Cover illustration for 'Verhalen van Vrouwen' (Art by Marloes Messemaker)

Stijn Schenk is an Amsterdam-based Dutch entrepeneur and writer, who initiates comics journalism projects about humanitarian and social subjects. He publishes these titles through his Real Comics label. Over the years he has built out a huge network of Dutch and Flemish comics artists, collecting a varied offer of stories. Rather than publishing gag or adventure comics about fictional characters Schenk focuses on real stories from real people's lives. His philosophy is that personal events and experiences are more authentic and thus more fascinating to read about. His artists make autobiographical comics, but have also illustrated testimonies, anecdotes and memories by people unable or unwilling to draw themselves. Some of these people's stories have been adapted in script format by Schenk himself, while his artists visualize it in drawings. Important projects were his comics paper 'Mensen' (2016), collecting graphic stories about mental illness, and the anthology 'Verhalen van Vrouwen' (2019), with real-life stories of women about abuse, oppression and exclusion.

Background
Born in 1976, Schenk has a universitarian background in sociology. Since the early 2000s, he has worked as marketing manager and coordinator for both commercial and cultural events in the Amsterdam area. His affiliations include the cultural centres such as De Balie, The Sugar Factory, Hotel Arena and the Odeon Amsterdam, as well as festivals like Over het IJ and the Two Bridges KLIK! animation festival and Filmpeople, a portal for the movie industry. He has worked as an editor and writer for the educational publishing houses BoomLemma and Edu'Actief since 2012.

Comics
Since 2011 Schenk's personal projects are often comics-related. For the 2012 and 2014 Haarlem comics festivals, he gathered about 180 artists to set up shop window displays all around the city with his 'Zichtbare Lijnen' project. Under the same label, he organized a variety of initiatives promoting the work of over 40 artists, this time in Amsterdam. Over a course of three months in 2014, he installed several new shop windows, launched the 'Wat Wil West' comics paper with Maia Matches and displayed the work of Dutch comics artists in the Kinkerstraat and comics shop Het Beeldverhaal. In 2015 he was the project coordinator for 'Drawing the Times', an online portal for comics journalism. Schenk furthermore provides original puzzle concepts to Denksport in cooperation with artists like Aarti Jainath, Bart Noolen, Ben Westervoorde, Larie Cook and Jan Willem Spakman.


Comics report about antidepressants, with art by Mas Hab.

The In Lijn Foundation
Since 2016 Stijn Schenk definitely made his mark in the field of graphic journalism with his In Lijn Foundation. He gathers artists from several comics disciplines and lets them draw comics about subjects with a major social impact. Among them sexual abuse, domestic violence, mental and physical health and human rights. Schenk grouped his humanitarian comics projects under the label The Graphic Story, later rebranded to Real Comics. Several stories were published on the online youth platform Mindshakes, which included art by Aimée de Jongh, Amanda Majoor, André Slob, Anne Staal, Elmer de Gruyl, Emanuel Wiemands, Frederik van den Stock, Jan Willem Spakman, Joris Diks, Karida van Broekhoven, Kenny Rubenis, Kim Duchateau, Manon Bijkerk, Martijn van Santen, Mas Hab, Mei-li Nieuwland, Merel Barends, Pieter van Tongeren, Shamisa Debrouy and Tom van der Linden.


Cover for the 'Mensen' comics paper by Jan Cleyne.

Mensen
The foundation's first important project was the comics paper 'Mensen' (2016), in collaboration with the Dolhuys Museum of the Mind. With the key words "openness" and "connection", the paper collected graphic stories about different kinds of mental illness and their acceptance in our society. The contributing artists were Manon Blijkerk, Jan Cleijne, Elmer de Gruijl, Mas Hab, Femke van Heerikhuizen, Marcel Ruijters, André Slob, Jan-Willem Spakman, Ben Vranken and Ben Westervoorde, while Frits Jonker designed the headers.


'My Sexual Liberation' (art by Els Deckers).

Verhalen van Vrouwen
'Verhalen van Vrouwen' (2019) collected true stories of women who have been victim of abuse, suppression or social exclusion. Schenk's wife, a victim of childhood sexual abuse herself, was the main instigator behind the project. Amanda Majoor captured her story in graphic format for the first time, and then Aarti Jainath did the same for the final anthology project. Created in cooperation with several relief organizations, the project furthermore contains stories about violence, sexual liberation, lover boys, vaginismus, slutshaming, #METOO, forced marriage and gender issues. Schenk not only initiated and coordinated the production, he also provided most of the scripts, which were illustrated by Aarti Jainath, Alex Skim, Aloys Oosterwijk, Amanda Majoor, Amanda van Laar, Beldan Sezen, Doeke van Nuil, Els Deckers, Floor Koens, Jan Cleijne, Joris Diks, Kim Duchateau, Manon Bijkerk, Marcel Ruijters, Mas Hab, Marloes Messemaker, Megan McNulty, Mei-Li Nieuwland and Melissa Brouwer. The book collection was presented in the Amsterdam comics shop Het Beeldverhaal on 23 February 2019.

The project's follow-up deals with the social roles of men. With more stories in the pipeline, Stijn Schenk has initiated a valuable new utilization of comics art in the Netherlands.


From: 'Wanneer je geliefde seksueel misbruikt is', the personal story of Schenk and his wife about coping with a background with sexual abuse (Art by Amanda Majoor)

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Stijn Schenk in Lambiek's Nederlandse Stripgeschiedenis

Series and books by Stijn Schenk in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

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