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Friday, October 2, 2015

SPX and STL 2015

Jim Rugg's cat Kirby helps staple zines for SPX.

Well, I had promised myself I would only do one long-distance comics convention this year, and gave that slot to TCAF, but it turned out King-Cat #75 was nominated for an Ignatz Award, and Noah Van Sciver was a Special Guest at this year's SPX.  So I decided to go at the last minute.  I made plans to get to Pittsburgh Thursday night and stay with my old pal Jim Rugg and his family.

Aw! This is moments after he slashed me so hard I still have a gash.

Friday we got up and drove to Denny's so I could get my free Grand Slam (It was my 47th birthday). Then we headed over to Ed Piskor's to pick him up for the drive to the show.  I got to not only pee in his bathroom, but managed to check out his ink-encrusted studio. Inspiring!

Where the Magic™ Happens: Ed Piskor's drawing table.

South Central Pennsylvania

The ever-present psychedelic SPX carpeting.

Amazingly there was no traffic, and we made it into Bethesda earlier than I ever have before.  Which meant I got to say a few quick 'hi's", take a shower, and go to bed early.  Late in the night, Noah stumbled into the room and we shot the breeze into the wee hours.

If there was one thing old people took away from this year's SPX it's that this is no longer the show we once knew.  I'm not saying that's a bad thing, it's a good thing, but for some of us it's also a weird thing.  To the generation before mine, the Clowes's, the Hernandez's, the Wares, these shows didn't mean a lick.  (Not a diss, it's just -- there weren't shows like SPX when they were developing, so I think they had less of a connection once they started).  Cartoonists of my generation also came up before the alt-convention circuit began, but in a way we have a special connection to these shows.  We helped build and develop them, helped build and develop the structure that underlies the current alt-comics community.  So maybe we're the first generation of alt-cartoonists to see that infrastructure pull away from us, to change away from us.  Again, not a bad thing. Comics is growing by leaps and bounds, and there are whole worlds of comics and comics artists that have sprung up now that we are not necessarily party to, close to. That's understandable. But I think for those of us who worked hard to develop this world, there are some emotional juggernaughts for us to run, as we get older and try to understand our current place in that world, as it evolves.

As weird as I felt Saturday (brought on no doubt by a few days of lack of sleep and decent food), on Sunday I entered a kind of almost hallucinatory euphoria (brought on no doubt by a few days of lack of sleep and decent food).  The last hours of a con are often a whirlwind for me, as I coordinate with artists and publishers to pick up new work for the distro.  As each person walked up to my table with another box of amazing comics, I regained my footing, and remembered what this is all about.  For me, at least, comics is as much about art as it is about making connections with people, supporting and encouraging artists to go deep, find themselves, and stay true to what they find.  I felt that connection so strongly Sunday that I almost wept.

We drove back to Pittsburgh Sunday night and on Monday morning Kirby was packed and ready to go to Beloit to meet his cousins.

In Chicago Monday evening I got lost in my own hometown and ended up confused in the Loop.  This is the corner of State and Van Buren.  Where are all the people?  They're walking their dogs at that new mall on Roosevelt Road.

At SPX I caught the dreaded Con Crud, and by Monday night I was sick as a dog.  I basically slept Tuesday and Wednesday straight through, only forcing myself out of bed to unpack the car and repack it for my next trip, to St. Louis.

Thursday night I spoke to a group of 40-50 students and faculty at Washington University (where my St. Louis host, the amazing cartoonist Tim Lane teaches), plus a few civilians.  After the lecture we showed the King-Cat movie and one by one the audience slunk out.  I kept director Dan Stafford updated on their departures via text, until there was only one person left in the audience.  Would he make it all the way through?  Hey! Not only did he make it through, but he was practically trembling with excitement afterwards. His name was Viktor, from Belarus, who had left the USSR in the 1980's.  He had never read my comics or even heard of them, but he loved the movie so much he implored us to try to show it around the former Soviet Union.  He said over there the view of America is diamond heists, explosions, gun shootouts, because that's all they ever see, via the movies.  He said, though, that was not the "real America," but that Dan's film actually depicted his experience of America, and Americans.  Wow.

