I know someone is going to count the questions and be like, "Hey buddy, there's six questions." They would be right, but that ruins my title and the last question was a bonus question and why are you counting anyways. Yesterday, Dark Horse Presents #21 hits shelves and Dark Horse's digital store front and it marked the premiere of Villain House from Shannon Wheeler. I had the change to chat with Shannon via email about the project which you will be able to read, but also he included pictures of the original art for you to enjoy as well. It's an awesome interview so please enjoy. Additionally though, you can follow Shannon on Twitter (@MuchCoffee) and you can pick up his new Comixology collection of Too Much Coffee Man: Favorites Vol. 1, Here. If you need more enjoyment in your life (and you do) you can join his weekly newsletter that includes commentary and comics.
Comic Bastards) Villain House, if you don’t mind me saying, is a very different style of story from your other works. Where did the idea spawn from and why is it so awesome?
Shannon Wheeler) A while back I wanted to work in the style of the comic books I read as a kid. My favorite was Fantastic Four. Specifically, I loved the Thing and the way he'd hang out with villains like the Sandman. I remember the two of them running into each other at a bar. Instead of fighting they sit and have a beer. That's the whole comic - them talking about the old days. I've never been able to find the comic again so maybe I just dreamt it. But, in my head, it's one of my favorite bits. It felt honest and funny. They were like old lovers who hadn't seen each other in years. They was no passion between them for fighting or anything else. They just talked. They were simply two sad characters. It's a bit like a Tom Waits song. I want honest moments like that. I want some fighting too. And I love ironic (horrible) endings so I want that too. But mostly I want a little loneliness and desperation in my comics. And for some reason - I love it when characters suffer.
I've thought about this project for years. I worked with John McRea (Marvel artist) on sketches. I batted around ideas with David Walker (movie reviewer). I got advice from Matt Bors (political cartoonist). Marie Javins (colorist and ex-editor from Marvel). And, I'm sure, there were countless others who I blabbed with. Blah blah blah someday I'll do this project and it will be cool... It took my Dark Horse editor, Brendan Wright, to get me to finally stop thinking and start doing.
CB) Are you looking to take the series outside of the pages of Dark Horse Presents? Additionally, will the series only have three chapters appearing in DHP or will it possibly extend its stay?
SW) We've actually started with 4 chapters but I've written 8 chapters so far. The ideas keep rolling out. I'd like to start overlapping and reusing characters. Ideally, I'd like to have other writers contribute. That's down the road. First we'll have to see how these stories are received. There's a lot of potential.
There's one story that starts with an inmate who has the powers to absorb the things he touches. A woman corresponds with him and they fall in love. He's scared to see her - that she'll reject him. He's released from prison on good behavior. Despite his fears his feelings are reciprocated. Unfortunately, when they touch he absorbs her softness. They're not able to consummate their love. That's what happens in the first 2 pages. Then the story gets rolling.
CB) Well I enjoyed it and I hope that fans take to it so that we get to all of those stories.
CB) With the details released by Dark Horse it’s clear that there are quite a few villains created for this series already. Are there any that you really enjoyed creating and how many have you created up until this point?
SW) So far I have 37 villains. Only about 4 or 5 appear (or are mentioned) in each story. I'd like to pick up various background characters and run with them. One of the small demon assistants to Satan's Son reappears, answering an want ad from the Buzzard.
I drew a New Yorker style cartoon with Anubis saying to a friend; "I used to be a God. Now I'm just a guy with a dog's head." Anubis appears in the first chapter delivering mail in the prison that the Squid and Pachyderm escape from. How far the Gods fall. What is the life like for a guy with a dogs head? What are the powers of an Egyptian god? Would he be happy or sad? Why is he in prison? Why is he delivering the mail?
(Dustin's note: I laughed a lot reading that last part)
CB) The first chapter of the story had two really sad twists and I know we should expect more plot twists in the next two chapters as well. What’s the tone you’re hoping to achieve with this series and how does it differ from your past work (if it differs at all)?
SW) I love O'Henry. The story of the watch fob and hair brush bothered me for years when I was a kid. It's like the Escher drawing of the two hands coming from nothing. It's frustrating. Twilight Zone picked up where O'Henry left off. It's that frustrating feeling - wishing the book reading fool had just kept a second set of glasses. That sort of story is a natural overlap with second rate superheroes.
I tried to move as far from Too Much Coffee Man as I could. Some of timing and humor feels the same to me despite my efforts. It's more grounded in reality, less zany. I establish the rules of the universe and follow them. TMCM broke rules. I don't know. It's hard to escape yourself.
CB) It seems like you’re very excited about this series, what about it has you amped?
SW) I'm totally into this project. It's the first long form story telling that I've done in a while. In the third chapter I have a woman (villain) trapped under a fat guy (another villain) for 4 pages and I just run with the dialog. You don't see her at all. The dialog balloon tucks around and under the fat. It's ridiculous...
CB) That sounds hilarious and I will be waiting for that chapter.
CB) My last question is a selfish, selfish question. When can we expect another installment in your rejected New Yorker series (i.e.: I Thought You Would Be Funnier and I Told You So)?
SW) I just met with Joan Hilty from BOOM! this morning. I have all the cartoons finished. If we can figure out a good title we should have it out around San Diego time. I can't wait for it - I want the third book to be the best of the set. I'm finally getting the hang of the single panel gag. Actually - I'm just starting to figure out how much I need to improve before I'm a tenth as good as my heroes.
CB) That's very exciting to hear, I've really enjoyed your single panel comics and will be looking forward to the third book.
There you have it Bastards. I'd like to extend a huge thank you to Shannon Wheeler for talking to us and wish him the best of luck on Villain House. We'll be supporting it and if you're enjoying it show him some love on Twitter and by chatting it up with Dark Horse. Look for Villain House to return in the next issue of Dark Horse Presents #22 out on March 20th, and be sure to pick up #21 out now.