Tyrell Cannon is someone to watch out for in the comic world. His projects are gaining a large amount of attention and his creativity is being praised. He is currently working on the second issue of his science fiction comic series Victus which will hit stores in October. He is a graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and has several titles out right now that capture the imaginations of comic book readers looking for something different. I was lucky enough to speak to this up and comer about his process and how he broke into the comic book business.
IndieReader: Tell us about your independent project and the process behind it?
Tyrell Cannon: I’m currently working on a comic series titled Victus. It’s a science fiction comic in a setting that is sort of a mix between the 15th century and modern day. It focuses on human relationships, referencing the history of religion and philosophy. It features exciting chase scenes, relic-powered mystical machines, and exotic pets. The first issue is available for purchase on my website and in Chicago’s finest comic book stores. The second issue should be complete and available this fall.
Basically I handle everything but the printing (which I leave to the wonderful Rink Printing). Before I started the book, the themes and ideas had been bouncing around in my head for a while as I was finishing up my last project, Gary. I’m very interested in religion & philosophy, so the majority of the research was reading books and listening to lectures. As the book firmed up in my head, I started doing sketches of characters and other key images. I usually have sketchbooks labeled and dedicated to each project, so all drawings are easily available for reference.
As for the actual pages, I draw rather large, on 14×17″ paper. I start in graphite pencil in a large sketchbook, then light box that onto Bristol board with blue pencil, then ink on top of that. I ink with 2 and 0 sable brushes, Kuretake pens, and some Staedtler mars pens. Usually during the pencilling process I will solicit feedback from my fellow comic book artists. Their critique is extremely helpful in polishing up the book and catching any major mistakes.
The finished drawings are then scanned into my computer (very slowly in small pieces, since they are so big). Then I do some light cleanup and delete the blue lines in Photoshop, with a wacom tablet to assist me. Then I layout the book and send it to my printer. I’m really picky, so I work with my printer to see what paper stocks, printing methods, and sizes are going to work best for the book.
Then they ship it to me and I sell it, and then start the process all over again on the next issue.
IR: How have you been able to fund your projects?
TC: So far, everything I have sold has been funded by me alone. I have always had a day job, so through careful saving, I can set aside enough money to print and distribute the work. Usually my day job and financial situation will directly affect how I can print, and how many I can print. I’m not going to lie, it’s difficult. And it’s always a compromise. But no one gets into comics to make money, right?
However, the money made on the successful projects is usually rolled directly into funding the next project. On a good project, I can break even or have a little extra left to print the next book or buy supplies. I have toyed around with the idea of crowd-funding, but I haven’t found the right project for that yet. There have been some great successes for comics in that arena lately, so I’m very intrigued.
IR: What have been your influences in creating comics and what made you want to do so in the first place?
TC: I think it all started when I was a kid. I would draw all these crazy big drawings of battles scenes with my brothers. It was cool to see a story unfold through drawing on the paper in front of you. Then around 4th grade I got my first comic book (I think it was Hulk or G.I. Joe, followed by X-men #5) and then I was hooked.
I think my influences aren’t all comic’s creators, but many of them are. I’m constantly looking to masters of the medium like Windsor McKay, Moebius, Katsuhiro Otomo, Will Eisner, Chris Ware, Paul Pope, and many others. I am also constantly struck by how the work of great masters like Michelangelo, Albrecht Durer, or Rodin is so connected the comics medium.
I think two things made me really want to pursue making comics ‘for real’.
1- Seeing the amazing work being done by other independent artists. It made comics real to me. Not just that they were people I knew making the work, but the work itself just spoke to me more than traditional American comics I had grown up on.
2- Even considering the above, I didn’t see the work out in the world that represented what I wanted to see in comics exactly. Or maybe more accurately, the work I had in me needed to be out in the world, as no one else was doing it.
IR: What would you like people to take in when reading your comics?
TC: I hope that a reader feels they have shared in a communication. I’m putting my ideas and thoughts out there in this awesome medium of comics. Reading a comic is an intimate experience that people usually take part in alone, granting them the power to really meditate on the work. After experiencing the comic, hopefully it will spur on their own thoughts and emotions and influence them as they go on to communicate with others. I like the idea that art is the beginning.
