did you approach it?
Like what did you put on it? That’s, you know, fresh and different?
Jed McKay: Well, the character has changed. I mean, from the, from her inception, the character changed a lot. Let me like any other character, really? From their point of creation in that [00:13:00] black hat in, when she first appeared in the Spider-Man books and the late seventies early and through the eighties.
She was very much a supporting character, know she, and very much a character of the times, you know, she was a bit of a damsel in distress when needed. She was a bit boy crazy. She just, she was, I think she was a really interesting character, but I think she could, she could really benefit from having a series that gives her perspective like, like any sort of supporting character.
They’re always going to be second fiddle to the title character. So in black cats case, she was always second build Spiderman. Spiderman was a character who got the development. Felicia had amounts of development and start in stories and stuff, but you didn’t get, she didn’t have the opportunity to really kind of branch out and get her own seat at the table.
Yeah. So in writing black cat in her first ongoing series, one of the goals that I was really [00:14:00] interested in doing is. Saying here’s who this character is. She’s not a beholden to anybody else. This is this character in her own life. We’re seeing her thoughts you know, her goals, the things she’s interested in, the, what she wants.
And that’s the reason that for, you know, several, you know, one of the few issues in the series, Spider-Man, doesn’t show up in that, like he’s mentioned time here and there. Cause I mean, you have to. That is part of our history, but Spider-Man, doesn’t show up on panel until the first annual, because I wanted to make sure that it was, you know, the Bobo’s black hat.
It’s not Spiderman is gal pal, black hat.
Melissa: Yeah. Yeah. That makes sense. Now, have you noticed I mean, I know with COVID, we haven’t been able to go to cons or anything like that, but previously have you noticed a big female fan base?
Jed McKay: I mean, not, not necessarily an extended cons, [00:15:00] because like I said, I haven’t been to con for better part of a year.
And I also just, I don’t really go to that many shows, but however, on Twitter, I, I really feel like there is, you know, I feel like the female fans are there for black hat you know, Women are getting, getting interested in the character. It’s hard to judge because you know, like Twitter, you only see what’s happening with the people that you’re following or things that you’re tagged in.
So there could be, you know, various people saying various things about this book but I’m not going to track it down in case my feelings get hurt.
Melissa: Yeah, of course it makes sense. It’s funny. Yeah. I
Jed McKay: think that female contingent fan, maybe won’t see her, that contingent of female fans is there. And I’m, I’m hoping that it’s something that, you know, they will like, and it’s something they can find, you know, interesting and not an embarrassing portrayal of female character.
What’s this around when you have, you know, a straight man writing a female [00:16:00] character.
Melissa: Right. Well, I think, you know, that’s what I love about like shows like this, you know, for, for me example, I, you know, I had not, I mean, I know of black cat iconically, but not, you know, you’re serious particular. And I love the fact that, you know, when I discover something new and then it’s like, Oh, this is a really cool female character.
You know, this is definitely you know, my alley, so to speak and. I think that a lot of it’s just, you know, visibility, like you said, when you’re on Twitter, you have your own algorithms, you know, so you’re only seeing certain things and that’s for all of us. So it’s interesting. You know, I always wonder how we can make certain comics like more visible to a broader audience, I guess.
Jed McKay: sure. Yeah. I mean, as, as someone who’s writing these comics, I’m, I’m like, Oh, I want the books I’m writing to be as visible as possible to people so that they will. It’s good because it seems that the biggest conversation that was going around you know, black cat, the comic you know, within the first year of it coming out is a lot of people sort of dismissed it out of hand.
[00:17:00] So it’s not a character I’m interested in, or I think it’s, I thought I was just going to be a cheesecake book or something like that. And a lot of the discussions I’ve seen are people being surprised about it saying, well, there’s, there’s more to it than I had originally thought, or this is not a book. I.
Expected to like, or expect it to be interested in. It seemed to be sort of one of the common refrains of reviews that I’d read or specifically reviews that I’ve been tagged in.
Melissa: Don’t you love when that happens?
Jed McKay: I mean, that’s the, you know, you tag me in a good review and I’m more than happy to tag me for review then I’ll, you know, I’ll shed a little tear over here.
Melissa: Yeah, have a cocktail and cry it out. Well, I think, you know, one of the things I’m curious about is, you know, I’m a writer as well, but you know, for, for prose novels, how do you, you know, especially when writing a character that’s already sort of, you know, existed in other worlds and other incarnations, how do you come up with Fresh ideas, you know, how do you keep [00:18:00] it?
Like, what’s your research like? Or do you just kind of have like these random ideas that come to you out of nowhere? You know, how do you, how do you conceptualize like your story ideas for each issue?
