Updated weakly.

KING-CAT 74 AVAILABLE NOW! -
Click here for details...


Friday, April 30, 2010

2010 SPRING TOUR DIARY: Part Two

From March 9 through April 8, 2010, I toured the Southeast US, doing booksignings, slideshows, school talks, and visiting comics shops and bookstores. It was great trip, maybe the best roadtrip I've ever taken! For what it's worth, here are some photos and recollections of my time on the road.

John P.
Click here for Part One...

* * *

PART 2: CHICAGO TO CAIRO, ILLINOIS

After a week and a half in the Chicagoland area, spent filming for the movie, and searching for Monster Comics in local comics shops (Top Cow/Yesterday Is Today-Love's Park, Capital City-Madison, Westfield-Madison, AK Comics-Beloit, Dreamland-Schaumburg, Chicago Comics), it was time to head back out on the road.  My mom convinced me to leave a day early, to avoid a coming Winter Storm.  The plan was to drive down to Memphis, and then to Nashville, where I'd meet up with Dan, and we'd do the rest of the tour together.  I was pretty excited, cuz I'd never been to Memphis, and only to Nashville once, when I was a kid, and didn't know yet that country music was so awesome!

The other exciting thing about this leg of the trip was that I planned to make pilgrimages to two of the most intriguing Illinois cities: Metropolis, and Cairo.  Both are located at the very southern tip of the state, and as an Illinoisian who loved maps, I spent a lot of time as a kid staring at them in the atlas and wondering what they were like.  Now, for the first time, I was going to find out!


Heading back out on the road.


Outside El Paso, Illinois.


This is either heading into Bloomington-Normal (home of the great Acme Comics) or Champaign-Urbana.  Kinda looks like Champaign, where I failed to find any Monster Comics...


Recorded outside Pesotum, Illinois, on I-57 Southbound;
March 19, 2010.


I arrived in Metropolis around one in the morning, and made my way to the center of town, to find the Superman Statue.  Metropolis has made a name for itself as the home of Superman Kitsch, and this 30 foot illuminated statue of the Man of Steel presides over the courthouse square!



On the corner across from the statue is the Superman Museum, home of the Largest Collection of Superman Memorabilia in the World.  Of course it was two in the morning, and I couldn't take the time to wait for it to open, so I just looked through the windows and wondered if they had any Monster Comics in there.  And I took a ton of pictures of this amazing, hand-painted wooden comics sign that was up on the wall:















The night is always darkest...


...before... the dawn?


After paying my respects to the Man of Steel, I drove across the bridge into Paducah, Kentucky and slept in the car at a rest area.  In the morning I drove into town, and found the Local Comics Shop.  It didn't open for two hours though, so I couldn't wait.  I walked around town a bit, along the water, and then headed back up into Illinois, to find Cairo.






The Ohio River at Paducah, looking across to Illinois.





Recorded off Illinois State Route 37, north of Mound City;
March 20, 2010.



Southern Illinois is an interesting place, because although people don't usually think of it that way, it really is the South:  Cairo, for instance, is farther south geographically than Richmond, Virginia.  And it really feels different down there.  I approached the city, wondering what it would be like.  I had no idea that I was going to find what I did:  Cairo was almost almost entirely blighted, and literally crumbling before my eyes...




Some of the few functioning businesses in Cairo.


Abandoned buildings.




Pretty much says it all...






"That mockingbird'll sing...  the saddest kind of song..."




Yes, that is a few inches of broken plate glass covering the sidewalk.


Another one of the only functioning businesses.  It was only 8 AM or I would've stopped in.




And then, across from Shemwell's, was a ray of hope...  A huge building that was being cleaned up, housing a business called Ace of Cups, containing an organic coffeehouse, used bookstore, art gallery, and community space.  It was amazing...  what was a place like this doing in a town like Cairo?  (Ed. note:  a few days later, I would find out...)


I peered in the windows.  They didn't open till ten, and I had a long drive ahead of me to Memphis, where every second would count, so I pushed a copy of King-Cat though the mailslot, with a note, and got back in the car.

As I drove away, I kept wondering about this place.  It was obviously a real-deal DIY space-- a couple vans in front meant that touring bands came through.  I always dreamed about getting some of my friends and moving someplace dirt cheap and creating a new world.  It looked like someone had done just that in Cairo.


Yep.






* * *


Cairo is located at the massive confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.  I drove back and forth across the vast two-lane bridges a few times, trying to capture the sense of just how much water there is down there...










