Friday, December 28, 2012

Double Barrel Makes "Best of 2012" Lists!

We're extremely excited to see that Double Barrel has made some critics' "Best of" lists for 2012! Comics Alliance called our humble little magazine the "MOST BREATHTAKINGLY INSANE VALUE FOR YOUR DIGITAL COMICS DOLLAR". Sounds good to us.

Also, Pipedream Comics put Double Barrel in their top ten, calling the magazine, "". Want us to be #1? Pipedream is encouraging readers to vote for their favorite over at their facebook page.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Zander Cannon's Got a Lot on His Plate

Hey folks, Double Barrel's own Zander Cannon has three big events coming up that he's either headlining or organizing, and you should put them on your radar. First up:


WHAT: "Defenders" at the Trylon
WHEN: Wednesday, October 17, at 7 pm
WHERE: The Trylon Microcinema, 3258 Minnehaha Av, Minneapolis
WHY YOU SHOULD GO: First of all, the Trylon is the best movie theatre in the state. That's not hyperbole. It's a cozy 50-seater so you're never farther than sneezing distance from the screen, and it plays some of the best new and vintage films on rotation. I first stumbled on the Trylon a few years ago when they were playing a Jean Luc Godard festival, and there for the first time I got to watch an original 35mm print of one of my favorites of all time, the Homeric Bardot vehicle Le M├ępris.

Anyway, back to Zander. The Trylon is hosting a series called "Defenders" where local celebs pick a film that's SO BAD IT'S GOOD and like the title suggests, they have to stand up and defend why you should spend two hours of your life watching it. I know what film Zander has picked, but I think it's supposed to be a surprise, so my lips are sealed. All I can tell you is that, uh, it'll be a scorcher.


WHAT: 24 Hour Comic Day in Minneapolis
WHEN: Saturday, October 20 at 10am to Sunday, October 21 at 10am
WHERE: The Minnesota Center for Book Arts (MCBA), 1011 Washington Ave S, Minneapolis
WEBSITE: The official Facebook event page
WHY YOU SHOULD GO: 24 Hour Comic Day is nearly a decade-old tradition not only here in the great state of Minnesota, but all over the world. If you've never heard of it, this day-long event is the closest thing cartoonists have to a marathon, as each cartoonist sits down to create a 24-page comic book in 24 hours. This is an endurance test, not a skills test, and trust me, you'll be fascinated by what comes out of your head and onto the page at hour 22.

If you call yourself a cartoonist you should try this at least once, and don't worry about leaving early -- most people either wrap up their books before the deadline or come to a stopping point midway through and decide to finish their story on their own time. It looks like it's going to be a smaller group than some of the 50+ people bashes we've had in the past, and that's a good thing -- it'll mean a quieter working environment and more elbow room. Our good friends at Wet Paint Art will be there for the first leg and will have a mini-store set up so you can stock up on any supplies that you may have forgotten, and of course there will be a community food table and, at some point during the event... pizza! (Sponsored by the great folks at the Midwest Comic Book Association!)

Zander is one of the organizers of the event, and he'll be there in person to show you his Pictionary card trick. I'll be there working on Penny from the Front pages until the evening at which point I'm going to go cheer on the Minnesota Stars to their second championship in a row.

If you want to learn more about 24 Hour Comic Day, Zander and I have written up an EXHAUSTIVE guide to the event in DOUBLE BARREL #5.


WHAT: Lutefisk Sushi Volume E Opening Reception
WHEN: Friday, November 2 from 7-10 pm
WHERE: Altered Esthetics gallery, 1224 Quincy St NE, Minneapolis
WHY YOU SHOULD GO: This is the fifth in a long-running series of gallery shows where dozens of Minnesota cartoonists create mini-comics that are then divvied up into a limited edition set of screenprinted boxes. Each year the community votes for a featured artist, someone who will be the flag bearer of the show; someone who represents all that is good and proper in the local cartooning scene and who will also design the bento box and have a mini-gallery of their artwork on display. This year that honor goes to, yep, Double Barrel's Zander Cannon.

