Archive for the 'Graphic Biography' Category

The Zen of “The Zen of Steve Jobs”

The Buddha, the Godhead, resides quite as comfortably in the circuits of a digital computer or the gears of a cycle transmission as he does at the top of a mountain or in the petals of a flower. To think otherwise is to demean the Buddha—which is to demean oneself (26).

—Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values

I read Walter Isaacson’s biography Steve Jobs with one end in mind, really. I wanted to see how the influence of Zen on Jobs’ thinking was portrayed in the book. And the main reason I wanted to do that is because I wanted to write about the graphic narrative, The Zen of Steve Jobs, sponsored by Forbes and produced by the creative agency Jess3. But I felt that I needed a bit more background in order to do so.

The Zen of Steve Jobs is a “reimagining” of the friendship between Jobs and Kobun Chino Otogawa, a Zen priest and close friend and teacher to Jobs for many years. Our story begins with Jobs seeking out Otogawa after his departure from Apple in 1985, and after a ten-year absence from the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center. He arrives at Tassajara with the intent of learning about ma, one of the underlying principles informing Zen aesthetics. He explains to Otogawa that the computers he’ll be creating at his new company, NeXT, will be superior products not just because of their technological features, but also because of their perfected design—and asks Otogawa to help him understand in greater depth the relationship between objects and the complementary space they inhabit. Otogawa responds, “I cannot. You must experience ma.” He then proceeds to teach Jobs kinhin, or walking meditation. Continue reading ‘The Zen of “The Zen of Steve Jobs”’

Compulsive Bike Collector Tells All: Kenk

Kenk by Richard Poplak, Alex Jansen, Jason Gilmore and Nick Marinkovich

In a nutshell, Kenk (Pop Sandbox Production and Publishing, 2010) is fucking brilliant. Why? Perhaps the reasons for this are difficult to pinpoint, but they have something to do with the visually raw punk aesthetic exuding from the pages of this bold experiment, the complexity of the Igor Kemp world view, and the endearing affection that so many of us have for the intrepid outlaw, unafraid to stick it to the Man.


The Process

In the Author’s Note at the beginning of this fine and edgy work, Richard Poplak describes his graphic portrait thus:

The following is a work of journalism, with a twist. Most of the content in the book is derived from more than 30 hours of digital footage taken of convicted bike thief Igor Kenk during the year leading up to his arrest. Thus, you hold in your hands a hybrid project that simultaneously takes the form of journalistic profile, documentary and comic book.

The images have been doctored using a now-ancient technology employed by underground artists battling state-run presses in Yugoslavia during the 80s: the photocopy machine. Kenk came of age in that country during the punk-like FV movement. This style informed – and informs of – his ethos. I came to believe that this is the prism through which Kenk sees the world.


In “Portrait of a Serial Stealer” (The Walrus Blog), Poplak mentions his love of fumetti, photographic comics that became especially popular in North America during the 1970s. Supported by Alex Jensen (producer) and Jason Gilmore (cameraman and designer), Poplak decided to move forward with his vision of creating a photographically inspired “graphic novel”—without having a clear conception of what the final product would look like. Continue reading ‘Compulsive Bike Collector Tells All: Kenk’

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