It's an old cliché, that if some project just reaches one person, then it was all worth it. I believe that to be true, and this screening was just more proof of it for me.  The whole thing was for Viktor.  I thanked him, and gave him a copy of the Maisie issue, and walked out of the auditorium high as a kite.

My host Tim Lane working on an illustration of Ross Macdonald for The Baffler.

Friday I had the day off.  Tim had illustration work to do, and it occurred to me that I had a comfy couch, a sweet dog, and a houseful of comics at my disposal.  So I sat there and caught up on Terry and the Pirates, Spain Rodriguez, and re-read The Death Ray.  And blew my nose.

Jo Jo, my couchmate for Friday.

Saturday was the 2nd Annual St. Louis Small Press Expo (I do think they need to change the name, it's too confusing), held at the beautifully refurbished downtown library.  From the minute I walked in the door, the show was pumping.  The only time I was able to get away from my table was to pee a few times and feed the parking meter, and for a well-attended panel/conversation I did in the downstairs auditorium with Tim.

The few instances I had a spare moment, I ran over to one of the tables in my vicinity to check out the wares. All kinds of cool stuff: comics, zines, magazines, prints, you name it.  All super high quality and interesting. I had no idea what to expect of the show, but I can say it blew whatever kind of expectations I may have had out of the water.  Sales were about as good as one day of SPX in Bethesda.

Scenes from the STL SPEx venue.

Tim Lane is one of the most talented, unique, and sadly undersung cartoonists working today, so it was heartening to see he had a line of fans at his table all day long.

Afterwards I packed up and drove home to Beloit, exhausted and sick, but stoked on comics, and zines, and people.

The bridge back into Illinois.

Ol' Man River

(Ninny, back at home, Midnight.)

* * *

Many thanks to Jim Rugg, Natalie, Kirby, Noah Van Sciver, Dan Stafford, Stephanie, Tim Lane, Angela, Jo Jo, and Nick Kuntz for support and hospitality!

Monday, September 14, 2015


So, gearing up for the last big splash of 2015.  Fall is a major time for comics shows, and here's where I'll be:

Sat./Sun. September 19-20
SPX, Besthesda, MD
Table I-9, with Noah Van Sciver and Kilgore Books
King-Cat #75 is up for an Ignatz!

Thursday September 24
Lecture and Film Screening
Washington University, St. Louis MO
6:30 PM, Open to the Public

Saturday September 26
St. Louis Small Press Expo
Central Branch, STL Public Library

Thursday October 29
Slideshow and Q+A
Madison, WI
Rainbow Books Co-op

Saturday October 31
Madison Print and Resist
Madison Public Library (Downtown)

Saturday November 14
Milwaukee Zine Fest
Falcon Bowl, Riverwest, MKE

* * *

After that I'm gonna hunker down and get the new King-Cat done. See you soon!

John P.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015


Lawdy, lawdy-- just realized it's been three months since I posted her on the ol' blog. Just been runnin' around the country selling comics, and sitting in front of this computer adding HUNDREDS OF THE BEST COMICS IN THE WORLD to the new, updated, 21st Century Approved SPIT AND A HALF website. Please check it out. I still have lots more stuff to add, and am working on it almost every day, so check back often!

Meanwhile, I thought I would post some photos from my recent visit to Minneapolis for the Autoptic Festival.

On the way up it was a beautiful day, so I finally stopped at Castle Rock, the rock formation located along the highway at Camp Douglas, WI, which I've whizzed past innumerable times in the past.  There was a nice rest area, with a beautiful path running around and in between the rocks.  I recharged and headed back on the road.

Minneapolis is one of my favorite places, and any excuse to come up there is good for me.  Once again this time Autoptic played host to the Pierre Feuille Ciseaux comics workshop, where a pile of French speaking cartoonists join forces with a pile of English speaking cartoonists and make a mess of art in a one week period.  (I was lucky enough to participate in PFC in 2013, more on that soon!)  So besides the usual great artists that many American comic festivals attract, Autoptic '15 featured such special international guests as JC Menu, June Julien Misserey, Dominique Goblet, Nylso, Antoine Marchalot, Inès Estrada, Pascal Matthey, Pierre Ferrero, Rachel Deville, and more.  So right off the bat, just the presence of these artists makes Autoptic special.  Add to that the obvious care and heart the organizers put into the show, and you have something very exciting.

