Victus #1-4 By Tyrell Cannon
I am going to do something a little different this week. I am not going to write about a book being released on Wednesday. As I looked through the new comic book day selections, I could not find an independent or small-press book that interested me. Instead, I chose to go with a creator, and a book, that I have been looking at for several weeks. The book is called Victus and it is written and drawn by Tyrell Cannon. Tyrell is creating something truly beautiful with Victus. His sharp, clean lines remind me of the artwork of M.C. Escher and the mysteries buried in his deep narrative will have me coming back to read more of his story.
The story of Victus unfolds in black and white. It opens on two modern-looking characters, a man (Isaac) and a woman (Celeste), as they sit on a hillside and struggle to connect. Everything about their interactions is awkward, including attempts at holding hands, talking to each other about their feelings, and a kiss on the cheek before they part ways.
We then jump to an ancient-looking city made of stone and dirt and inhabitants that wear robes and speak of philosophy. A female character (Domatilla) in a beanie and a hoodie etches graffiti on a stone wall while a robed man speaks about the secret truths that humans possess. The speaker stresses the importance of finding, and interacting with, kindred spirits and forming meaningful human connections. A bearded, long-haired man (Absalom) is watching the speaker from an upstairs window.
After the speaker has finished his speech, the bearded man retreats into what looks like a workshop. He grabs a small sculpture from the table and smashes it with a mallet. He sweeps the debris into a bowl and then transfers it into a glass vial. The vial then gets screwed into a large circular machine, first seen in full on an excellent two-page splash scene, with many other similar vials attached to it. The reader is left to wonder what is happening as we change settings again.
We see the male character from the beginning of the story as he pickpockets a small sculpture from a man in a market and gets caught by a guard. The man escapes from the guard by dashing through the market and across the rooftops of nearby buildings. After successfully ditching the guard, he winds up at the doorstep of the bearded man from earlier and hands him the sculpture he just stole. That ends the first issue.
Issues #2-4 further the mysteries first established in the first issue. We see more of the mysterious, ancient-looking city and the modern-looking young people who are stealing from its citizens and writing graffiti on its walls. Each page is beautifully illustrated in a classic, fine-art fashion. The artist treats the subject material maturely and allows readers to do a lot of interpretation on their own. Tyrell does a fantastic job of unravelling his story slowly and keeping his readers guessing.
To find out more about Tyrell Cannon and his story, I reached out to him directly. He was more than happy to answer my questions and share more about himself and his great story.
I first discovered your work on Twitter. I think it's great that you regularly share your “works in progress” online. Do you enjoy interacting with fans and other creators on social media?
I still feel like I'm kinda new to social media and trying to figure it out. I do like interacting with other creators and fans online though. Comics take a long time to make and you're usually alone while you do it. So being able to show some of the works in progress is nice so that you feel like your voice is still out there and people don't forget you're alive! It's also led to some fun opportunities and helped me discover the work of other talented artists I may not have ever seen. It's weird to say, but I've even become pretty good friends with some of the people I met on twitter or tumblr.
Your artwork instantly reminded me of the work of M. C. Escher and I wanted to know more. Who are your favorite artists and whose work do you think has inspired you the most?
I love M.C. Escher! His work is a big influence on me, particularly in Victus. Victus is also heavily influenced by Albrecht Durer and Moebius, who are two of my all-time favorite artists. I tend to zero in on specific creators for different projects depending on the style I'm going for so my influences change from project to project. But speaking broadly, I'm hugely into Michelangelo, Barry Windsor-Smith, Katsuhiro Otomo, Bill Watterson, Roberto Matta, H.R. Giger, Anders Nilsen, Geof Darrow… the list goes on and on!
I saw that Victus was not your first published work. You had already done a number of independent books before releasing your most current work. Can you tell us a little bit about how you got started in comics and how you went about choosing/creating the independent projects that you did?
I've been making comics for over 10 years now, and tried to do a lot of different types of work throughout that time. I've been a comics reader since a young age, and when I was attending art school I started seriously making my own comics and putting them out in the world.
Usually a project will start off with some type of interest in a topic or a big question I want to ask myself. That leads to a lot of research and drawing to try and define what shape the comic might take. Gary, for example, started with my interest in true crime and serial killers. I wanted to focus on the topic by exploring the life of one specific serial killer, while asking myself tough questions about the existence of such people and their behavior.
While researching, I saw that you had also done a few things for some well known publishers (Ghost Fleet, Spread, and Dark Engine). How did those projects come about and will we be seeing your work anywhere else in the near future?
I've been really fortunate to have a chance to contribute some art to those comics. Most of those opportunities came from a mix of interacting with other creators online (twitter, tumblr, etc) or meeting other creators at conventions. Once you start getting out there and talking to people, connections begin happening more naturally and that leads to cool opportunities like pinups, covers, etc.
Other than what you mentioned, I have a pinup in my buddy Daniel Warren Johnson's recently released Space-Mullet graphic novel (go buy it, it's great!). I also did an alternate cover for the second issue of Donny Cates & Eliot Rahal's The Paybacks, coming out in august from Heavy Metal Comics. Hopefully, I'll have some more chances to contribute to other great comics in the future.
Are you a big comic reader? If so, what are some of your favorite comics?
