That Box We Sit On
Richie Pope (Art &Words)
I came across Richie Pope’s Ignatz-winning comic That Box We Sit On while I was moseying through the Comics Twitterverse. A story about two black kids hanging out, sitting on the same box my siblings and I would sit on when we didn’t want to play, but also didn’t want to go inside. Pope’s story brought back a specific piece of nostalgia that I personally wasn’t ready for. So many summer days and afternoons sitting on that thing and not once did I wonder what was inside. That Box We Sit On brings so much to the table, it’s an existential dive into the best Twilight Zone episode that never was.
We join these two kids after school, as they ponder why they sit on THAT BOX. They dive into these whimsical ideas about the purpose of such a box. Could they be sitting on the head of a giant robot, there to protect their hood from all the cops that mess with people? Is it a strange insect? Or is it some wild portal there to transport them to another world? Pope illustrates wonderfully graphic and magical panels to highlight each and every one of these fun imaginings.
Richie Pope’s writing gives both of the characters their own unique and realistic voices. I feel like I grew up with kids just like the characters in this book. It isn’t often that you read a comic with young black boys focusing on the wonderfully mundane after school moments. Black boys in literature or in popular culture are often depicted as hard or going through some type of trauma, but Richie Pope’s That Box We Sit On is just about black boy joy. It is a refreshing and well-written comic, that expertly captures the dynamic of the two main characters with relatable and funny moments sprinkled throughout.
I read this book three times in a row. One of my favorite sequences is when both boys are just sitting and eating spicy sunflower seeds together. There is no dialogue, in six panels we see them crack the hard shells with their teeth, spit the shells out, and munch the delicious center. This pause in their postulating on the contents of the box is one of the best moments because it’s so reminiscent of what it’s like to hang outside with friends. There were those comfortable silences where you stare at the clouds or your shoes. When everyone was caught up in whatever they were thinking/doing, just killing time. It’s moments like this that Pope creates a space that feels like you’re there too hanging out with two of your best friends.
What makes this quiet moment in the comic is the art. Popes art style is whimsical and sweet, the lines on the page seem to move with the story. Making you see how his simple illustrations are anything but, from the strange creatures, he creates to the simple act of two boys enjoying sunflower seeds. Pope’s illustrations are wonderfully enticing to the eye.
There is something magical in the pages of Richie Pope’s That Box We Sit On, it will transport you back in time, with its beautiful art, and fantastic story. Creating a nostalgic experience, you will never want to put down. You can check out Pope’s terrific Ignatz-nominated book on Gumroad.