I arrived in Minneapolis late, but not too late to get to hang out at the opening reception where the absolute highlight was finally getting to meet, in person, Nylso, the great French cartoonist.

Crowd outside the opening reception

John P. and Nylso, together at last!

Nylso and I met through the mail in the early nineties, when Laurent Lolmède discovered my work and introduced it to Nylso and his partner Joelle Manix.  Together they published a small comics revue called Le Simo, and soon began translating and publishing excerpts from King-Cat in their magazine.  It was the first time anyone anywhere really started to take an interest in what I was doing in comics.  Le Simo was simple, and beautiful, and being included in its pages was a true honor.  It was through them that I was introduced to French cartooning, and discovered many of my favorites.  Especially at the time, but even now, I felt such a kindred spirit between what I was doing in comics and many of the French artists.  I drew a great deal of inspiration from them.

I stayed the night with old zine friend Yoonie, and woke in the morning for the show.  Stepping outside in the morning light I was treated to her beautiful backyard, full of wildflowers, gorgeous weeds, and a lovely Catalpa.

The Catalpa tree in the courtyard

The show is held at a place called Aria, an old warehouse/factory converted into an event center.  Surely one of the most unique venues for a comics festival I've ever experienced.  I got to hang out all weekend with table neighbors Kevin Huizenga, Jonathan Baylis, and Dan Stafford of Kilgore Books, so you know I had a good time.  I even bought some Cowboy Henk books off the Fremok table!

The Spit and a Half table

Aria decor

Before I knew it, the weekend was at an end, and it was time to go.  I wanted to get back to Stephanie and the menagerie, so after a quick dinner I hit the road, arriving home in the wee small hours.

There are so many shows nowadays, and so many great ones, and it's become a kind of necessity that to survive as a cartoonist in this country you have to spend a lot of time on the road.  That's a whole 'nother essay for another time.  Suffice it to say, sometimes I come away from a comics show feeling exhausted, drained, and depressed.  The travel, lack of sleep, sensory overload, financial risks involved, all can take their toll on your energy and mood.  I have to say though, for the first time in a long time, when I got home from Autoptic I felt a surge of passion and energy for comics, my own and everyone elses, and I got right back to work.  That's really saying something.  Thanks Autoptic!  See you next time.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015


Hi Folks,

This weekend is CAKE, the wonderful comix festival in my dear old hometown, Chicago.  I hope you'll come on by if you have a chance.  I'll be at Table 86 with the ALL-NEW King-Cat #75 (the All-Maisie Issue!) AND --- the new Scholastic Books edition of my previously OOP book Thoreau at Walden.  In addition, I'll have a load of distro stuff, including new and exciting work from Pow Pow Press, Conundrum, Nick Maandag, Tom Van Deusen, Noah Van Sciver, Marc Bell (Stroppy!), Pascal Girard, Not My Small Diary, Swimmer's Group, Colour Code, AND MORE!

FRIDAY NIGHT before the show, drop on by Quimby's at 7 PM for a slideshow and panel discussion with Eleanor Davis, Keiler Roberts, and myself, moderated by Hillary Chute.  These are two of my favorite cartoonists, and it'll be an honor to sit down and talk with everyone!

If you can't make it, but would like to order copies of King-Cat 75 and/or Thoreau at Walden, they are both available at the new Spit and a Half site: www.spitandahalf.com.

Thanks everyone!
John P.

Monday, May 25, 2015


Yesterday, Stephanie and I took a walk out in the Nygren Wetland Preserve, but hung a left at the old train tracks instead of continuing around the water.  We'd never gone that way before and it'd recently occurred to me that in that direction laid the confluence of the Rock and Pecatonica Rivers.  One of the first things I did when I moved to good ol' South Beloit was purchase a map and study it for potentially interesting things.  If you're me, the confluence of two regional rivers counts as a potentially interesting thing.  Yet I had never figured out how to get there.

On our way around the open water we noted several nesting orioles, plenty of goldfinches, warblers, two swans in the water, a white egret, a lone cormorant, and the ubiquitous honking Canada Geese.  Red-winged blackbirds began their annual scold, chatting at us from the trees overhead and spreading their wings to make themselves look ferocious.

