Kevin Cannon, Zander Cannon on graphic novels ‘Crater XV,’ ‘Heck’

June 06, 2013 | 5:01 p.m.
craterxv 001 Kevin Cannon, Zander Cannon on graphic novels Crater XV, Heck

Kevin Cannon’s "Crater XV" is a rollicking tale, featuring pirates and astronauts and a two-fisted hero named Army Shanks. (Top Shelf)

craterxv 002 Kevin Cannon, Zander Cannon on graphic novels Crater XV, Heck

Kevin Cannon’s "Crater XV" is a rollicking tale, featuring pirates and astronauts and a two-fisted hero named Army Shanks. (Top Shelf)

craterxv 003 Kevin Cannon, Zander Cannon on graphic novels Crater XV, Heck

Kevin Cannon’s "Crater XV" is a rollicking tale, featuring pirates and astronauts and a two-fisted hero named Army Shanks. (Top Shelf)

craterxv 004 Kevin Cannon, Zander Cannon on graphic novels Crater XV, Heck

Kevin Cannon’s "Crater XV" is the sequel to his Shanks-starring alternate-Canadian-history comic "Far Arden." (Top Shelf)

craterxv 005 Kevin Cannon, Zander Cannon on graphic novels Crater XV, Heck

Kevin Cannon’s "Crater XV" is the sequel to his Shanks-starring alternate-Canadian-history comic "Far Arden." (Top Shelf).

craterxv 006 Kevin Cannon, Zander Cannon on graphic novels Crater XV, Heck

Kevin Cannon’s "Crater XV" is the sequel to his Shanks-starring alternate-Canadian-history comic "Far Arden." (Top Shelf)

heck 001 Kevin Cannon, Zander Cannon on graphic novels Crater XV, Heck

"Heck" follows a kind of paranormal private detective who uses his access to Hell to help the living settle the legal affairs of their deceased loved ones. (Top Shelf)

heck 002 Kevin Cannon, Zander Cannon on graphic novels Crater XV, Heck

"Heck" follows a kind of paranormal private detective who uses his access to Hell to help the living settle the legal affairs of their deceased loved ones. (Top Shelf)

heck 003 Kevin Cannon, Zander Cannon on graphic novels Crater XV, Heck

"Heck" follows a kind of paranormal private detective who uses his access to Hell to help the living settle the legal affairs of their deceased loved ones. (Top Shelf)

heck 004 Kevin Cannon, Zander Cannon on graphic novels Crater XV, Heck

Zander Cannon says he used a chapter-like structure for "Heck" because it gave him “a feeling of accomplishment.” (Top Shelf)

heck 005 Kevin Cannon, Zander Cannon on graphic novels Crater XV, Heck

Zander Cannon says he used a chapter-like structure for "Heck" because it gave him “a feeling of accomplishment.” (Top Shelf)

heck 006 Kevin Cannon, Zander Cannon on graphic novels Crater XV, Heck

Zander Cannon says he used a chapter-like structure for "Heck" because it gave him “a feeling of accomplishment.” (Top Shelf)

A little over a year ago, cartoonists Kevin Cannon and Zander Cannon separately finished their latest graphic novels, “Crater XV” and “Heck,” knowing that their publisher Top Shelf wouldn’t be able to release either until mid-2013. So the two Cannons — who aren’t related, though they’ve shared a studio and a graphic design business in Minnesota since 2004 — decided to partner with Top Shelf on something new.

Taking advantage of Top Shelf’s then-new digital publishing initiative and mobile apps, the Cannons created Double Barrel, a downloadable monthly magazine, through which they could serialize their books and add bonus material, re-imagining the form and spirit of the adventure comics they grew up with, in a new era.

Now those graphic novels are finally coming out in their originally intended forms, as standalone books from Top Shelf, releasing this month.

