King Cat #61
This comic sucks! Nah, not really, I just realized that there’s very little chance for there ever being a negative review on this page, so I thought I’d start off mean. King Cat #61 is brilliant, as always.It’s kind of like the Dan Clowes Eightball effect, where you get so used to reading really incredible books every time one comes out that you start to take it for granted. It’s good to see that John has found love and has his personal life in order. His comics, if possible, might get even more peaceful. This also comes with a collection of sketchbook drawings of his cat Maisie Kukoc, and anybody who is even remotely interested in cats is going to find this adorable. I honestly don’t know how anybody could come out of reading one of his comics in a bad mood. It would just take so much effort to stay grumpy that most people wouldn’t even bother. The actual comic has the usual assortment of walks, observances and anecdotes. My favorite part was the bit where he went shopping for a CD with his Mom, but it’s my policy to not give anything away from a King Cat issue. Either you know it and love it or you just somehow haven’t heard of it yet, meaning you have such an incredible discovery ahead of you that I don’t want to spoil even the tiniest thing. I’m mostly posting this review at all to let people know that there’s a new issue out, in case they missed it…
I mostly wanted to review this so I could tell the story of my meeting John at SPACE a month ago. He’s been a hero of mine (and one of my comic favorites) for about nine years now and I’d never been able to get to anything he was at, but we did write each other back and forth a few times 5 or 6 years ago after I ordered some comics. Anyway, I was at his table for awhile before I introduced myself as the guy from Optical Sloth (hey, a lot of people knew what it was so I thought I’d give it a shot), Whitey. His reaction? “My Whitey?” Hee hee, “my Whitey”. He must get a fair amount of mail and I was impressed that he would remember a few letters from that long ago. Anyway, the actual comic. Do I really need to tell you to buy all of these that you can afford? There’s not a comic out there that puts me at peace after reading it like this one does. If that’s not a recommendation, I don’t know what is. Stories in here include him wandering around a disused trail and traveling with his former wife and her parents. Throw in a bunch of text pages about various things and you have another great issue. Hey, he has a new website. Now getting King Cat is easier than ever! It’s just a catalog listing (I was hoping to see rambling), but his descriptions of his comics are worth the time to check out.
King Cat #38
John Porcellino is the best person currently doing mini comics. As far as I know, he’s the best person who’s ever done mini comics. I could have picked any issue of King Cat to review and it would have been positive. He’s on #57 (as I write this) and has been doing this for something like 15 years. He just recently got a book published by Highwater books which collects #49 and 50 (and a few other things) of his comic and, while I didn’t get the collected version yet, that two issue story remains one of the best things I’ve ever seen. Other people try to capture high school and the moods that you go through during it. Some do a good job, some do a really good job, and I just can’t relate to some of them. John hit just about everything during this two issue story and he deserves a fucking medal for it. In a perfect world, he would be rich and able to do his quietly beautiful comic whenever he wanted. As it is now, he has to maintain a job and is usually only able to get 2 or 3 of these out a year. I picked #38 to review because it is widely seen as the best issue of King Cat and, while I wouldn’t necessarily agree with that (how do you pick the best single issue when so many of them are incredible?), it is at least one of the best.
This remains one of the few issues of any mini comic that can make me cry every time I read it. It’s the story of John’s dog Sam. How he got her, what part she played in his life, how he became distant from her when he went through his high school years and was distant from everybody… but she was always there for him. I went through pretty much the exact same thing with my dog, almost every step of the way. I’m lucky that I read this before my dog died too because I was able to spend more time with and appreciate her. I’ll always be grateful to him for reminding me of what my dog meant to me when I was growing up. Anyway, what I’d recommend is that you give him any money that you have sitting around. Start with the Classix volumes. There are 4 of them with each of them reprinting the best from a ten issue span. #1 has #1-10, #2 has #11-20, etc. If you send $8.50 you can get all of them, but it looks like stock is limited on the #1 so ask him to send you another issue if that isn’t in. I don’t know, #50-57 are all $2 and they’re all good. If you have somehow gotten to this point in your life where you haven’t read him, seriously, at least send him a few dollars. I guarantee that you won’t regret it. Hey, I finally got an e-mail address for the man too.