Jed McKay: It’s a lot, I mean, it does come down to a lot of research, something that is both an enormous boon and an enormous pain about working in the Marvel universe is just the sheer weight of continuity.
Hmm, which means that there’s a lot of old toys in the toy box that just needed a little dusting off that you can bring back and do something interesting with. But that also means you’re spending hours, just continuity checking and then hunting down appearances of this character. You know, making sure that they’re still alive for one thing and stuff like that.
So I like, I really liked digging up old characters and kind of brushing them off in. Issues two and three, we brought back as Zander, the mercy list, who was a, a Dr. Strange Mellon. So I needed just some, just some like jamoke magician to help them to break into Dr. [00:19:00] Stranger’s place, because me, I could have just made up somebody, but I find it find a lot more interesting to take something that’s already there.
You know, work with the tools that are already exist and see what you can do with them. See how you can breathe new life into them.
Melissa: Yeah, that sounds really fun. Just doing that in general. And then also it is kind of, you know, a nod to other characters. So that kind of brings in fans of those characters too, because you know, it, it’s always fun when you’re watching something and then like your favorite character from a spinoff makes an appearance and you’re like, Oh, I know who that is.
You know? So I would imagine that’s cool for the readers, you know?
Jed McKay: Yeah. And that’s, that’s a lot of where these ideas come from is I could do a lot of wakey diving where I go to the Marvel fandom, Wiki, and just kind of look around and see stuff that’s happened or like items that exist or characters that exist.
And then no one’s used for 30 years, I think. [00:20:00] Wow. That could be a really interesting interaction between these characters or this could be a, you know, a real threat or this could be something that would be really interesting to bring back and just looking at those different those different things that already exist.
And how they could kind of bounce off each other, sparks off a lot of ideas and just totally I’ll write them down to eventually maybe I’ll get back to them.
Melissa: Yeah. And also too, I think that, you know, we, we tend to see a lot of the same. Characters a lot, you know, that got re-imagined and re redone whether th you know, in the films or in the comics, and there’s this, you know?
Yeah. There’s this same, like what 10, you know, that, that we always see, and that’s, you know, that’s fine for diehard fans, but, you know, for people that want to just kind of learn more about what else is out there. I think at school, when you go and find comic book characters that did exist, but maybe weren’t as well known, and then you bring them back.
And breathe new life into them, you know?
Jed McKay: And I mean, I can’t like I can’t do my own horn too much. I did do it to R [00:21:00] two issue over Renard. So,
Melissa: well, I mean, you know that that’s still going to happen, obviously. Like people still, there’s still a demand for that. Like there’s still those iconic, you know, I love Batman.
I never get tired of seeing Batman stuff. You know what I mean? Like, we love that, but it’s also just fun when you get to discover, you know a new character. That’s an old new character, I guess, you know, Yeah. Well, and speaking of like, you know, the different story ideas that you’ve done, I know I’m just kind of reading about it and issue seven.
So the black cat faces off with Odessa Drake. And it has, it’s kind of like a mixture of her kicking ass and then the backstory of Odessa. How did you balance that to where it was sort of like, not. Over too much in one area than the other, like how it floats those seamlessly. How did you kind of design that?
Jed McKay: Well, some [00:22:00] people would say I didn’t buy no it’s wow. I mean, you know how it is, but generally, generally, like the thing is I really liked doing these heist books and these, these books where there’s, you’re always going to have like the planning stage or the exposition stage. But it’s also really boring just to have people sitting around a room talking.
So I think, I think it’s whenever I can, I try to intercut it with things actually happening. So for number seven, background work had to be the late for the, you know, for the story to continue to, to proceed into its own game. We had to know I was going on with the D of scale. We had to know what Odessa did in order to sort of secure the New York view skills.
Rise back to power in New York. We have to know where that bad blood came from with Odessa on the black box and with Castillo Drake and that connection with Felicia and, you know, Walt Hardy and stuff like that. But at the same [00:23:00] time, as much as I enjoy writing just page after page of people talking to each other and trying to hurt each other’s feelings, these matched used some designs like the superhero comment.
Well, It’s not a superhero comic, it’s a comic and a superhero world. So there has to be stuff happening. So it’s not something that I’m always conscious of, where I don’t want you to get bored reading it. So generally, and especially in black hat, when people are talking planning, there’s an extended period where there’s a lot of back and forth.
I like to be able to enter, cut it with some sort of action. I was just give people something to look at, give them something that’s exciting.
Melissa: Like a PA yeah. A page Turner. Essentially keep them, keep them reading. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Well, especially when you’re, yeah. When you’re writing something like the thieves go buggy, so they’re planning highest, they’re doing all these things.
