This article originally appeared in Strangehaven issue issue #14, June 2002.
Too Much Coffee Man #11
by various [Adhesive Comics]
June 2001/$4.95 US
Magazine [8” x 10”] 64 pages B/W; colour cardstock cover
After ten issues, Shannon Wheeler, the creator of one of comics’ most bizarre “superheroes,” Too Much Coffee Man, in his infinite wisdom, has morphed one of the most successful independent comic books of recent years into a magazine. Not a magazine-sized comic; nor a comic with a few articles; but a bona-fide magazine with a few comics.
It would be harsh to suggest that the Too Much Coffee Man strip was just a one joke idea that could no longer support an entire comic in itself – early issues were more sophisticated, working on three levels of cartoon reality; the TMCM strip; a grotesque self-caricature of the artist trying to publish and sell his cartoons; and a relatively realistic autobiographical strip. Later issues abandoned the other two strips in favour of the hugely popular title character, entire issues often comprising a collection of shorter one-gag comics with environmental or political concerns, although these were frequently funny. TMCM also spawned an array of bizarre merchandising, including Zippo lighters, printed rolls of toilet paper and beautiful statuettes.
Wheeler has now evolved his original idea and built a magazine around a handful of his own strips, opening the doors to other high quality cartoonists (this issue includes great pieces by Rick Geary and Graham Annable) who contribute one or two pagers.
But comics only account for 18 pages out of the 64 and the rest are filled with a quirky selection of features with a heavy emphasis on coffee; an introduction to organic coffee, coffee recipes, coffee ice cream and biscotti reviews (no I’m not making this up) and an article by cartoonist Kieron Dwyer on his lawsuit with the Starbucks coffee house after parodying their logo on his website.
There’s also more anti-corporate pieces, a critique of the American criminal justice system, a review by Strangers In Paradise creator Terry Moore of his own work, plus an equally odd selection of letters, reviews and other stuff. There’s the spirit of Mad Magazine and Monty Python lurking in the background, and you never know with Shannon whether it’s real or a spoof. Remember, this is the man who actually shot holes through the entire print run of one issue of his comic with a pistol and totally fabricated the existence of another just to confound collectors.
The design of the package is very smart and the occasional watercolour illustrations by Wheeler are beautiful. It’s not really a comic and I wouldn’t normally pick up a magazine ostensibly about coffee, but there was plenty here to keep me amused. Suck it and see.
Watercolour illustration by Shannon Wheeler ©2001 Adhesive Comics Inc.