Punk Will Eat Itself

The Complete Pro-Canthology

A review of The Complete Pro-Canthology by Keenan Poloncsak

Published on July 4, 2024

Gentrification, displacement, immigration, alienation, addiction, police brutality, and Montreal: these are the consistent themes throughout Keenan Poloncsak’s work. The newly released Complete Pro-Canthology is the collected works of his early comic PRO-CAN (short for pro-cannibalism), the full series collected into one book.

The Complete Pro-Canthology
Keenan Poloncsak

PRO-CAN
$20.00
paper
300pp
9780995279513

I first met Poloncsak when he was selling comics inside Frontenac station. Poloncsak is one of the few one-man-show artists: He is not only self-published, but completely self-started. He managed to fund most of his projects, including the 2014 film based on the PRO-CAN series, through selling his work in the subway and on the street. After many years of apprenticeship (bookbinding is a particular art), Poloncsak now runs his own restoration and bookbinding shop, Le Relieur des Faubourgs, in East Montreal. (Visit for all your book repair needs, to attend a workshop, or, most importantly, to support and sustain your local artist!) 

The PRO-CAN series ran for nine issues in total, and began when Poloncsak was in CEGEP, running from the end of 2006 to the beginning of 2009. The comic takes place in a reimagined Montreal, where a new, powerful street drug called “pro-can’’ is in circulation. When taken, pro-can always ends up consuming the user, and does not allow them to remember their bad trip – though this is of little importance, since it also always leads to death (and becoming a cannibal zombie). While reading, one can only think of the recent rise of potent drugs like fentanyl. This may make the series sound like a warning against drug use, but it is not a preachy comic in any way. Rather, it is a sort of prescient warning of things that were just around the corner in Montreal. 

Poloncsak’s illustrations and art are always evolving. For the PRO-CAN comic, he uses an array of artistic media, including marker, pen, ink, pencil, charcoal, collage, and Letraset. Looking back on his own early work, which includes PRO-CAN, Poloncsak feels that it was “very naive and you can tell.’’ However, when coming across the naiveté of his early and eager hand, there is a strong charming effect. Even as a hardened citizen, I find it impossible to resist being swayed by all the recognizable Montreal backgrounds and cultural references. For instance, the punk subculture (with cameos from some of Poloncsak’s good friends) that thrived in and around Griffintown is heavily featured – an important subculture that has long been aware of all the glorious failings and hideous effects of capitalism, another theme explored in this anthology.

Even though Poloncsak feels that parts of the PRO-CAN comic are now a bit passé, or contain a kind of naive vigour, The Complete Pro-Canthology is highly relevant, particularly to the city of Montreal. The comic is in both French and English, as Poloncsak grew up speaking both languages from a young age. My favourite issue in the anthology is the French issue. On its cover, we can see a Jesus figure on a cross. Right near the hands of our Jesus, instead of nails, we see the words “nazionalisme” and “multiculturéalisme.” I especially like the part of the storyline in which we see the words “ralentissement sur la ligne verte”– how it plays into the specific Montreal commute, that dark collective consciousness, a mixed resentment over a possible suicide that could make one ten minutes late for work. 

Poloncsak’s collage style is interesting both visually and historically, featuring clippings from the no-longer-published free newspapers that used to be given out to commuters. I also like all the Québécois swear words and crass expressions written across the pages, and find there is an almost onomatopoeic effect to this. A unique and important work, especially amid the intense language issues the city currently faces, PRO-CAN feels like a Montreal comic for Montrealers.mRb

Esinam Beckley is a full-time scribe, student for life, and film enthusiast. She enjoys collecting the written word, tinkering with music wires in her bedroom, but especially mixing the two. She loves her parents, knitted garments, and art.

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