Kenk: A Graphic Portrait
Nothing can beat the constantly evolving comic book genre when it comes to developing great new anti-heroic characters or misunderstood villains. A Toronto based production company called Pop Sandbox was in the midst of documenting the views of the infamous Igor Kenk, just before the world started to change in the Summer of 2008. First Kenk was hauled in by the Toronto Police, along with his enormous cache of bikes, and related junk. Then our entire credit driven society started to feel the sagging effects of what happens when an artificially inflated economy loses the pressure of Mass Consumption, as it’s cash flow dependent pumps were starved of their imaginary funds, and unable to be re-primed at sub-prime rates.
During this same time, Sandbox had already been hard at work filming the daily mini-drama’s that surrounded Igor Kenk at his Queen West bike shop. Starting with the raw footage of these candid interviews, Sandbox has taken their pure/documentary approach to the subject and synergised not just Igor Kenk the man, but his whole distorted world, into a self-told story that will be expressed with the integrity and realism of of a journalistic comic book. Not only are Sandbox (& Assoc.) daring enough to go way out into dangerous traffic by representing the the much despised “Igor the Terrible” in their multi-modal production, but they’re also going to be following in the great and progressive tradition of the genre by also innovating the look and content of the venerable Comic Book format itself. In this case, they’re basing both their text and the illustration entirely in the meticulously transcribed interview footage that they shot of Igor during the year leading up to his arrest, and treating the story with the integrity and verity of a Journalistic piece.
True to the ever growing and evolving roots of the “graphic novel” format, Sandbox seeks to distinguish itself as a meaningful innovator in genre through both it’s story subjects, and it’s presentation. A goal that will be achieved via the inventively hybridized graphics of their illustrator Nick Marinkovich, who has drawn his imagery directly from the photographic footage of Filmaker Jason Gilmore. This raw documentary feel will then be sculpted with the written work of renowned Writer-Journalist Richard Poplack, who also represents a potentially evolutionary force on the genre as he applies the realism and depth of feature form journalism to what promises to be a hyper-realistic rendition of the ever-changing comicbook format.
See candid photos of Kenk, and read some reactions from the recent Book Launch Party by CLICKING HERE to pop-up a retrospective review of the evening…
The term “graphic novel” (or the more apt term “graphic novella”) is itself a descriptor that seems to still be in flux, and remains open to challenge or re-interpretation, especially by those who believe that it’s simply a marketing driven descriptor which the almighty comicbook has no real need for – other than to validate a higher price point perhaps. These and other signs of constant change are well-evidenced by of the many Writers and Illustrators in this literary format as they experiment with not just the labeling of the genre, but also in the flow and layout techniques, visual styles, illustration methods, and even in the publishing mediums used to convey the Artform. It becomes clear that the cross-platform delivery of multimedia formats which characterizes Pop Sandbox productions seems not only perfectly suited to Richard Poplack’s specifically progressive outlook on Writing, but also serves as a great example of the spirit of daring innovation, and counter-cultural change that graphic novels have come to represent in general…At least to Fans of the genre.
n terms of pushing boundaries with this particular project though, it seems that Poplack is not the only innovative force as he seeeks to at least honor, if not revive, the long-format detail and higher journalistic standards from a bygone era that valued feature-length peices, over micro-fragments of quickly digested gossip fodder. Through his stylistic preferences, Poplack will likely offer a rarely seen depth of character development, that will certainly help distinguish the work of Illustrator Nick Marinkovich’s innovative new graphical treatments of Alex Jansen and Jason Gilmore‘s imagery through their production of this graphic novel (erm, “portrait”) about Toronto’s infamous Igor Kenk, and the police-led dismantling of his reign of anarchy on Queen West. Via Jansen’s production, the depth of Poplack’s written exploration of both Kenk’s character, and this highly graphic artform, could quickly dive down in a daring journalistic foray into the underbelly of our seemingly well-ordered Society. One where we all might all possibly risk learning abit more about ourselves than we’re ready to accept.
By having the courage to expose and develop Igor Kenk’s dark, acerbic, and much maligned character, Richard Poplak will certainly attract all the spurious comments and hot-headed letters that would have otherwise just gotten innocuously buried under the sporadic newspaper editorials and daily articles that surface on this subject, only to disappear again with nary a persistent trace. As well as helping morph the ever-shifting format of the ‘graphic novel’ Poplak is also inadvertently open up new channels for a rather disenfranchised Public to vent all the pent the up pressures of a painfully and politically corrected Society. Although he assures us on his personal Blog that he isn’t creating a forum for haters to gang up on Igor Kenk, nor is he offering Kenk a soapbox to spout off his outrageous views of the World, it seems that one way or another Poplak will inexorably be sifting through at least some of the artifacts behind Kenks near-mythical status, and qualify the forces that drive people underground, regardless of what kind of benefit they might have offered Society otherwise. At the very least Poplak’s graphic novel is an opportunistic expose of a compelling character, that may very well provide talking points for an underlying social ennui that rarely finds an usable focus, much less an actually productive Public outlet otherwise.
“ If I had to define the book in a quicky sentence, I’d assert that it’s about a man without the art to implement his ideas, without the moral compass to realize his ideals, pulled out to sea by the power of his compulsion.”
Leave it to a dark anti-heroic comic book character to attract latent or misdirected public opinion, and incites reactions that stem from individual illusions of morality, to a wider social consciousness, or at least shared groupthink. Whether he likes the results or not, Poplak seems willing to become a visible lightning rod for the popularised hatred that most people have (in many cases) simply auto-subscribed to over the past few years since the Toronto Police took a suddenly more concerted interest in bike theft in our fair Metropolis. Slated to hit shelves (virtual or otherwise) in May 2010, the neutrally titled “Kenk:A Graphic Portrait” is already causing quite pre-release stir for itself. It’s hard to assume that the self-righteous and indignant vitriol that this subject provides the public opportunity to express couldn’t possibly serve to publicize Poplak’s work nearly enough to warrant the grief that he’s certainly brought down upon himself in the process. Obviously Poplack has sawed off some enormous chunks to process and digest, and we’ve yet to see how the verity and voice of this subject will be properly evidenced. So instead let’s just focus abit on the Artform itself, and let it’s indeterminate content speak it’s deeper message to future Readers on it’s own, and over time.
“ The irony of the internet age is that, despite the fact that space is essentially limitless, the long feature piece is just about a dead art.”
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So…In the copy/pasted nature of a self-regurgitating Internet, here’s a description of the illustrative value from Poplak’s own Blog:
Q:Who is doing the drawings?
A: Oy, this is complicated. There ARE no drawings to speak of. The book is a bridging of the fumetti genre with a long-form New Yorker style journalistic profile, crossed with a DIY punk zine. The source material is largely based on stills pulled from hours and hours of video-footage, photographs and archival shots, all run through an ancient photocopy machine, and then futzed with some more. It is an agonizing process, and it’s making me go blind. Nick Marinkovich, of Underworld comics fame, is responsible for the final look.
CREDITS for Kenk: A Graphic Portrait
Produced and conceived by Alex Jansen, based on footage shot by Jansen and filmmaker/designer Jason Gilmore.
Written by acclaimed journalist Richard Poplakit
Illustrated by Toronto artist Nick Marinkovich, who adapted Sony Picture’s Underworldand has done various comics with Marvel, IDW and Image.
Pop Sandbox is a production and publishing company owned and operated by Alex Jansen