Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Portland Questions 43- Shannon Wheeler

Art By Paul Guinan
Shannon Wheeler was born August 13, 1966 and grew up in Berkeley, California and graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a degree in architecture in 1989.  He started cartooning while at UCBerkeley publishing his daily cartoons "Calaboose" and then "Tooth and Justice" in The Daily Californian. He later moved to Austin, Texas, whose cafe culture originated the creation of Too Much Coffee Man, becoming a weekly comic strip in 1990, eventually winning Wheeler an Eisner Award.

Wheeler continued to use this character in self-published zines, comic books, magazines and webcomics for a number of years, culminating in 2006 with the Too Much Coffee Man Opera  and followed by Too Much Coffee Man Opera, The Refill (in two acts) in 2008.   From 2004 until 2008, Shannon contributed to many of the Idiot's Guide books. Shannon's weekly strip Postage Stamp Funnies appeared in the The Onion newspaper until 2009, when he began contributing to The New Yorker magazine.  In 2010, Wheeler published a collection of his cartoons rejected by The New Yorker called I Thought You Would Be Funnier, which won the 2011 Will Eisner Comics Industry Award for Best Humor Publication.

He is having a One man show at PCPA on first Thursday Oct 6,2011.  At PCPA, 111 SW Broadway, Portland Oregon

He posts a new cartoon every day to his blog at

Doug Dorr:   What projects are you working on currently?
Shannon Wheeler:   Right now I'm preparing for my one-man show that opens at the PCPA on Oct 6th. I'm also working on a new Too Much Coffee Man story for Dark Horse Presents and something for the CBLDF. It's a busy month.

DD:   What is your artistic Process?
A lot of over-thinking. It's best when I space out and stories unfold in front of me. I like it when my brain just starts coughing up ideas and images and I transcribe them. I have to be in a good mental place for that - balanced and relaxed. Something I have to force it - and write/draw even when I don't feel like it. Not as much fun. I do a lot of revision - look at every line and ask myself if it's needed.

DD:   As the artist what is your interactions with the writer?
Working with Steve was great. He has so much knowledge about comics that he knew exactly what he wanted. I had ideas for images and dialog but his script was so rich and complete that much of the time I was just complimenting something already realized.

Simon had the script and we'd get together over the roughs and brainstorm extra ideas. Like when the kids were using a candle to wake up their grandpa (who, at this point, is dressed as a Nazi), at first it was a normal candle, then a roman candle, but making it a Chanukah candle was real inspiration. That came from us cranked on coffee just riffing ideas and making each other laugh.

DD:   What Comic/ Trade/Book would you recommend?
Some of the under exposed books; Cowboy Wally, Freak Brothers, anything by Joe Sacco (not under rated, but great stuff), War is Boring, anything by Ted Rall... it's a golden age of books right now. Surprisingly, I like the new Planet of the Apes books from BOOM!.

DD:   What Comic/ Trade/Book would you recommend to someone new to comics?
Comics cover such a wide range of genre that I'd tailor it to the audience. Watchmen is so dependent on comic history I'd be more hesitant to give it to someone. Essex County has a gentle story telling that's a nice intro. Walking Dead is great horror. Too Much Coffee Man - of course.

DD:   What skill would you like to learn?
I'd love to play more music. I play guitar but I'm terrible. I love it - but I suck.

DD:   What's the most important thing you've learned?
Don't be afraid to work hard. Redraw pages until they're right. I'm redrawing 100 comics for my art show. I want the paper to match.

DD:   Do you have a collection?   If so, what is one of the items you're most proud of?
I have weird collections. I love 1950 novelty playing cards - especially the dirty ones.

DD:   What is your favorite genre of Comics?
Ones that are well done. I like the straight forward story of Y the Last Man but Chris Ware pushes the medium.

Some of my favorite stuff are the old comics that Sunday Press is putting out; Krazy Kat, Little Nemo, Gasoline Alley... very inspirational to read.

DD:   Do you have an Ipad?   If so what do use it for the most.
Not yet... I'm dying to get one. I want to read Ed Brubaker's run on Captain America. Seems like an Ipad is the way to go for long runs of comics. I can't afford graphic novels any more and I'm not on Marvel's Comp list.

DD:   What is your favorite TV show/ movie?
Raising Arizona, Tampopo, the Wire, Breaking Bad, Rome, Boogie Nights, anything by Herzog...

DD:   How does the Portland comics culture shapes your work?
It makes me feel like drawing comics is normal.

DD:   Do you go to comics conventions. if so what was your first convention?
Larry Langford used to put on the Dallas Fantasy Fair and he'd give a bunch of us loser comic people a hotel room and a table - which is one of the most generous encouraging things any promoter has ever done. My friends and I would go every year. It was a blast.

I usually hit San Diego, APE, Wordstock and Stumptown. Baltimore had me out this year and I had a blast (great show!). I'd like to do more East Coast shows but I can't afford to fly out so I'd have to be a guest.

DD:   If you weren’t doing comics what would you do?
Film. Maybe animation.

DD:   Do you have a favorite restaurant that you would recommend?
Portland has become a food haven. I'm loving a sandwich shop on Hawthorne - I think it's East Side Deli...

DD:   How long have you lived in Portland, what made you choose Portland?
I've been here about 13 years. Dark Horse is a great publisher and they're here. I had no idea it would become the center of the comic book universe.

DD:   What is your favorite part of Portland?
I really like Hawthorne. Bagdad with cheap movies and beer, Powell's with some of the best people around, multiple coffee shops like Albina, Peets, Fresh Pot...

DD:   Where in Portland/ Oregon would you most like to visit?
I really want to ride the tram. It's an air gondola that goes from the waterside up to a medical center in the Portland hills. I'm sure it has an amazing view.

DD:   Would you like to write/Illustrate for another media?   Or write a character from another media,
I really want to write some mainstream marvel (or DC) comics.

for example, Dr. Who, James Bond?  What would you explore?
Dr Who would be fun. I'd love to write a Son of Satan story. There are some Star Wars stories that would be fun. I maintain that Firefly is a Han Solo Star Wars prequel.

1 comment:

Paul Guinan said...

The illo that leads this article is TOTALY AWESOME!