Two Cannons make a ‘Double Barrel’

Updated: May 23, 2013 - 1:33 pm

Northeast cartoonists out with new online project

Cartoonists Zander Cannon and Kevin Cannon aren’t brothers, and they’ll tell you as much; they’re not related in any way, though it’s not difficult to see how some could think otherwise.

Seated together at Big Time Attic, their studio in The Thorpe building in Northeast, the non-brothers shared the same laid-back affect, both with brown hair, cropped beards and glasses, dressed in jeans and

T-shirts, a fashion afforded to professional cartoonists.

They shared the easy repartee of old friends, if not familial tie.

“You a millionaire?” Zander said to Kevin, “Not yet,” Kevin shot back, “Me neither,” Zander said, concluding a typical two second exchange.

While seven figures may not in the offing for now, Zander, 40, and Kevin, 33, are well placed in the world of comics. In March, Bedford St. Martin’s published the first graphic novel textbook, “Understanding Rhetoric,” which the two illustrated and had a hand in writing. In June, the two will release “Heck” and “Crater XV,” by Zander and Kevin, respectively, which will be complete collections from their online serialized project, “Double Barrel.”

Big Time Attic became involved with “Understanding Rhetoric” by reputation.

“That was kind of our thing for a while,” Zander said, “We were ‘The Guys’ to go to when you needed an educational book done.”

“It’s funny, once you do one for a bigger publisher,” Kevin said, “They kind of know you as the guys that do those books.”

The two had previously worked on what Zander called “government work,” titles such as “Space Junk,” which was published by the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Association, and “Journey Along a Field Line,” which was published by the United States Geological Survey. They’ve also done books dealing with genetics and history.

“Understanding Rhetoric” is a text for first year college writers, based on the work of two California based academics, Jonathan Alexander, an English professor at University of California, Irvine, and Elizabeth Losh, who studies media history at the University of California, San Diego.

With no other cartoonists involved, Cannon and Cannon were given a long creative leash.

“We had a lot more control over the writing side of it; not the literal writing of it, but the story telling,” Kevin said.

The textbook release garnered a trip to Las Vegas for the two and the last word from the publisher, according to Kevin, was that “the book flew off the shelf.”

Complete books of “Double Barrel” will be released June 26, with a yet-to-be determined event at Mead Hall Games in Minneapolis.

“Double Barrel” is an online serialized comic consisting of 12 online that each sell for $1.99, through a variety of online comic sellers.

“Heck,” by Zander, according to the Big Time Attic blog, “is about a washed-up high school football player who discovers a portal to the Underworld in his basement.” As for “Crater XV,” it’s a sequel to one of Kevin’s previous works, about when a character named Army Shanks “gets himself caught up in a black market space race heating up in the Canadian High Arctic.”

The two said they’ve enjoyed working strictly online, as it’s not as exhausting as putting out a hard copy each month. There are further benefits to the online comic model as well.

“We feel like, with our indy books, because we’re doing the [online] serialized stuff first, more eyeballs, or more people hopefully buy the print book later, so at the end of the day, sales will actually be up at the brick and mortars,” Kevin said.

“Everybody is still figuring out the cost of entry, how many people you’re going to reach, all that kind of stuff. [The online model is] still being tinkered with,” Zander said.

Zander Cannon grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, where early on, he wanted to be an animator. He was inspired to make his own comics by a mini-comic called “Cynical Man,” by Matt Feazell, which was all stick figures.

The simplicity of “Cynical Man,” Kevin said, “Put [comics] within striking distance of a 12-year-old kid that could kind of draw OK.”

Kevin Cannon grew up in St. Louis Park and started drawing at 3-years-old.

“As an only child, I would sit and draw, quietly, for hours on end,” Kevin said, remember much time spent with Mr. Sketch Smelly Markers.

Kevin said he always assumed he’d be a “newspaper strip artist” and remembers learning to draw Garfield and characters from “Calvin and Hobbes.”

Both Cannons attended Grinnell College; Zander graduated in 1995, and when Kevin showed up a few years later, older students and others assumed the two were brothers. Both made comic strips for the school paper the Scarlet & Black. Kevin graduated in 1998.

Later, Kevin approached Zander to be his intern; the two went on to work together in the Handicraft Guild building downtown.

Big Time Attic came about in 2004, located in Shadi Petosky’s attic. By 2005, Big Time Attic was in the Thorpe building. A couple years later, Petosky, and others, would go on to form PUNY, which is known for work on “Yo Gabba Gabba!,” and move to their own space.

The two do a wide variety of work when not doing personal projects like “Double Barrel,” such as illustrations for children’s books, storyboards and layouts for outfits such as DC Comics.

Zander recently did a cover for a “My Little Pony” comic and Kevin is known for making cartoony maps.

“Some of the stuff is really fun, some of it’s just doing a job, most of it is both,” Zander said.

“The longer we’ve been in business, the more people know our stuff and can approach us with jobs that we enjoy,” Kevin said.

“I wouldn’t say you’re never going to get rich being a cartoonist, but if that’s your only goal, don’t be a cartoonist,” Zander said, once again discussing money.

“One thing I like to comfort myself with,” Zander said, “is that there are more people playing professional basketball than are professional cartoonists.”

“Really?,” Kevin said, before the two displayed that easy repartee once more.

“Yeah, think of how many teams there are.”

“I guess.”