NYCC ’14: God is Disappointed in You, but Shannon Wheeler and Mark Russell have hope

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From God is Disappointed in You

by Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson

Who else but the hipster indie publisher Top Shelf could possibly put out a book entitled God is Disappointed in You. Written by Mark Russell with illustrations by Shannon Wheeler of “Too Much Coffee Man” fame God is Disappointed in You is the Bible boiled down to its essential elements.

You know with Shannon Wheeler as part of the project a book like this is bound to be smart and witty and you won’t be disappointed. Leigh Walton of Top Shelf did the moderating for a panel with Mark and Shannon at NYCC on Friday afternoon. Leigh’s questions kept the action moving right along and the audience was attentive and engaged.

Shannon Wheeler and Mark Russell
Shannon Wheeler and Mark Russell

The room was filled to capacity and there was a palpable energy. What a contrast to some of the larger publishing houses, who unfortunately treat these panels as if they’re at a board meeting with stock holders. In all fairness the bigger houses have much more to lose and we’re grateful that they employ some of the best talent around. However we can all learn from one another and aren’t comics supposed to be fun?

Although it might seem from the title that God is Disappointed in You is anti religion, it is a deliberate attempt to understand the complex and controversial foundation of most of western civilization. And in its irreverent way it reveals the essence of what is good and true. This is not a typical graphic novel but each chapter of the Bible is condensed to a few pages with Shannon’s illustrations.

From God is Disappointed in You
From God is Disappointed in You

Mark Russell gave an example from the Book of Samuel, which tells of the prophet Elisha’s confrontation with a group of boys who make fun of his baldness. Elijah then conjures up a team of she-bears who maul the boys to death for this act of childish offense. Shrugging, Russell tells the audience “Nobody knows why Elijah didn’t just summon up a whole head of hair.”

Russell explained about his own path from growing up as a fundamentalist Pentacostal to writer of this book and there were nods in the audience who were obviously in sympathy. In the Q&A afterwards several young divinity students in the audience expressed their affection for the book.

Shannon told us how they came up with the idea—apparently in a bar in Portland, Oregon, which might be a mythic retelling but seems right for the premise. Shannon’s cartoon and illustration style is perfect for this book and it was clear that the collaboration between the two worked well. They obviously had fun doing the project and that sense of glee translated to the audience.

From God is Disappointed in You
From God is Disappointed in You

As evidenced by the examples given by Mark and Shannon, God is Disappointed in You is hilarious but filled with a true affection for the essence of our human struggles. The audience responded in kind with much laughter and a sense of being personally connected to the material. Apparently it’s best not to judge a book by it’s cover.

[Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson is writing a biography of her grandfather, Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, military intelligence officer, prolific pulp writer, inventor and founder of DC Comics, with Gerard Jones (Men of Tomorrow) entitled Lost Hero. Her most recent publication is co-editing and writing an Introduction to a reprint of some of the Major’s adventure tales from the pulps entitled The Texas-Siberia Trail published by Off-Trail Publications. Nicky is a writer, editor and audio publisher and holds a Master’s in Classical Greek Mythology. She was featured in Women’s Enews with an article on Wonder Woman and San Diego Comic Con and appears frequently at Comics Conventions throughout the US speaking about early comic book history.]