Published almost 10 years before the first Gary book, Cannon’s style in “Mercy” exhibits softer, thinner lines and cross-hatching—a significant contrast to the bold strokes and heavy inking characteristic of the artist’s more recent work.
The story follows Simon, a prominent character in several of Cannon’s works, though his appearance in “Mercy” is less-realized than in other Simon stories. An updated design for the character is featured in the next Simon story on Cannon’s website, “Learn,” from Simon #2—he is far less sinewy, the back of his cranium doesn’t project outwards, and his clothing is more contemporary. There is one recent Simon story, “Tick-Talk,” rendering the character in Cannon’s clean line style: in addition to Simon's previous design changes, his eyes are not heterochromatic anymore.
“Mercy” is different in two significant respects: one, it’s not drawn in the style of Cannon’s recent work. Two, Simon’s design is not consistent with his design in other stories, including those drawn in a similar style. May “Mercy,” then, be regarded as a prototype or predecessor to Cannon's larger Simon oeuvre? Ascribing such labels to the work may imply an inherent incompleteness, or unpolished quality—but the craft Cannon employs, as always, dispels all apprehensions.
The story opens with this shot of Simon sitting on the side of a hill. Simon’s thought bubble penetrates the cloudscape—though it has rounded edges, it’s a more rigid shape than a circle or oval. The deliberate use of this shape indicates that he is predicting an atmospheric disturbance, and not simply daydreaming about it. Wind is coming from opposite his front and blowing the grass--which does not appear to be matted below him. He has not been at that spot long.
The name of the comic is depicted in weathered stone blocks—particularly of note are the lowercase “i” in the midst of uppercase letters and the “O” that resembles the number zero. May the former indicate a childlike or naïve quality present in the character? May the latter indicate a competing—or reconcilable—kind of knowledge present in the character?
The next page prominently exhibits Simon’s heterochromia iridum: his eyes are depicted in two panels with erratic borders, and the areas surrounding the eyes are shadowed. The next panel is mostly symmetric, save for the clouds--and the two sides of Simon’s head. These panels highlight Simon’s distinct physical features.
Simon’s standing and looking off in the last, borderless panel. Whatever he’s looking at must be significant.
The ends of the clouds seem to converge at the same point. Simon squints and sees a figure on the horizon. Lines emanate out of this black mass, as if to indicate reciprocal recognition on its part.
Following this, the figure makes a dash towards Simon, strafing down the hillside, its path leaving an impression on the grass. The lower two panels actually depict two moments in time each—the relatively fixed position of the clouds give it away, eliminating the need for a distinct separator down the middle of both panels. Perhaps the lack of separator highlights the speed at which the creature before Simon is moving?
And the creature looks cute. Simon’s raised eyebrows make him look surprised.
The wind is still blowing on Simon’s side of the hill. The creature, arms outstretched and spit flying out of its mouth, seems to be telling Simon something important. Simon, head tilted and wide-eyed, is paying attention, and still looks surprised. Or maybe it’s wonderment?
This page is the comic's most significant. The creature is a baby, then a smiling toddler. As the creature grows up, its self-confidence turns into a shrugging of the shoulders, defeat, sorrow—despair. Instruments that characterize each of its life stages lead the reader through the panels—the last of these instruments is a gun pointed back at the creature.
It occupies the same plane of the page as Simon; look how his body extends past the panel border.
It’s almost as if he can grasp the gun.
The creature looks happy as it poses its question, and then becomes angrier as it repeats it. Its speech bubbles form part of the central division between the two halves of the page. The question is posed repeatedly, with increasing intensity, until it extends past the division and into Simon’s half of the page.
Simon looks deep in thought when the question is posed the first two times. The raised eyebrow as the question is posed for the last time almost makes him look sorrowful.
Simon regards the creature on the top of the hill as storm clouds form. A dark shadow or miasma surrounds the creature’s head as a tear drops from its eye—it is dispersed by Simon’s hand, which has a glowing halo around it. Simon has become a divine thing, perhaps he will be the source of the creature’s deliverance?
The last page consists of a single panel bounded by two heavy white spaces. Simon’s left elbow is bent as if he’s reaching for his back. The foreshadowing of page five is resolved here: Simon will be the one who puts the creature out of its misery.
“Mercy” is interesting, isn’t it? There is a strong sense of deliberation on Cannon’s part; no part of this work feels haphazardly constructed. It’s a well-drafted work that at several points engages its medium exceptionally well.
Though its different qualities make it distinct from other Simon stories, there are certain aspects of the work that resurface in these stories. A similar sort of brutal resolution to an abstract dilemma may be found in “You See Not What You Know,” from the HOW ONE PHILOSOPHIZES WITH A HAMMER series. Simon’s naïveté, briefly mentioned earlier, is the basis of “Learn,” from Simon #2. Simon’s naïveté reconciled with his deep knowledge is apparent on page 11 of “The Clone War,” from Simon #3.
Tyrell Cannon’s “Mercy” will certainly seem different and interesting to those readers familiar with the Gary cycle and Cannon’s recent work. And whether or not they are familiar with Gary, every reader will certainly appreciate Cannon’s craft.
“Mercy,” from Simon #1, and all other stories referenced are written and illustrated by Tyrell Cannon. The Gary cycle is self-published and available on his website; its books are reviewed here. The Simon stories referenced are available on his website for free or for purchase in collected form. There is also a list of local comic book shops that carry his books at the bottom of the store page. If you have an indie-friendly shop and would like to see his books there, let them know!
The banner and last image of the article are modified from Tyrell Cannon’s Simon Rubiks Cube.