A Short Interview with Connor McCann
Connor McCann is seventeen years old. He has just self-published I am a Graveyard, his second book-length work, which clocks in at a hefty 192 pages. The comic is making its way to me now, and I hope to write about it soon. But for now a few preliminary thoughts might be in order.
Conventional wisdom suggests that Connor McCann should not be drawing graphic novels. Instead, we’re often told, he should focus on shorter pieces, mastering the 5, 10, or 15 page comic before slowly moving towards the sizable challenge of a longer project. It’s good advice, and I myself have focused my output on short stories over the last few years. But I’m not convinced that starting off with a graphic novel or two is necessarily a bad idea.
In saying this I’m absolutely biased by my own experience; I took a similar approach to Connor when I started drawing comics, though with far less dedication than he has shown. But I drew three book-length comics from the ages of 16 to 21, and I’m not sure my work would be substantially better if I had spent those early years (heh, as I write this with just the smallest amount of distance) pumping out short stories. That early work wasn’t going to be very good no matter what! As a young cartoonist, it can be easy to grow frustrated by the distance between your ambitions and your abilities. You strain against your limits. It can be easy to give up. Maybe for Connor the alluring finish line of I Just Drew a Graphic Novel, and the appealing challenge that presents, was the motivation that he needed to keep making work at a time when making work is the most important thing. That’s how it was for me, and that’s how I suspect it might have been for, say, Sam Alden or Matt Seneca.
But I’m being narcissistic, using I am a Graveyard only as a springboard to discuss my own experience. Connor McCann is still in high school and he just published a nearly 200 page book! That’s pretty amazing. I sent Connor a few interview questions, and his answers pleasantly undercut the interpretation of his work and thought process I present above.
Do you remember what you were thinking when you were considering and then decided to draw that first graphic novel? Did it seem daunting at the time? Did you worry you weren’t going to finish?
I kind of tricked myself into starting to draw that first graphic novel, actually. I had only planned on it being around 40 pages or so, but by the time I had reached the 25 page mark, I was having so much fun drawing the book that I just figured that it should turn into a full length book. It wasn’t daunting at all. If anything, I couldn’t draw the book fast enough. I never doubted my ability to make it to the end, because I don’t quit comic projects, regardless of how difficult they may become.
You’re printing your book projects rather than posting them online. Why did you decide to do that?
I’ve found that the comics that I’ve loved the most are always printed, whether it was a crumpled up issue of Al Columbia’s Biologic Show or the single issues of Brandon Graham’s King City that Image put out, and I suppose that exclusively releasing my work in print is an attempt to recreate the feeling I got from those books. Digital comics feel less like objects of art, and I never really find myself pouring over online comics like I do with printed comics. However, the next wave of comics I’m making is much shorter works and I’ll be releasing them online and then collecting them into a book, most likely.
Why are you now moving back towards shorter comics?
I’m more interested in exploring a variety of tones and drawing styles, rather than telling big, sprawling stories.
Do you worry at all that by making your work available exclusively in print you’re giving up the opportunity to get more the immediate feedback that posting online offers? Does it bother you in any way that you might be limited your audience?
This doesn’t worry me, no. I’m focused on getting really good at comics rather than getting a ton of notes on Tumblr or building a large audience. I feel pretty okay with the amount of attention my work is getting at the moment, especially considering I’m only 17 and there’s plenty of time for building an audience. In the future, however, I will be releasing the next chunk of my comics as I finish them online.
It’s sort of silly to judge people in terms of how old they happen to be, but I must say that you have an impressive work ethic for someone of your age. Why do you think that is?
Working really hard is just ingrained into who I am, I guess. I want to make the best comics I possibly can and having a really intense work ethic seems like the only way to advance to the place I want to get with my art.
Where do you see yourself in five or ten years as a cartoonist, if you think in those terms at all? Do you want to be a professional cartoonist, or at least a professional illustrator who makes some money from comics?
Ideally, in ten years I’ll be able to support myself financially via making comics, and I’m fairly confident that I’ll be able to make that dream a reality if I continue to work as hard as I have for the last few years.
We can all name a number of cartoonists who, though they may once have been prolific, promising, and even award-winning, have for various reasons exited stage right. But it seems to me that Connor might be a comics lifer. I hope I’m not jinxing him. You can order his new comic here.
- Andrew White