You do need to have those details laid out unless you’re going for the element of surprise in certain types of situations. But and I think [00:24:00] that. But there’s something to be said for that too, you know, those quiet moments where kind of like seeing the calculations happening and, and the inner workings of the organization.
Do you outline all of that or are you a pantser when you write,
Jed McKay: I’m becoming less and less dependent on outlines. I used to be outright is a rising number one to 20 on you know, an Evernote or a Google doc or a notebook page, basically. It’s, here’s, what’s going to happen in each page. I do that less now than I used to.
Maybe it’s just, I’m getting, my instincts are getting better honed for it. But generally like nowadays I just, I know what’s going to happen. I know how it’s going to end. I know what’s going to happen, but I also find that a lot of the best stuff just sort of happens on the page where while I’m writing it, I’ll think, Oh, this is good.
I’m gonna do that. And that it may change the story. But in that kind of moment of creation, I feel like a lot of the ideas become more [00:25:00] fresh than it would be for me. So I used to use to outline like just extraordinary, like before I was, before I was writing comics, I was writing prose and I would write a short story basically every month for my writing club.
And I would just outlines, like, outline the hell out of it. So whenever I got stuck, I just refer back to my outline of, okay, here’s the next thing that has to happen. Here’s the next thing that has to happen. But I find with comics lately, I’m doing less of that, where I’ll have a general, a general idea of how the story will go, but the way it develops on the page is often more interesting than the way I planned it, which also makes it real, it makes it a real pain in the ass and I’m trying to like, Pitch a story to my editors.
Well, I say, here’s this thing that’s going to happen when I know that it’s going to turn out different or probably better. It’s hard to assure someone that that’s the way it’s going to happen. You know?
Melissa: Right. Yeah. Well, I [00:26:00] mean, I think, you know, hopefully at this point, you know, in your career, I think, you know, you you’ve earned that kind of trust.
I would say, you know, to where they’ve, you’ve proven yourself, you have all this amazing work out there. So I think they can just kind of be like, all right, he’s got it. So, yeah, I mean, I would think so at this point, for sure. And I think it also depends sometimes on. Like specific projects, right? Like some, some things you work on seemed to flow better, you know?
I know I’ve, I’ve been an extreme outliner where it like detailed to the, you know, the color of the chair that they’re sitting on, you know, world-building and then there’s other ones, ones that just seem to kind of flow out of you, like you were saying where, you know, it’s going to change as you write it.
And I think that’s kind of like the, not to sound cheesy, but kind of like the magic of writing, you know,
Jed McKay: Yeah. Well, I mean, that’s, that’s where it feels like you’ve kind of like tapped into something, you know, you’ve gripped that live liar. You you’ve got a hold of that current and it’s flowing through you and you’re like, well, let’s get this on the [00:27:00] page.
I mean, so I’ve, I’ve gone back to hybrid rights and short stories and I’m like, well, let’s just, we’ll start. I know how this is going to start. Let’s see how it goes. He just like hit a wall so hard to teeth rattle. I actually, I should probably go back and figure that out.
Melissa: Yeah. Yeah. I literally, it just happened to me recently and I’m like, Nope, I need an outline.
This isn’t going to work.
Jed McKay: It’s terrible. Isn’t
Melissa: it? It sucks. Yeah. You’re like, no, I got this, I’ve done this before. But yeah, it just depends you know, on and mood and, you know, tone and environment and all that stuff. I’m a big believer. I know some writers are like, Oh, I could, you know, write in a crowded.
Bus bus stop or whatever. And I’m like, no, I think I need certain things around me to be a certain way. I don’t
Jed McKay: how about you? Oh yeah. I mean, generally, like, I mean, I don’t have an office. I write in the chair in my living room, so I’ll have my computer on my lap. I’ll put my earbuds and listen to music to drown out whatever’s [00:28:00] going on because you know, with COVID everybody’s working from home.
So yeah. No, my wife is doing her own work. The animals are running around. It’s a whole thing. So that’s, I mean, I’m generally fine. As long as I have a chair and I can put my ear buds and I’m good to go, but like, I’ll talk to people who will write, you know, five, 10 pages while they’re at a show or a, you know, and I’m like, I have no idea how you do that.
I can barely read a book when I’m there.
Melissa: Yeah. I mean, you’re just so focused on, I get distracted by like people watching and You know, just paying attention to what’s going on around me. Or people at written coffee shops too. Like I envy them. I would just be constantly observing and you know, every little clink and at the end I look up, I just, I need like that certain quiet.
But I mean more power to them for being able to do that. The
Jed McKay: concept of writing in coffee shops, I’ve always had a completely insane. Yeah. I mean, like I don’t like going to coffee shops at the best, you know, to drink. Beverages, let alone try to actually do [00:29:00] work.
