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Kenk: A Graphic Portrait [Paperback]

Richard Poplak , Nick Marinkovich
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 14 2010
Kenk: A Graphic Portrait is a groundbreaking 304-page journalistic comic book detailing the life and times of Igor Kenk, "the world's most prolific bicycle thief" (The New York Times and The Guardian). In Summer 2008, Kenk was arrested and nearly 3,000 bicycles were seized in one of the biggest news stories of the year.  Built from more than 30 hours of never-before-seen intimate footage taken over the year leading up to his arrest, Kenk is a thought-provoking and surprisingly funny portrait of an outsize neighbourhood figure and a city in flux, both wracked by the forces of gentrification and by a burgeoning global environmental and economic crisis that promises to define our generation.

Product Details

Product Description

Quill & Quire

Kenk is a book that merges several mediums, a “hybrid project that simultaneously takes the form of journalistic profile, documentary film, and comic book.” It began life as a film about Igor Kenk, Toronto’s internationally notorious bicycle thief, in the months leading up to his “major bust” by police in 2008. That film was then edited, and images from it were photocopied to form the visual part of this “graphic portrait.” The majority of the text is also taken directly from the video footage.

Exactly what the book’s author, cultural journalist Richard Poplak, wrote – aside from the odd picture caption and subtitle, isn’t clear. The real creative work is in the layout and editing of the filmed material, and the gritty, underground look so befitting its grungy, alt-culture subject and his pre-gentrification Queen Street West neighbourhood. The marriage of text and image is nearly perfect; the scratchy black-and-white pictures and typewriter-style font reinforce the book’s documentary, DIY feel.

This graphic portrait has to work hard to make up for what is missing, which is the distinctive sound of Kenk’s voice. The book essentially consists of a series of monologues, wherein Kenk lays out a rambling, inflected apologia that expands upon his crude survivalist/scavenger philosophy, interspersed with various drive-by thoughts on society, culture, and the environment. Some of it makes a rough sort of sense, but it would be wrong to think of Kenk – a man very aware of his own self-fashioning into an urban legend – as a countercultural icon or postmodern prophet. In this regard, the book walks a fine line, especially since there is no real counterweight to Kenk’s oversize personality, to which the dark visual idiom of the illustrations is sympathetic.

With that caveat, this is a well-conceived and brilliantly executed book that draws an insightful, realistic portrait not just of a man but of a specific time and place.

About the Author

Kenk: A Graphic Portrait is produced and conceived by Alex Jansen, based on footage shot by Jansen and filmmaker/designer Jason Gilmore. It is written by acclaimed journalist Richard Poplak, whose books include The Sheikh's Batmobile: In Pursuit of American Pop Culture in the Muslim World and Ja, No, Man: Growing Up White in Apartheid-Era South Africa with Penguin, and it is illustrated by Toronto artist Nick Marinkovich, who adapted Sony Picture's Underworldand has done various comics with Marvel, IDW and Image.

Pop Sandbox recently won the NFB-TVO Digital Calling Card forThe Next Day, an interactive graphic novel set to release in early 2011, and is currently developing a graphic memoir surrounding the Canadian residential school program with filmmaker/artist Nadia McLaren (Muffins for Granny). Pop Sandbox is a production and publishing company owned and operated by Alex Jansen.

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars KENK: The Man and his Myths! May 11 2010
Nothing can beat the constantly evolving "comicbook" genre when it comes to developing great new anti-heroic characters or misunderstood villains. The infamous Igor Kenk was already larger than life when the Toronto police finally took him down...

Now we get to see inside his world through the surreal lens of innovative new illustration methods, and meticulously transcribed interviews derived from documentary film footage. The photo-journalistic integrity of this graphic novel brings to light the gritty detail, greasy corruption, and pervasive greed of Kenks pre-apocalyptic world...Here we can safely explore the underbelly of Society, and vicariously experience the harsh truths behind our worldly illusions as they're laid bare by the street-level cracks and incisions that only an outcast like Kenk can expose with such brutal realism.

Learn about Kenks Karma at BiKarma dot comm and discover more dirty details about this brave little project at ThumbShift dotcom

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5.0 out of 5 stars A Philosophy of Kenk Dec 19 2010
What do communism, junk, recycling, drugs, and bicycles all have in common? The answer to this question -- in this context -- is Igor Kenk. As for how all of these various elements relate to the former shop owner and prolific bicycle thief, that is another story entirely told far better in the text by Richard Poplak, Alex Jansen, Jason Gilmore, and Nick Marinkovich.

I didn't originally know about Kenk. However, it was only after being told that he was having a graphic novel created about him and my own burgeoning interest in modern literature based in Toronto that I became interested in this story and finally found this book. While Jansen may have conceived of the idea behind the book and both he and Gilmore designed the book's structure and took footage to be used in its illustration, I would really like to pay attention to Marinkovich's style of illustration and Richard Poplak's type-written font writing.

The graphics that Marinkovich creates based off of Jansen and Gilmore's photographs, and those of others are very stark and sharp in both line and angle: almost even impressionist. It lends itself well to the design of the book which seems to be almost arranged in a pastiche or scrapbook of different scenes, newspaper articles and news media panels. Then of course there is Richard Poplak's writing itself: which exposes and puts to the fore Igor Kenk's own ideas and opinions. Together, all of these elements attempt to place Igor Kenk in a certain context: specifically looking at his background in Slovenia, his relationships, his life in Toronto and work on Queen Street West, and how all of these things shaped his own perspective on life.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This Kenk Book is Awesome May 4 2010
What an originally awesome book. Artwork created from hours of footage shot for a doc of Kenk. Igor Kenk is the most prolific bike thief in the world. If you are a fan of truthful, first hand, doc style story telling with dark, roughly creative artwork then this book is for you. I got addicted to it and could not put it down. Great work.
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