Kevin Cannon’s "Crater XV" is a rollicking tale, featuring pirates and astronauts and a two-fisted hero named Army Shanks. (Top Shelf)

A page from Kevin Cannon’s “Crater XV.” (Top Shelf)

Kevin Cannon’s “Crater XV” is a rollicking tale, featuring pirates and astronauts and a two-fisted hero named Army Shanks. (It’s the sequel to his Shanks-starring alternate-Canadian-history comic “Far Arden.”) Zander Cannon’s “Heck” is moodier but no less exciting, following a kind of paranormal private detective who uses his access to Hell to help the living settle the legal affairs of their deceased loved ones.

Both artists favor brisk action and simplified character design, but otherwise their styles are quite different. Kevin Cannon’s work is looser and more cartoony, packed with wry comedy, exemplified by his tongue-in-cheek sound effects. (There’s a moment in “Crater XV,” for example, where instead of “pow” or “zoom,” the action-text reads “look around in a touristy way.”)

Zander Cannon, whose background is in more conventional heroic sagas like Alan Moore’s “Top 10″ and his own “The Replacement God,” relies heavily on minimalism, just like Kevin, but Zander Cannon’s drawing tends to be darker and blockier.

He says of his own style, “I think of it as cartoony, only in the sense that it’s simplified. It’s a lot more about shapes than it is about the rendering. I’m using composition to maybe avoid doing a lot of ‘acting’ with the characters. A fight scene in one of my comics isn’t going to be as weightless or rubbery as one in Kevin’s.”

Kevin Cannon says that his style has never been a conscious choice; it’s just the way he draws.

“I have these characters with rubber limbs, which can make fight scenes more comical just with body language. Peter Bagge’s ‘Hate’ was a big influence on me, just for the way he was able to manipulate bodies in such a weird way. I think as long as the drawing is consistent, people accept it.”

“Maybe it’s just my personality,” he adds. “I don’t want people to take it too seriously. I think the best pulp and action films — think of James Bond — have that hint of humor.”

As for Kevin Cannon’s oddball sound effects, he says those started as a way for him to condense the story and convey more information in a fun, snappy way. That same flair for concision paid off for both Cannons when it came time to chop up “Crater XV” and “Heck” for serialization.

Kevin Cannon, for one, says that his book was ready-made for the Double Barrel installment plan.

“I was definitely thinking serially from the beginning,” he says. “With ‘Far Arden,’ I already had that structure in place, with about 30 pages per chapter. It’s the pulp influence, I think. I really like the idea of ending each chapter on a cliffhanger. That’s partly why we both felt comfortable jumping into Double Barrel, because we both knew we had these natural breaking points.”

"Heck" follows a kind of paranormal private detective, who uses his access to Hell to help the living settle the legal affairs of their deceased loved ones. (Top Shelf)

An inside page from Zander Cannon’s “Heck.”  (Top Shelf)

Zander Cannon says he used a chapter-like structure for “Heck” too, because it gave him “a feeling of accomplishment” to say that he’d finished a chapter, rather than just finishing five more pages. He suggests that, “Subconsciously, making it easier to write in chunks may have made it easier to read in chunks.”

As for Double Barrel, both Cannons say they plan to continue with the digital magazine after a brief hiatus and a few tweaks in terms of the kinds and quantity of stories.

“It might be more like episodic television than chapters in a novel,” Zander Cannon says.

But both like how digital publishing offers them a different way to reach their readers more immediately than books that take a long time to get into stores.

“You aren’t bound by specific page counts,” Zander Cannon says. “And the upfront costs are minimal. Everyone just gets paid on percentages of what the book actually makes. So many of the problems with serializing in print are eliminated when you go digital.”

– Noel Murray

Noel Murray is an Eisner-nominated critic who writes about comics and television for The A.V. Club and film for The Dissolve. He also covers home video for the Los Angeles Times.

Follow us on Twitter: @LATHeroComplex

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Comments


One Response to Kevin Cannon, Zander Cannon on graphic novels ‘Crater XV,’ ‘Heck’

  1. Ronie Melvar says:

    Each artist give us a different style of their own, but I prefer Kevin Cannon's wry comedic and cartoonish style. Sometimes I also like Zander's minimalistic style.

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