IR: What other projects have you been working on and what kind of stuff would you like to do in comics?
TC: A few irons in the fires…
I’m working on a book with my friend John Wright called Numb. I’m writing it and he’s drawing it. It’s the first time I’ve written for someone else, so that’s new and challenging. The book is about two brothers that get pulled into an underground cage fighting competition.
I’m also collaborating with my brother Logan on a new mini comic with my trademark mouthless character Simon. It also includes boxing, but is more an experimental story about comic book panels and personality traits. It’s titled Pugilist and should be out this year.
Oh and I do a semi-regular podcast with In This Issue podcast’s Justin Fah. It’s called Back Issues and we spend about an hour each episode discussing a comic book story or arc. It’s a blast. We just did Geoff Darrow and Frank Miller’s Big Guy and Rusty.
What I want to do in comics to continue to explore the medium through different formats, sizes, genre, style, etc. My Simon comics tend to by my more experimental work, where I explore what can be done within the medium. They are my playground where I learn about what comics are and how they work. I feel like there is so much more to learn and so much more to create in the comics field. It’s a particularly exciting time in comics right now.
IR: What are you reading right now, any comics right now you are really into?
TC: In the way of comics… mostly indie guys. Malachi Ward & Matt Sheean’s sci-fi work is amazing. In the web comics arena, I love Daniel Warren Johnson’s Space-Mullet and Kenan Rubenstein’s Last Train to Old Town. I just discovered Georgia Webber’s book Dumb, which I quite liked. And Eroyn Franklin’s ‘slow-core’ comics impressed me at CAKE this year. Marnie Galloway’s In the Sounds and Seas is beautiful. Ezra Clayton Daniels Upgrade Soul convinced me that motion comics can be good. Prophet, by Brandon Graham, Simon Roy, Farel Dalrymple, & Giannis Milogiannis is the best comic by a major publisher right now.
I’ve been obsessing over Albrecht Durer’s woodcuts, so I have two of Durer collections on my desk. Next to them is Ernst Haekel’s Art Forms in Nature, which I’m referencing a lot when drawing Victus. I’m also reading a book about the early native peoples of North America called The First Frontier by Scott Weidensaul.
IR: What are your plans for the future?
TC : Keep making comics. Never stop. Beyond that, I’d like to eat the best donuts and hamburgers that the world has to offer.
IR: Are any of your projects coming out anytime soon?
TC: Victus #2 should be out this fall. Issue #1 is currently available on my website.
Simon: Pugilist should also be out this fall.
Numb #1 most likely next spring.
The first issue of my last comic, Gary, based on the life of the Green River Killer, is now available on Comixology Submit. The second and third issues should also be available shortly.
I do progress reports for all my projects, with sneak peeks of artwork on my blog Process is Everything.
IR: What is your method of writing/creating how do you come up with your content?
TC: Usually, different ideas come to me through every day interactions or viewing other works of art (books, comics, film, music, etc). They tend to bounce around in my head. I have a little black book I keep called the ‘idea book’. Whenever an idea sticks around for a while, I usually put it down in that book. Then if it keeps coming back, I’ll start doing some research and drawing and try to develop it more. Honestly, I wish I had more time to do more projects. But I’d say most of them start as a small thought, then develop over time. Drawing is a great way to work out ideas. I don’t think I could develop ideas without my sketchbook.
Depending on the project, there may be more research required. For Gary, I actually did extremely thorough research, since it was based on real events. I read a ton of books about Gary’s life, reviewed court documents, and watched documentaries. From there I created a series of spreadsheets outlining different people, places, murder victims, life events, etc. It was a few months of research before I ever drew a page, but really added to the work… I hope.
IR: Anything else you would like to add?
TC: Thanks for this opportunity to ramble about my work. Comics are without a doubt, the most exciting medium in art and entertainment today. We have everything from a 16 year old’s Xeroxed copy comics, to Chris Ware’s opus Building Stories fueling a movement that is pure, diverse, and challenging. I’m so honored to be a part of the comics community during this exciting time.