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John Porcellino p2

John Porcellino talks about some of his favorite minicomics artists and about some of the influences that went into his work from inside and outside comics.

READERSVOICE.COM: The 2010 Milwaukee Zinefest on your blog looked good. There seems to be a really healthy minicomics culture in the U.S..What’s your opinion of the minicomics culture?

JOHN PORCELLINO: Well, that’s been my world for over 20 years now, it’s my home. One of my biggest sources of pride is having been involved with the movement that legitimized comics self-publishing in people’s eyes. There was always a stigma to self-publishing, but people kept at it, and began producing work that was at or above the quality of the comics that were coming out from the more established publishers. (Not a knock on said publishers.) So it was only a matter of time before the comics world at large had to realize this stuff had value.

I love the world of self-publishing, and going to festivals like the Milwaukee Zine Fest is such a wonderful part of that. Cartoonists oftentimes are kind of loners. To be able to go somewhere and socialize with people who thoroughly understand your ethic is really gratifying, and of course meeting readers, seeing new places. It’s one of my favorite things.

RV: Do you have a big collection of these and if so what are some standouts for you?

JP: Well, I have kept every zine or comic I’ve gotten in the mail. But nowadays I donate them to a Zine Library. There’s just too much stuff, and I have such limited space. I keep a few things here and there, things that are really meaningful to me, work by people who are my friends. I was just going through my collection when I was moving. A lot of stuff in there by Dave Kiersh, Ron Rege, Marc Bell, Jenny Zervakis, Jeff Zenick, and many more.

RV: I really like how your comics like King-Cat Comics and Stories have such a clean look along with the apparent simplicity. I know it’s an influential style, too. What kinds of influences from maybe in and outside comics went into its evolution?

JP: Well, I was always interested in very simple, very direct artwork, whether it was music, film, visual art, writing. I like the spareness of expression, it always felt close to me. Some of my style came from my punk rock background, where you’re just putting across your ideas without too much ornamentation. You throw it down and move on. Over the years it kind of refined itself, so it’s still simple, but not as haphazard. My two biggest influences when I started making comics again as an adolescent were Matt Groening and Lynda Barry, and you can probably still see their influence in my work. Others that changed my thinking about comics/zinemaking were Jeff Zenick and Jenny Zervakis. From the artworld there was Matisse, Warhol, Duchamp, Basquiat, Keith Haring, Rothko, Hiratsuka. The writing of Kerouac was a huge thing for me. And I feel very influenced by music.

RV: You do a lot of reading about eastern thought, like about Zen masters in Living and Dying in Zazen, and the Eihei Koroku. What are some of the main ideas that you like or think about from this reading?

JP: Well, Zen for me was like finding an old pair of sneakers in your closet… you put them on and it’s such a natural, well worn fit. Zen practice helped clarify a lot of mysterious feelings I had floating around inside me… it’s about learning to appreciate your own life, even the boring or mundane aspects of it. I always felt a kind of mysterious power behind life, and the desire to understand that power was what motivated me as a person and as an artist. I appreciate the seeming simplicity of Zen, its humor, its directness… it’s a lot like punk rock to me. They’re both ways of looking directly at the truth of life, without intermediaries, both ways of learning to live in the world with integrity.

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-copyright Simon Sandall.