John Porcellino seems like one of those true, vagabond artist types. Whether it’s reading his blog or this issue of King-Cat, you gather the vibe he lives both the life of a romantic and a starving artist--traveling, living on whim and creating. And even though he portrays his life in this comic as sad, depraved and hungry, I actually want the life this guy has.
I’ve always romanticized about a minimalist’s lifestyle of no job, isolation and art making. No matter the pain or misfortune of it, I’ve always been attracted to that sort of life. I think it’s the simplicity as well as the tough skin you develop. That, to me, is interesting. The sort of “seen it all” guy. I think that’s why I enjoyed this comic so much. It’s produced by that type of guy, and it shows such a way of living still happens. Simply and with an inward focus. And in some special way, I was able to live a small portion of that life through these printed pages.
Although, I’m entirely new to John Porcellino. Maybe I’ve misread him. There’s certainly a lot of history to this guy because King-Cat is in no way a new comic book. Published since 1989, Porcellino has cartooned 72 issues of King-Cat over 22 years, chronicling whatever it is he has lived and shaping this comic book series into some living document of a man.
This issue specifically does a nice job of bringing you into that man’s life and distilling a few key thoughts.
Porcellino opens the issue with a hand written letter on the inside of the front cover. In it, he addresses his audience as if they were a friend, explaining where his life has gone and why he now lives in South Beloit, Illinois. It works at face value, but the letter also sets the scene for the issue, providing context for the stories and vignettes at hand as well as just easing the reader in to the comic. And you can even take the significance of the letter further. If you want, you could interpret King-Cat issues as some sort of transmissions from Porcellino, updating the world on his existance. Letters were just that back when snail mail was cool, so, in essence, this entire comic is really one letter.
I appreciate the tone the opening address sets. On Porcellino’s part, it’s a smart, intimate way to craft a work.
But of course, there are comics, and King-Cat #72, as well as I’m guessing any issue of King-Cat, showcases a very minimalist approach to line work. This artwork would probably cause almost anyone to roll their eyes and say, “hell, I could do this” by way of it’s simple, quaint, DIY look, but do not be mistaken. Porcellino understands visual story telling. Each and every panel possesses an exact composition to make it just right, and there’s an odd rhythm to his pacing that gives King-Cat’s short vignettes a very poetic or even haiku-like beat. It’s a charming aesthetic that goes a long way, and the simple look extends itself to comment on and reflect the lifestyle its author has chosen to live.
For me, the real kicker was “Nite Light,” a story in which Porcellino captures the mindset of all encompassing darkness and depression in one, five paneled page. It’s stuck with me.
But it’s not all depressing. King-Cat 72’s final tale sheds a little light on Porcellino’s life as he manages to get a long with a girl and have some what of an adventure with her as they deal with a bat flying around their house. It suggests that after a year of slump, the cartoonist’s life may be climbing out of the pit.
While it’s easy to attach to personally, King-Cat #72 offers up superior craft and a unique voice. As a review of a specific issue, this may not be the best, but as my first time writing about John Porcellino I felt it necessary to take a more overall approach because that’s what I’m stuck on at the moment. The overall. It’s a wonderful single, complete issue with a beginning, middle and end, but it’s also a small chunk of a much larger work. A snapshot of a human life, and for a few well constructed pages, I was able to peak in.
I suggest you also take the opportunity.
TL;DR King-Cat #72 is an excellent example of DIY, auto-bio comics. Its snapshots of depression strike you emotionally, and its craft only impresses.
King-Cat is written and drawn by John Porcellino and self-published.
A review copy of King-Cat #72 was graciously provided to Spandexless by the author.