'King Cats Comics' artist visits with new collection in tow

From about 2003 to 2007, John Porcellino moved from the Chicago area to Denver to San Francisco and then back to Denver. Through it all, he documented the big and small moments in his comics zine, King-Cat Comics.

Porcellino — just call him John P — is coming to Columbus on his tour supporting From Lone Mountain, the new book collecting the King-Cat issues that came out in that period.

This is no greatest hits album. He included everything from King-Cat Comics issues 62 to 67, plus bonus material, and that is by design, he said in an interview.

“For me, the zine is the thing,” he said, speaking from Beloit, Wisconsin, where he now lives. “That's what matters. The front cover matters. The back cover matters. It's been important to preserve the integrity of the original comic.”

The emotional center of the book comes from tragedy, with an issue dedicated to the memory of the author's father, who died in 2005.

A text piece, “MEMORIES OF MY DAD,” includes: “We'd sit around all day and watch monster movies on Channel 32. My Dad would make us lunch — it was the same thing every time — a baloney sandwich on white bread with Swiss cheese and mustard. He'd take the squeezable mustard bottle and draw a smiley face for us on each sandwich or write out our names.”

Porcellino, who is in his late 40s, has been making King-Cat Comics since 1989. He was one of a crop of self-published comics creators who came up around that time and helped to change the idea of what comics could be.

“What my generation brought to it was certainly the self-publishing aspect, which came from punk and came from zines, but also a more kind of idiosyncratic, non-comics sensibility to the artwork,” he said.

(By the way, there is no good story for how he came up with the name King-Cat Comics. It was just something that came to him, maybe inspired by song lyrics from the band Big Black. He has kept the name all these years because “it has a nice ring to it.”)

Porcellino has a drawing style that others have called unadorned or minimalist. I find both of those words unsatisfying, but I'm struggling to come up with something better without resorting to the old standby: deceptively simple.

He started making comics before there was much of an infrastructure for people to find this kind of work. Now, a whole system has grown up around him, including a calendar full of conventions that specialize in self-published comics. One of them, the Small Press and Alternative Comics Expo in Columbus, takes place April 28 and 29.

“It's kind of cliche to even say now, but we're clearly living in some kind of an amazing golden age of comics,” he said. “There are more good comics being made in a variety of styles and approaches right now than ever. It's amazing to see how this all has developed.”