Randomville reviews KING-CAT CLASSIX

“King-Cat Classix” / Randomville / Nathan Meunier / June 19, 2007

Cracking the cover and leafing through the pages of King-Cat Classix feels like delving into an ancient volume of zinester history. True to the punk rock do-it-yourself ethic, John Porcellino began self-publishing King-Cat Comics and Stories as a hand-stapled zine in 1989 and has continued to churn out new issues packed full of his loosely scrawled art and personal stories for the better part of 18 years. With over 65 issues under his belt, he’s got to be one of the most prolific zine writers still around. No doubt his work has influenced and inspired many others over the years to put pen to paper, fold and staple, and pass around their own creations.

At a hulking 384 pages, King-Cat Classix collects a sampling of the best comics and stories from the first 50 issues of Porcellino’s zines, printed between 1989 and 1996, into a hardcover format. For anyone who’s picked up individual issues of King Cat Comics and Stories here and there, and grown to love Porcellino’s folk art style, King-Cat Classix will be a treasure. Failing that, zine lovers, of which there are many, will feel right at home within the book’s vast pages.

Porcellino’s choice of subject matter in the comics draws from personal thoughts and experiences, often strange and somewhat lurid dreams, work, childhood memories, and made-up tales. To be sure there are plenty of cute cat drawings and related stories scattered throughout the book as well. A few highlights include “The Violent Garden” several daydream fantasy stories from the “Madonna ‘N Me” issue, and a touching true-story simply titled “Ed” about a kind retired truck driver. A multitude of personal stories about playing in a rock band, working various jobs and travel adventures are also riveting. Later on in the book, entertaining letters from readers are included as well, which provide commentary, questions and seemingly random tidbits of interest. A lengthy section of notes at the end of the book also provides more in-depth explanations of some of the curiosities within.

King-Cat Classix tracks the evolution of Porcellino’s work. The first dozen pages or so look like they were drawn during a bumpy car ride, perhaps composed in the back seat of a van en-route to a Black Flag show. Yet there’s something strangely familiar and soothing about the sketches. After a time the lines become a little less jagged and the stories a little more refined as he hones his work. Throughout the book he allows unflinching creativity to run rampant which results in a widely varied realm of content, but also makes for an incredibly interesting read.

One complaint about comics in general is it often takes a fairly brief amount of time to read from cover-to-cover. Not this one…King-Cat Classix will occupy several good evenings of solid reading. By the time the last page turns you might as well start from the beginning again as earlier strips will be fuzzy memories at best and they’re definitely worth the re-read. File this one under classic.

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