Thursday, May 29, 2014

Music and John

I had the pleasure of chatting with Doug from Built to Spill at his show in Wilmington, DE recently. Doug's a comics guy, and we always have a nice chat about that. I told him about the documentary and -- without missing a beat he said -- 'I love that guy! We played a show with him back on our first tour!'

Doug went on to say that he remembers John as being super friendly and that he sold comics at the show which were really good. Anyway, kind of neat the way the universe works. I looked it up and, yes indeedy, on Built to Spill's first tour in '94, they played the Club 156 on the CU Boulder campus for $5 with Felt Pilotes opening up.

I then remembered this gem. I love Luna, and when I lived in Denver in the 90's, I'd see this poster for sale from a '95 show at the Fox. I didn't know John P. of King Cat was in Felt Pilotes, I just liked that the opener was seemingly named after a pen (not true).  I really regret not buying it now.

I also dug up an article about FP opening up for Guided by Voices on their swing through CO in 1995 as well. Kind of neat!

I bring this up because dealing with John P. and King-Cat is one thing, but man, the music thing is another. He was in many great and legitimate bands. Smile, FP, T.A.C. -- bands that played lots of shows, toured, put out records -- the whole deal. It's a little hard figuring out incorporating some of that into the doc, outside of peripherally.

But I'll get there!

In the meantime, here's a clip I'm trying to get Paul Westerberg's manager to let me use for free. I think I can post it here without pissing anyone off, but Darren, let me know if you want me to pull it for now.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Black Squirrel

While driving around the Moon Lake subdivision in Hoffman Estates with John, we created this gem of a clip. 

We were driving by the house he grew up in from 1979-86, so if you love Perfect Example, October, or any of his other middle/high school stories, this is the neighborhood for you. 

This clip sums up many of my favorite things about John. In pointing out the deck his dad built (which I'm sure both father and son have some pride about), he gets super excited upon seeing a black squirrel. After the squirrel interlude, he answers a question asked an hour earlier. The line that gets me is, 'I can't think I've ever seen a black squirrel….'. It's hard to describe, so I'll just let you watch what I think is a really funny and touching clip which won't make it into the final project. 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

A King Cat review thirteen years later

I've been obsessively reading and re-reading King-Cat related stuff of late, and I just have to share my opinion about the 'best' issue of King Cat. Let's not say best. Let's say, the issue that I've read the most times, and the issue which always brings tears to my eyes and a smile to my face.

Back in January of 2001, ole John P. put out the incredible King Cat Comics and Stories #58 for the extremely fair price of $2. It was the middle of winter in Elgin. John was living at 212 N. Melrose in the Sears model home he'd purchased in 1998 (and which he would leave in 2002). Maisie K. indubitably curled up nearby while John wrote and drew the stories that would make up this issue.

King Cat #58 is a strange one, by KC standards. No Catcalls. No Snornose. No Top 40. There's nothing cute about this issue. This one is all heart. 100%. The issue is comprised of five simple (and nearly perfect) elements:

- the cover drawing of a tall bare tree on a sparsely populated hill
- 'An open letter to Dough Mioducki' - John thanks Doug for a letter and check and then describes being sad in one short paragraph
- 'Forgiveness' - a 31-page story about John as a boy getting a sling-shot, killing a bird, and that fact eating him up inside, until he emotionally explodes after accidentally sending the dog into the basement after a ball. This story grips me every time. The secret shame you have as a child when you do something wrong. Without an adult's ability to rationalize, justify, or simply not care, a child can be so susceptible to agony over wrong-doing. This story is gut wrenching every time I read it, and when I asked John about it one time, he told me it was one of the hardest stories he'd ever written, because he still felt that shame about the bird. I believe he said he'd been trying to put out that story for years before he actually did.
- 'Rockford Station' - a 2-page JP classic. This story feels like John closing the door on his first marriage, in a sweet, nostalgic way. The story starts with 'We….' and you expect it to be one person remembering something fondly to another. Then, in panel 6, he says, 'One day I was hungover and I laid my head in her lap'. Not 'your' lap, but 'hers'. The final panel of this story would make up most of the cover to 'Map of My Heart' & on his book tour, John always included this comic. It's really a classic.
- Back page gag panel - two rich ladies walking tiny dogs past a diamond store - one says to the other 'So I said, 'No- You listen to me!'" Just a perfect knee-slapping palate cleanser.

This issue, for me, sums up pretty perfectly why single issue comics exist and are critical. The five elements of King Cat #58 work in a way that they simply don't in a collection. In 'Map of My Heart', 'Forgiveness stands out, because it's such a singular work. But the way it's juxtaposed with the letter to Doug and 'Rockford Station' get lost in the collection, unfortunately.

Unfortunately, this issue is out of print, and while I could find two copies on Amazon, they're priced at $20. Who knew that investing $2 in John P. thirteen years ago would give you a tenfold profit!