Melissa: Yeah. To go please. Yeah,
Jed McKay: no, I’ll sit, I’ll sit in my home and I’ll do my work and that’s fine.
Melissa: Yeah. Make my own coffee. Exactly. Yeah. Well another thing I wanted to talk about in, in the, in black hat was you mentioned things like the philosopher’s stone and the elixir of life was that What is the influence of that? Cause that’s clearly alchemy. Did you do a lot of research on that? Or did that just kind of organically kind of find its way in
Jed McKay: ally?
I basically became one of the world’s foremost experts on the Marvel thieves Guild situation, which was a lot of digging into nineties comics. Basically Nick Spencer set up this idea of the New York thieves Guild. With Odessa Drake and the black hat budding heads back in amazing Spider-Man and series of black habeas is spun out of that.
So I had to figure out how [00:30:00] that works. Yeah. So Nick Spencer had his sort of ideas. Like this is what the New York Steve’s Guild is. And from that I had to sort of make a coherent unified theory of comic book. These guilds. Cause the thieves Guild first appeared in gambit. I think it was, was it his own series?
I don’t remember, but it was delved into most deeply in his own theory in series where Kendra, one of the externals and basically set up the thieves guilds and the assassin skills and they would give her wealth so she could pursue her schemes. And in return she would supply them with basically this mortality potion of the elixir of life, the Amber at Ross or whatever you want to call it.
And with that they would live, you know, be moral. They live forever. And again, but series a lot of that was basically the new Orleans thieves guilds and the new Orleans assassins guilds butting heads. And also bunny has a Kandra who [00:31:00] was not a great person. So I set up the idea of the I don’t know, weight, Spencer like that.
I’m not entirely sure which of us set this up, but the idea that the Northeast Guild was excuse MADEC from this sort of skilled orthodoxy that was loyal to Kendra, which are no longer that’s that has its own history. But basically sometime in the seventies, the New York, DC school fell out of favor with Kandra and they lost access to this poster to mortality.
And then. Excuse me, that was sort of the fall from grace for the the Drake family who were the, you know hereditary leaders of the Northeast Guild. And so but that’s his father Castillo Drake, when he was training under the black box to be a thief, he, his whole goal was to find a new Avenue towards the mortality for the new, the, of skilled.
[00:32:00] And he died trying to find that, and then. As we saw in issue seven Odessa continued her father’s work and she succeeded and that kind of sets us up for where we’re going out from there.
Melissa: Okay. Interesting. That’s really cool. It’s always fun to get a little bit of the back story, you know? So without, you know, obviously without giving away spoilers I know, you know, in an issue 12 last as you 12, so.
A black cat stole iron man’s armor. What? Oh, it was their own armor. I thought it was, yes
Jed McKay: you. No, she, she had his systems built her her own.
Melissa: Oh, okay. That makes sense. Because I saw the variant cover and she was like, it was fitted to her and I thought, well, that’s interesting.
Jed McKay: Yeah. Yeah. She she was kind of, she had broken into, starts building to build.
A dimensional resonator thing for her, her plan to Rob the [00:33:00] skill. She kind of got put in a spot and then had start systems to build her, her own set of armor so she could get away clever
Melissa: girl. So what can I what will be the consequences of that? If anything, or can you, are you allowed to talk about that at all?
Jed McKay: The consequences of that are largely. Mood at this point, as of issue, 12 star got that armor back he got ripped off. He doesn’t actually know how he got ripped it off, but he’s not actively looking for Felicia at this point. So that may be something we’ll see further down the line, but it’s not a pressing concern at this moment.
Melissa: Okay. All right. Cool. Well, switching gears for a minute. So you’re off the writer on taskmaster which is another sort of anti-hero villain character. Unless you think was that
Jed McKay: he’s not great. Yeah.
Melissa: Okay. I was going to say it was he just misunderstood or, [00:34:00] but you have two issues on that so far at my crack, right?
Jed McKay: Issue. Number three comes out in February.
Melissa: Cool. So you know, tell, tell us a little bit about that. Like, how’s that going? What’s, what’s the story arc that ears sort of pursuing with that
Jed McKay: one. I L taskmaster has been sort of a long time coming. I started writing it ages ago at this point. It was supposed to come out April 1st to coincide with the black widow movie.
Obviously taskmasters the villain in the black widow movie. Then COVID happens. Blackwood, a movie got pushed back. Taskmaster got pushed back a movie, got pushed back again. The taskmaster got pushed back again. And finally, finally they just said, well, we don’t know where this movie is coming out.
Let’s just get this comic book out there. You know, whenever the mood becomes out, the trade will be out. So that’s fine. Yeah, but yeah, it’s, it’s I like to ask my sister a lot. He’s, he’s a villain, but he’s not [00:35:00] like a mega mill, excuse me. Is, you know, not like a world conquering type, he’s just sort of a blue collar working, working class bill.
