Monday, January 10, 2011

John Porcellino Returns to SPACE!

John Porcellino returns to SPACE after a nine year absence. Here’s a short interview.

John at SPACE 2000

Tell us a little about yourself.
I was born in Chicago in 1968, and started making little drawings, stories and comics at an early age. As a teenager in the 1980's I began making zines, and soon discovered the world of small-press publishing, which felt like home. I've been involved in it ever since. I started King-Cat Comics in May of 1989, and soon realized that was the way I wanted to express myself as an artist, so I've kept at it, and it's evolved with me over the last 20 or so years.

Tell us about your comics.
My comics have almost always been about what I call "real life"; that is, I'm interested in the feeling of being alive, whatever it happens to be at any given moment. So, in addition to the extreme feelings of high and low we all have, I've become very inspired by the experiences we have that are so mundane or everyday that we take them for granted, or don't even notice they're happening. These kinds of experiences make up the bulk of our lives, and in them, like all experiences, there's a kind of beautiful mystery to me. Exploring that mystery has been my driving force as an artist and a person.

Who are your main artistic influences--both in and out of comics?
My two biggest influences as a cartoonist starting out were Lynda Barry and Matt Groening, who I discovered when I was in High School. They were the first ones that showed me that comics could be about anything, and could be very personal. Other big influences on me in terms of comics would be Jenny Zervakis who does a sporadic and beautiful zine called Strange Growths, and Jeff Zenick. Oustide comics I've been influenced a lot by the Beat writers (especially Kerouac), Haiku and Chinese poetry, punk rock, Henri Matisse, Andy Warhol, H.D. Thoreau, Kosho Uchiyama Roshi, and Federico Fellini. I can get inspiration from almost any source.

Is the “Map of My Heart” Tour Complete or are you still going?
I think it's pretty much complete. I'm tired, and I'm broke. I'll be doing some events this spring, but they won't be as extensive. Over the course of a year I managed to visit 42 states and three provinces. Now I'm looking forward to taking some time to draw again!
What’s the mileage so far?
I'm not 100% sure offhand, but I think it's about 20,000 miles.

I noticed a lot of photos of buildings and landscapes on your blog. Is photography a passion or photo reference for future king-cat issues?
Oh, I just bought a digital camera so I could take pictures when I was on tour. I do like it, though I wouldn't call myself a photographer, they're just snapshots. I do occasionally take photos for reference, but not too often. Mostly for cover drawings.

We were lucky enough to have you come through Columbus on your “Map of my Heart Tour” will there be some new work at SPACE? King Cat #72?
I'm really hoping to have a new issue of King-Cat of some sort at SPACE, if I can afford to print it!

All of your work I’ve read is autobiographical. Have you ever done any fiction?
The early King-Cat stories were a mix of fiction and autobio, but even then the fiction was based on something that happened to me, or one of my friends, or something I read about in the paper etc. I've always been amazed at people who can dream up some intricate story with complex characters... that's never been something I had much skill at. I wouldn't even know how to go about it. I think what I do as a cartoonist is more filtering my own experience into a form that I can share with people.

You’ve been doing autobiographical work since the ‘80’s. How have you seen things change with respect to acceptance (enthusiasm) for that type of work?
Well, it's kind of strange how it's become its own little genre in comics! So obviously it's more accepted nowadays than ever. I think there are still some people who think autobio is a crutch, or it's boring, or solipsistic. Of course it can be those things if it's done poorly, just like any other subject, but when it's done well it's my favorite kind of work to read.

In what way(s) has your life changed since having King Cat Comix collected & published through Drawn & Quarterly (King Cat Classix and Map of My Heart)?
Well, it hasn't really changed that much! I suppose there are some people who were willing to take a chance on my work because it was published by D+Q, or had heard of it, but didn't have easy access to it until the book collections came out, so that's great... But I still look at what I do with comics the same, and my goals and aspirations are all still the same. The focus of what I do hasn't really changed.

What are you bringing new from Spit & a Half?
I'll have all or most of the stuff from the catalog at SPACE... recent arrivals include the new Crickets #3, self-published by Sammy Harkham... some new Noah Van Sciver stuff, probably some new McNinch, knowing how prolific she is!


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