King Cat #76
IMAGES WERE TAKEN FROM JOHN’S WEBSITE DUE TO MY BROKEN SCANNER. Sorry about the shouting, but I wanted to make that perfectly clear. In the future there will probably be some way to ID him just through the picture of his hand, which is one of the many reasons I don’t want it to look like I’m trying to pull one over on the guy. That and my 20+ years of the utmost respect for his work. OK, maybe it’s mostly that one. Anyway, look everybody, it’s a new issue of King Cat! I always feel like I should end the reviews there, because what else do you need to know, but that would be cheating. This comes out at a time after when John was dealing with a few serious health issues and had to cancel a few conventions to give himself a chance to heal up a bit. Fun trivia fact for just about nobody: if John had gone to SPACE this year, I would have been his table neighbor, as I was there registering voters for the local Board of Elections. Which would have been a ton of fun on my end, but I’ll take him getting healthy and making comics for another few decades over that any time. Going along with his mood and troubles, this issue is maybe even more contemplative than most, which is saying a lot. Subjects include sketching while waiting for car repairs, seeing an old couple eating from his car, memories of his old and constantly freezing apartment, and several short pieces that are his trademark illustrated poems. There are also quite a few letters, with several familiar names checking in (just in case you’ve been reading comics for as long as I have and wonder what people like Jeff Zenick, Ariel Bordeaux and Jenny Zervakis are up to). He also got a few responses to his Maisie tribute issue in #75, so if you thought you had no more tears left after reading that one, trust me, you’ll find a few more after reading some of these letters. I just reminded my 15 year old cat that she’s immortal, so I’ll stay in denial about that one for as long as is humanly possible. So yeah, obviously you should get this issue. You should get every issue of King Cat. That’s clear by now, right? If nothing else comes from 15 years of this website, I hope that sticks. John is also hurting a bit for money and has set up a Patreon page to try to help with his monthly expenses. Looks like he’s up to 224 people as of this writing, so why not help him out? You can even think of it selfishly if that helps, as if you donate over $6 a month that gets you physical copies of any comics/zines he makes. Help the guy out! Screw giving him just enough to get by every month, we should try to make him filthy rich. $5
King Cat #75
I had quite an introduction for this review ready in my head. This comic marks the 25th anniversary of King Cat (I’ve been along for the ride for roughly 20 of those years), and I was planning to talk about his impressive body of work, the influence John has had on independent artists throughout the years, all that stuff. Then I read the comic, and all that flew right out the window. This might well be the best single issue of King Cat that John has done. I’m not going to claim that definitively without going back and reading the previous 74 issues again, but if it’s not the best single issue, it’s in the top 2 or 3. The entirety of this comic is the life story of his former cat, Maisie Kukoc. Maisie is instantly familiar to fans who have read his book for years, and what was also known to me was that Maisie had died a few years back. She popped up in stories from time to time, had several about her specifically, and she was basically just a constant presence throughout the series. And, honestly, I thought I had shed all the tears I was going to shed about the death of this cat that I had never met, but I was very wrong on that. Full disclosure: during busy times at work, I sometimes read a comic during my lunch, then write the review on the same break, putting the whole thing together for the website when I get home. Well, today I had to stop reading this comic three different times to keep myself from bursting into tears (as opposed to some manly dribbling of tears that I was denying), and even then it was all I could do to keep from sobbing by the time I got to the inevitable end. This could have easily been a tale about John’s life throughout those years, and he does provide the relevant context as her story progresses, but this is purely about Maisie and the life they had together. There are too many adorable little touches for me to mention them all, but that panel with Maisie stretching her little arms out towards John when he goes to pick her up from the vet after she suffered an illness just about broke my heart. As did him learning from a girlfriend that Maisie sat by the door five minutes before he came home every day to greet him as he came in. They had a great life together (well, she had a great life and John lived a