Here's a flyer I whipped up for the event. This will run in the next issue of Double Barrel, but that won't come out until after the opening reception party so I'm also running it here. If you are within driving distance of Minneapolis on November 2nd you should be at Altered Esthetics:

click for larger version

Fun Fact: That's last year's featured artist Danno Klonowski being harassed in the first panel.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Fun with Google Maps: Isachsen Research Station

Stumbled upon this abandoned arctic research station in Nunavut while doing some research for a future Shanks book. Can you spot the airstrip and the buildings?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Double Barrel Issue No. 5 Sneak Peek

At this very moment Zander is walking the floor of the New York Comic Con which means I'm back at the studio scouring his workspace looking for any hidden candy I can steal. While I'm doing that, please enjoy this sneak peek of Double Barrel Issue No. 5, which was released yesterday in all its 114-page glory:

As October is the scariest time of the year, we thought we'd use the INTRO CARTOON to share a few of the things that scare us to death as cartoonists:

HECK serves up TWO chapters this month, and trust me, you'll never look at a talking tree the same way again:

In CRATER XV Shanks desperately tries to escape the bombed-out blockhouse, and Wendy makes a startling and horrifying discovery about her two new astronaut friends:

Meanwhile, in PENNY FROM THE FRONT, Penny confronts Alfie and in the process learns a terrifying truth about her best friend Moose:

We're also extremely pleased (and scared!) to welcome a guest story from Steven Stwalley that is sure frighten the pants off you, called THE DEAD LIVING:

Of course, Jin is his adorable self in TALES OF JIN:

…And this month's HOW TO tells you EVERYTHING you need to know about doing a 24 hour comic:
Thanks to everyone who came out and said hi to us at Fallcon last weekend! And of course if you're in New York this weekend make sure to stop by the Top Shelf table and tell them what you think of ol' Double Barrel. Thanks!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Live Drawing at Altered Esthetics Gallery

So for a long time there has been costumed live drawing at Altered Esthetics Gallery on the third Wednesday of every month, but I always forget or am too busy. Fortunately Dan Murphy stopped by the studio for a chat en route to AE so I decided to push my deadlines aside for a few hours and draw people in costumes standing still. If you are in the Twin Cities and want to try your hand at it, the next Suit Up AE! event is on Wednesday, September 19th, 6:30-8:30pm, and there's a suggested donation of three bucks.

Here are the results of tonight's session (or at least the ones I feel like sharing):

Click for larger version

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Double Barrel Issue No. 3 Sneak Peek

…Okay, it went live a week ago, but things are busy over here so give us a break! Anyway, here's the cover and a few sneak peeks from inside the magazine. Enjoy!

In the INTRO CARTOON, Zander and Kevin discuss what it means to produce work simply for the sake of production, and the merits thereof:

HECK digs deeper into Hell, while also peeling back the layers of the relationship between Amy and Eliot:

The plot rolls on in CRATER XV as the High Arctic League assembles in the abandoned Candadian Arctic Space Agency Blockhouse to try to stop Captain Sztab from whatever it is exactly he's doing. Meanwhile, Shanks gets short-tempered:

Meanwhile, in PENNY FROM THE FRONT, Penny lets her curiosity get the best of her, with potentially deadly results:

Zander's MASTER OF FENG SHUI explores a side of home decorating that you may never knew existed:

Jin teachers his dad a thing or two about nature in TALES OF JIN:

…And this month's HOW TO explores simple yet powerful storytelling tricks gleaned from Star Wars:
So that's it! Oh, actually we're also running a caption contest and giving away ten double barrel t-shirts. Details inside Issue 3! Contest ends August 15th.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Shanks Shorties: 'Beauty is only Skin-Deep!'

Here's a little one-off Army Shanks comic I made last night for the fun of it. Hope you like it:

[ click for larger version ]

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Double Barrel #2 is Now Available!

