John Porcellino recently celebrated publishing 70 issues of King-Cat Comics in 20 years. That’s a great accomplishment, especially considering that most zines never make it past the fifth issue. His autobiographical comics focus on single moments, scrapping away all of the clutter to expose simple, real experiences in his life. It goes without saying that we here in the Zine Collection are very excited to offer up an email interview with John. Read on….
How did you first get into zines?
I’d been making little handmade booklets since I was a kid, and in High School I began making photocopies of them, to give to my friends. In 1987 I started making an art and poetry magazine called Cehsoikoe, which I sold at a local record shop. One day I got a letter in the mail from a girl named Lainie the Oyster, who lived a few towns over from me, and also published a little magazine, called “Lime Green Bulldozers.” I went to her house one day and she showed me Factsheet Five. Before that time I was unaware that there was a “Zine World.” Finding out about that network changed my life, and I’ve been involved in it ever since.
How long have you been writing King-Cat Comics?
I started King-Cat in May of 1989.
What made you decide to create a print zine and what keeps you going?
Well, at the time there was no other option. There was no web, I didn’t even have a computer. What keeps me going? In print? I guess I’m old-fashioned, but I love paper, I love books, I love holding something in my hand and being able to put it on a shelf.
Do you have a large web presence right now? Would you ever publish exclusively online?
I have a website, and a Facebook page, and a few blogs. I have an ongoing archive of my comics going up online at WhatThingsDo.com. The internet is great for so many things– getting the word out and communicating, discovering things, and tracking down information. I suppose it’s inevitable that some amount of my comics publishing efforts will eventually be online, but I would hope that I’d be able to maintain the print version of King-Cat as well.
What kind of work goes into creating an issue? How much time do you put into your publishing?
I keep notebooks around me where I jot down ideas, phrases, titles, and memories etc as they come to me. I also always have little scraps of paper, receipts for instance, with notes jotted on the back. I kind of keep that stuff around, refining my ideas until they begin to take shape. When they do, and I can start to see the next issue of King-Cat in my head, I begin the actual drawing. Once I start drawing it goes pretty fast. The bulk of the work is in the writing, and editing the writing. I’d say the whole process can take six months to a year or so. Then I get the new issue out, and it all starts over again.
Where do you get your ideas from?
Well, I’m mostly an autobiographical cartoonist, so I get my ideas from life, from things that happen to me or people I know. I’m always looking at other people’s work too, comics, movies, books. They all kind of inspire me, or take my thoughts in a new direction. My inspiration comes from life, and, to me, life includes everything, so I draw inspiration from all over.
Several of your zines reference Zen masters and koans. Do you draw a lot of influence from Zen Buddhism?
I discovered Zen in the mid-nineties, and I always say it was like finding a pair of shoes in your closet that you’d forgotten you had. You put them on and it’s just such a comfortable, natural fit. Zen is concerned with the reality of everyday life, and that’s something I was already trying to work with in my artwork, and my life. So, I had those impulses before I discovered Zen, but Zen kind of put a form to these amorphous ideas and feelings I’d had floating around for many years.
You also have a few comics about Greek philosopher Diogenes of Sinope. What draws you to him?
Same thing that drew me to the old Zen masters: these wild-and-free old men out there prowling around the fringes of society trying to get us to open up our eyes. They may seem gruff and unconventional, but they’re acting out of compassion, they’re trying to help us get our heads out of the sand and really experience what it means to be alive, to be a real live human being.
You recently went on a long tour to promote your work. How did that go?
The tour was fantasic. It’s so rewarding to get out there and meet people who read my comics, and see new things, meet new people, connect directly like that. It’s the best feeling in the world. I hadn’t been down south since I was five years old, so it was all very exciting and new to me.
What zines do you enjoy?
I have such broad interests, so I like all kinds of things, but I especially like personal, auto-biographical things. I’m interested in real life, and what that means for other people. Specifically some of my favorite zines are Roctober, Laterborn, Strange Growths, but there are too many to name them all.
Do you have any non-zine reading recommendations?
Well, for me, Kerouac and the other Beats were big inspirations. I think they’re an important part of our culture that are often overlooked… I just read an “autobiography” of Federico Fellini, called I, Fellini, that I think any creative person would find interesting. I read a lot of non-fiction, stuff in The New Yorker or Harper’s…
Can you give us a preview of what you are working on next?
I’m always at work on the next King-Cat. And I’m putting together a new book about an illness I had in the 90’s, called The Hospital Suite. I’ve got so many little projects and big projects going on all the time… I keep busy!