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. The figure of Igor Kenk himself seems to tell his own story: as though the creators of this book are interviewing him: which was a very excellent narrative touch.
Richard Poplak also seems to succeed in not only writing of Kenk's philosophies (his philosophy on recycling and how you can use junk to make anything -- not having to make anything new to consume -- is very fascinating along with his Monkey Factor theory) but also conveying them through an accented tone that conveys that character's unique personality. Ironically, this very tone or accent can obscure exactly what it is that Kenk is trying to say, though I suspect this too is very much in character and even though I couldn't follow all of his logic, it was still very interesting.
I will also admit that sometimes the graphics themselves sometimes became very unclear and I wasn't always sure about what I was looking at in the panels. However, I really appreciated the footnotes about certain places and practices in Toronto, as well as some of the notes on Kenk himself.
In the end, I really liked this book. Not only does it tell you a lot about Igor Kenk and his business, but it really shows a lot about Toronto's past and where it is going. Beyond that, I don't really know what else to say except to suggest that you read this and see what your opinion of Igor Kenk's opinions really are.