The final issue in the first arc of David M. Booher‘s and Drew Zucker‘s Canto hits stores today, but the journey is not over for this courageous little hero. IDW Publishing announced at New York Comic Con that a Canto and the Clockwork Faeries one-shot will hit stores in May, followed by a five-issue mini-series. For fans of this emotional, all-ages story, this is amazing news.

Canto, which draws inspiration from a number of recognizable stories, is as hopeful as it is heartbreaking. Starring the eponymous tin man, the series follows Canto as he traverses across the land to save his beloved before her time runs out. Along the way, he makes new friends and surprising allies as he faces off against some truly fearsome creatures, as well as the Shrouded Man, whose presence casts a long shadow over all of the living beings in Canto’s world.

For those who haven’t yet read the series, here is the official synopsis for the first six issues:

They are forbidden to love, yet Canto loves a little tin girl. When slavers damage her clock beyond repair, Canto embarks on an incredible journey through his strange and fantastic world to bring back her heart. As he faces fearsome creatures and finds unlikely allies, can he conquer the mysterious figure who has taken their hearts to save the one he loves?

In between the announcement of more Canto and the release of issue #6, The Beat caught up with Booher and Zucker via e-mail to discuss what’s next for the series, as well as the journey so far. Plus, we have an exclusive teaser image from Canto and the Clockwork Faeries, as well as a peak at the cover for the first trade paperback, aptly titled If I Only Had a Heart.

Canto #1

Samantha Puc: What was the catalyst for creating Canto?

David M. Booher: The short answer is Drew. I’ve always loved fantasy stories, from The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth to Lord of the Rings, so when Drew approached me with a concept sketch for a lovable little tin man who would become Canto, I knew we had to tell his big, epic story.

Drew Zucker: Canto really started out as a challenge to myself to see if I could draw something cute, that would have a more mainstream appeal than what I was doing at the time. I also wanted to see if I could come up with a story that was adult, but could still fall into the all-ages category.

Puc: There are some obvious influences here, from stories like The Wizard of Oz and even Greek myth — but I’m curious, which influences did you pull from when crafting Canto’s story, if any?

Booher: My two biggest story influences were probably Wizard of Oz and Dante’s Inferno. I always talk about my vintage 1901 copy of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz I got at a used book sale when I was 12. I still crack it open for reference. Beyond those, I think readers might notice lots of ’80s Jim Henson influences—even The Muppets

Zucker: Besides Oz, Dante’s Inferno was always the other big influence we used when crafting Canto’s story. The original version of the story was a more literal interpretation of Inferno, where Canto would actually go down seven levels. Once David came on board it became more of a guide for the story we were crafting.  

Puc: How has the story changed since you initially conceived of it?

Booher: I’ll let Drew field this one. He approached me with a different type of story that we ended up adapting into the hopeful, all-ages fable that made it onto the page.

Zucker: Originally the story was more serious and probably more adult. The original idea was that Canto (at the time just tin man) would go down a well and fight his way through seven levels, each one representing an essential emotion of the human experience. While this was interesting and something I loved, when David came in he took the elements from the original version, and made it into a more focused story and ultimately a story that a mainstream audience could really get behind.

Puc: Without giving away spoilers, can you give some hints about what’s to come in the new one-shot and story arc?

Booher: Sure! The one-shot is called Canto and the Clockwork Fairies and it takes place after events of the first story arc. It’s a stand-alone adventure for Canto, introducing some new friends…and a creepy new foe. The next story arc will find Canto thrust into a new, urgent quest as the threat of the Shrouded Man continues to hang over his people. 

Zucker: Canto’s world is going to get a lot bigger.  There are a lot of resources and effort being pulled together going forward to visually match not only the amazing story that David has laid out, but also how we up the level of the visuals for the readers.

Canto #5

Puc: If given the opportunity, would you want to continue to tell stories about Canto and his world? Are there any characters you’d want to write in their own spin-off series?

Booher: Absolutely. Canto’s world is expansive and we’re only starting to explore all of its shadowy corners. Canto’s main adventure will continue, and I really want to tell the story of the warrior Canto meets in the City of Dis. She’s a hero in her own right with a rich, deep back story I hope to explore one day.

Zucker: The best feeling in the world was for IDW to let us keep going with this story.  Canto is a book that is a lot of work to draw, but I can easily say it’s the most fun I’ve ever had working on a project, so my hope is that we will be around for a little while.  As for characters and one-shots, I actually wouldn’t mind doing a short on a day in the life of the Malorex, he’s such a dope that I think it would be fun.

Puc: What was the design process like for the various characters and creatures?

Booher: Drew’s character design is masterful. I usually give him short descriptions and sometimes photo reference (most times not), and let him run with it. It’s been so cool to see us settle into a kind of shorthand where he knows what’s in my brain even before I do.

