Title: Double Barrel
Release: August 2012
Writers: Kevin Cannon and Zander Cannon
Artists: Kevin Cannon and Zander Cannon
Image via Top Shelf Productions
The Cannons have released the August issue of their web comic Double Barrel a week earlier than expected. The date advertised in the July issue was August 8th but they decided to launch on the 1st so as to stick with the plan of first Wednesday of the month. In so doing, they have demonstrated yet another advantage of web comics over print. Details for where to find it are on their blog.
The two main stories continue in strong form. In Zander's Heck, we learn why Elliott hates Amy. It remains unclear, however, why Amy hates him back. We get a bunch of new characters in Kevin's Crater XV along with some enticing revelations promised for the next installment.
Image via Comic Attack
As always, there are extras aplenty. In Kevin's mini-comic Penny from the Front, our heroine gets a taste of war life beyond the press corps. New on offer this month is Master of Feng Shui, Zander's one-shot satirical take on the martial arts adventure tale. I don't know enough about Feng Shui to understand all of the jokes but that's not really the point.
The highlight of the latest issue, however, is Zander's piece at the end: "Everything I Know about Storytelling I Learned from Star Wars." There are so many things to like about Double Barrel but what I appreciate most is both creators' generosity in sharing details of their process. In this latest edition of his How To: series, Zander delves into the basic elements of narrative genius to be found in the original Star Wars trilogy. The saga reaffirms his previous assertions about narrative structure and also is very instructive in establishing character and setting. While Zander writes specifically about application to comics, I think storytellers of any medium could benefit a great deal from this master class in print.
Seriously, go check it out now so I can write about it more in depth without spoiling it for you. Come on, if you've read this far and haven't made the minimal investment of time and money to purchase your own copy of Double Barrel at comiXology or wherever, I'm not sure I want to know you! Surely you can spare $1.99!!!
Of course I still love all of you. As one of my favorite students used to say, "I kid because I love." But for real, go support the cause and buy this comic!
We're good to go now? Cool. On with the program...
I'm particularly intrigued by Zander's section on stringing strong scenes together to build the story. In my comics explorations, I've thought a lot about the effective use of serialization in storytelling. Some comics - the best ones - do it well. Whenever I finish any comic book, I ask myself a very simple question: do I care enough to read the next issue? I think it's a fair question given the nature of the medium. In my experience, too many comics rely on character investment rather than plot to keep the readers coming back.
To expand upon Zander's thoughts, a lot of films I admire for their writing use a similarly effective means of building the broader story upon the smaller ones within: The Princess Bride, The Usual Suspects and Bull Durham among others. I think the serial structure of comic books can be very instructive in terms of narrative development in film and other media. Any writer should ask him or herself the same question a reader would ask for each scene: why should I continue to care? What about this chapter helps to pique my interest in the next?
While I prefer the Star Wars originals, I would suggest that The Wizard of Oz possesses many of the same strengths Zander describes. Both films are also extremely effective in terms of their use of both sound and music - perhaps the best films ever on that score (pun intended). But that's a discussion for another time...
There's a caption contest to enter in this issue. Yes, you're going to have to read the comic for the details. You could win a t-shirt!
Finally, my disclaimer: as I note whenever I write about these guys, I went to college with the Cannons so I'm predisposed to enjoy their work. However, dear reader, I must assure you that I wouldn't steer you wrong. If I didn't think these books were good, I would not bother to blog about them. I'm a nice guy but I'm not that nice. Fact: the Cannons are both extremely talented and I believe their current project offers a window to the best of what the publishing industry can be in the digital age.