regular human life, full of ups and downs) and she lived to a ripe old age for a cat, so I know the logical thing is to leave it there. But as Harlan Ellison once said, fuck death. There’s no doubt in my mind that some of these tears came from knowing that my cat is currently the same age as Maisie when she died, and although my cat seems healthy, things can change in a hurry, and I have a lot of trouble picturing a life without her. This comic might just break your heart a little, especially if you have pets, but I still can’t recommend it highly enough. Every pet owner is going to have to deal with this eventually, and seeing all the good times mixed in with the ending at least lessened the blow a bit. He also included a few pages of the games she loved to play at the end to try to lighten the mood a bit, but then there was his message on the back cover about how he still finds her hairs occasionally when opening a book, and it was right back to the waterworks for me. All I know is that my cat is getting some serious attention when I get home today. $5
King Cat #73
Sure, you probably think that I give all issues of King Cat glowing reviews and that there’s no point in even reading this one, so I’ll start you off with something new: the first strip didn’t do a whole lot for me. There, criticism! Even if it is vague, as humor is subjective, and the thought of a bear sneaking in two cats to watch a slightly risque movie didn’t get a chuckle out of me. Of course, the rest of the issue is still fantastic, and that first strip is only two pages (that, again, you might enjoy just fine), so forget I mentioned it. The bulk of the book is John on the hunt for a cuckoo that he may or may not have seen, and we get a history of his various possible sightings of that bird over the years. Hey, that sounds boring. Bring on the killer robots! OK, granted, John does not have any killer robots in this at all, and if that’s what you’re looking for I’d advise you to start in a comic called something other than “King Cat.” This one, for new readers, is all about the quiet moments and the constant search for clues about life and everything. Just in case you’ve been reading small press comics for years and have never picked up a copy of King Cat, you poser you. The rest of the comic has his usual “top 40” list (that is rarely if ever actually 40 things), a few letters, John’s dream about being a monk and his ethical dilemma in it, some facts about a certain type of squirrel and a cat on shoelace patrol. Yes, John still puts out a fantastic comic on a regular basis and yes, you should still buy it. $3
King Cat #72
I know I’ve said this before in these reviews, but why in the world isn’t John Porcellino rich and famous? Granted, you could say that very few people from this business end up rich and famous, and even those people are only famous in an underground kind of way (there’s Robert Crumb, Dan Clowes, and…), but it’s a fucking shame. I mention this because John talks about his recent divorce, his moving to Florida for another relationship and then having that fall apart too, ending up with him in a small town on the Illinois/Wisconsin border. At every step of the way there are money concerns, ending up with him living with his mother for a while, and it’s just maddening to me. I know that nobody is owed anything in this world, but quality like this should get some tangible rewards. So what did I think of the comic? You’re kidding, right? This is #72Â of the series, my love for this thing is well established by now. This issue starts off with John with a shattered heart, follows him along a walk with a conclusion that makes you ache for the guy, before eventually ending up with him in his new home. He does a few pages of three panel journal strips (which may or may not be the first time he’s done this, my memory is too lousy to be sure) that show his life slowly getting better, then a big ending story about a bat that wandered into his house, how his cats reacted and how the situation was ended. There’s also a story about a very young John on LSD and how he asks a sister of a friend to marry him. That goes about as well as you’d expect. Every time I think he must have already mined all of the great stories from his youth, I realize that he still has plenty more to go. Another solid issue, and seriously, if there is even one rich person reading this with money to burn on the holidays: just give him a pile of money, OK? For the rest of you, buy his comics. He just finished illustrating a book called The Next Day (which involves interviews with four suicide survivors) and has another book coming out from Drawn & Quarterly next year, one of which would make an excellent holiday gift, and the other (when it comes out) will make an excellent Easter gift. If it’s out by then, of course, if not it’ll make a good whatever day it comes out gift.