Baltimore Oriole (top) and nest.

At the turnoff, we followed a gentle old oxbow lake through prairie.  Not too much action but the blackbirds and a pile of turtles making the most of a tiny log in the lake.

Eventually we came to a stream and headed east.  This was the end of Raccoon Creek, which starts up in Wisconsin and winds its way slowly down to the Pecatonica.  Eventually, yes, we could see the river across the creek, a low floodplain between them, filled with birdsong.  Two young catbirds eyed us curiously and there were rumblings of a Pileated Woodpecker, but no sightings.  Finally the Raccoon emptied into the river, and it was just us, the prairie to our left, and the slow, muddy, sunny water to our right.

The path tightened and we were there-- a short walk through woods, dropping the bank onto a gravel bar, and there was the Rock on our left.  We could walk all the way out into the confluence on the gravel.

The Sauk and Fox people of the area called the Rock Sinnissippi, which means "rocky waters," and here one could plainly see the contrast between the muddy, murky water of the Pecatonica, and that of the clearer, gravel-bottomed Rock.

If you look closely, you can see the clear water of the Rock, on the left, merging with the muddy water of the Pecatonica, on the right.

We hung out for a bit, amid the honking geese, swallows, and robins, then headed back to the car, along the old railroad grade, and home.

All photos by SD.

Friday, May 1, 2015


So I'm heading out to Toronto for TCAF next Wednesday... Between now and then I'll have a few hundred copies of the new King-Cat #75 (The All-Maisie Issue!) printed up especially for the show.  When I get back home I'll have the regular, full print run done and start getting copies out to stores and subscribers (expect mid-to-late May).  (If you're a subscriber and would like to pick up your copy at TCAF, just drop by my table in the Wowee Zonk room!)

There are a number of events going on that I'll be participating in as well:

Thursday May 6 at 6:30 PM, join Ethan Rilly and I as we celebrate the releases of Pope Hats #4 (Adhouse Books) and King-Cat #75; at the Central Bar, 603 Markham St.

At TCAF, I'll be participating in two panels:

Saturday May 8, Noon: John Porcellino and Julie Doucet, in Conversation, moderated by Tom Devlin. In the library on the 2nd Floor

Sunday, May 9, 11:15 AM: Truth & Intimacy in Graphic Memoir, with John Porcellino, Dustin Harbin, and Raina Telgemeier; moderated by Johanna Draper Carlson.  Marriott 200.

(Please confirm time and location as they may change!)

Meanwhile, if you would like to order a copy of the new King-Cat (48 digest sized pages, black and white, shipping mid-to-late May), prices are as follows (including postage):

USA: $6.50

Via PayPal to kingcat_paypal AT hotmail DOT com

If you're in the US you can also send cash/check/mo payable to:

"John Porcellino"
PO Box 142
South Beloit, IL 61080

Thank you!
John P.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


A few months ago I spoke to a class at Beloit College, and afterwards, the instructor, Chris Fink, turned me on to the work of Lorine Niedecker.

Niedecker was a semi-obscure poet who lived most of her life in relative seclusion on a rural spit of land, Blackhawk Island, where the Rock River empties into Lake Koshkonong, outside Fort Atkinson, WI. This is just a few short miles up the road from Beloit.  (She was a student at Beloit College for two years, until her money ran out.) Though she was a beloved poet amongst her colleagues (the Objectivist poets), her Midwestern isolation, and no doubt her sex, kept her from receiving the acclaim she deserved during her lifetime.

This is the exact kind of story that pushes all my buttons: an artist forgoing fame and acknowledgement to remain where planted, writing with depth of her plain, forgotten surroundings, locating the beauty and power in events and interactions that most would simply rush past.

We took a drive awhile back to Blackhawk Island, where the tiny cabin in which she lived and worked is still standing, flood after flood.  In more recent years, scholars and readers have rediscovered Niedecker's work, and it's begun to find its proper place in anthologies, biographies, and collections.

  Water lily mud
My life

Effort lay in us
before religions
   at pond bottom
          All things move toward
the light

by the flood
    Leave the new unbought --
        all one in the end --


All photos by SD; Blackhawk Island, Wis.