King Cat Classix #2
If the quality of the first collection of King Cat comics was a bit spotty at times (the guy was, after all, just starting out), that problem is taken care of in this second volume.Â It collects the best bits of #11-20 (in case you can’t read that on the cover) and even has a few stories taken from anthologies or previously unpublished, so even if you were awesome enough to collect these when they first came out you’re likely to run into something you haven’t seen.Â Stories in this issue include whether or not mice turn into money over time, a dream of dancing with the Throwing Muses, a jam comic involving penises pulled too hard, a silent shortie about a family picnic (barely), attending an art school party that ends with John going to the bathroom and being drunk enough to see two penises (definitely the first time I’ve used “penises” twice in one run-on sentence), a fantastic center spread, a dream involving John as a detective that is impossible to describe, teaching a cat to jump from car to car, rescuing a cat from a roof, his job that he could only take for 2 1/27 days, The Mouse getting in trouble, a giant dream cat and a bloody nose.Â That’s the bare bones of it.Â If it’s true that I have even the tiniest voice in the land of mini comics, somebody make this so: put these old minis back in print!Â If Fantagraphics can put out a huge collection of comics from the 80’s, why not put all of these comics into one huge volume?Â It’s not like you’d be hurting for material.Â Oh well, most likely wishful thinking.Â If youÂ can find this for the love of Jehovah buy it, but you probably know that already…
King Cat Classix #1
The trip down memory lane continues, as today I’m reviewing another out-of-print comic.Â Or at least it looks like it’s out of print,Â judging by his website.Â Of course, judging from his website it looks like most things are sold out, which is just a shame.Â So anyway, this one collects the best of King Cat #1-10, and raise your hand if you were awesome enough to buy any of those when they were available.Â Unless you really had your artistic act together in 1989, I doubt it.Â For anybody who has ever complained that John’s style was too simplistic (those people who have missed the point entirely), it’s very clear that his art has improved from these issues.Â Everything is a lot more raw, he’s clearly experimenting with thicker lines, and he eventually ended up where he is now.Â So what’s in this?Â Dream comics, stories of his time as a mosquito abatement guy (are these in the eventual collection?Â If so did he clean them up when they were collected?Â I should probably know these things), a simple story that is almost too perfect called 3 balls, John running into a guy trying to get to Chicago by walking along the railroad tracks, his new discovery of the reality of ticks, a drunk comic, a short piece about his dad, and his detailed (and hilarious) description of a sleepless night.Â I’m way too biased to offer any kind of objective criticism of this series, which should be painfully obvious by now to any regular readers of the site.Â Still, somebody should at least put these Classix volumes back in print (even though there are only 3 that I know of, so maybe add on a couple more), or maybe they should get in touch with Top Shelf or somebody and put the whole series out as a phone book type graphic novel.Â Hey, a guy can dream…
Ghost Comics (edited by Ed Choy Moorman)
Sometimes I make these reviews overly complicated, and I probably will with this one too, so I wanted to sum it up simply: this is a collection of different takes on ghost stories from some of the best small press cartoonists around.Â Ta-da!Â What more do you need to know?Â There are all kinds of highlights to choose from, and somehow there’s not a stinker in the bunch.Â That’s a rare thing with anthologies, but Ed has put together quite a cast here.Â Things start off strong with Hob’s tale of a dinosaur ghost witnessing everything that follows its death and the eventual destruction of the earth.Â From there Jeffrey Brown talks about making a fool of himself to a member of a band he likes, Corinne Mucha implies that the “ghosts” in her dorm were really just an excuse to get people to sleep together for protection, Maris Wicks goes into detail about the creepy and non-creepy aspects of living with a ghost as a kid, Madleine Queripel relates the reality of trying to scatter ashes, Toby Jones (professional boyfriend) goes into how useless he is when confronted with death, Lucy Knisley visits an old school she attended briefly and is shocked by the sheer number of ghosts still around, Allison Cole finds a practical way to rid herself of ghosts, Evan Palmer tells the tale of a knight misguidedly trying to win love, and Jessica McLeod warns of the dangers of ghost tomatoes.Â Then there’s my favorite (among many “favorite”) story: Kevin Cannon’s tale of all the major landmarks of the world joining together into a Voltron-like creation to fight evil, how one member of that band is destroyedÂ and, as a ghost, sees a plot to destroy the world.Â Any more detail than that would ruin it, but trust me, it’s a purely awesome thing.Â If that still hasn’t convinced you, here’s everybody else involved: Ed Choy Moorman (duh), Aidan Koch, Mike Lowery, Sean Lynch, Sarah Morean, Jillian Schroeder, Zak Sally, Abby Mullen, Eileen Shaughnessy, Tuesday Bassen, Sarah Louise Wahrhaftig, Jenny Tondera, John Hankiewicz, Will Dinski, Mark Scott, Monica Anderson, Warren Craghead III and John Porcellino.Â Topping off that pile of talent is the fact that this is a benefit anthology, with proceeds going to the RS Eden, which started off as a chemical dependency center and evolved into helping community members at need in all sorts of areas.Â So it’s for a good cause, it’s packed with talent and it’s only $10.Â Sounds like a no-brainer to me.Â $10
Midnight Fiction 2008 Desk Calendar Now Available! $6
The contributors: Sean Azzopardi, Scott Ball, Hunt Emerson, Brad W. Foster, Allen Freeman, Richard Krauss, DC McNamara, John Porcellino, Bill Shut, Jim Siergey, Dan W. Taylor, Bob Vojtko, and Steve Willis. In case you’re wondering how this thing work, it’s beautiful in its simplicity. These are individual pages inside of a CD case, so all you have to do is flip the CD lid over backwards and you have an easy stand for your desk calendar. So instead of Dilbert or some other crap in your office cubicle, you can show the world how cool you really are with a calendar full of small press art. It starts with November of this year (2007), so you get a couple of bonus months with your calendar.
