By Matthew Allison
Cankor is one of the most original independent comics you’ll read, though it may very well remind you of other creator-owned classics that helped make self-publishing comic books achievable today. Somewhere between Bob Burden’s Flaming Carrot Comics and Dave Sim’s Cerebus you’ll find Cankor – a book fueled by the opportunity for greater diversity in content made possible by hardworking small press, alternative comics. Cankor is about artful expression, high creativity, and storytelling through pictures and actions vs. literally explaining everything that’s going on from panel to panel. Matthew Allison is a one-man show, an auteur, and a force in comics that is sorely missing, even though there’s more variety on the shelves than ever. Cankor breaks rules, sets new standards and stays weirdly fun through and through. The book entertains and keeps you engaged, all while seemingly leaving the plot open to interpretation. There’s drama, action, heroics and adversarial confrontations, but the reason for all of it are, in part, for us to realize. Are we witnessing Allison’s own creative process laid out as a satirical cosmic-adventure, or is this what creative inspiration looks like when an artist let’s go and allows the work to have a voice of it’s own? Creator-owned properties often give us a peek into the mind of the writer/artist, which is what allows Cankor: Calamity of Challenge to feel so uniquely original when compared to all of the other mainstream books out there.
It’s funny, but true, that the most accomplished comic book publishers, despite their success, can’t always claim to have the best books. Superhero comics in particular make up what collectors and industry folks alike call “mainstream”, and that’s the primary reason for the success of publishers like DC and MARVEL. The big guys stick to the formula and they believe in consistency in order to produce well-known monthly and weekly titles on time, which makes them tons of money. But that doesn’t mean their books are the most unique ones available. What’s more, the biggest risk they seem to be willing to take is market saturation by using their popularity and profits to produce more and more books. It works, apparently, and it’s probably keeping the industry alive to a degree, certainly at the retail level, but how long do you have to be a comic book fan before you begin to crave something more? The polished story of a guy in a cape, or yet another team of super-powered beings – which has been refined over several decades – like it or not, can get old.
Enter self-published indie comics and, along with them, the opportunity for readers to discover all new highly imaginable characters and storylines. Without the preconceived notions and established expectations of millions of readers worldwide a book can exist in a refreshingly unfamiliar universe. What helps such a universe work is it’s well roundedness and the author’s ability to create a sense that it has always existed. Cankor does that and then some. If at any point you find yourself wondering what’s going on, then you’ll no doubt realize in that same moment that it doesn’t matter, because clearly the characters are motivated and dedicated to moving the story forward. There’s no shortage of fantastic stuff to absorb here not to mention reabsorb. Good luck trying to read Cankor once without immediately flipping back through the pages out of pure admiration.
As fun a read as it may be, the artwork is the hook, which provides an atmosphere that is both comforting and creepy. It’s that very contrast that defines Allison’s stylistic charm. His illustrations appear as gently molded clay wrapped around wire frames only to be bent and stretched to suit the fringes of Allison’s artistic notions. Beneath the surface of perfectly placed delicate line work is a densely complex pile of wiring and technology that makes us wonder what else may be hiding. Likewise Allison’s colors are soothing blends of cyan, yellow and magenta with strategic and impactful doses of toxic lime-greens and unsaturated, withered tones of grey. The book’s art, much like the story, isn’t something just anyone could emulate or copy. Like a great rock and roll anthem, lots of people will want to try their hand at making an equally impressive product, but there’s only one Matthew Allison and there’s only one Cankor. Luckily this is the first of four issues and it debuts online at Allison’s webstore October 3rd of this year. Now’s not only your chance to support indie comics, but to enter the delightfully bizarre world of Cankor! You wont be sorry. And be sure to check out the cover to issue #1 with a couple of preview pages below for a glimpse of what’s in store.