Zucker: Canto was a fairly simple process. The original design was more steampunk-based and a bit scarier, but he really only went through two rounds of adjustment after that. Creatures like the Malorex, though, were much more involved and at one point he was even smaller than Canto. We really let the story dictate the designs and if it feels like a character isn’t working with their current design, we’ll take them back to square one and see if adjustments need to be made.

Puc: Do either of you have a favorite panel, page, or scene? If so, which, and why is it your favorite?

Booher: There’s a full page spread early in the story when Canto is cradling the injured tin girl as the slavers loom over them in silhouette. When Vittorio Astone added colors, that was the moment I knew we had something special. Also, I love our giants.

Zucker: I LOVE the giants. Comedy is so hard to do in comics, much less in pure script form, and even when I got the script for issue #4 I was laughing at that.  I also really love issue #6 as a whole. I won’t get into spoilers, but when I was reading it, it just did everything that I wanted for this story when we started it.

From Canto #1. Script by David M. Booher, art by Drew Zucker, colors by Vittorio Astone, and letters by Deron Bennett.

Puc: Do you feel like you relate to any one character more than the others?

Booher: Canto, for sure. His unshakable hope in the face of a huge, scary world is inspiring. 

Zucker: Me personally, I connect with Canto. It might be a bit corny, but with the world being how it is, he really does help to bring some light into it.

Puc: Can you speak to the themes of time and love and hope in this series, and why you chose to intertwine and explore those in a hero’s journey?

Booher: The themes in Canto’s story are about pushing away our fears—the fear of failure, the fear of not making emotional connections with others, the fear of running out of time. Whether he’s rushing against the clock, or saving the ones he loves, or finding hope when everything seems dark, he’s refusing to give in to the fears we all have felt.

Zucker: I think those themes are easy for people to get behind and understand, at the same time they are immensely complicated. We all have ups and downs with both love and hope and I think they help to mimic the ups and downs of a hero’s journey well. As for time, it’s ultimately something we all have to face, part of what we set out to do with Canto was create something that could truly be enjoyed by all ages; that includes someone who, if they read the book when they are 10, could come back to it at 20 and enjoy it just as much, but with the context of time and the experiences they’ve had.

Puc: What do you hope readers take away from Canto?

Booher: You said it: hope. As we keep telling Canto’s story, I want readers to feel that no matter how dark the world gets, there will always be a light. It may be small, but with a little courage, a trusty ax, and a goofy Malorex, it can be mighty.

Zucker: I hope readers walk away not only feeling hope, but feeling excited for where the story is going. Comics is such an exciting medium and both David and myself really want to leave people with a story and a character that they can get behind.

Puc: Have any reader responses stood out to you, or made you realize things that are present in the story that you may not have noticed as creators?

Booher: All the reader responses have been overwhelming. Two stand out—I don’t want to get into details, but they involved medical conditions directly related to the story of Canto’s people and their hearts. I also love hearing from kids who read the story and love it.

Zucker: The most surprising responses we’ve had for me personally are people with medical conditions who have connected with Canto. It’s not something that David and I had even considered when we were conceiving the book, but in hindsight it has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life to see people have such a visceral response to the little guy.

Puc: What do you feel is your biggest triumph in creating this comic?

Booher: The comics market is so challenging. To see readers get behind a brand new character and story the way they have with Canto has been incredible. 

Zucker: For me personally, I’m so proud of the entire team for getting a new IP out the door and doing it in a way that we were able to get people to connect with it. It’s so hard to launch something like this and even harder to get people to pay attention, that I think it’s something the entire team should just feel really good about it and speaks volumes to how hard they’ve worked.

Puc: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Booher: Kudos to the whole incredible Canto team: Drew, colorist Vittorio Astone, and letterer Deron Bennett. Also, an enormous thank you to our editor David Mariotte and the entire IDW team for taking a chance on our little tin hero. And of course thank you to the readers who have made Canto possible.

Zucker: Yes, first off, to all of the readers: thank you thank you thank you! This little tin’s adventure for so long was just David and myself and sometimes it’s hard to see the forest for the trees. All of you who took a chance and decided to come on this journey with us have no idea how much it continues to mean to all of us involved. Second, I can’t wait for everyone to see what we have planned. It has been beyond exciting getting back in the swing of things and I’m looking forward to everyone getting to see where we are headed.

Canto, Vol. 1: If I Only Had a Heart will be available at your local comic shop on March 25, 2020. You can pre-order now using Diamond Code NOV190711. The trade will also be available March 31, 2020 Diamond Code NOV190711. Check out the cover, as well as an exclusive teaser for Canto & The Clockwork Faeries #1 — hitting shelves in May 2020 — below.

To keep up with David M. Booher, follow him on Twitter @davidbooher, and to keep up with Drew Zucker, follow him on Twitter @Drew_Zucker. You can also follow @cantocomic for Canto-specific updates.

Canto and the Clockwork Faeries teaser
Canto and the Clockwork Faeries
Canto, Vol. 1 TPB
Canto, Vol. 1: If I Only Had a Heart