Hi there! Zander and I hope you're doing well this Fourth of July, staying cool and whatnot. I spent last weekend in Seattle which somehow managed to stay in the low sixties the entire time. But now I'm back suffering in the heat with the rest of the country, and have even opened up our air conditioned studio today as a kind of Red Cross for cartoonists and their pets. It's that hot.

Oh, the reason I'm writing all this is to announce that the second issue of first one, and I hope all of you are excited to continue reading the further adventures of Heck and Shanks as they travel deeper into the heart of Hell and the High Arctic, respectively.

I'm also starting a new story called Penny from the Front, the story of a young girl reporting from the Canadian front lines at the beginning of World War One. Here are a few pages to whet your appetite:

Tom Spurgeon has a wonderful write-up of Issue #2 on Comics Reporter. You should check it out.

You can download Double Barrel for $1.99 on pretty much any app that sells comics, or if you don't have a favorite app yet, give COMIXOLOGY a shot.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Bad Cartoonist Trivia Night

Here in the Twin Cities there are tons of comics-related events happening all the time, including gallery shows, art swaps, jam comics meetings, lectures, and even the occasional cartoonist camping trip -- but our new FAVORITE event is the Bad Cartoonist Trivia Night at the Bad Waitress restaurant in Uptown Minneapolis. And what a coincidence, the next one is TONIGHT!

Local "Manly Tales of Cowardice" cartoonist Danno Klonowski started this up a few months ago and it's exactly what you'd hope it is: five rounds of nerdy trivia with tons of great prizes (and some not so great ones, I have to admit, but that's the fun of it). And if you know nothing about comics, don't fear -- most of the categories are more pop-culture related, involving topics like "Terrible Ridley Scott films" and "Name that Goosebumps title". The point is, you're sure to have fun even if you don't know the answers.

Plus, it's easy to put back a few while you play because the Bad Waitress has a two-fer-one drink special on Monday nights. You'll actually want to get there a little early to put some food in you too -- follow @BadWaitressDiner on Instagram or @BadWaitressMpls on Twitter to see some of their delicious dishes (I really shouldn't be writing this so close to lunch)...

Oh, and did I mention that the Bad Waitress even coats all the tables with butcher paper beforehand so you can doodle while you eat? Name one other restaurant that goes out of their way for a bunch of cartoonists. You can't.

Currently the king of table sketches is Nick Straight:

The poster I drew for tonight's event includes a not very subtle reference to Downton Abbey, because I've been waiting patiently for MONTHS for Danno to have a round of questions about that show. Of course, now it's been so long since I've seen it so I'd probably get every question wrong, but that's nothing new. Swing by tonight to see what the topics really are:

Nicollet & 26th in Uptown Minneapolis
8-11 pm
Last Mondays of every month!
RSVP (if you want) on the Facebook Event Page

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Playing Skyrim with Jin (age 4)

Jin and I like to play video games together, and shouting the wolves away with the "Unrelenting Force" shout in Skyrim is one of the ones that entertains him the most, for some reason. Since the shout is in a made-up dragon language, Jin thinks that they're saying "Wolves, hi-yah!", which is about the funniest thing ever.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

FAQ: Piracy and DRM

I really like the idea of the Double Barrel's format, but I was wondering if you're planning on a DRM-free edition? I just can't bring myself to support Comixology's proprietary format, and my Android phone won't work with iBooks, obviously. It comes down to this: I would like to own a file and not the right to access a document for as long as Comixology sticks around.

Paul Constant
Seattle, WA

Z: Digital Rights Management, or DRM, is very much a concern for us, and we had some long discussions both with each other and with Top Shelf in the months leading up to Double Barrel's digital launch. The short answer for us is that we are simply creators, and the avenues for distributing the comics in the numbers we are hoping for are only through avenues that are -- at the moment -- protected proprietary formats.

