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INTERVIEW: Shannon Wheeler And Steve Duin Of THE MUELLER REPORT Graphic Novel

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The Mueller Report Graphic Novel hits your local comic book store on September 16, but thanks to IDW, Monkeys Fighting Robots has a great interview with Eisner Award-winning New Yorker cartoonist Shannon Wheeler and The Oregonian Metro columnist Steve Duin.

About the book:
Details from the Mueller Report are brought to life in every excruciating detail by Wheeler and Duin, including the infamous Trump Tower Meeting of 2016, the questionable contacts, misleading statements, and unreported engagements. If it’s in the report, it’s in the graphic novel.

Shannon Wheeler And Steve Duin Interview:

MFR: How important was it for you to get the graphic novel version of The Muller Report published?

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Shannon: Very. It’s a historical document. Mueller didn’t write it to be an easy read. Getting the information into a format that is digestible was very important to me.

MFR: How many times did you read The Mueller Report?

Steve: Cover-to-cover? Once. But I’ve spent 50 hours with the report open in my lap or at my elbow.

Shannon: I read it a couple times – and listened to it once. Mostly I relied on Steve to process what was important and what was a dead end.

MFR: Can you talk about the process of unpacking The Mueller Report and how you decided what to put in your book?

Steve:Unpacking” is a telling verb. Mueller had no interest in a simple narrative, one that would fit snugly in a Fox & Friends news crawl. His investigation was exhaustive, and in early drafts of the graphic novel, we tried to connect too many of the dots.

Mueller needed 400 pages to flesh out his conclusions; we had roughly 400 panels. Because Mueller found scant evidence of a conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign, we devoted most of those panels to the president’s obstructions of justice. Mueller did not believe he could file criminal charges against a sitting president, but his investigation provided Congress with all it needed to impeach Trump for his actions involving Michael Flynn, James Comey, and the special counsel.

Shannon: There were some obvious parts that had to be included; like the Trump Tower Meeting, Chris Christie Lunch, and the Comey Conversation. There were a few bits in the Mueller Report that became more important in retrospect – like all the Roger Stone conversations.

MFR: Shannon, can you talk about the artistic tone you used for the book?

Shannon: I strove for clarity. I added jokes every now and again, sometimes cheap jokes, but the main idea was to communicate the ideas Steve had making the Mueller Report understandable.

MFR: How do you think the use of black and white helps the reading experience?

Shannon: It’s a story that doesn’t need whistles and bells. We tried to reduce the complexity of the plot. Trump refusing to answer Mueller’s questions isn’t made more understandable by being rendered with red reflective light.

MFR: In your book, Mueller is this towering figure narrating the story (page 44 is a great example). It works well to bring the reader into the universe. Did you play with the size of Mueller when putting the book together?

Shannon: Mueller is a narrator as well as a character. He’s a combination of Rod Serling and Columbo. It’s a visual conceit to change his size – Serling would do it by stepping toward the camera – Columbo did it by stopping as he stepped out a door and saying “one more thing…”

MFR: After reading The Mueller Report, how do you think history will remember Donald Trump?

Steve: History tends to be more charitable than the average newspaper columnist. As Michael Cohen notes, Trump never thought he would win the election; he ran to augment the family brand. Understandably angry that he was never given credit for running a smart, if cynical, campaign, Trump played the petty, vicious, incoherent narcissist to the bitter end.

Shannon: I quote Churchill, “history is written by the victors.”

MFR: How has the political cartoon evolved over the past 20 years?

Steve: It has barely survived. Political cartoons were long the audacious centerpiece of an editorial page. With rare exceptions, they have disappeared in the froth of social media.

Shannon: The Germans published a list of people to be shot on sight in Belgium once the invasion was finished. Several cartoonists were on that list. Recently, Charlie Hebdo republished their Mohammed cartoons that inspired a slaughter. So – not much.

I know you meant content, not reaction, but the basic impulse to create political cartoons has stayed the same.

MFR: Do you think Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have what it takes to win the election in November?

Steve: The 2020 Democratic ticket has this going for it: empathy, a sense of humor, @King James and the belief that Black Lives Matter, a reasonable amount of faith in the face mask, and the commitment – which Hillary lacked – to campaign in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

Shannon: A fellow cartoonist, Ace Backwords, said; “the more entertaining candidate always wins.”

MFR: I think the most critical political question that is not being asked right now is how do we bring the country together. How do we get past Republican and Democrat and do what’s best for our country?

Steve: Maybe the question isn’t being asked because the answer is so damn discouraging: Few Republicans – and only a slim majority of Democrats – are looking for that middle ground. As long as Trump controls the right and Fox serves as his personal messenger, this divisiveness will not ebb.

Shannon: I thought fighting an external enemy would bring us together as a country because I read The Lathe of Heaven and later, the Watchmen. But seeing a pandemic be politicized makes me question my assumptions. How do we get past a two-party system? Make politics boring again. What’s best for our country? We should start being nice to each other again.

MFR: Shannon and Steve, thank you again for your time and best of luck with The Mueller Report!

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Matthew Sardo
As the founder of Monkeys Fighting Robots, I'm currently training for my next job as an astronaut cowboy. Reformed hockey goon, comic book store owner, video store clerk, an extra in 'Transformers: Dark of the Moon,' 'Welcome Back Freshman,' and for one special day, I was a Ghostbuster.