Too Much Coffee Man (depicted with too many arms) succumbs to the effect of his addiction. Artist: Shannon Wheeler=


Original medium: Comic books
Published by: Adhesive Press
First Appeared: 1993
Creator: Shannon Wheeler
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Too Much Coffee Man has the form of a superhero parody, with his superhero-style name and his red long johns like Supersnipe's, Forbush Man's and The Red Tornado's, and the bizarre costume accoutrement (unless it's an actual part of him) of a giant coffee cup attached to his head. But it's hard to take him as "seriously" in that role as even a good parody should be taken, when the closest thing he has to a super power is a severe …

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… case of the jitters that come as a result of living up to his name. But at least he also smokes too many cigarettes, if that counts as a super power.

He also doesn't have an origin, like the other superhero parodies. (Super Goof, another wearer of red long johns, has three or four.) Creator Shannon Wheeler (Postage Stamp Funnies) was once dealing with Hollywood types for a possible movie adaptation of Too Much Coffee Man (a possibility he ultimately rejected), and cited a suggestion that he got the way he is by drinking radioactive government-supplied coffee, or something equally plausible and original. Sort of Captain America or Spider-Man but with coffee, as he scornfully described the "idea" before dismissing it. Wheeler made a conscious decision not to specify anything about the character's back-story, just as Snoopy's doghouse, which allegedly contains such items as a pool table, is never shown from the inside.

But Too Much Coffee Man seems to have done quite well despite lacking a specific background. Tho his creative origins lie merely in Wheeler's observation that cartoon success lay in tying his character to a striking appearance, such as the coffee cup on his head, he went from a few appearances in mini-comics (folded-over Xeroxed sheets printed in the couple-hundred copy range) circa 1993 from Wheeler's own Adhesive Press, to stories in such a prestigious anthology comic book as Dark Horse Comics Presents by 1994.

But a more prominent venue for Too Much Coffee Man has been the alternative newspapers where such features as Wonder Warthog and Zippy the Pinhead rose to fame. He appears mostly in one-page stories, doing much less active things than the average superhero, and more musing on the meaning of life, the universe and everything. He's sort of an "everyman" type who drinks too much coffee. His associates include Too Much Espresso Guy, Too Much White German Chocolate Woman with Almonds, and Underwater Guy, who reminds many readers of Aquaman. He's secretly in love with Mystery Woman.

Aside from being collected into several graphic novels by Dark Horse, he has a virtually unique distinction. Unless you count Broadway musicals like Li'l Abner and Annie, he's said to be the only comics character ever adapted into an opera. It debuted in Portland, Oregon, on September 22, 2006, and was followed two years later by Too Much Coffee Man: The Refill. Also, Marvel Comics (Thor, Fantastic Four), in association with the animation studio Nelvana (Beetlejuice, Eek! the Cat) once did preliminary work on developing an animated version for the cable TV network Comedy Central (South Park, Futurama).

He continues to appear regularly in alternative newspapers and on the Internet.


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Text ©2010 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Shannon Wheeler.