And he’s a guy who does jobs. He gets paid. He’s not particularly interested in ideology. He’s not particularly interested in dying for the cause. He’s just a guy who. No, he just wants to work. He just wants to get the job done, wants to get paid and hopefully not get beat up too badly. Okay. However, this series has kind of put in a spot where he is framed for the murder of Maria Hill.
And in order to clear his name, he has to team up with Nick fury and basically interact with these top spies around the world in order to kind of get to the bottom of what’s happening.
Melissa: Okay. Interesting. Do you, so you know, it, he has this ability to mimic fighting styles. Do you consider that like a super power or is it just an ability?
I mean, cause he’s able [00:36:00] to teach it, but as he sort of like, it’s different for him though, right? Isn’t it like a special superpower?
Jed McKay: Yeah, he has he has photographic reflexes, which means that anything he sees he can do which, which gives him a pretty broad range of abilities kind of within his portfolio.
So then that also kind of fuels into this idea that he a teacher, cause he has so many things he can show, you know, you can teach someone to do when us agents first came out, task masters, got to train them. He had seen captain America fight. And so we could teach, you know, John Walker to fight like captain America.
And at the same time, he’s a businessman is expanding his portfolio. So he also trains, you know, henchmen and books and whatnot for for various villains to contract.
Melissa: Okay. And do you ever and do you see yourself ever doing a, a task master black cat? [00:37:00] Meet
Jed McKay: up. They did meet up briefly in issue. Who was this in tracking my issues here.
I, as I counted off issue eight, no issue nine. Sorry. Okay. You did one of those kind of 16 grids interviewing people around town kind of things. And he showed up for one panel.
Melissa: Okay. And is that kind of it, or do you plan on, I mean, any ideas of having them team up at any point in the future?
Jed McKay: Yeah, I’m always coming from looking for, I can, a master in his series is only five issues. They don’t crossover within that, but he’s a character I really like and try to put in where I can. So I have no plans for it, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he kind of popped up.
Melissa: Okay. Yeah, I think that’d be, that’d be interesting to it.
Jed McKay: be, it’d be a good laugh for sure.
Melissa: Yeah. [00:38:00] Yeah, you have. So when you’re working on like two different things at the same time, I mean, is it hard for you to kind of balance that or like jumping in from one story perspective to another
Jed McKay: it, I mean, it depends on the book. Like if you’re, if you’re going to make a living in comics, you gotta be able to work on more than one thing at a time.
Unless you have like an absolutely outrageous page rate, which I do not because I’m, my career is still pretty new. So like right now I’m working on C
working on like four different books at this point in time, three of which haven’t been announced yet. So it’s a lot like behind the scenes, preparing stuff, getting scripts built up. Like taskmaster, there’s only two issues out, but it’s been done for ages.
Melissa: Yeah. I was gonna bring that up. You have that going on too, right?
Yeah. Like make
Jed McKay: strikes. Darks [00:39:00] starts next month. I think it was the Lasker from X strikes sometime in October or maybe November. So by the time stuff actually comes out my, you know, my work on it, it has been long done. Because I have to write it as with the artists for however long, that takes then to the letters, then the colors.
And then it has to get printed. So right now it looks like I’m working on black hat extra. I can taskmaster, but extra, I can task master I’ve been done for ages. Okay. So it’s, it can be a bit of cognitive dissonance to kind of jump back and forth. But I generally don’t find it too bad. All the books I’m working on, all this stuff.
I really like, so it’s not something I’m really trying to like, have to force myself to do or push myself to do.
Melissa: Yeah. That’s that helps.
Jed McKay: Yeah. Kind of a breath of fresh air moving between projects, where if I’m kind of hitting a wall with one, I can do, I can work on it and other ones and still feel like I’m [00:40:00] actually doing something, you know?
Melissa: Yeah. I ring productive. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Nice. Yeah. It’s nice to change it up. And it kind of re stimulates like the creativity. Yeah. Yeah. That’s awesome. Yeah. I saw the the trailer, you know, like the book trailer for from X strike and it looked amazing. It was really well done trailer. Yeah. I was like, Oh, this looks like a movie, you know, movie trailer where they did a good job.
It was Marvel. It probably put that together. I’m guessing.
Jed McKay: Yeah. Yeah, no, I was, I was, I mean, I didn’t see a, I was tagged in it on Twitter, but yeah, that’s it was, it was really interesting. I was like, Hey, you guys should do this for all my books. That’d be great.
Melissa: Yeah. And it was that cool, like seeing your name, like pop up, like,
Jed McKay: I mean, it always is.
