Bookgasm | Rod Lott | September 4, 2007
KING-CAT CLASSIX reviewed by Bookgasm
John Porcellino draws comics, but he’s never going to get hired by Marvel or DC or any of the second- or third-tier publishers. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. Besides, how many Marvel or DC artists can you honestly identify just by a glance at their work? Not many, judging from the homogenization. But with Porcellino, there’s no mistaking his style: minimalist, simple, sparse and painfully honest.
Drawn and Quarterly’s handsome hardcover KING-CAT CLASSIX: THE BEST OF KING-CAT COMICS AND STORIES showcases his growth as an artist and a person, as demonstrated from selections from the first 50 issues of his still-ongoing self-published zine, which he began in 1989 (damn, and I thought my zine was old). Though well-known in the DIY world, very few Americans know of Porcellino’s work. Even still, I think he’s a national treasure. Seriously.
His comics – never more than a few pages, and often just one – tend to fall into three categories: intensely personal scenes from his real life, accounts of oddly surreal dreams he’s had and occasional whimsical fictions that sparkle with dry wit. The former often involve remembrances of pets he’s had (like the dog who used to eat cat poop out of the litter box), drunken escapades with friends, simple days outdoors or his three testicles.
Whether it records a depressing day filled with heartbreak or one filled with hope, it’s a candid, warts-and-all record of someone’s life. Whether you’ll wish you were he or glad you’re not, the fact that he’s put it out all there without shame or apology is to be commended. Honestly, when he’s 80, he can look back at old issues of KING-CAT and have a more accurate story of his life than a closet full of photo albums. That’s quite an accomplishment.
But it’s even more so that we give a flip. Porcellino’s drawings – initially a step above child-like, and ultimately naked in their sincerity – are so cut-and-dry and what-you-see-is-what-you-get, that they’re exponentially endearing. It helps that he appears to be a normal guy, coming from a ordinary home and not an overly tortured adolescence. We have no reason to hate him, but hundreds of reasons to root for him.
The made-up bits, obviously, add levity. My favorites were chapters from a recurring bit called “The Violent Garden,” sort of a spoof of a soap opera with a mansion, a creepy butler and an ax-wielding gnome. Non-sequiturs abound, most of them provoking a smile, if not a laugh.
D&Q’s presentation is top-quality, with heavy, bright-white paper that give Porcellion’s black-and-white drawings a super-crisp look. The author provides annotated notes at the end, and honestly, the only fault I can find with the book is that it stops in 1996, leaving a whole other decade – and counting! – still awaiting CLASSIX treatment. –Rod Lott