in E Minor
Rubber, You're Glue...
Does It All Mean?
INTERVIEW WITH SHANE H. SIMMONS
ORIGINALLY FEATURED IN 1996- by The Jester
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
TJ: What does the initial ĎHí in your name stand for?
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
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
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
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.