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

Stijn Schenk is an Amsterdam-based Dutch sociologist, entrepeneur and writer, who initiates comics journalism projects about humanitarian and social subjects. He publishes these titles through his Real Comics imprint. Over the years, he has built out a huge network of Dutch and Flemish comic artists, who make autobiographical comics, but have illustrate other people's testimonies. Some of these stories are adapted into comic scrips by Schenk himself, while the artists provide the further visualization. Important projects were his comics paper 'Mensen' (2016), collecting graphic stories about mental illness, and the anthologies 'Verhalen van Vrouwen' (2019), with real-life stories of women about abuse, oppression and exclusion, and 'WijMannen' (2020), an exploration of masculinity.

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 centers De Balie, The Sugar Factory, Hotel Arena and the Odeon Amsterdam, as well as the festivals Over het IJ and the Two Bridges KLIK! animation festival and Filmpeople, a portal for the movie industry. Since 2012, he has worked as an editor and writer for the educational publishing houses BoomLemma and Edu'Actief.

Since 2011, Schenk's personal projects are often comics-related. For the 2012 and 2014 editions of the Haarlem comic festival, he gathered about 180 artists to set up shop window displays all around the city with his 'Zichtbare Lijnen' ("Visible Lines") 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 comic artists in the Amsterdam Kinkerstraat and comics shop Het Beeldverhaal. In 2015 he was the project coordinator for 'Drawing the Times', an online portal for comics journalism. Schenk also 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 varying comics disciplines and lets them draw comics about subjects with a major social impact. Among them are 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 Debroey and Tom van der Linden.

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

The foundation's first important project was the comics paper 'Mensen' (2016), in collaboration with the Dolhuys Museum of the Mind in Haarlem. 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' ("Women's stories", 2019) collected true stories of women who have been victim of abuse, suppression or social exclusion. Schenk's wife Legien, a victim of childhood sexual abuse herself, was the main instigator behind the project. Amanda Majoor captured Legien's story in graphic format for the first time, then Aarti Jainath did the same for the final anthology project. Created in cooperation with several relief organizations, the project 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 RuijtersMas Hab, Marloes Messemaker, Megan McNulty, Mei-Li Nieuwland and Melissa Brouwer. The book collection was presented in the Amsterdam comic shop Het Beeldverhaal on 23 February 2019.

The follow-up of 'Verhalen van Vrouwen' deals with the social roles of men. 'WijMannen' ("WeMen", 2020) explores men's desires, fears and anger through the themes vulnerability, intimacy, guilt and blind spots. Some stories and drawings are autobiographical - for instance Schenk's own frankness about his relationship with his wife - others are general in nature. The collection has an impressive list of contributing artists: Abe Borst, Alan van den Hoven, Amanda van Laar, Amanda Majoor, Ben Westervoorde, Bettina Haarbosch, Bob op 't Land, Els Deckers, Ez Silva, Falco Verholen, Feli Nicolaes, Floor Koens, Frits Jonker, Gemma Plum, Gijs Kast, Jan Klinkhamer, Joos Jonges, Joss Lopez, Liza Mennes, Marcel Ruijters, Marloes Dekkers, Marloes Messemaker, Mas Hab, Menno Wittebrood, Nekouhai, Rosanna van Leusden, Ruben Gringhuis, Saverio Wielkens, Stephanie Engelenburg, Tom van der Linden and Wilbert van der Steen. The project was done in a partnership with theater maker Rikkert van Huisstede, who brought similar explorations of masculinity to the stage with his performers' collective Boys Won't Be Boys.

Wortels in Nederlands-Indië
With more stories in the pipeline, Stijn Schenk has initiated a valuable new utilization of comics art in the Netherlands. In late 2019 Real Comics released 'Wortels in Nederlands-Indië', a small press collection of thirteen artistic co-creations based on the culture and colonial history of the former Dutch Indies (nowadays Indonesia). Contributors were Dido Drachman, Karida van Bochhove, Els Deckers, Marlon Teunissen, Abe Borst, Roel Smit, Coco Ouwerkerk, Jeroen Steehouwer, Martijn Daalder, Peter van Dongen, letterer Frits Jonker, graphic designer Alfred Boland and colorist Marloes Dekkers.

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).

Series and books by Stijn Schenk you can order today:


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