Cannons to the Moon: Zander and Kevin Cannon Talk T-Minus

Zander and Kevin Cannon Talk T-Minus

We've already spoken writer Jim Ottaviani about his upcoming graphic novel T-Minus: The Race to the Moon, but we thought we'd get some perspective from his collaborators as well.

You may know them as Zander Cannon and Kevin Cannon, or perhaps by their nom du plum Big Time Attic. They'll be bringing Ottaviani's script to life, depicting the development and building of the United States' and Soviet Union's rocket programs.

Cannon and Cannon took some time to talk to us about T-Minus, which will be published by Simon and Schuster in May.

Newsarama: Kevin and Zander, what’s the big picture of T-Minus?

Kevin Cannon: The media glamorizes the white-knuckle race between the Americans and Soviets, but T-Minus tries to emphasize that it was a human endeavor to reach the moon, a cooperative feat that transcended politics and borders.

Zander Cannon: One of the other things that T-Minus puts out there is the sense of loneliness and fragility that space brings to humanity. Those of us raised on science fiction tend to forget that these fighter jocks had to be really, really brave to orbit the earth for days and days in a can the size of a closet.

NRAMA: What drew you to the project? Did you have an interest in space exploration? The space race?

T-Minus, page 66

Kevin: I'm an '80s child, and grew up thinking that space travel wasn't a big deal. My knowledge of space history didn't reach far beyond Apollo 11 and Apollo 13. Doing the research for T-Minus helped put my spotty knowledge into context, and opened my eyes up completely to the Russian side of the race.

Zander: I particularly have an interest in the engineering races that were happening in the US and the USSR; they were trying to accomplish the same things, but were going about it in different ways and their technology took similar but divergent forms.

NRAMA: This is your second team-up with Jim Ottaviani, after Bone Sharps, Cowboys and Thunder Lizards in 2005. What makes the collaboration rewarding for you both?

Kevin: Jim's hunger for knowledge and love of whatever subject he's writing about is really contagious. Seeing the passion in his script and research makes me want to be a better storyteller and artist.

Zander: Jim's ability to find the human angle on a story makes you realize how epic these stories are and how they affected those people who were involved. I really enjoy seeing that happen in the stories that we draw.

T-Minus, page 70

NRAMA: When working on historical projects such as this and Bone Sharps, how much research do you do and how accurately do you strive to get your likenesses?

Kevin: There's an early stage in the process where our studio is littered with books on the subject, and during that time we'll nail down our style. With Bone Sharps, it was often difficult to find the right visual reference, but the opposite was true with T-Minus: we were absolutely overwhelmed with resources.

Zander: Because of that, and because many of the people are widely recognizable while being superficially similar to other characters (i.e. white guys with crew cuts), we decided to have a very simple style. What this did was make the priority characters that are distinguishable from each other, and we worried less about making them look exactly like their photographs. For one thing, this took some pressure off of us in terms of nailing likenesses, but it also made the people into characters in a book and kept readers focused on them in the context of this story, rather than worrying about the entirety of the real person's life.

NRAMA: Do you work full script with Jim?

Zander: Jim writes a full script, and we adapt the book from that. The book was shortened somewhat in the middle of the writing process, so Jim, Kevin, and I had to get creative about how to get the same amount of information across in fewer pages without looking like we were cramming.

T-Minus, page 113

NRAMA: Between the two of you, how do you break down the working process?

Kevin: We work differently for each book, but whatever division of labor we choose, we strive to keep it consistent throughout the entire project. For T-Minus, Zander drew layouts and characters, and I lettered and drew backgrounds and vehicles.

NRAMA: Despite your common surname, I’ve read that you are not brothers. How did two non-related Cannons wind up partners in Big Time Attic?

Kevin: It was by sheer coincidence that we both went to Grinnell College and drew comic strips for the school paper (albeit seven years apart). As soon as people saw that I liked to draw comics, I heard a lot of "You must be Zander's brother." I had no idea who Zander was, but eventually I wrote him a letter and asked if he needed an intern. Four years later we were business partners.

T-Minus, page 117

NRAMA: Zander, in addition to your work on projects like Top Ten Season II and Transformers, what keeps you involved in smaller press projects like T-Minus?

Zander: It's nice to work on a long project that's been created by another person while you're doing the same for someone else. It makes you really think about what you're giving your other collaborators. Also, it's fun to work on something that has a little gravitas like non-fiction and educational comics to counterbalance some of the sillier/awesomer stuff we work on.

NRAMA: What’s next for Big Time Attic after T-Minus: The Race for the Moon?

Kevin: We'll be illustrating a sequel to The Stuff of Life called Evolution: A Progress Report, as well as writing for IDW. And as always there are lots of pitches floating around various publishers' offices.

T-Minus: The Race to the Moon arrives in stores in May from Simon and Schuster. More information about Zander Cannon and Kevin Cannon can be found at Big Time Attic, and writer Jim Ottaviani's website is www.gt-labs.com.

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