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!