Need a longer, better answer? OK.
We are very much in favor of a DRM-free edition for the following reasons:
1) Double Barrel is intended mainly as a loss-leader and promotional tool for the final books, and pirated copies floating around the web, if people enthusiastically want them, actually help us in the long run. For that reason, it's counterproductive to annoy people with DRM just to slow down that piracy.
2) Double Barrel is very fairly priced at $2, so if there were a competition between no effort + $2 and a bunch of internet searching + $0 + a small pang of guilt to get the same unrestricted file, we feel like the legitimate route would at least have a fighting chance.
3) DRM is irritating and limiting, and for the people who can't stand it, the only way to get around that irritation and limitation is to pirate the book. If people are going to pirate the book, we'd like it to be for their complete and utter contempt for how much money we make*, not because our product is unintentionally irritating.

*We currently do not make a lot of money.

So such is our intention, but the likelihood is that things will remain as they are for the time being. I will reiterate my earlier point that we are cartoonists, not technologists, or even publishers, and so we kind of have to go with whatever is happening if we want to get things out there to a significant number of people. Our hearts are behind a shift toward a DRM-free future, but the actual crusade is for someone else to head up.

Now, in our own defense, I will point out some of the things that, I feel, mitigate the problem somewhat:
1) It's only $2 per issue. If Comixology gets flattened by an asteroid or something and somehow you can't access Double Barrel, you're not out a whole bunch of cash. And in the ensuing nuclear winter, you may have other, more pressing problems.
2) Along with the low price, Double Barrel's format is intended to be a magazine in the most classic sense; it is meant to allow you to read new material assembled around a central idea, get interested in some of it, and then seek out more permanent manifestations of the best stuff. The permanence of the magazine itself is a low priority. And finally:
3) If there indeed is a shift to DRM-free versions in the vendors we go through, we will make every effort to ensure that future issues will be in that format, and that DRM-free versions of back issues can be had with a minimum of additional effort or cost.

Hopefully this is at least moderately satisfying. The life of a freelance cartoonist is one of constant compromise, and we feel that the current compromise level on Double Barrel is manageable-to-good, which, let me tell you, is saying quite a bit.

Paul sent us this email separately from his duties as a writer at Seattle's The Stranger, and then posted this review of Double Barrel #1. Thanks, Paul!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Double Barrel Press Round-Up


…is pretty much the only thing to say at this point. Zander and I and the Top Shelf team have spent the last week with wide eyes watching all the wonderful press and comments come in through the interwebs. The reaction has been fantastic, and of course makes us want to deliver even better issues every month. Thanks to everyone who took a shot at ol' Double Barrel, and we can't wait to hear what you think of next month's issue!

Here's a quick round-up of all the amazing press we've run across. Dig in!

  • DOUBLE BARREL #1 @ CBR Robot 6
    "Double Barrel is downright wonderful."
  • DOUBLE BARREL #1 @ Osmosis Online
    "Is any major publisher embracing digital comics in so compelling a manner as Top Shelf right now? ...While I’d be remiss to leave paper comics behind, if books like Double Barrel prove to be the wave of the future, I’ll feel a heck of a lot better about it."
  • DOUBLE BARREL #1 @ The Stranger
    "There's more plot, more character, and more high-concept craziness here in this first issue than you'll find in any three or four collected trade paperbacks from the big two comics publishers. But the reason you should be especially excited for the comic is this: the Cannons have finally gotten the e-comic publishing model right... Double Barrel is a lot of fun, and most importantly, it's a lot of different kinds of fun. If you love (or ever loved) reading comics in a serialized format, I urge you to give Double Barrel a try. I think it's going to be a great ride."
  • DOUBLE BARREL #1 @ The Savage Critics (podcast)
    "Double Barrel is spectacular... It is the closest thing indie comics has to a Shonen Jump Alpha... absurdly satisfying."
  • DOUBLE BARREL #1 @ Institute of Idle Time
    ""Both parts of this double-barreled anthology are excellent... one of the best reasons to embrace digital comics.""
  • DOUBLE BARREL #1 @ USA Today Pop Candy
    "Very promising... I was shocked by just how huge the first issue of Double Barrel is. At 122 pages, it's more than worth the $1.99 price."
  • DOUBLE BARREL #1 @ CBR Robot 6 (preview)
  • DOUBLE BARREL #1 @ ComicsAlliance (preview)
  • DOUBLE BARREL #1 @ Boing Boing
    "The Cannons and Top Shelf are doing something right here. I can't quite pin my finger on it, but I have the feeling this is the true beginning of the future of digital comics."
  • DOUBLE BARREL #1 @ Star Tribune
  • KEVIN & ZANDER CANNON @ ComicsAlliance
    "On June 6, cartoonists Kevin Cannon (Far Arden) and Zander Cannon (Top 10: Smax), along with Top Shelf Comics, are launching a monthly digital comics project that's ambitious in a lot of ways, but is maybe most audacious when it comes to the price... There's plenty packed in these digitized pages."

