I recently had the privilege of reading and reviewing two fantastic graphic novels from a Canadian start-up publishing/production company called Pop Sandbox. One is called KENK: A Graphic Portrait, and is a clever mix of investigative journalism and comic book design focussing on the real life story of Toronto’s most notorious bicycle thief told in part by the perpetrator himself (check out the preview of an animated film version of the book here). The second is called The Next Day — a tale of four real-life suicide survivors recounting their respective emotions and reasoning for attempting to kill themselves and what it was like to wake up unsuccessful the next day (this book is also paired with an online interactive animated documentary co-produced with the National Film Board of Canada) .
Since both are being released in U.S. bookstores Wednesday (November 2nd), I’m publishing my reviews below. Congratulations to everyone at Pop Sandbox for two great releases. And for all the avid readers out there looking for something unlike anything you’ve read before, be sure to check out the two titles below.
KENK: A Graphic Portrait
Igor Kenk is coming to America. Luckily for cyclists, their rides are safe.
Kenk, the infamous Toronto bicycle shop owner who the New York Times called “the world’s most prolific bicycle thief,” will grace U.S. bookstores on November 2nd in the form of a unique and compelling graphic novel from the award-winning Canadian start-up Pop Sandbox.
KENK: A Graphic Portrait provides an intimate and first-hand glimpse into the background and early life of the Yugoslavian-born Kenk, as well as the details surrounding his 2008 arrest and seizure of almost 3,000 bicycles from his west-Toronto repair shop.
Named a “Best Book of the Year” by Quill & Quire, the design and format of the book itself is intriguing. Built from a collection of footage, interviews and archived material compiled in the year leading up to his arrest, the tale is for the most part narrated by Kenk himself. Make no mistake — Kenk’s stories, though at times told in the absence of all the facts, are quite fascinating. Here the reader is allowed a first-hand retelling of Kenk’s checkered, early years in Yugoslavia, planting his roots in what was then one of Toronto’s less desirable neighbourhoods and the day-to-day running of his bike shop. The narrative then delves deeper into Kenk’s personal life where readers are introduced to his wife, business model, environmentalist mantra, disgust at the excesses of Western society and his belief in an impending economic collapse.
To accompany the narrative, the images are cut and cropped directly from the footage and interviews and edited in such a way as to evoke an appropriate mix of intrigue and grit. Part comic book and part investigative journalism, KENK: A Graphic Portrait breaks new ground as a multi-platform graphic novel that, in the end, leaves the reader with a lingering sensation that they didn’t merely read a story about Igor Kenk, but that they met the man himself.
The Next Day
November 2nd is shaping up to be a busy day for Canadian production/publishing company Pop Sandbox. Accompanying the release of the gritty and compelling KENK: A Graphic Portrait in U.S. bookstores will be the company’s follow-up, The Next Day.
Co-written by Jason Gilmore and Paul Peterson and illustrated by John Porcellino, The Next Day, a graphic novella, recounts the stories of four real-life suicide survivors. The stories of Tina, Ryan, Chantel and Jenn — all gleaned from interviews with each survivor — provide an intimate and sometimes disturbing glimpse into the life and mind of a person considering, and eventually acting on, their suicidal intentions.
According to statistics from the World Health Organization, each year approximately one million people worldwide die as a result of suicide. The number of those who attempt suicide is more than twenty times that. The Next Day offers critical, first-hand insight into the thoughts and emotions of individuals so desperate that they believe taking their own lives is the only way out. Readers discover that these people aren’t crazy or out of their minds. Rather, they’re regular people dealing with exrtaordinarily heavy emotional weight brought on by certain personal experiences and issues. And when these people wake up the next day, readers are offered a rare glimpse into the thoughts and emotions that one deals with following a near-fatal suicide attempt.
Originally conceived by Peterson, a former social worker, over a decade ago, The Next Day is an honest and open portrait of four average people who decided to end their lives and failed. Paired with an online interactive animated documentary (co-produced with the National Film Board of Canada), it’s a must-read for anyone looking to explore a deeper understanding of the issues and reasons that approximately one person dies every forty seconds from suicide.