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Comic-book, spoken-word artists take on trolls

Gareth Gaudin and Shane Koyczan's new project targets Internet bullying
Gareth Gaudin holds his sketch of spoken-word poet Shane Koyczan, at Legends Comics and Books. Gaudin and Koyczan are collaborating on a couple of projects in the coming months, including one that targets Internet bullying.

Victoria comic artist Gareth Gaudin knows you don’t have to grow up in the age of cyberbullying to experience it.

The creator of Perogy Cat says he’s been sworn at and insulted enough times in the comment sections of online stories about his work.

“It just ruins your day if you’re doing something you enjoy and you dare read the comments,” he said.

Other cases are much more extreme, so Gaudin agreed with spoken-word artist Shane Koyczan to address the issue. Koyczan, whose anti-bullying project To This Day went viral in 2013, said he wanted to create a followup specifically targeting Internet trolls. He invited Gaudin to animate a video for the poem.

“After To This Day went crazy, I got a lot of letters from people asking about the cyber aspect of bullying,” Koyczan said. “It’s something I didn’t grow up with … but the letters were very heartfelt. So it became something that rolled around in my head.”

Koyczan and Gaudin had already collaborated on smaller projects, after meeting two years ago in Victoria, so Koyczan asked if Gaudin would be up for something bigger.

For Gaudin, it promises to expand his usual routine.

“I’ve drawn compulsively and published a monthly comic for most of my life,” he said. “This is just a bigger version of what I do already.”

It’s also an opportunity to alleviate the pressure of both writing and drawing.

“If someone else has written it already, I think that’s where the pure enjoyment of drawing is,” Gaudin said.

While Koyczan had been mulling the video-poem project, it recently became possible through a Kickstarter campaign that started out as a fundraiser for another project. Koyczan launched the crowdfunding campaign Jan. 27, in order to self-publish his third book of poems, A Bruise on Light.

The $15,000 goal was reached within a day.

As funds continued to come in, Koyczan posted additional projects he planned to complete, if the fund reached new goals. Those projects included the video poem, as well as a graphic novel of poetry, to be illustrated by Gaudin.

By Thursday afternoon, Koyczan had collected more than $68,000 in donations, making both projects with Gaudin a go.

“I’ve always had a really strong following and fan support, so I think I’m more appreciative than surprised,” Koyczan said of the response.

“I want to give them as much as possible and show them, OK, here’s where your money is going. It’s going right back into art.”

The 96-page graphic collection of poems is planned as a companion piece to a new album called Silence Is a Song I Know All the Words to (working title) that Koyczan is recording with musicians Hannah Epperson and Cayne McKenzie. The plan, at the moment, is to have Gaudin illustrate the 11 poems that are on the record.

Gaudin is tentatively planning a book launch at Dales Gallery for May 28. The gallery would also put all 96 pages on display. If all comes together, Koyczan will also perform.

Koyczan isn’t his only collaboration partner.

Gaudin also just finished his first hard-cover children’s book, a Perogy Cat graphic novel for kids. The Barenaked Ladies have written a theme song for Perogy Cat and he’s planning to release the book at the same time as releasing a Perogy Cat record.

It’s too early to say, but Gaudin is working on getting the band to perform at the gallery, too.

“It will be a nice, double one-two punch,” Gaudin said.

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