Thursday, March 20, 2014
Cannon Is Loose!
Cannon is in many ways Wally Wood's most mature creation. That might sound odd given the prurient nature of many of the panels laced both with brutality and with unmitigated misogyny. Fantagraphics has issued a new collection of these rough and tumble adventure comic strips originally produced beginning in 1971 for The Overseas Weekly, a newspaper for American soldiers stationed across the world. This is a mature audience indeed. I've always considered it the underground version of the THUNDER Agents.
Cannon is a "man's man", which mostly means he uses guns proficiently, is not afraid of a fight and does so, and treats women abominably in a morally ambiguous "cold war" of both personal and international proportions. That's not to say that some of the women he confronts aren't dangerous, but there's little doubt in Cannon's world that women are for screwing, whether you are screwing them or they are screwing you, both figuratively and literally.
The violence in Cannon is rugged, though hardly graphic by any modern definition. This is after all Wally Wood, and his lean craftsmanship shines through always in glorious black and white. The spare orderliness of Wood's designs give the rugged world of Cannon a handsome veneer which makes it seem less grotesque than it actually is.
I first ran across the Cannon saga in four of Wally Wood's over-sized self-published comic magazines from the late 70's and early 80's. As the covers proclaim, these are for "Adults Only" and that's true enough. The sex and violence, which blends into a sado-mashochistic mishmash at times is not for the kiddies. These are comics, but not those kind of comics.
What they are though is highly recommended and nigh essential reading for any Wood fan.
The volume also includes the color Cannon precursor stories produced independently by Wood with penciling help from Steve Ditko in Heroes Inc. Presents Cannon There are two issues, the one below from 1969 and a later volume from 1976 from the CPLGang. Both stories, one in splendid color and one in glorious black and white are included. Given the format designed to showcase the comic strip they reproduced somewhat smaller than the ideal, but it's good to have them.
Cannon is rough, Cannon is tough, but Cannon is worth it.