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Favorites: “Psalm” by John Porcellino

Craig Fischer gathered together a host of writers to write about one of their favorite comics for a zine called “Favorites.” The zine is 40 pages long and you can get it for $5 from Team Cul de Sac. The proceeds go to research for a cure to Parkinson’s disease.

I wrote for the zine about John Porcellino’s short comics “Psalm” originally from King-Cat #57 (2000) and reprinted in Map of My Heart (Drawn & Quarterly, 2009). Craig asked for 300 word essays, so I, of course, wrote exactly 300 words.

from Psalm by John Porcellino, Map of My Heart p.140

1: John takes a walk. That’s the story. But this 11 page comic is not about story, it’s about the moment. Underneath the title, Porcellino entreats “please Read Slowly,” advice worth taking. You could breeze through these pages, dismiss it as boring or pointless, but that would be missing the point completely. The point is: slow down, boring is just a lack of looking.

2: On “the first warm night of spring”, John leaves his cat at home and goes for a walk along the sidewalks of his neighborhood. Cars pass; he appreciates a tree; the moon is full in the sky. Back at home, he peers in the window at his cat sleeping on the couch. On his doorstep, he looks up at the stars in the sky. The sound of bugs in a bush attract his attention, and he investigates. He looks back at the stars.

When you pay attention, “Psalm” is about more than just a walk. When you don’t simply pass by, but rather take a closer look, the comic is a beautifully simple meditation. Porcellino’s art is stripped down and, like the story, easy to pass over quickly: thin unvarying lines, no tone, no texture, and simplified–often to the the edge of clarity. The art itself mirrors the story, it is a challenge not to overlook, to spend the time to look beneath the surface for pleasures within.

3: Panel: John shows a sly smile. Panel: We see two sides of John’s house simultaneously flattened into the composition; the corner halves the panel. John stands to the left looking in one window where we see his cat asleep on the couch. On the right side of the panel a window shows the sleeping cat at a 90 degree different angle. That image persists with me.