Sucked Into Soul-Searching Sanpaku


by Vince Brusio

Removed from your own body while conscious is often referred to as a near-death experience. Or it could be that you’re reading the Sanpaku HC (APR181093) from writer Kate Gavino. In this PREVIEWSworld Exclusive interview, Gavino tells us that this book for BOOM! Studios is just as much a part of her life as well as a road map for finding answers to life’s un-answered questions.


Vince Brusio: The book seems very personal. Almost a diary. Can you tell us how you wrapped your head around it before starting production?

Kate Gavino: Writing this book was my way of time-traveling to the part of my life when my grandmother was alive. She raised my siblings and me and was a constant presence in my life growing up. And yet, while she was alive, I hardly ever asked her about her own childhood or her background. Sanpaku was my attempt to spend more time with her, even if it was in a fictional world.

Vince Brusio: Imagine you’re in a classroom. Imagine the class is “Psychology 101.” How would you argue that the concept of Sanpaku is not to be confused with paranoia? How would you define Sanpaku?

Kate Gavino: Sanpaku, as seen in the book, is projected through the thought-process of Marcine, a 12 year-old who is beginning to question her religion after her Lola’s death. In some ways, her seeing sanpaku everywhere is a form of paranoia, as her anxiety builds throughout the book. She wants answers to her questions about religion, death, and health, and sanpaku happens to provide those for her. I don’t personally believe in sanpaku, but I can see how it would appeal to someone confused and in awe of its seemingly mystical cure.

Vince Brusio: Lola is the focal point for understanding the ramifications of Sanpaku. Is her fixation on its consequences more religious, or cultural?

Kate Gavino: Lola’s sudden obsession with curing her sanpaku is what makes the concept so important to Marcine, as Lola was a devout Catholic her entire life, until months before her death. Though Lola never completely abandons her Catholic faith, it’s the first time she seeks answers outside of the church. Marcine sees this and takes it upon herself to continue Lola’s search after her death.

Vince Brusio: Tell us about the characters in this book. How were they inspired by your real life experiences? 

Kate Gavino: Large parts of Lola were inspired by my own Lola, with the main difference being that my Lola would never have believed in sanpaku. Marcine is definitely a version of my younger self, though she’s much braver and impulsive than I ever was. The classmates in the book are vague composites of people I grew up with, and Viet Hoa remains one of the great Asian supermarkets in Houston to this day.

Vince Brusio: As Sanpaku seems to focus on the idea that your eyes determine your fate, is there any clear path or resolution for the reader?

Kate Gavino: The book details one girl’s experience with sanpaku, and for Marcine, I think she comes out more at peace with her inability to find answers to all her questions. Even the strictest diet won’t help you steer your fate, and the same goes for the amount of white space under your iris. Marcine learns to live with uncertainty, for better or for worse.


Vince Brusio writes about comics, and writes comics. He is the long-serving Editor of, the creator of PUSSYCATS, and encourages everyone to keep the faith...and keep reading comics.

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