I do read a lot of comics, particularly small press and independently published work. I picked up a lot of amazing indy comics at some conventions and online recently:
- Liam Cobb's Shampoo and Bastard Building are both incredible
- Isabella Rotman's Burn Your Demons
- Ben Passmore's Your Black Friend
- Rosemary Valerie-O'Connor's Black Sun Rising
- John Vestevich's Smelly Hippy Comics
- M.R. Trower's Bad Dog
- Amara Leipzig's The Fifth Window
- Grim Wilkin's Mirenda
- Marnie Galloway's In the Sounds & Seas
- Anything by Decadence Comics
- and geez so many more.
As for larger publishers, I'm a RABID fan of Brandon Graham/Simon Roy's version of Prophet, and the Island anthology. I love Luther Strode (Tradd Moore is a beast). I have been picking up Southern Bastards & The Goddamned as well, which are both very well done.
Now, to talk more specifically about your current project, Victus. On your website, you describe it as:
Victus is an adventure in the metaphysics of human relationships. It features foot-chases, strange technology, exotic animals, and thought-provoking philosophy. Each book is presented as a precious object for readers to experience intimately and engage with emotionally.
Can you explain what Victus is all about? And, who the primary characters are who are featured in the story?
Victus is the story of a boy (Isaac) who longs to connect deeply with someone (in particular, a young woman named Celeste). He also works as a thief, stealing precious objects for a man scientist/philosopher/wizard named Absalom. Absalom uses the objects to power a machine that is meant to facilitate a pure communication between two beings. Isaac eventually uses the machine (in issue #4) which in-turn starts affecting his being and his relationships with others. Beyond that, there are graffiti artists, exotic animals, foot-chases, and romance.
I'm not a big fan of 1 minute pitches for my work, heh.
It was hard for me to put a finger on the time period your story takes place in? There are parts that seem modern and other parts that seem to show an ancient world. Without revealing too much, can you hint at where and when the story takes place?
It is for sure a completely fictional reality, not directly in any one time period. I try to mix elements of 16-17th century european with modern day north american societies. So there aren't cars and most buildings are made of stone, but there are some complex machines like guns and boats. I also wanted to play with the style of clothing that would take shape if I mixed those two parts of history. So you'll see people in robes, but also kids in hoodies and shell toe sneakers. It's been one of the most fun aspects of creating the book!
How big is the story you are trying to tell? Will it be collected at some point in trade format?
The plan is for 8 issues total (I just released issue 4 in June). I'm not sure if it will be collected. That will all depend on how well the individual issues do and if there is an interest in a collected version. I'd probably need the support of a publisher or some type of crowd-funding to make that a reality. But man I would love to do a hardcover edition with extra materials and some nice printing!
When I first looked at the four issues of Victus, what really stood out to me was the amazing art on the covers. #4 is my favorite, but they are all very well done. The cover image on many comic books does not accurately portray the work inside, but that is not the case with your books. The insanely detailed artwork on the covers perfectly matches all the work inside. The quality never lets up. About how much time do you put into each page and what is your process? (all pen and paper? digital? mixed media?)
That's really nice of you to say! I'm glad to hear you enjoyed the covers and feel like they fit well with the interior art. That's something I've always appreciated and tried to do with my own work.
As far as time spent on a page, I've always had a hard time nailing that down. Different pages take different amounts of time. Sometimes it's the details, but many times it's just figuring out how to draw a certain pose or thing (that darn boat in issue 3 took me forever to figure out). I also jump around from page to page, as I get bored or need a break from the more intensely detailed images occasionally.
I have started using more and more varied tools in each issue. #1-2 were almost all traditional brush along with Kuretake brush pens. #3 I used a lot of traditional nib, along with the Pentel brush pen and technical pens. #4 was lots of nib, lots of Pentel brush pen, some liner pens and lots of white-out (heh). More specifically, I use:
- Falcon 048 nibs
- Deleter brand ink
- Pentel brush pen
- Windsor Newton sable brushes
- Kuretake brush pens
- Staedtler-mars pens
- Pentel hybrid technica art pens.
What is publishing schedule for Victus and do you keep track of your publishing numbers (print runs)?
My goal has been to release 2 issues a year. I only did 1 this last year, as I was very busy with the anthology I co-edit (Speculative Relationships, go check it out!). But hopefully I'll be back on on track for 2 a year and wrap up the series in a couple years.
I come from more of a fine art background, so I've always liked the idea of limited print runs and for each object to feel special/precious. So my initial print-runs are pretty low (like 300) and I hand-emboss and number each copy of that first run. The subsequent print runs are usually a little less (like 150-200) and not hand embossed or numbered.
The comics are currently available in your website. Are they available anywhere else? Do you have plans to attend any conventions any time soon?
Yes, all my comics are available on my website, but also at some fine retailers in Chicago like Quimby's, Chicago Comics, Challengers, & Graham Crackers. Some of my books are in in LA and NYC in select shops too, and I'm always interested in getting into more local comic shops nationwide. Additionally, Gary is available on Comixology and I'm hoping to put Speculative Relationships & Victus on there at some point as well.
As for conventions, I'm not locked in for any for the rest of this year (yet). I just did CAKE in June, which I was happy to be a featured guest at. I'm hoping to get into at least 1 show this fall, and then I'll most likely do 3-4 in the spring/summer of 2017. Probably C2E2, CAKE, Zinefest, Emerald City, or TCAF.
Tyrell Cannon’s books can be purchased here: http://www.tyrellcannon.com/store.html. If you are a fan of rich, detailed art and stories filled with philosophy, fantasy, and science, then I highly recommend you check out Victus. Check out his other books too and let me know what you think!