Stepping off of the street into the lobby of Antoinette Hatfield Hall, not far from the madding crowds of Occupy Portland, one gets the feeling of entering a ski lodge or some kind of British gentleman’s club. The dark wood and silver fireplace lend an aspect of gentility to the environment.
It is perhaps an odd juxtaposition to find the wide expanse of the walls arranged with small black frames encasing cartoons on white paper. Shannon Wheeler, long known for his Too Much Coffee Man strip, has arranged one hundred and one of his rejected New Yorker strips throughout the lobby for his “One-One-One-One” show. The title stands for “One hundred and One One-panel cartoons in a One-man show,” and is located cleverly at 1111 SW Broadway.
In his Facebook account, Wheeler was surprised to feel butterflies in his stomach before the show.
“What a baby,” he complained.
But a showing in the Hatfield lobby is not the same as one in a comic shop or other nerd venue. The clientele who will be viewing the work have, for the most part, a different set of interests, and perhaps are not accustomed to the frequently irreverent attitude of the comics. All the more reason to expose them (so to speak) to a different viewpoint, and Wheeler’s New Yorker-style cartoons provide a familiar stepping-stone.
Drink tickets were provided to attendees, who were then welcome to step over to the full bar to exchange them for liquid refreshment before mingling with the crowd, which included Boilerplate and Frank Reade‘s Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett.
The artist himself was sitting at a small club table with Jamie S. Rich (Spell Checkers) and comics couple Michael and Laura Allred (Madman, iZombie). Ink on Wheeler’s hands was left over from work he had been doing on a pinup page for Allred’s upcoming Madman 20th Anniversary book.
“The butterflies are almost gone,” Wheeler confessed. “The process was nervewracking!”
He was quick to praise PCPA Executive Director Robyn Williams for her part in making the show possible.
“Robyn’s been really nice to me, and her people have done a lot, including printing out labels for the pieces and letting me set up a table to sell my stuff.”
Besides his current works, Grandpa Won’t Wake Up and the Eisner-winning I Thought You Would Be Funnier, Wheeler’s table contained a much rarer treasure.
Thanks to a special advance order, there were five copies of Oil and Water, his new graphic novel with Oregonian Metro columnist Steve Duin. The book is not officially on shelves yet, but copies were briefly available at the Alternative Press Expo (APE) in San Francisco.
The book, a graphic novel about a team of Portlanders traveling to the Gulf Coast in the wake of the BP oil spill, has been the subject of a number of panels at conventions over the past year.
“The book wouldn’t have happened without Mike [Rosen],” Wheeler stated.
Rosen, the Manager of Portland’s Watershed Division and a comics reader, was the impetus behind the actual Gulf trip and the graphic novel.
Wheeler had not worked with Duin (Comics: Between the Panels) before, but reported a very favorable experience.
“Steve’s a very bright guy; he pushed me to a new level. He’s opinionated and I’m opinionated…I loved it. We’re not afraid to debate and find ideas we didn’t know we had. It felt very genuine.”
Oil and Water, from Fantagraphics, will ship in November. The “One-One-One-One” show is on display in the Antoinette Hatfield lobby through the end of the year, at no charge to the public.