I’m always happens. It’s one of the kind of small joys working in comics is seeing. Her name put up in various places, whether it be the cover of a book or like on a, a promo trailer. It’s, you know, it’s just like, it’s fun.
Melissa: Yeah. That’s awesome. All right. Well, you said [00:41:00] you had some secret stuff you can’t talk about, so I won’t press you on that.
And you’ll just have to come back again and discuss when those are public knowledge.
Jed McKay: Yeah. The next few months, I think there’ll be some some announcements coming out.
Melissa: Awesome. Cool. And and just on a funny note, I glanced at your, your Twitter and you have some funny tweets on there, particularly one which I completely agree with you about the the Zack Snyder cut.
I was laughing so hard when, when I saw your tweet on that.
Jed McKay: Yeah. I’m just like, I’ve got no skin in the game. Like I’m not, not against it. I’m not for it. I just don’t care about it. I don’t want to hear about it anymore.
Melissa: Yeah, no, I I’m right there with you. So I saw that tweet. I was like, Oh my God, finally, you know, so somebody that agrees because it seems like everyone is like on that right now.
And you know, you’ve got you go along and you’re like, yeah. Okay. You got great. Awesome. But I’m like, Oh my God. If I see this in my Twitter feed, one more time.
Jed McKay: That’s the thing like [00:42:00] I’m trying, I tried so hard not to ever see anything about the Snyder cut ever. Yeah. I mean, I just don’t care. Like I don’t care.
Like it’s, it’s got nothing to do with me. I don’t I’m I am not against it. I’m not poor. Like, it’s just not something I’m
Melissa: interested in
Jed McKay: coming up. No matter how many words I’m used, it just keeps coming back.
Melissa: And so funny. It’s those algorithms.
Jed McKay: I mean, it’s, it’s the hazards of you know, being in nerd, Twitter circles, I guess.
Melissa: Yeah, no, definitely. I feel you on that one. Well before we go, are you aside from all your projects that are going on in comics, are you I’m planning to, to write a novel at any point a prose novel?
Jed McKay: Well, I mean, I wrote, I wrote a prose novel about, I don’t know, five, six years ago. Yeah. Like I’ve for a long, a while back, I just sort of gave up on comics.
I was just, wasn’t seeing much success or [00:43:00] like with like no one was particularly interested in what I was wanting to do. So I was like, well, I’ll focus all my efforts into writing prose because it’s just something I can do by myself. And you know, it doesn’t cost me. Thanks. So I I was going to school to be a teacher.
I was reading a lot of young adult stuff. Cause that’s cause that’s, you know, a little bit what you do with English, math it’s for teaching. So it was that I was an English and social studies teacher and I was like, well, you know, these young adult adventure books are a lot of fun and also they’re not like super sophisticated or, or like anything like that.
So I’m like, well, I can do that. So just as, at first it’s kind of a mental exercise, like, well, how would I plan know exciting yet adult? Sure. And then I got really into it. So when I was working in China I had basically an hour every day where I was kind of looking over a study hall and there was no internet in the rollout was at, so I had my computer.
I’m like, well, I’ll use [00:44:00] this time. I’ll all right. So, you know, do a bit like a thousand words a day, and then eventually it just kind of, I got this first novel written out and it was like, Was it a super line. And he was like 85,000 words, 87,000 words, something like
Melissa: that. Yeah.
Jed McKay: So I was quite pleased with it.
I went back, I made my friends read it as you do, you know, they’re your friends, so yeah, Austin with whatever you write, he said, well, what did I get? Did you love it? Okay. How can it be improved? It can be improved. But yeah, nothing really came of it. I submitted it to some. Publishers and agents and stuff like that.
And I was like, Oh, that sucks. So I was, I started writing short stories for my writing club. Then that started up about four or five years ago. And that was a lot of fun. I was going to put them on, you know, write a story every month because that was where the accountability was in order writing club to work.
I wanted to have something finished [00:45:00] every time because it became kind of a point of pride. So every month. I would work and figure out what I was going to write. I’d write, you know, anywhere from like 2000 words to 10,000 words and read it out to my friends at the writing club. And it was, it was great.
And honestly, I think it was one of the things that helped me to make an in, make us a professional writer in that, knowing that every month I need a story. Well, nowadays, like every month I need like four stories. Yeah,
Melissa: but it got you ready for that, for that type of career, because that fast paced writing.
Jed McKay: Yeah. Like it teaches you to the grind. And then like, I w I would write these short stories, then I put them up on my blog or whatever, and literally don’t all agree as I find whatever I then comics all of a sudden kicked up. And all of a sudden I had like a career in comics that nobody, at least of all me expected.
So I was like, Oh, okay, here we go. So [00:46:00] to answer your question. Yes. I have written a novel no, no, publish it.
