A well-liked man of many talents, Kevin Cannon will be the featured artist at this Friday’s Lutefisk Sushi Volume C release party. Much of his artwork will be on display, including comic pages from Far Arden as well as the kind of fancy pants paintings he went to school to learn how to make. I think we’ll all be dazzled.
Each Lutefisk Sushi box set contains 150 of Minnesota’s best mini comics packaged in a silk-screened box of Cannon’s design. You can buy one and sit around to read, or you can be cool and drink beers with me. There will also be artwork from other Minnesota cartoonists on display. Be there if you can, since this kind of thing doesn’t happen every day, you know? The event will run from 7-10 pm at Altered Esthetics in Minneapolis.
How do you intend to promote Far Arden?
I’m about the worst promoter. I’ll probably do a blog post about it. Send an email out to people. That’s about it.
I’ve read most of your work up to this point and it seems to me that Far Arden is about the opus of your career. I’ve read the collected Johnny Cavalier comics from back when you were in college and it looks like these characters in Far Arden were developing even then. So I guess my question is, where do you go from here?
That’s a good question. It’s something I’m not really struggling with right now but I’m certainly thinking about. I’d love to see this Far Arden character Armitage Shanks continue on in a series. I’d love to have 10 Shanks graphic novels in a couple of years or decades. Then again, with running a business I’ve really realized how limited time is. At this point I don’t have a family so I can imagine my time constraints then. I’ve been thinking about doing something else, like maybe a Sloth Force Seven graphic novel or something sci-fi, anything that will be completely different than Shanks.
Oh, that’s too bad.
I love Shanks. He’s great.
I haven’t given him up, it’s just a question of what’s the sophomore attempt going to be? If it’s another Shanks novel, then I’ve set up a precedent that everything else will be another Shanks novel.
I really love your hand-lettering, especially the serif font. How did you develop it? It seems to me unusual that a person would come up with that kind of comics lettering style since it takes so much time to add the serifs and fill in the letter forms.
I don’t know where it came from. Mostly I borrowed from what was available at the time. Some computers I used had a very limited number of fonts, so if you wanted something unique it had to be created. Nowadays you could choose from thousands of fonts at the click of a button and have a really great-looking font, but I ended up making my own. I remember printing out the standard serif font, Times New Roman or whatever it was, and basically copying the font to learn where to put the thick lines and serifs. I used it in Shanks a lot because I wanted sort of an old-fashioned feel. I think serifs help that out a lot, so I just kind of stuck with that.
I really like your comics, obviously, but it really bothers me that you don’t promote them and that nobody else is reading them except for, of course, the very small band of people who seem very devoted to giving you positive feedback through the Big Time Attic blog.
That’s actually really fulfilling. I’d almost rather have a group of really devoted people than know that thousands of anonymous people are reading it.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I like what I’ve got right now, which is maybe why I’m not desperately trying to find a wider audience.
Is that because you’re afraid of fame, Kevin? And what it does to people?
I think that’s it. I don’t want to use heroine just yet. [laughter] No, what is it? I don’t know. I think I’m at a point in my life where I’m still developing a style and characters. I feel like everything is apt change. Even looking at the beginning of Far Arden to the end of Far Arden, the difference in style is huge. To me, at least.
Well, that’s probably because you were doing one page an hour, right?
Yah, that’s true. I don’t know if you looked at the Johnny Cavalier book from the first page to the last page, but the stylistic differences were huge. I feel like I’m in that sort of state still. Less so now, maybe, but I guess it’s not a fear of fans so much as getting big for a style I’ll outgrow. But, then again, I guess I don’t want to get to a point where I’m stuck in one style so I’d always like to always be growing or developing a different style.
You’ve been selected among all the cartoonists in Minnesota to design the bento box for the upcoming Lutefisk Sushi show (Volume C). [Lutefisk Sushi is a box set of hand-made mini comics and its release is accompanied by a gallery show where the box designer’s artwork is basically the main event.]
Yah, I’m really excited about that. I’ve been working furiously on the design of the box and it’s posted on the blog. Shad and his buddies at PUNY are going to be printing it up, which is great because I know nothing about screen printing. I’m working on the postcards right now with Jamie from Altered Esthetics and working on the website. As far as the actual mini comic I’m going to do, I’m keeping my fingers crossed and I’m not sure this is going to work out, but I’ve got a friend who I collaborated with on the first Lutefisk Sushi and his name is Sam Fellman. He’s a lieutenant in the Navy, he’s actually in Iraq right now, so I’m trying to get him to write a slice-of-life type story that I would then illustrate.
You and Zander both are very talented writers and I love reading the Big Time Attic blog. I know you went to school for art and mainly painting, but how do you keep your writing skills sharp?
Ha! Do you get prizes for that?
Just kind of the emotional equivalent of a pat on the back.
Nice. So you studied art in school?
Yah, I studied painting.
Did you study writing at all?
I used to write a ton of short stories in high school, but none in college and none since then. Prose and poetry in high school, and then I moved on to the weekly strip at Grinnell, and that moved on to today.
How did you get to do the weekly strip as a Freshman?
I actually went to the paper the first week of school and asked if they needed any illustrators, not thinking about comics at all. They said we don’t use illustrators because we prefer photographers, but the guy who did our comic strip just graduated so would I be interested.
Wow, so had you even thought about comics up to that point?
Wow! That’s exciting.
Yah. In high school I did all the school flyers and tshirts and things like that, so it was all comic art but illustrative.
You went to Breck, right?
Yes. That was really great. Breck is a really small school and I was the only person who did that kind of thing. I wasn’t friends with everyone in my class, but I loved the institution and all that kind of stuff. Zander and I are always talking about different graphic novels that we’re going to do, not for other people, but for ourselves. And one of these ideas is to explore a kind of private school type of soap opera comic.
Since this interview was conducted a month ago, Kevin Cannon has begun work on his next Shanks graphic novel.
Another bonus! Read all about Twin Cities rock stars in the Rock Atlas Cannon created for the City Pages (the free paper Juno’s Diablo Cody used to edit). I’m sure you’ll find it interesting because you obviously love Prince and Lifter Puller (Craig Finn’s band pre-Hold Steady).