JOHN PORCELLINO is "one of the nicest guys you'll ever know"!

“Comics Grinder: Map of My Heart” / Newsarama / Henry Chamberlain / December 12, 2009

It is the simple pleasures of life that John Porcellino celebrates in his beloved and influential zine, “King-Cat Comics & Stories.” Porcellino shares with us the most simple and basic pleasures which ultimately leads to sharing the joy of being alive. There is a life struggle too, and Porcellino shares his with you, his heart being broken, his illnesses, but he keeps coming back to the joie de vivre.

“Map of My Heart” is the latest collection of “King-Cat” and covers 1996 through 2002. These are the years that Generation X comes of age. And while a case can be made that John Porcellino is a voice for his generation, he is actually much more than that. He is himself. He’s what all of us from Generation X were suppose to be: authentic. It helps if you believe in something. John Porcellino finds inspiration in Zen Buddhism and it looks like it helps to inform and guide his comics. He often will draw something from his studies like his references to the Zen-Monk poet, Ryokan. He’ll also find inspiration from the Marx Brothers and the Beach Boys. Whatever it might be, he seems to know how to tap into the good stuff.

For example, “Psalm,” is a magical meditation on being in the moment. Porcellino goes out for a walk at night. He lets his cat, Maisie Kukoc, know he’s leaving. He wanders through the neighborhood. When he returns, he sees Kukoc through the window and she might be asleep. The stars inspire Porcellino to stay outside. On the porch, he can hear the living ground beneath his feet. He tunes in to the sounds of worms, “click, click, click.” And the sounds of bugs, “zha, zha, zha.” All is well and good.

Porcellino has a simple and direct drawing style that fits in so well with his clear-eyed vision. It is just one of those things, along with the letters from readers, his extended written narratives, the top forty lists, the research on bugs and animals, all of this you can’t fake. So, brother and sister, enjoy. You too will be moved by something in this book whether it is a discussion on football plays, pill bugs, root hogs or Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” suddenly tuned in on the car radio.

Something will get to you. Maybe it will be the comics essay, “Forgiveness,” which is about Porcellino as a boy from Chicago visiting his aunt down in Prairie City. He’s out of his element but is anchored by the family dog, Duchie, and a new gift, a slingshot. He promises he won’t get into trouble with the slingshot but how can he predict what may happen? Another intriguing comic is “Suburban Dreams,” which finds a man kneeling in front of a television. On the screen is the image of a beautiful woman who stares back at him and sort of sighs. He dreams. She dreams. They may find themselves together at least in a dream.

Among Porcellino’s many celebrations of life is quite a list of movies, books, music and special moments. You’ll find Annie Dillard’s “The Writing Life,” Frank Sinatra’s “Ring a Ding Ding” and “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.” Here’s one talking about my generation, #9 from Top Forty, Summer 2001:

“Our Band Could Be Your Life” by Michael Azerrad (Little Brown) Yes, it’s a book about Black Flag, Hüsker Dü, Replacements, etc. etc. In other words: my formative years! Worth it for the Minutemen chapter alone. Also: Butthole Surfers, Minor Threat, Sonic Youth, Fugazi, lots more. America’s last great blast of post/pre-corporate rock.

Those top forty lists are about the fun stuff, with a big nod to humanity and authenticity. It is stuff that inspires you to want to share with someone else for whatever reason is peculiar to your own private world view.

So, on one level, John Porcellino is saying he’s just another human being doing his best to live his life. He has his own life struggle, like we all do, and he has his assorted interests and passions, like we all do. He also happens to be someone who does something very special and makes it all look easy. However, much care has gone into it and is not easily emulated. ”Map of My Heart,” the latest collection of “King-Cat,” from one of the nicest guys you’ll ever know.

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