Melissa: Okay. Do you think you’ll ever give it a shot again and maybe write something new and try to get that published? Or are you kind of like just focused on comics? I mean,
Jed McKay: the thing is I wrote it so long ago that I feel like I would have to go back and do a pretty significant overhaul and. I really should, because I think it’s good. I think there’s a lot of exciting adventure stuff in there. And I’ll like writing these to say, this is the kind of thing that I think I would like when I was a kid.
Yeah. But yeah, I guess I jumped on the time. Like even, even my short stories of basically suffered because whereas previously I would write it for fun. Now I write for my job.
As much as I want to write more stories, I feel like I’m kind of leaving it all on the comics page. And I don’t have a whole lot of juice for stuff [00:47:00] all the time, which kind of bums me out because this was something I’ve always loved to do. But until I kind of figure out that balance, unfortunately, the pros is sort of suffering.
Melissa: Yeah. Yeah, I know it is. It is hard to balance all of that. You know, especially when you are, when there’s the demand for you to write these comics, which I’m sure you’re, you know, you’re obviously enjoying that otherwise you wouldn’t be doing it and you’re good at it because you keep, you keep getting hired to do it.
So, you know what I mean? So that’s an awesome thing right there, but yeah, I think, you know, eventually Like you said, you’ll get into your rhythm and and who knows, there might be chunks of time where you have time off between releases where you can write a little bit and kind of, you know, get it in there, here, here and there.
Jed McKay: Yeah. And I mean, it’s, it’s also too that I feel like I’ve lost a bit of my pros, chomps beings who haven’t been so focused on writing in the form of a comic book script over the last, like two and a half [00:48:00] years. Whereas previously I would everything I would think. Cause like, you know how it is with writing, where you’re always thinking about a story, you’re always thinking about a story and you’re basically writing in your head to the point where you’re ready to put it on paper.
Like before I got my last job, I was teaching, I was working at a grocery store just to have something, to pay the bills and it’s not a terribly cerebral job. So basically, you know, it’d be stacking vegetables, but at the same time, my brain would just be thinking of story stuff, because turns out really does require a lot of brain power to snacks and candies.
So yeah, totally better put to you. You know, I liken it to being like a rock tumbler, you know, throw a bunch of trash and a rock tumbler and just, you’ve got to let it churn for awhile and then eventually something will come out. That’s good.
Melissa: Yeah. Yeah, no, that makes total sense. I was, I was a barista in my former life and and yeah, same thing.
A lot of downtime, or if, when you’re [00:49:00] making coffee drinks and you just start thinking about story ideas,
Jed McKay: it’s kind of remedy. I’m not saying like I’m not, I’m certainly not trying to diminish the value of the work that’s done in jobs like that. Oh, no, not at all. When I was, when I was doing them, basically a large part of the mental process was devoted to, okay, how’s the story gonna work?
Here’s this thing that I want to happen. Oh, here’s a good line that I have to remember. So by the time I went to go write a story, 75% of it was all your written in my head pretty much, and just had to type it out.
Melissa: Yeah, no, that’s so true. Yeah, that happens. I mean, with Bennett, with comics, that’s a little bit more direct.
And yeah, you don’t, you know, it’s, it’s, I mean, I’ve not written a comic myself, but you know, just in talking to many people like yourself, I’ve kind of gotten the impression that it is a lot, like. Almost like script writing in a sense, because you do have to tell the artist, you know, like, or like stage blocking, you know, when you think of theater, like this person moves to [00:50:00] this side or that side with pros, you’re just kind of make words, sound pretty on the page and, you know, create those like imagery and description because there are no pictures.
So yeah, I can imagine how, like, it would be really hard to like switch back and forth from those two different mediums.
Jed McKay: Yeah. Because I mean, so much of. Like when I was writing short stories, I was writing largely in the series. I was doing sort of you know, pulp sword and sorcery stuff that owed a lot to a Fitz Lieber.
And so I was very very keen on I’m really sort of more it purple prose very heavy on the narration. And, and, you know, you’ll be very pleased with wordplay that would not appear in a script because it’s all visual. Whereas my first full, full comic script was a disaster B as my doc. I had no idea how much space these dialogue balloons took up.
Like I go back and look at issue spider verse number one, or sorry, spider. Get a number one. [00:51:00] And it’s embarrassing. Like the artist had to change the way the page work, because I wrote too many words. And these, in these balloons that people would speak as a really sobering, sobering experience.
Melissa: Yeah. He was your first, it was your first job or no, or it was as an early, early age was my first.
Oh yeah. If it’s not then bullshit. You can’t, you can’t harp on yourself for that though, because I mean, we all cringe when we look back at our early work, you know what I mean? Cause you just grow and you learn so much and I think that’s, you know, part of it and yeah, don’t, don’t worry about that.
