Mike Shiell Interview

Disclaimer: Mike sent me his interview answers in a Word file using the following font and coloring. I tried copying the text as-is into WordPress, and it came out looking the same as the original document. So I kept it that way. I’m hoping that everyone’s browsers handle the font correctly. If not, oh well.

As mentioned in the John Lustig interview post, I’ve won a number of prizes from GoComics contests. One of the other ones was another signed print. Having gotten the print in May, 2015, I felt compelled to start reading the comic itself. This was The Wandering Melon, by Mike Shiell. I went back through the archives, and I’ve been a fan of the comic ever since. Mike definitely has a unique art style, unlike anything else on GoComics – clean, quirky, and often rather unflattering. But the jokes are dead-on. He even provided a new panel for the interview that exemplifies why I love the Melon.

BC: Talk to us
MS: A little bit about me: I have over 25 years’ experience providing cartoons, illustration, greeting cards and animation to clients such as National Lampoon, Reader’s Digest, Saturday Evening Post, Prospect Magazine, The Oldie, Nickelodeon, BBC, Spider Magazine, HIT Entertainment, CBS News, NobleWorks Greetings, Lucas Arts, Hallmark and King Features to name a few.

As well …
Some of my cartoons have been turned into animated shorts!
and my cartoon the
“Wandering Melon” is digitally syndicated on GoComics.

In my full-time job I am a director and animation supervisor. I have directed a number of children’s shows including the Emmy awarding winning “The Backyardigans”. Recently our show, “Mike the Knight” won an international Emmy. I currently work as an animation director at Corus Entertainment in Toronto.

BC: Keep talking.
MS: I consider myself a cartoonist, animator, director, illustrator and all-round “idea guy”.
BC: How did you get started with cartooning? Have you always been a cartoonist?
MS: Like most kids I liked to draw and once I started to get recognition for my drawings I drew more and more. I also liked to make people laugh so put those two together and in my case you’ve got a cartoonist on your hands.
As a kid, I wrote to many of the famous syndicated cartoonists of my day. Most of them wrote back and encouraged me to follow my dream. Today I make my full time living as an animator and director at Corus Entertainment in Toronto. I also illustrate the occasional book and sell my cartoons to a bunch of different markets including magazines, publishers, websites, and broadcasters. My cartoon, The Wandering Melon is also digitally syndicated by GoComics so I really have the best of both worlds.
On my most stressful and not-so-fun days at work I remind myself that I am making a living doing the thing that I dreamed of doing when I was a little kid.

BC: How did Wandering Melon come about?
MS: I had been creating gag cartoons for a number of years and sending them to syndicates. I had compiled them under a number of names for the various pitches. Finally in 2014, Shena Wolf at GoComics showed some interest and asked me to send some more cartoons. I wanted to come up with a catchy title for my cartoon and after some thought and back and forth with Shena, came up with the “Wandering Melon”. The Wandering Melon comic is a collection of “art” resulting from whatever ideas pop into my head. This makes it a little hard to categorize but it gives me the freedom to create cartoons with any kind of style, look or content that I feel like doing on a given day. It allows me to keep developing, experimenting and having fun when I am creating.

BC: What are you most proud of?
MS: I’m very happy with the creation of the Melon Shorts. I am also very pleased with my association with GoComics and the sales of my toons to places like National Lampoon, Reader’s Digest, Saturday Evening Post and a bunch of other publications.

BC: Do you have any paper or e-book collections on the market yet?
MS: I’m currently working on “Wandering Melon Cartoons – Volume # 1” and hope to have it ready sometime this fall. I will keep you posted. I do have a compilation of my animated shorts based on some of my cartoons. They are called the “Melon Shorts” and they can be found at Nimbletronic.

BC: How do you approach that blank sheet of white paper when you decide to start your next strip or panel?
MS: I usually come up with my ideas when I have a chance to completely clear my mind, like when I am walking, swimming, commuting. Since I am not on a tight schedule of producing a cartoon every day, I only create new cartoons when they make me smile. I try to do 2 – 3 cartoons per week.

BC: Who are your favorite artists/writers (any genre)?
MS: I’ve got lots of influences!: Ralph Steadman, National Lampoon Magazine and Mad Magazine, Woody Allen, Monty Python and Terry Gilliam, Far Side, Herman and Bros. Farrelly and Coen. No, unfortunately I haven’t met any of them.

BC: Do you follow any other comic strips right now?
MS: Some of the cartoons that I am currently following are: The Argyle Sweater, Cornered, Eek, Loose Parts, Non-Sequitur, Reality Check and WuMo. I also look for consistency and that moment when you say, “Crap, I wish I had of thought of that gag!”

BC: Do you use Patreon or Kickstarter?
MS: No I haven’t tried these programs but it may be something that I will investigate.

(The first GoComics Wandering Melon.)

BC: Do you want to plug your site?
MS: Yes, I would like to plug the following two sites:

Some of my cartoons have been turned into animated shorts!
The Wandering Melon is digitally syndicated on GoComics!

BC: What’s next?
MS: More Melon shorts – I’ve got hundreds of ideas ready to go! I would also like to develop longer formats like series and features based on my cartoons and characters. I will continue to strive to create original content that makes people laugh (including myself) and I will be creating more WANDERING MELON cartoons based on whatever odd little ideas decide to wander my way.
(All artwork here has been reproduced with the permission of the artist and is Property of Wandering Melon cartoons.)
(This interview is the copyright (c) of Curtis H. Hoffmann 2016. It may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the permission of the author.)
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