A new graphic novel from a Sandy Hill author

Paula Kelsall

The stylish front cover

Kyle Vingoe-Cram had a very busy May. Over the course of the month, the young author visited comic arts festivals in Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal, promoting their first graphic novel, Kettle Harbour.

Back home in Sandy Hill, Vingoe-Cram reflects on an experience that was especially joyful after three pandemic years. Whether they were mingling with fans and fellow creators, taking part in a live drawing “character battle” for young people in Montreal, or participating in a panel discussion of parenting and creativity in Vancouver, “It was like I finally got to meet my people in person,” they said.

Kettle Harbour takes place during two summers, twelve years apart, in the seaside town of the book’s title. In the summer of 2006, cousins Andrea and Brendan come to stay with their grandparents, working at summer jobs and preparing for life after high school. There are beaches, bonfires, first love, and teenage heartbreak, but there are also episodes of sexual trauma and anguish.

In 2018, Andrea comes back to Kettle Harbour to see her cousin, who is now married to Michael, the boyfriend he first met twelve years earlier. The lives of all three characters are coloured by their memories of that teenage summer, but they are also complicated by many new elements like professional restlessness, worries about aging parents, and struggles with mental health.

The novel does a particularly good job of portraying the inner lives of its characters. When Brendan is in the frame, it’s often full of little thought balloons, showing all the ideas competing for his attention as he does the shopping or greets a neighbour. When Andrea, Brendan, and Michael go to a play written by Michael’s mother, the black-and-white narrative suddenly blooms into colour, as all three characters react to an experience that touches them vividly.

Kyle Vingoe-Cram made comics through childhood and adolescence, but moved into art history at university. Kettle Harbour started out as a prose novel, but as Vingoe-Cram worked on it, it seemed increasingly obvious that drawings were needed to tell the story.

Now they are at work on a second project, A Rift in the Valley, working with co-creator GHY Cheung. The new book features a Canadian Breughel scholar, which has given Vingoe-Cram the opportunity to visit some wonderful art.

Perhaps we’ll see Kyle Vingoe-Cram working on this new book at the Happy Goat, where the final edits of Kettle Harbour were done. And we can look forward to meeting the author at a book signing at Perfect Books on Elgin Street in early September.


The stylish front cover