My friend Kevin Cannon recently finished his huge and beautiful graphic novel Far Arden, and did me the honor of having me write the introduction to it. You can read the whole thing online, but if you’re smart, you’ll pre-order one of the limited edition copies he is printing up as he looks for the right publisher for it. Here is my introduction for the book.
Kevin Cannon is likely to be the best cartoonist living today that you’ve never heard of. Welcome to his first solo graphic novel, Far Arden.*
Our story features Shanks, a hero who comes off as some strange bastardization of a classic hero archetype that got lost and forgotten, left for dead somewhere out in the tundra. A modern arctic pirate, an outlaw living alone in a shack in the arctic wilderness… perpetually on the lam from the law, but hiding from the world for reasons much more complicated than that. Shanks is part James Bond, part Charles Bukowski, part Dan McGrew, and wholly original.
Although this is Kevin’s first graphic novel, Kevin has featured Shanks in some other comics previous to this… one of his first adventures was in a 24-hour comic Kevin made. 24-hour comics are 24 page comics drawn by one cartoonist in 24 hours.
Most cartoonists keep their drawings and stories simple when presented with this daunting task. Kevin was drawing clipper ships. Not just one. Lots of clipper ships. You try and draw a goddamned clipper ship!
Beyond that, though, the story, storytelling and pacing was not only coherent, but top notch. Kevin made comics in 24 hours that were more entertaining, engaging and visually stunning than many comics talented people had labored over for months.
Drawing a 24-hour comic gets you thinking about the possibilities of what can be accomplished in a limited period of time.
It got me thinking “what if I did a 24-hour comic every month for a year, towards a larger project?” Then my sense of self-preservation kicked into gear, and I started thinking, “what if Kevin Cannon did a 24-hour comic every month for a year towards a larger project,” and that got me really excited. “A 288-hour comic, Kevin!” Somehow, I talked the poor fool into it, thank goodness.
I have never been better rewarded for shooting my mouth off. From that challenge grew the book you hold in your hands. Somewhere along the line the 288 pages in 288 hours thing got abandoned. Kevin decided 350 pages made more sense. Who am I to argue?
I was somewhat reluctant to mention the origins of this project, as I was thinking it could make some people dismiss it. It is remarkable that such a piece of work was produced under such initial constraints… but ultimately these conditions are irrelevant. Far Arden is a remarkable piece of work in and of itself.
Kevin weaves his story masterfully… background characters or subtle plot threads that may seem insignificant or irrelevant you will find all there for a reason. The artwork is rich and gorgeous, simultaneously beautifully detailed and ingeniously streamlined. The compositions are stunning, the storytelling flows beautifully, and the sound effects are hilarious. It’s like nothing else you’ve ever read. Lord only knows why you are still reading this introduction instead of jumping into this glorious thing.
Kevin serialized the graphic novel on his website, publishing a chapter every month or so, over a year and change. The monthly chapters read like a cliffhanger serial, and I definitely recommend reading it that way. Read a chapter, set the book down, and agonize for a bit over what will happen next. I had to wait a month for a chapter, so you should wait too, you lucky bastards!
Kevin, I owe you a scotch.
March 3rd, 2008
*Note that this is not entirely true… Kevin had his college comic strip, Johnny Cavalier collected in a book… but this is the first book Kevin has made that was intended from the get-go as a graphic novel. Additionally, Kevin has collaborated on two graphic novels written by other people with his partners at Big Time Attic (Bone Sharps, Cowboys and Thunder Lizards (with Zander Cannon and Shad Petosky, written by Jim Ottaviani) and The Stuff of Life (coming soon, with Zander Cannon, written by Mark Schultz)).