Mar 24, 2014
It really is no wonder that Shannon Wheeler’s Too Much Coffee Man – “TM,” of course – caught on and has endured for decades. After all, he’s a caffeine-based superhero, the only kind of power a human being was likely to acquire before gene-splicing and robotics. That – and his head is a coffee cup. With a handle.
SHANNON WHEELER podcast excerpt: "When I create a Too Much Coffee Man strip, I'll start a little more narrative than I will a New Yorker cartoon. It's more about free-form ideas. With TMCM, I'll start with just a panel and start writing. It's 'Where does this idea take me?' With The New Yorker, it's in quick and out quick. To me, in a New Yorker strip, you're trying to create a narrative by a single panel. You're implying a story that happened before that panel. And a story that will happen after that panel. To me, those are the funniest New Yorkers, where your mind has to build all this stuff. With Too Much Coffee Man, it's the reverse, where I'll start with this idea and let it take me some place. It's random tangents."
I’ve been trying to remember when and where I picked up my first issue of a Too Much Coffee Man comic book, but I know it was a long time ago. Cartoonist Wheeler has come a long, long way since then, in terms of distribution, confidence and the sheer quantity and quality of his work. Oh, and through TMCM comics, we can also piece together a Wheeler philosophy of sorts – Live free and die and be reborn. A lot.
You can read “Too Much Coffee Man” in a number of newspapers around the country – Wheeler draws new strips every two weeks – or you can order the Too Much Coffee Man Omnibus, all 566 pages of caffeinated glory, from Dark Horse Books.
SHANNON WHEELER: "I've tried to read the Bible a dozen times. I thought (God is Disappointed in You) will finally force me to learn about the Bible; I'll know Leviticus vs. John; I'll learn these stories. The intent of it was not tomock the Bible. It's a little flippant, sure... I like Christians a lot more now than I did before. I was concerned there would be a lot of knee-jerk reactions to the book. But nuns have bought the book. A pastor said, 'This is a really great way to teach the Bible. Which is great."
What fans of Wheeler’s Too Much Coffee Man work might have missed is how mainstream the artist’s work has become in recent years:
• His cartoons can be found on a recurring basis in both The Onion and The New Yorker magazine, for example;
• Dark Horse Comics collected his “Villain House” stories from Dark Horse Presents into a one-shot comic book, Astounding Villain House;
• He brought semi-adult illustrations to Mark Russell’s attempt to retell the Bible in God is Disappointed in You;
• And he illustrated Steve Duin’s book about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Oil and Water, which was a finalist for the 2014 Oregon Book Awards.
From now until November 15, 2015, Wheeler is guest curating “The Flip Side: Comic Art by New Yorker Cartoonists at the Maryhill Museum of Art, 90 miles north of Portland in Washington State. And you can enjoy all of Wheeler’s work while sipping on a glass of Too Much Coffee Man beer, a Belgian-style black ale with coffee. No kidding.
Maryhill Museum Website