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Tuesday Cartooning Tips: The White Halo

We've all seen that some cartoonists like to put a thin white halo around their characters to set them off from the background. As a younger cartoonist, I always considered this cheating, because obviously your character will stand out when you literally separate him or her from the background; the challenge is to compose your drawing well enough that you don't have to resort to such trickery. In the ensuing years, I found that this mode of thinking was rather shortsighted, because I realized that the white halo is not just a function of laziness, it replicates three things that are hard to communicate in comics.

1. Light
Image: Crowded Comics single panel image by Kevin
This would be the obvious one. If your subject is in bright sunlight and things behind it are dimmer, there would be a literal white halo of light that separates them. Not really a cheat, since that is what one would actually see. In more illustrative and/or single-panel drawings, featured characters need to stand out boldly from the background, and so can be used to great advantage here.

2. Focal shift 
Image: layouts for "A Magic Life" from Fables #113, written by Bill Willingham.
In a camera, when you are zoomed in, your focal depth is very shallow; only your subject is in sharp focus, while the background is fuzzy. This is also true of the naked eye, but the instant that you move your eye off of one thing and onto another, you automatically focus on the new object, so you don't notice.  The white halo in this situation replicates the focal shift as you move your eye from a foreground object to a background one. 

3. Movement
Image: pencils from upcoming chapter of The Replacement God.
In real life, when we observe something moving in a large field of vision, our attention is drawn to it and momentarily shuts out the surrounding detail. In comics, we don't have the option of having something move in a panel, and so there is an advantage to slightly dropping out certain nearby details to draw the eye to this one subject that is moving. It works particularly well when the object on which we're focusing is in a position that shows that it's moving: e.g. a running person, a bouncing ball, a train with trailing smoke, etc.

In dark environments, the equivalent rule works, in which you can drop out details in the darkness as they come close to a foreground character or object, so that there is a halo of black around the character.

Speaking personally, I felt that coming to realize this was extremely liberating from a layout perspective.  Everything I'd learned in the last 20 years was still intact, but there was now one more thing that would allow me to make my panel layouts just that much more effective. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Shackleton's Influence on Army Shanks [2 days to launch!]


"Shackleton's Influence on Army Shanks"

Double Barrel will be serializing Crater XV, the 500-page sequel to the slightly-smaller Far Arden, which came out from Top Shelf in 2009. The main character of both books is Army Shanks, a salty ex-Navy sea dog who is most at home on the deck of a clipper ship.

The character of Army Shanks was inspired by Ernest Shackleton, the famed polar explorer who was trapped with his men on Antarctica after his ship Endurance was crushed by the pack ice. Army was created ten years ago while I was tooling around London, and at the time there was a fantastic exhibit at the Maritime Museum in Greenwich called "South." The museum had tons of artifacts from the five main Edwardian-era Antarctica expeditions, and I even got to lay a hand on the chair that Shackleton died on (despite signs telling me not to).

Shanks' specific outfit was inspired by a trip I took to Dulwich College, where Shackleton went to school. There I saw the infamous James Caird (the tiny boat that meant the rescue of all the stranded men) and a Shackleton-specific museum where I saw the explorer's man-hauling harness up close and personal. That harness immediately became a staple of Shanks' wardrobe.

Since that trip I've become even more infatuated with other polar explorers, like Roald Amundsen, Peter Freuchen, and Lauge Koch -- but more on those guys in future posts.