Zak Sally observes his pal John Porcellino talk at Big Brain Comics in Minneapolis, the first stop on Porcellino’s King-Cat promo tour.
There’s only one opportunity left to catch John Porcellino on his recent book tour, but we’ve got the Q & A session from his first stop in Minneapolis for anyone who’s missed him so far. The first question got missed but thankfully the public Q & A is only worth reading for the responses.
Check out Porcellino again this Saturday at Meininger Art Supply at 1 PM in Denver, Colorado. More information about Porcellino’s comics and appearances can be found on his WEBSITE.
Yah, I think maybe what you’re referring to is in issue 30, probably about half-way through King-Cat, I make a list of all the stuff that’s happened in the process of making an issue that’s inspired me or I’ve been interested in—I call it the King-Cat Top 40.
I think at some point I really felt like, this is all very awesome. I’ve since come to my senses, but at the time I was like, this is all great stuff, it’s all so beautiful, all the stuff out there that doesn’t even seem beautiful is really actually beautiful.
Now I do it, as just a way I think of hopefully maybe telling people about other cool stuff they might not be aware of but also secretly I think if those lists can kind of give a viewpoint into what’s going on in my life…
How do you pronounce your last name?
It’s Porcellino [por*seh*lee*no]. Maybe not in Italy, but that’s how we do it. It literally means “little pig” in Italian. Actually, there’s a famous fountain in Florence, Italy, which is called “Il Porcellino” which is a big statue of a wild boar and it’s good luck to rub its snout and toss money in it. So it’s probably a brass boar that’s all groady and aged but its nose is really shiny. But if you google “Porcellino” you’ll get some comics and a lot of pictures of this statue.
What has changed for you in the actual process of getting out and I wonder what your process is?
Mostly it’s probably my own attitude about it, probably. You know, when I first started it I really didn’t think about what I was doing at all, for better or for worse. Whatever came out of me I threw it down on paper, I’d stack up the pages, when I had enough pages to make an issue I went down to the copy shop, photocopied it and started handing it out.
And, you know, over time…selfconsciousness set in at some point which was really gripping…in my case it was issue #44 and actually Zak [Sally] here, my good friend Zak and I and our friend went on a roadtrip to the west coast. At the time, Seattle was the center of the alternative comics world in America and we went out there and met all these great cartoonists who had this really cohesive scene where they breathed, slept, ate comics all day long, that’s all they did. They talked about comics when they weren’t making them and, you know, we went up there…kind of a chip on our shoulder, like these guys are really serious cartoonists and we’re just like these rebels…
I came home from that trip and started the next issue, and I remember literally physically drawing this one comic and going, ‘Oh my god…all of those people are going to look at this comic.’
…So that changed things for me a lot…I guess over time I’ve probably worked harder at it and worried a whole lot more about it. …And again, I started out making about 18-20 copies of a particular issue of King-Cat and there were very few stores like [Big Brain] that would be willing to stock them. And over time it’s just grown and grown, so now, if I put out this little issue [King-Cat # 68] I picked it up the night before and I’ve mailed them directly to stores all over the world. So that kind of thing, I spend a lot more time with that kind of business aspect. Dealing with stores and distributors and mailing stuff off and invoices and stuff like that. So that’s changed. And I do, actually, that sounds kind of funny, I do consider that aspect a kind of integral part of what I do. I never saw the distinction really between drawing the comics, putting them together, taking them to stores, showing them to the store owner, sending them to people through the mail…For me, over time, it became this kind of unified way of being in the world. So, I guess it hasn’t changed a whole lot.
I’m curious about your concepts. I’m curious how you write it.
The way I work nowadays usually is, I have a notebook. I don’t really draw a lot. I have a lot of friends who are cartoonists who have a little sketchbook and they’d be here drawing, they’d be doing sketches for people and stuff like that. Which, I’m not that way, and I would feel inferior for a long time because of that. Like, those people are real artists and they feel passionate about what they do. But I’ll go months without drawing, but I do keep a notebook—I got over that, by the way [feeling inferior to other cartoonists]—I keep a notebook and write down dreams or ideas I have for stories. I just kind of keep filling in those pages and six months or eight months or twelve will go by and I’ll start to panic and I’ll say, ‘I’m never going to do another King-Cat,’ and then at some point it all just gels and all this work that didn’t really make a lot of sense the day previously, it all just kind of comes together and I’ll think, ‘Ah, this is what the next issue’s going to be,’ and I’ll sit down and I’ll write the stories.
I’m a person who allows myself some leeway. If a mistake happens in a comic or I sit down and draw and it takes me off on some tangent I didn’t anticipate, I’m open to following that wherever it may go. But I do usually have it pretty well thought out. But at this point I just see the comics in my head before I ever draw them. So when I have that thing kind of put together, I’ll draw intensely for a period of a couple weeks or a month or so. My comics are so simple, it’s a lot of work that goes into them before the drawing point, but when I actually sit down and draw them it actually goes pretty quickly. And then I’ll put it together, sit down with the pages, edit things and try to make an issue kind of cohesive. Nowadays, it’s still a kind of random thing for me, but I do try to kind of have the issue be a cohesive thing, like an album where these are independent songs but if you take them as a whole they’re a unified expression.
I’ve heard a lot of people give you credit for being the reason they got into comics, like Danno said it before you got here and I just read a MOME interview where Eleanor Davis credited you as being one of her main influences when she went to art school…do you have just a list of people who were fans but they’re now friends?
Yah, I’ve got it right here [laughter]. I won’t deny that I get letters all the time from people that are really moving. I don’t know whether the comics have kind of given them a new idea of what comics could be or something like that, but I get a little nervous about this.
You’re not consciously giving hope to children?
I wouldn’t say that. I do hope at this point with what I’m doing. I don’t think I’d change what I’m doing to do it, but I just hope what I’m doing has some kind of impact, whatever that may be. That’s at the back of my head at this point; that maybe someday someone will get something out of it that I can’t even anticipate. I get letters from people expressing those kind of things; it’s kind of what keeps it going.
One of the hopes I had with King-Cat and what I was doing and how I was doing it was not necessarily to set an example but more so for my own self to say, you know, you don’t have to draw like somebody else to make comics. You really don’t have to have anything special except the desire to express this thing that’s inside yourself. I think people pick up on that kind of thing. It helps me.
I was talking about Flipper earlier [Zak says: I was talking about Flipper earlier]. I don’t know if you guys have heard this band Flipper, but there are all these punk bands and stuff which is kinda the scene I grew up in, but they might as well have been the Beatles. Husker Du, a great Minneapolis band, one of my favorites, you know, I love their music and they really express something to me. When I heard Husker Du, it was the first time I heard music where I was like, this music is my life. This music is about my life it’s for me it’s about me. But, you know, Husker Du might as well have been Bach to me, you know, I had no idea how I could do that. When I heard Flipper, I thought, ‘I can do this.’ I can be in a band. It sounds kind of hokey.