Sunday, February 13, 2011

Book review: John Porcellino & King-Cat Comics

I’m not much of a graphic-book person. Girls weren’t encouraged to read comics when I was a kid, and the entire genre passed me by. But a few years ago, a comic book called King-Cat caught my eye at SF Zine Fest, a vibrant book-arts show where I was exhibiting my chapbooks. The smiling, crowned cat on the cover of King-Cat invited me in, and soon I was standing there, paging through a curious hand-drawn collection of author John Porcellino’s stories and mini-essays. They were mostly his unique take on relationships, family, memories, moving, pets, jobs—all ordinary, workaday stuff, somehow rendered poignant by John’s deft drawings and disarming, poetic writing. After I’d spent a few minutes lost in this comic book, I looked up, and there was John Porcellino himself—a tall, shy, youngish guy who looked like the bass player in some indie band. We talked for a few minutes, and I bought several copies of King-Cat, along with a logo button whose cat, all these years later, still smiles down from my bulletin board.

Since then, via the internet, I’ve checked in on John Porcellino and King-Cat often. His website, Facebook updates, and blog all have the same autobiographical touch as his comics—we find he’s moved, then moved again; his beloved cat, who featured in many King-Cat stories, has died. There are hints of a breakup or divorce. And all of it is sketched out in John’s spare drawings, unflaggingly charming prose, and thoughtful photography (look here for his photo series on a neighborhood cat).

For me, keeping track of the life of someone I met at a little trade show years ago, whose talents caught my eye even among a roomful of talented people, has been one of those miracles of the internet. And judging by how many Facebook friends he has, I’m not alone in feeling that way. John’s comics are a reminder that everyone’s life is interesting; the only question is how you tell it. Or, as he says in King-Cat Number 63, “Time, like a footprint / someone was here once— / something happened.”

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