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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Max Cannon shakes up the Loft

    Max Cannon’s taste for offbeat cartooning goes back to the fifth grade, when he stumbled on a collection of George Herriman’s “”Krazy Kat”” in the library. Herriman’s classic strip, often called the greatest comic strip ever drawn, focuses on a bizarre love triangle in a surreal Southwest landscape.

    “”I just fell in love with it,”” Cannon said. “”I tried to find every ‘Krazy Kat’ book I could. Everyone should read it. It’s flipped-out.””

    Tucson cartoonist Cannon grew up to become the creator of “”Red Meat,”” the outrageous, deadpan comic strip that amuses, baffles and occasionally revolts readers around the world every week. And he got his start at the Arizona Daily Wildcat.

    In 1989, after being pestered by cartoonist friend Joe Forkan to contribute something to the campus newspaper, Cannon sat down at his “”dreadfully slow”” Macintosh SE, squinted into its 9-inch black-and-white screen, and turned out the first 15 or 20 installments of “”Red Meat.””

    He was one of the first modern cartoonists to draw his strip using a computer, now a fairly common practice.

    “”Nobody else was doing it for years,”” Cannon said. “”I would venture to say I spent 10 times as long drawing it as someone who was (manually) drawing a strip.””

    After it ran in the Wildcat for a semester, the strip was picked up by the Tucson Weekly, and soon requests from other papers, including a fledgling newspaper known as The Onion, started pouring in.

    Sixteen years later, computers have gotten faster, but Cannon’s sensibility remains as weird and unique as ever. His strip has been published in several languages and won praise from the likes of “”Simpsons”” creator Matt Groening and the New Yorker.

    Now Tucsonans have the opportunity to peer further into the twisted depths of Cannon’s imagination as his 10-part cartoon series, “”Shadow Rock,”” makes its nationwide theatrical debut at The Loft Cinema.

    Well, nine of the cartoons will. Cannon and his “”partners in animation,”” Gavrilo Gnatovich and James J. Forsmo, are still working on the 10th.

    Cannon promises that the characters in “”Shadow Rock”” will see more action than the ones in “”Red Meat,”” who frequently stay the same from panel to panel.

    “”Well, the dead clown doesn’t move around too much. But he does have an exciting afterlife for someone who’s dead,”” Cannon said.

    Cannon first tried his hand at animation back in 1995, when he and Forkan spent eight to nine months working on a show based on “”Red Meat”” for Fox. The deal fell through, but Cannon didn’t lose interest in animation, and eventually he got another chance.

    The new series was made for Comedy Central, which wanted a show for its new broadband-based video channel. The series features theme music by Tucson band Calexico.

    Like “”Red Meat,”” “”Shadow Rock”” features such out-of-the-way topics as dead clowns, aliens, sock puppets and TV weathermen.

    “”If you’re familiar with ‘Red Meat’ you probably know what you’re getting into,”” said Loft program director Jeff Lanc. “”It has a similar style and tone.””

    Cannon, Gnatovich and Forsmo will be taking questions from the audience, during and after the screening.

    “”The films are so short, they’re all around a couple of minutes apiece,”” Yanc said.

    “”I think a lot of it will be kind of like stand-up shtick, with them talking about the films.””

    Cannon also hosts The Loft Cinema’s monthly short film contest.

    “”It’s the best $5 you will ever spend on a Friday night in Tucson,”” Cannon said. “”We will show any film, as long as it’s under 10 minutes.””

    At the three-minute point, the audience is asked to decide whether to continue the film.

    “”The audience is not merciful, which makes it fun,”” Cannon said. “”Many a bad film is so bad that no one wants to see it end.””

    Aspiring filmmakers will get their next shot at impressing the contest’s decidedly tough audience on April 7.

    “”We’ve been getting huge crowds,”” Yanc said. “”I imagine (“”Shadow Rock””) will bring in even more people because these are actually his films.””

    “”Shadow Rock: From the Secret Files of Max Cannon”” will be shown at The Loft Cinema, 3233 E Speedway Blvd., Friday at 9 p.m. Admission is $5. Copies of Cannon’s new book, “”Red Meat Gold,”” will be available for purchase at the Loft, and the artist will be on hand to sign them.

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