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AN INTERVIEW WITH SHANE H. SIMMONS

ORIGINALLY FEATURED IN 1996- by The Jester

Andrew and I recently had the pleasure of meeting Shane Simmons during our trip to the Montreal Spirits of National Unity stop. His work always amused me, and it was a thrill to finally meet the man in person, and later do an interview with him for the magazine. Shane has been working in the comics industry for eight years, since he was twenty. His small press credits include: Angry Comics, Couch Potatoes, The Squalids and Liíl Elder Williams. His full sized comic credits include the masterpiece Longshot Comics: The Long and Unlearned Life of Roland Gethers and Money Talks, both published by Slave Labor Graphics. He has lived in Montreal all of his life.

TJ: What does the initial ĎHí in your name stand for?

SS: Thatís my darkest secret. I could reveal it to you, but then youíd have to die. If it saw print, then your readers would have to follow. Itís better left unsaid.

TJ: What cartoons do you like?
SS: Iím not much of an animation junkie, but I love The Simpsons. Who doesnít? I just find it strange that the hardest hitting social satire on American TV is disguised as a cartoon starring ugly yellow people.

TJ: What made you so bitter?
SS: High school, just the same as everybody. I hate to come up with such a mundane answer. Iíd much rather say I was sent away to a third world orphanage and beaten daily by demented Catholic nuns, but nothing interesting like that ever happens to me. No, like ninety percent of everyone else out there, I went to a regular old school within easy walking distance of my suburban home, and got shit on for five years straight. Itís the same deadly combination for us all. Asshole peers, lousy teachers, and a lame curriculum at the exact moment weíre going through the most physical and mental development of our whole lives. It takes awhile to recover from that period. Some never do. I just comfort myself with the knowledge that the few people who shone back thenówho reached their peak at such a young ageóare now all single parent, crack addicted, welfare recipients with herpes, a criminal record and the intellect of a bean. Every single one, I swear. Doesnít that make you feel so much better?

TJ: Not really. How did you manage to route said bitterness into funny comics instead of sitting in the corner with a beer?
SS: Suffering and bitterness have always been a terrific source of yuks. I firmly believe that anyone truly funny has to be either fucked up or deeply pissed off at the world. I turned out disturbingly well-adjusted, so Iíd have to put myself in the pissed off category. Cynicism is a wonderful asset if you expect the worst, but still find the inevitability of it funny. At least when it comes to comedy writing. Socially, it can make you as popular as public hair in a punch bowl.

TJ: Why donít you smoke, drink or do drugs anymore?
SS: Anymore? I didnít realize that I gave the impression that I ever did. Actually, Iím a dull, dull boy. I donít smoke. I donít do drugs, and the amount of alcohol Iíve consumed in my life wouldnít fill my leg. Iím not a prude about this sort of thing, but they arenít for me. Iíve inhaled enough second hand smoke to know that I donít like it. Iíve tossed back enough booze to know that I really donít enjoy it.

And my brain keeps coming up with enough weird shit sober that I donít need drugs to help me along. At the very least, being clean and sober saves me a lot of cash.

TJ: Is your new book about money out? How did the idea come to you? It looks really funny?
SS: The book is called Money Talks, and the first issue just came out as of this moment, right now. Itís a new series that Iím doing bi-monthyl for Slave Labor, starring the portraits from paper money around the world and over the last two thousand years. Itís an anachronistic comedy soap opera that features some of the best line art every minted, all showcased in a minimalist comic book. I canít remember the exact moment the idea came to me. I was probably in the shower again. Thatís where I always get the best ones; when Iím soaking wet and far away from paper and pen. Iím always trying to figure out some new way to tell a comic book story that lets me spend more time writing, and less time fiddling with the artwork. I can draw, I just donít like to do a lot of it. Turning out comic pages is a huge time commitment. I might be able to come up with a terrific idea for twelve issues of story, but I shudder when I think how long itís going to take to draw all that. I guess you can say my first love is definitely writing. Anyway, the first mention of Money Talks appears somewhere much earlier in my notebook. It started with the idea that using paper money portraits as characters in some sort of comic strip could be milked for easy laughs. A little while later, the title came to me. It was one of those two-part ideas that matched perfectly, and I knew I had to do something more with it than just a throwaway gag in a mini-comic. About a year later, I found myself proposing an ongoing epic to Slave Labor. They bit, so I guess I have to sit down and actually do it now.

TJ: What about your piece on the Red Baron?

SS: I wrote three magazine articles about him that were published last year. The main one, for Aviation History, was run as their cover story for July 1995, so that was pretty neat. It was a fairly complete biography, whereas the other two were about more specific subjects: his dog and his funeral. All the research I did led to bigger and better things. Iíve got a screenplay in development out West now thatís all about the Red Baron and Billy Bishop when they were stationed across the front from each other during World War One. In fact, Iím being paid right now to work on a second draft. Thatís what Iím supposed to be doing instead of chatting up interviewers for a comic fanzine.

TJ: Does your writing pay all your bills?
SS: It does not that Iím getting paid as a screenwriter.  Doing experimental alternative comic books like Longshot or Money Talks is a rough way to make a living. Itís great for artistic freedom, integrity and fan followings, so long as you donít expect to make cash for luxuries like food, shelter or clothing.


TJ: Would you ever wear black pants with a black shirt and white shoes in public?

SS: I did once, but I was mistaken for a mime and set upon by angry buskers.

TJ: What do you think about the French?
SS: They have a very old, very rich culture thatís brought us such marvels as poutine, Ding and Dong films and Celine Dion muzak. It will be an honor to have them shoot at me in Canadaís upcoming civil war.

Copyright©2000 The Jester