Top Shelf Productions


a little bit o' this, a little bit o' that

March 22, 2006

Continuing my critique of the Comics Journal #273, i was into the Firing Line section; there two more reviews in here, including a rather ambiguous one of our own Legend of Wild Man Fischer (by Dennis Eichhorn and J.R. WIlliams). But it's a review for John Porcellino's brilliant graphic novel Diary of a Mosquito Abatement Man … published by La Mano and originally serialized in John P.'s seminal mini-comic King Cat.

For the uninitiated, King Cat is one of the greatest comics ever, mini-comic or not. There is a humanism that runs deep in Porcellino's work; an appreciation for the natural world and a sense of place; a compassion for life. I'm reminded of Sand County Almanac, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Aaron Cometbus, Neil Young, and Pablo Picasso. And yet he so so uniquely singular. His book has been regularly coming out for longer than i've been reading indy comics (going on 20 years or so), and is up to issue #66, by my last count. If you have never read this work, you're really missing out.

Moving back to the review, which was a glowing review, and fairly interesting... until a throw-away comment turned the writer's argument upside down.

[Oooops! I have to run out for a happy-hour date with a couple pals, throw down a pint or two, and i'll continue then.]

Mmmm.... beer.

O.k, back to the Porcellino review. Near the very end of this review, the writer comments on how he feels that John P.'s intent was, that any sense of awe about life in general is misguided, but in this case only because of one isolated series of events in John's career killing bugs. The reviewer, Tim Kreider writes, "In this haunting coda Porcellino renounces the Kochalkan pose of wide-eyed-wonder-at-the-magic-of-the-world as so much self-deluding bullshit..."

At this point, i have to ask, who is the self-deluding bullshitter. It is here where Kreider betrays his grasp at the bulk of Porcellino 's work in his attempt to (for whatever personal reasons) bash on themes that both Porcellino and Kochalka share, and disrespect the work of James Kochalka.

Kochalka is indeed somewhat of an optimist. But a cursory glance at virtually any single issue of Porcellino's King Cat with yield an strikingly similar world view. That there is indeed magic in the every day.

To check myself, i just pulled out my run of King Cat comics, and the second issue i grabbed (#54) leads offf with a story titled "Secret World." The narrative is basically a wordless montage of images of John, his cat Kukok (named after former Bull's forward, the Eastern European player Tony Kukoc), and his pal Zak, as they coast through the day … romping through fields, walking to the city, drinking coffee and enjoying the moment. The last page has the only narration, which reads, "The secret world is the ordinary world. Buddha nature is always fully formed."

And John P/'s comics are FULL to brimming with this very "wide-eyed-wonder-at-the-magic-of-the-world." So to use a derogatory reference to the comics of James Kochalka, whose themes virtually mirror those of John Porcellino, in order to support a singular and specific observation by John P. in Diary of a Mosquito Abatement Man, is bullshit of the highest order.

Kreiner's hatred for Kochalka either outweighs his appreciation for John P., or else he's simply not very familiar with his oeuvre. Either way, it makes for a poor, biased and self-defeating review. So sad.

To wrap the TCJ series here, i'll just say that Dirk Deppey conducted an amazingly entertaining interview with Eddie Campbell, erudite and raconteur to the end. What impressed me most about this affair, was how well researched Dirk was in his preparation.

Prefacing the interview is an appreciation for Eddie's work in general, and a nice piece by Rob Vollmar titled "The Importance of Being Bacchus."

In the end, as always with the Comics Journal, any specific problems i have with this issue are super-ceded by the general excellence throughout.

NEXT: Second issue of Paper Cutter #2, and Comic Effect #44.