King Cat #71
I’ve long resisted implementing any kind of a grading scale for reviews.Â No “8 out of 10” for anything, no “5 stars!”, none of that crap.Â It’s not because what I have to say in the body of a review is all that important, it’s mostly just because such a simplistic way of doing things really belittles something that took an artist weeks, months or even years to accomplish. That and it often makes little sense; I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read a review on CHUD.com tearing a movie to pieces, explaining in excruciating detail how every little thing about the film is terrible… and then they give it a “4 out of 10” grade.Â It’s gibberish, I tells ya!Â So why bring this up?Â Even with my feelings against such a system, I’m starting to think I could grade King Cat comics on a “wistfulness” scale.Â It would still be simplistic and cheap, but it might be handy for the folks out there who can’t wait for each issue.Â This issue is more wistful than most, as John moved to Gainesville, FL at some point during the making of the comic and has apparently ended up there without his cats, which is mildly baffling to me, but he doesn’t get into it (or I read the last story of the book and assumed that that’s still his situation, which is probably wrong).Â Stories in here include a pearl of wisdom from Jesus (the guy had a lot of nice things to say, too bad he’s depicted now as a dude who wants poor people to suffer), a daydream about a missed personal connection, a genuine white trash moment, another one that isn’t labeled as such, a visual aid to all the new forms of life John is seeing in Florida, a drunken lighter request, some lingering silence, and a really fantastic essay detailing Denver before everything became profoundly commercialized.Â Of all the comics in the world, I hope I can say “more of the same” with this one and have the reader understand what a unique and tremendous thing that is.Â I also love John’s willingness to just get up and go when he thinks that life is pushing him in a specific direction; if only everybody had that kind of courage.Â In conclusion: of course you should get it.Â If there was an issue that disappointed you, I’m going to resist the urge to say it was your fault and just say that this issue in particular really moved me, for whatever that is worth…$3
King Cat #70
20 years of King Cat!Â Holy crap.Â I’ll have to try and not think about the fact that a chunk of people reading this weren’t even alive 20 years ago.Â As an anniversary issue is the perfect time for nostalgia, if memory serves (and it often doesn’t) my first exposure to John was in King Cat #38, the issue where he talks about the life and death of his dog and the role it played in his life.Â I was hooked instantly and went back and got as many of the older issues as I could find which, sadly, wasn’t all that many.Â There still hasn’t been anything approaching a definitive collection of his work, probably because he’s ashamed of some of his older stuff, but I’m always all for putting a body of work out there, warts and all.Â Everybody reading this already knows all about King Cat, of course, and all of you have sent John money for his comics at least once by now.Â Hey, he’s even started Spit and a Half back up, and if you never heard of it and get nothing else out of this review, click on that link to see a wide selection of incredible minis that John somehow has the time to distribute himself.Â So how about what’s in the book, am I ever going to get to that?Â I kind of figured that a positive review was a given at this point, but since you insist, stories in here include how he’s given up drinking (but would like very much (at times) to give up the giving up), how maybe the pace of the suburbs is best for him after all, some adorable neighborhood animals, getting his wisdom teeth out because his insurance was about to run out, a dream and a bag of chips, Do the Pete Duncan, and a follow-up on Square Head John from issue #67.Â As usual, that’s not all, as there’s also his top 40 list (expanded this time around), some one panel strips dealing with cats and a few other stories that I didn’t mention to leave you some surprises for when you inevitably order this comic.Â You do like to be surprised, right?Â And you do like great comics?Â The man’s been doing this often thankless, poverty-inducing job for 20 years, send him some money out of love and gratitude, why don’t you?Â I can’t think of anybody who deserves it more.Â $3
King Cat #69 Now Available!Â $3
This has to be the cheeriest King Cat I’ve seen in ages.Â Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean that as an insult, but it’s hard not to feel like you know John a little bit from reading his comics (probably stupid to think that, but it’s still hard not to) and it seemed like a lot of things were going poorly for him.Â A return to cheeriness means, to my addled brain, that maybe he’s doing better in his real life, and that’s always good news.Â Stories in this issue deal with John telling an origin story of sorts of his taste in music, John and his wife getting two new cats (and many shorter pieces detailing their adventures, John’s trademark (is it trademarked yet?Â The man should look into it) ability to see the beauty in the quiet moments, and the piece that made me laugh out loud, Comb-Over.Â As always with this man, checking out his latest work shouldn’t take prodding, it should be a requirement for any thinking person who likes these funny books.
