John Porcellino, one of the forerunners of DIY mini-comics, has been writing and drawing comics for more than 25 years. His drawing is sparse but beautiful; he says a lot with very few lines. His stories are short, minimalist, poetic, and usually auto-biographical. He focuses on quiet, intimate moments of everyday life. Following his comics over the years is a way of bearing witness to his ups and downs as he reveals them — his childhood, his low-paying jobs, his health problems, his failed romances, his interest in Buddhism, his cats. This list of subjects may sound gloomy, but Porcellino's work is life-affirming and affecting. He's just released his 76th issue of King-Cat, which I got in the mail the other day. I recommend reading any of his work you can get your hands on — start with an inexpensive mini-comic or dive in the deep end with the collection Map of My Heart, which serves as sort of a greatest hits compilation for King-Cat's first twenty years.
As much as I love the gorgeous voices of artists like Karin Bergquist, Al Green, Billie Holliday, Julia Stone, Freddie Mercury, or Adele, I often find I have a preference for singing voices that aren't conventionally beautiful, like those of Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Mick Jagger, Howlin' Wolf, Bruce Springsteen, and the like. David Byrne, himself more of a yelper than a crooner, has a theory that a less beautiful voice sounds more honest and is easier for the listener to believe. (I've got a copy of Byrne's book How Music Works, but it's still on my long and ever-increasing to-read list.) I've been listening this past week to some Matthew Ryan. His pained, straining, haunted voice would speak volumes even if you couldn't make out the words. Aching and honest. The pop world can keep its fame-chasers who Auto-Tune their vocals in an attempt to sound prettier-voiced than they are; I'll take the rumble of Howlin' Wolf's "Smokestack Lightning", the growl of Bob Dylan's "Things Have Changed", and the rasp of Matthew Ryan's "Then She Threw Me Like a Hand Grenade".
Alan Moore, writer of such seminal comics as Watchmen, From Hell, and V for Vendetta, received a letter from a young fan and replied with a generous letter of his own. Moore is considered by many to be a grumpy old man (he's upset about having been screwed over by DC Comics, the publisher of most of his work, and some people have no empathy for him because he signed the contracts in the first place), so it's a treat to see again the kinder side of Moore, and it makes me wish all the more he had no additional reason to be bitter than the rest of us. (Something I found unintentionally funny about Moore's letter: he starts the lengthy letter by apologizing for its brevity. Moore is famous for writing extremely long descriptions for each panel of the comics he'd write... so maybe for Moore, his letter is short.)
My science fiction comic Flesh Machine continues in free, weekly installments at MichaelAvolio.com. We're nearing the end of act two (of five). I'm encouraged by the recent increase in readership. Thank you for reading, and remember that you can get involved by sharing it with your friends and by supporting my comics work via Patreon. (Porcellino is on Patreon as well, incidentally — I support him and encourage you to as well.)