My Word! (with John Porcellino) Now Available! $2
Missy and John teamed up on a fairly unique mini comic here. They each came up with 5 words for the other person and that person had to draw five comics. I don’t think I’m giving away a thing by telling you the words: postage, camel, decision, honey, sidewalk, sick, bedtime, violets, catsup, and fly. Who gets which word? What do they write about? Those questions can only be answered by reading this, as it’s fairly silly to give something like this a regular review. Even if your black, black heart prevents you from loving Missy’s work because you think it’s too cute or something, I can’t imagine needing to go to a lot of effort to convince anybody to read anything that John P. has ever done. It’s a fun and occasionally melancholy book, what more can you ask for? $2
Bogus Dead Now Available! $10
I knew as soon as I saw this book that it was going to be great. Here I am, in the middle of my personal “anthology week”, and I’ve already read the best of the bunch. Prove me wrong, people! Anyway, this is a collection of the best small press people (although why John Porcellino isn’t in here is beyond me) doing zombie stories. As that combines two of my favorite things in the world, they’d have to do a lot wrong for me to hate this and, well, they didn’t. Thoroughly entertaining from start to finish, everything in here was tremendously innovative. I mean, there are only so many things you can do with zombies. That’s what I thought before I read this, and I’m more than happy to stand corrected. I’m not going to list everybody in here, as there are 43 folks and you can just go here and order the thing for $10 and read everything you need to know about it. Highlights? OK, but you have to understand first that everything was a highlight, these are just some moments that stood out: Tom Hart with the married zombies, Graham Annable with the almost somber “Revenge”, and Ariel Bordeaux’s ghost being embarrassed by her zombie body. Simply put, it’s the best anthology I’ve read in quite a while.
I was going to just write the names of the contributors here to try and convince you to get this, but that scan came out nicely, don’t you think? You’ll notice that I really like most of the people on there, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I think this is amazing. I can’t even say that I didn’t like whole stories, just certain panels. People talking to cats in comics is either cute to me or way too cute, and Dave Lasky’s entry fell into the latter category. The rest of his story was good though. The bit by Austin English didn’t do much for me one way or another. Everything else is more than just worth reading, it’s required reading. That’s right, I’m forcing you to buy this. The only thing I’m not sure of is the price… $5 maybe? It’s a pretty big book. Eh, go to the website (down as of 7/22/07) for this (it’s the first in a series of anthologies about food) and e-mail the guy to see how much it costs. You can’t go wrong with this assemblage of talent.
King Cat #62 Now Available! $2
#62! Now that’s a number all the small press folks in the world should try to reach. In my humble opinion, of course. This issue has a text piece about his move (he’s in San Francisco now), a comic about kites, one about getting out of bed, a zen story about a twisted nose that I still don’t get (I’m a bit slow at things like that sometimes, I’m sure it’ll hit me at 3 in the morning or so), his always essential “Top Forty”, hijinx with a beard that I can relate to, and a quiet, lovely tale about eating at work. And a few odds and ends, sure, but I don’t think this title is something that I have to “sell” you on, so pick it up and discover the rest of the stuff out for yourself. Also, if anybody out there has a million dollars laying around, please send it to him so he can quit his job and do comics all the time. Contact info is up there, buy some of his comics if you’re looking for a peaceful thing in your life.