The Ted McKeever Library:
Q&A with Shadowline publisher
Jim Valentino

October 1 saw the release of Transit, the first in Shadowline’s three-volume Ted McKeever Library, which will eventually also include Eddy Current and Metropol. Shadowline publisher Jim Valentino took the time to visit with about the origins of the McKeever library, some of the thought behind the project and the possibility of future volumes.

DOOMKOPF: The long-unpublished conclusion to Transit is clearly one of the selling points of the library’s first volume. McKeever described Transit as his “Holy Grail” in the Shadowline press release, but how much of that conclusion had he worked on since 1988? Had the sixth issue of Transit been worked on before Vortex went out of business, did McKeever work on it at some point in the past 20 years, or was this something he created solely and entirely for the library?

VALENTINO: My understanding is that the finale was plotted out, but never finished — that is, never written and drawn before now. And the pages are simply wonderful. They show Ted’s evolution as an artist far more eloquently than I’m able to tell.

DOOMKOPF: McKeever had what some would call the luxury of creating a missing piece in his larger mythology after the subsequent chapters had already been written. Do you think that made it easier or more difficult to complete, and why?

VALENTINO: Well, obviously, I can’t speak for Ted about that. I can tell you from my own personal experience that when I’ve returned to a work after a long period of time I’ve found it both easier and more difficult simultaneously. Easier, because you’re walking in familiar territory; more difficult because after twenty years, you’re a different person with different perceptions of the world and your work. Whether or not Ted shares that view though, I can’t say.

DOOMKOPF: What editorial guidance did Shadowline have, if any, in helping McKeever fit it in with the chronology of his universe?

VALENTINO: With an artist of Ted’s caliber and experience, ours is a hands-off policy. It would be the height of arrogance on our part to presume to tell Ted McKeever how to tell his own story. So we don’t.

DOOMKOPF: McKeever has described your and Kris Simon’s contributions as “inspiring.” Can you talk about what role you played creatively in assembling these volumes?

VALENTINO: Well, again, I cannot speak for Ted. All I can say is that Kris and I have tried to be supportive and encouraging. We believe in the work and are putting a lot of work into these volumes to make them something HE will be proud of.

DOOMKOPF: Can you talk about some of the decisions behind which materials were to be reprinted, particularly the decision not to reproduce Plastic Forks or Industrial Gothic?

VALENTINO: Actually, both have been under discussion. We wanted to do the three volumes first, see how things went, then go from there if sales and interest warrant it. I can tell you that we’re encouraged by the early numbers and reaction, and that door is very much open at present.

DOOMKOPF: Regarding the other volumes, Dark Horse reprinted Eddy Current in a hardcover edition in the early ’90s; Atomeka reissued Eddy Current in a three-volume paperback set just a few years ago. Sorhenn Grafiks put out a five volume Metropol / Metropol AD collection in 2000, which also included bonus materials and was literally twice the size of the forthcoming Shadowline Metropol hardcover (at 8.5″ x 11″). What would you tell a McKeever fan who bought any of those collections to convince them why they should check out the new library editions?

VALENTINO: Well, most of those volumes are long since out of print and, as you noted previously, the conclusion to Transit is reason enough there. I would suggest that our production and our presentation will be second to none. Each volume will sit handsomely one with the other and great care has been taken to make these definitive versions.

DOOMKOPF: Kris Simon mentioned on the Image Comics message board that McKeever originally wanted to do a single-volume phonebook edition, but the two of you convinced him to opt for 5.5″ x 8.5″ hardcover volumes. She discussed a desire to strike a balance between affordability and prestige, but she then added “The conclusion was that the people who would be buying the book would buy it either way.” Was that conclusion more McKeever’s perspective or Shadowline’s? Were there any other formats, other than the three hardcovers and single phonebook, that emerged as possible contenders?

VALENTINO: Oh yeah, we tossed around a lot of different ideas. At first Ted wanted a Manga size presentation, hence the size we wound up with. Personally, I felt that all three in one gigantic book was just too unwieldy and that each deserved its own volume.

It was my call to make these hard covers. I felt that there would be no appreciable difference in sales between a hard cover and a soft cover and the former was a much nicer and more permanent presentation.

DOOMKOPF: Being able to reprint his materials so often suggests an enduring demand for the work. What do you think it is about McKeever’s stories that fuels that popularity and longevity?

VALENTINO: Excellence and originality are the easy answers. There is no one quite like Ted McKeever, thus he perpetually inspires new readers to discover him and those familiar with his work re-discover him. Even if one is familiar with these works, subsequent re-readings will reveal new depths and insights into his brilliantly creative mind.

DOOMKOPF: Have you noticed any trend of indie comics creators coming forward for wider distribution of their older material, or reader and consumer demand for similar revivals? Or has McKeever’s ownership of his work created a somewhat unique opportunity?

VALENTINO: Perhaps it’s a bit of both. All artists seek a larger audience for their work. As comics readers age and become a bit more sophisticated and selective in their tastes, one would hope that they would seek out works that raise the bar.

As to Ted owning his work placing him in a unique position, as far as I’m aware most indie creators own their work. What makes Ted unique is his singular talent.

DOOMKOPF: McKeever told Newsarama in September that this library collection spawned from talks about a new series. What can you share about the progress on that new material?

VALENTINO: You’ll forgive me for not wanting to say anything prematurely (Doom note: I tried.). When Ted is ready, we will gleefully shout about it to anyone who will listen, or who we can tie down long enough to tell.

Let’s just say that if you’re a McKeever fan, the new work is going to absolutely blow you away and leave it at that! How’s that for a tease?

Much thanks to Jim Valentino for taking the time for the interview. Check out the Ted McKeever Library and other Shadowline releases at