And then into Missouri again, and Arkansas...

NEXT TIME: Memphis.

* * *







Tuesday, April 27, 2010

2010 SPRING TOUR DIARY: Part One

From March 9 through April 8, 2010, I toured the Southeast US, doing booksignings, slideshows, school talks, and visiting comics shops and bookstores. It was great trip, maybe the best roadtrip I've ever taken! For what it's worth, here are some photos and recollections of my time on the road.

John P.

* * *

PART 1: DENVER TO CHICAGO; ELGIN.

Mile Zero. (Photo by Misun Oh)


Monday March 9, 2010:  Forty miles down I-70 I was already bored, so I started playing this game called "What Percentage of This Trip Have I Completed?" The answer was .005% which didn't make me feel much better. What DID make me feel better was my Pepsi Throwback™, made with Real Cane Sugar. One can can do wonders for a guy who rarely has any caffeine, and even more rarely has sugar. Threw on some Replacements and I was good to go.


A terrible picture of Pablo and I.  He really is that tall!

I was trying to get to Saint Louis as fast as I could, to meet my penpal, the great Argentinian cartoonist Kioskerman (Pablo Holmberg), who happened to be in the US interviewing for a job.

We met up at Kevin's house out in the suburbs. It's always a thrill to meet somone in person who you've been corresponding with for a long time. Sometimes you just slide right into the new phase of the friendship like nothing-- all those letters and emails have paved the way. That's how it felt to meet him. We sat around and talked about Jack Kirby, and Argentina, while Kevin demonstrated his newfound obsession with Google Earth.

Pablo's first book in English, the amazing Eden, is coming out this year from Drawn & Quarterly!


Mr. KH; that's Google Earth in the background.


Comics Symposium of Chicago Panel -- School of the Art Institute of Chicago


Eloise is happy!


The beautiful ballroom where the SAIC Comics Symposium was held.


As any Kirby fan knows: You can't go wrong with a giant red dinosaur;  Millenium Park, Chicago.


Millenium Park at night.


First time I saw "The Bean"-- and ya know what?  Not half bad.


More Chicago Lights.


Reading at Quimby's, the night before Zine Fest.


Sat. March 13: First Annual Chicago Zine Fest; Columbia College.


I was surprised and delighted to see Tugboat's Greg Means there!  With Nate Beaty.


Awesome turnout!


JP at CZF.


Two great Chicago cartoonists: Laura Park and Lilli Carré.


Chicago, Cold Night; Recorded Sat. 3/13, round about midnight.


We spent a lotta time running around the city, filming stuff for the King-Cat movie.  This is the house I lived in from 1970-1979, at Foster and Austin, on the Northwest Side.


The alley behind my old house.  No wonder I'm a nervous wreck.


This old fencepost is the only remaining physical remnant of my earliest memory.  When we moved in, the yard had an old wire fence, painted black, strung between these concrete fenceposts (also painted black).  We borrowed our neighbor Ed's sledge hammer and tore it down, replacing it with a shiny new silver chainlink fence.  The old scrap fence sat piled in our backyard for a week or so, waiting for the city to come and take it away.  I'd climb up onto the rolled up fence, and look down through the endless wires, into infinity.  It was the first time I realized there was more to this world than what we typically understand.


It still exists!  Mr. Moberg's Gnome Cave (see King-Cat #54 or Map of My Heart). 


Best pizza place in Chicago.  Wanna buy it?  :(


St. Constance Catholic Church, on Strong Street, where I attended Mass and went to school as a kid.


St. Constance School.  Top floor left is my fourth grade classroom; bottom floor right is my first grade classroom.


The school parking lot and Gymnasium.  We used to play "500" off that huge wall during recess.


We took a trip out to Elgin too, to my favorite place on Earth: Burnidge Woods.  There's something about this place that just puts me at ease.  We must have harmonious energy or something.  When I lived in Elgin, I spent as much time out here as I could.  It was the only place I ever felt relaxed.




Big Lake at Burnidge Woods.


Muskrat Pond.




I used to sit under this tree and compose poems.  (See King-Cat 67)






Spring Peepers, Burnidge Woods, Elgin.  3/18/10.


Off Route 25 in Elgin: You can't really read this amazing neon sign in the daylight, but it says "America's Society of Separated and Divorced Men."  Sign me up, hombre.

NEXT TIME: Chicago to Cairo!


(Click here for Part Two)