King Cat #68 Now Available! $3
First off, my condolences to John after the death of his cat (which anybody who has read this book at all has seen countless times over the years), Maisie Kukoc. Speaking as somebody who has a cat on his lap at the moment, it’s hard to overstate just how awful it is to have a loved pet die, especially one as obviously thoroughly loved as Maisie was. The comic itself is all about being in a time of transition, as John moves back to Denver with his wife and cat. There are random observances from the road, stories of Diogenes, bits about the importance of an anthill and a quiet moment with his cat, along with the usual “top 40” and other text pieces. The possible highlight of the book (in a series where it’s almost impossible to pick out highlights) was the showdown between two squirrels on a power wire, something I won’t spoil for everybody who is obviously going to go out and pick this up and the first available opportunity anyway. And again, sorry about your loss, John. I’d like to tell you that things will get better, and they will, gradually, but with this coming on the heels of a general sense of giving up on this insane world, well… $3
King Cat #67 Now Available! $3
How on earth did I miss a King Cat?Â For those of you who read these reviews sequentially (i.e. every person who clicks on John’s name, I imagine), I somehow didn’t read this one, even though it was actually sitting in a box, in my room with all the other comics available for sale, for a couple of years.Â Â Seeing as how I almost certainly wouldn’t have this website and/or still be reading comics if it wasn’t for John, that’s baffling.Â But enough about me, how about the comic?Â Go ahead and scroll around the page if you want, there will probably be no shock here: I loved it.Â It’s odd reading these things out of order, as by #69 John seems to be in a much happier place, but things were much different in the dark days of #67.Â A few of the stories are just John lying in bed, obviously unable to sleep, worrying about various aspects of his life or life in general.Â He’s also clearly in some pain from what appears to be stomach surgery of some kind, but is unwilling to really complain about it.Â Ah, that good old “heartland” stoicism.Â Stories in here include sleeping in the car in L.A. with his cat (after the hotel wouldn’t allow pets), getting advice from teaboxes, Maisie’s eyes, a tale of courting his wife from back in the old days, and, as he couldn’t leave it on such a depressing note, the story of a walk that left him with a strong sense of hope.Â There’s also a fantastic text piece about Square-Head John, and you can guess what stories would come from such a name but I’m not going to spoil a thing.Â Highly recommended, as always, and only crazy people aren’t already reading this book religiously.Â Are you a crazy person?Â $3
King Cat #66 Now Available! $3
The machine that is King Cat just keeps rolling along, as this one deals mostly with John’s time in Elgin a few years back. John spends a quiet afternoon raking the yard (or a quiet few minutes raking the yard, after that all the neighborhood kids come over to help out), then follows that up with a game of touch football, minus the Hollywood ending. The other big story in here is a mostly silent piece with John taking a long drive out to a mound of gravel, with the trademark King Cat appreciation of all the silent moments in life. Other than that, this seemed like an unusually quick read, and I figured out why that is: no top 40 list. It just feels wrong. There’s a heartbreaking letter about a neighborhood friend getting sick, but other than that it’s a remarkably quick read. It’s still King Cat so you’ll still love it though, so don’t fret too much… $3
King Cat #65 Now Available! $3
Having a crappy day/week/life? Pick up an issue of this and just try and stay depressed. Not that it’s ever a collection of “rah rah” type life affirmation, but it’s impossible to stay sad with John’s quiet stories about wandering and searching for something in this world. This issue is a collection of places. Elgin (where John still feels at home), a band trip years ago to Iowa, DeKalb in the early 90’s, a trip to a state park in Kansas, and country roads in Denver. Also included, of course, is his “Top 40” list (it’s been a while since I’ve seen it actually at 40) and his text pieces, if possible, are even more beautiful than his drawn stories. Hey, if you read any other part of this page it shouldn’t come as a shock that I love his stuff. This is just another exceptionally great issue from the series that makes it impossible for me to give up hope in the potential of this medium. Not that I’m trying to put any pressure on the guy or anything…
King Cat #64 Now Available! $3
This issue came out soon after John’s Dad died, so this is filled with memories of his father and comics about the days immediately after he died. Naturally, it’s somber as can be and it makes you realize that if you have any relatives at all that you like you should probably give them a call every now and then. John was incredibly close to his father and this whole thing reads like his heart has been crushed, which I guess it has. It’s not possible to do much of a review on something like this, so all I can say is that it’s still King Cat, and if you love the other issues you’ll love this one too, but it’ll also break your heart to read it. $3
King Cat #63
I’m still not sure how I manage to miss new issues when they come out, but at least that way I have more than one to read when I finally do hear about them, right? I can’t tell if this is my favorite issue in years or if it’s just the fact that I haven’t read a new one in years, but I loved this. Stories in here are about his history of alcohol, haircuts, a freakish fly, another “top 40” list and plenty of his one or two page “zen poetry” style comics. If you’ve read them you know what I mean. Fantastic, damned near flawless, not like you’re going to get anything close to an objective review out of me on a King Cat, but that’s my opinion. $2.50
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…
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.