Classic comic strips are so important in history. The newspaper was the only way to get your news and the comic strip was the only way to get an escape from it too.
This was of course before the TV took over, but the visual medium was limited. After reading and enjoying the collected comic strips of the James Bond Omnibus I was given the task to read Cannon, a similar styled strip from the 70’s. Is it good?
Cannon (Fantagraphics Publishing)
Once you realize this strip was originally published from 1970 to 1973 in Overseas Weekly for U.S. Military personnel stationed abroad you come to understand its purpose. Not knowing this though, and seeing the many topless women and explosions, one might imagine this book was for the Playboy crowd before there was Playboy.
When you crack this book open you’ll notice there are fully nude women throughout its pages and in most cases a topless lady is each strip’s most important feature. That makes sense since men needed a little something after not seeing their wives for so many years. Plus, men are dogs.
The plots typically focus on foreign countries messing with America and its protagonist, a special agent trained in all forms of combat thwarting their every move. He’s no James Bond though. Lacking much of Bond’s class, Cannon makes up for that with brute force and American grit. His arch nemesis of the book is Madame Toy, who is a trained torturer for the Chinese. The fact that she ends up topless for much of her appearances tells you what type of stories this strip is going for.
This is not your grand pappy’s Peanuts.
Much like any comic strip there’s a formula afoot as there was only so much space to tell a story and it needed to capture your imagination and deliver every time. There isn’t nudity in every strip, but statistically speaking 95% of the strips have some nudity. Cannon typically either encounters women already nude or women who lose their clothes in battle – and they always seem illogically okay with fleeing through jungles naked – which gives creator Wallace Wood plenty of opportunity to draw these women in sexual poses. I suppose he never encountered Poison Ivy before.
If there aren’t naked women in panel there are bad men making plans, or Cannon kicking ass. It’s all very simplistic, but what strip isn’t simple on the surface given the format? Though it has its formula the stories are still varied enough to keep your interest and of course the sexy ladies are entertaining too. Since it was originally made as a strip I would recommend reading it at a slower pace.
I love how the bullet holes through the glass frame the shot.
The art is very simply great. It’s a master class when it comes to its ink work and its shading. The women obviously look great (if they didn’t this strip would have been pointless when it was originally published) and it’s fun to see how Wood tries to get as much nudity on the page without showing any full frontal shots. It’s actually quite a classy representation of the female body, and while the plots are a bit silly in a porno kind of way (“Oh no, my clothes came off and it’s just you and me here, Cannon!) the women are never paraded around in a chauvinistic way. There’s something to be said about how he draws women, which aren’t impossibly skinny, but drawn as realistic body types should be drawn. It was the ’70s after all, but after reading this one wonders if maybe Marvel and DC should take a look at how a full figured woman should really look. Sure their characters aren’t nude, but they might as well be in all that spandex.
It’s safe to say Wood wasn’t an expert at action sequences and much better at drawing the human form in talking situations. This makes the dialogue heavy moments excel, but when there is any punching and kicking going on things look a bit stiff. That’s probably why there isn’t a lot of action, but one must remember with only 6 or so panels per strip it wasn’t like Wood had a lot of real estate to show a punch swing, land and fly a character backwards. It’s certainly good enough given the medium and doesn’t fail at its purpose.
That top is NOT staying on through this…
This is an enjoyable slice of history of a comic strip mostly read only by army personnel in the ’70s. The espionage is interesting and entertaining and the nudity always sexy.