Alternative press doesn’t seem to get more alternative than a man who does his own book binding. Keenan Poloncsak, artist, author, and illustrator, was chosen as the winner of best comic for Expozine for his work The Complete Squid-gee Octology. Poloncsak not only drew the comics, but he also bound them himself. The result is a gorgeous and engaging work that follows the adventures of a prehistoric squid starting from the time when Montreal was a sea floor bottom.
“Squid-gee started after I went to the Redpath Museum with a friend of mine,” he explains. “There’s a display that shows a seafloor that’s labelled ‘Montreal about 500 million years ago.’ We started making jokes, connecting a squeegie and a squid who lives in prehistoric Montreal. I then wrote a story about a squid who pushes the limits of adventure. He and his friend who live on the seafloor want to see how high they can get. They end up finding where the ocean stops and there’s air.”
Although initially it seems like a comic about evolution, Poloncsak is quick to say that it’s not meant to be an accurate representation and is anachronistic. “Anyone who is really into the prehistoric periods will find all sorts of mistakes. The period of the squid is before vertebrates.”
Over time the comic underwent its own evolution. The style of illustration changes as do the time periods represented. Poloncsak talks about what inspired the eighth edition. “I’m a fan of Godzilla, so the last one is Montreal, our time. There’s a huge flood withrain, inspired by the spring of 2017, and there’s flooding everywhere, and lightning hits the cross on Mt. Royal and Squid-gee is a fossil underground. The lightening wakes him up and he comes back Godzilla style and destroys all these well known monuments. “
Like most of his work, Poloncsak’s work is a kind of homage to Montreal itself. It’s fun to see Montreal in Poloncsak’s eyes and it’s clear his love for the city is an important part of the art. He mentions he has loved the city even when growing up in St. Lambert. He talks about how wandering through the city inspires him. “I like exploring the city and all the places in it. There’s a lot of cool places, underground spots. It depends what you’re into, but there are cool spots to find whatever you’re looking for.” He further adds, “I’m not going to write about what’s happening in Australia or Africa. I’ve never been there. I stick with what I know.”
He draws on things he sees in the city. For example, it was seeing a fox on Notre Dame that led to the creation of the trilingual children’s book in Spanish, English, and French, The Griffintown Fox. The story follows a fox that needs help finding her children after they get lost because of the condo development. He also wrote another multilingual children’s book, “using the languages of Quebec,” about a mink who wants to cross a road. It’s written in English, French and Inuktitut.
Getting the translation is an interesting story as well. Polonscak had a grant for the book and he wanted to hire a translator . “I called the town hall of Kuujjuaq, one of the bigger towns in Northern Quebec but it’s a little isolated. And it’s cool too, because it’s a place where people speak those three languages,” he says. “I called the mayor and asked him if he knew any translators. He connected me with Harriet Keleutak.”
As passionate as he seems to be about the culture that’s around him (he even mentions that his books are often about furry animals of North America with an upcoming book about opossums coming out next month), he seems to share the same enthusiasm for drawing. “I’ve been drawing since I was a kid and never stopped,” he says. Comics in particular. “I drew a lot of comics when I was a kid.” The comics themselves and all of his creations find new media as well, whether in video or other. Poloncsak explains that one of his early comics even got turned into a movie. “It has really good gore,” he says.
Winning Expozine was a surprise for Poloncsak. He began participating in the annual event in 2011 and says of it, “It’s really cool and they put on a good show. They’re really the best scene.” He truly appreciates being nominated and says that winning their best comic of the year means something.
The one thing Poloncsak wants most, though, is to see his works in libraries, especially his children’s books, which are hardbound by him. He says that books like Squid-Gee can be borrowed from any library in Montreal. “I really would like more people to go and borrow it,” he says. “And if by chance they’re not in Montreal, or their library doesn’t have it, they should ask for it. I want the books in libraries.”
Check out Keenan Poloncsak’s The Complete Squid-Gee Octology and those of other creators and artists at Expozine November 16-17, 2019. from 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. at 1025 Bélanger (Église Saint Arsène). Info HERE.. Check out Poloncsak’s work at his website HERE. You can also get books bound and repaired by Poloncsak at The Bookbinder’s Daughter, website HERE.