Jed McKay: Yeah. I mean, it’s, it just shows that there’s very different skill sets involved in writing prose and writing comic books. You get, you get writers who are, you know, great prose writers taking a dip into comic books. And realizing that it’s a very different set of skills now, it’s you can’t, you can’t go into writing comic [00:52:00] books without having read a lot of comic books and understanding how they work, because they have a very different language, very different.
I am not shy about superhero books, but just comics in general, very different. I mean, the pacing is entirely different given the way the, the images work, you know, Yeah. So sometimes it can be a very sobering realization that maybe you don’t know exactly as much as you thought of it. I’m sorry. You don’t know exactly as much as you thought you did.
Right. Alcoholics work, froze background, or coming from a television background or coming from a screen writing background, you know?
Melissa: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Well, I always say learn your craft. You know, that’s like my biggest you know, advice when, when people ask about writing, I, I, you know, I say, well, read a lot, practice writing, you know, know your craft, know what medium you’re writing in and, yeah.
Jed McKay: think I lost you there. Can you hear me?
Melissa: Are you still there?
[00:53:00] Jed McKay: Hello? Hello? Hey, sorry.
Melissa: We went into like a dark hole.
Jed McKay: Yeah. Sorry. I think I lost you in that last bit. There. That’s
Melissa: no, no worries. No, I was just talking about craft and, and which was going to lead me into my next question. Which is, you know, what advice would you give to to someone, you know, maybe that was in similar shoes as your own that maybe wants to get into, you know, doing a series for Marvel someday, you know, w what kind of advice would you give?
Jed McKay: I mean, it’s, it’s a question I’ve answered a lot, basically. Comics is a weird industry and like a lot of creative industries, there’s no guaranteed way to get into it. I mean, until I did, I never thought it was going to. Yeah. So I mean, the best advice I can get, I can give is [00:54:00] to, you know, if you want to be a writer, you need to write I see a lot of people who call themselves writers, but don’t write anything I want as a person.
Call myself a writer, but didn’t write anything. The novel I mentioned before I talked about it for ages, like literal years, let’s say, Oh, I’ve decided I’m going to write a novel. I’m working on this novel that I’m going to write, not, sorry, not even novel novel series. It wasn’t until like, I think a year or two after I’d started talking about it, that I’d met a friend.
I hadn’t seen him for awhile. He said, well, how’s that novel going that you were talking about? Last time I saw you, I was, I was like, Oh, I’m still planning it. Yeah. I was like, shit, I’m still planning it. Like, yeah. I actually got to do something. Yeah. So like very easy to talk about writing is very, it’s, it’s a lot harder to actually do the work.
And my best advice is if you want me to be a writer or you need to write a, you can make pros, you know, weights, you know, short stories. You can write comics, but [00:55:00] you need to write something. As I mentioned before, like with writing club writing every week, Month is the best thing I could possibly have done for my craft.
You know, my writing skills developing that work ethic. Yeah, absolutely. Like it’s it. It’s not going to, it’s not going to be good. Every time I posted on Twitter a few months ago about I found my portfolio from my undergraduate and, and it would have been. 2003, 2004. My portfolio for a creative writing course at my university that I got turned down for and they were, they were right to do so though, like I, I looked at the stuff like, wow, this is not great.
But the thing is, if you just keep writing, you will get better usually. And pretty much everybody has a computer. It’s not going to cost you anything to write. Yeah.
Melissa: Yeah, [00:56:00] absolutely. That’s great advice. Yeah.
Jed McKay: Maybe if you want to make comics, you can do it. I was making comics, you know, with my friend, from the internet where we didn’t, we made zero money, but at least we had a few patients to show people where they good looking back.
Cause I’m now no, but. Well, I mean, yeah, it was good, but yeah.
Melissa: Yeah. Well, I mean, and look where you are now, you just see, he didn’t give up and he kept trying and kept getting better. And now you’re, you know, you’re on your way. You’re you worked for Marvel. It’s a pretty, pretty big accomplishment.
Jed McKay: You just keep hustling.
Melissa: Yeah, absolutely. Well, thank you for coming on today and chatting with me and taking time out of your, of your night to, to talk about comics and writing. I really appreciate it. Oh, not at
Jed McKay: all.
Melissa: Cool. So everyone go check out black Pat [00:57:00] taskmaster. You can follow Jed on Twitter at Jeff McKay and don’t forget to support your local comic book shops, if you can.
Very important. Again, thank you so much for being on tonight. Please come back again. When you can talk about those secret projects, then we can get some more info about those.
Jed McKay: For sure. I will. Thank you for having me on and yeah. Just say message. Always happy to be back.