“Sole Seoul Soul” tells the story of Ileum, who becomes a reaper after committing suicide. Unable to remember his past life and purpose, Ileum must usher other lost souls to the afterlife. When he goes to reap his first soul, Joon, Joon screams. Ileum assumes that Joon is afraid of him and that he has failed as a reaper, and he runs away before Joon can interact with him. Ileum looks in the mirror and sees his reflection the way he sees himself: as a monster. The head reaper, Deva, suggests trying on the shoes of other passed souls, which change his appearance—that way, Ileum can do his job as a reaper and be more relatable to the souls he is reaping. However, what Ileum doesn’t realize is that Joon knew him when they were alive and had screamed only out of surprise—and Joon possesses the shoes Ileum wore as a mortal and knows that Ileum took his own life.
The story of Ileum and Joon is one about suicide and mental health told with sensitivity, matter-of-factness and without blame. Ileum must remember who he was—a kind, extravagant and hardworking person—however, he cannot when he is fighting depression. While Ileum is unaware of who he was in his past life, he struggles with the tasks he is given as a reaper, much like he did when he was alive. Joon puts all his faith and energy looking up to Ileum as a Korean idol, much like teens look up to K-pop stars. Idols are human, after all, and can have the same issues that people have outside of the spotlight. When Joon loses the person he looks up to most, he cannot function and is hit by a car. Dealing with his grief and grappling with the reality that his idol was mentally ill, and Joon didn’t know it, Joon seeks to redeem what signals he missed in the real world by giving back Ileum his shoes in the afterlife.
Kathryn Silver is a comic artist who writes about characters who cope with mental health and academic disabilities in magical realistic settings. Through this work, she continues to be active in creating characters who change and define what living with a mental health diagnosis means in the eye of the public through visual storytelling. Kathryn, enamored by color, has also worked for Hilary Sycamore on books for First Second. Previous self-published short stories include “Witch Amy,” a story about a witch with self-esteem issues; “AHA,” a short story about the creation of ideas and where they come from; and “Hope Retirement Home,” a mystery about a boy who volunteers at a retirement home. Wanting to pursue storytelling through more than color as well as hone her craft, she hopes to inspire others to find their own clarity and balance through her illustrations and stories.