Page 45 Review by Jonathan
Powerful, oh my...
"As the days passed by, despite my condition, things began to take on a startling clarity.
"The whole world seemed to be glowing...
"The trees, the squirrels, the grass, the curbs on the corner.
"And I realised I wasn't afraid to die."
I was moved to tears at several points reading this autobiographical tale of ill-health, physical and mental, and also marital breakdown from the creative genius behind KING-CAT COMICS. (Long-time Page 45 review readers will know it goes without saying, but I was on the tram at the time, of course...)
John Porcellino lays himself bare and simply takes us on his journey. You can't help but feel such empathy for him reading this as he is put through the wringer by a long-undiagnosed medical condition.
He does a fantastic job of gradually self-diagnosing the root of his problem over time, when myriad healthcare professionals seem at a complete loss, but there is extreme punishment to endure along the way as his body and mind play havoc with him, with chronically painful episodes requiring surgical intervention and crippling, recurring bouts of OCD that paralyse him completely. It's testament to his ever-evolving Zen Buddhist faith that he has the indomitable will to carry on, where others would perhaps simply give in.
Yes, there are dark days, some very dark days, but once you have glimpsed the true nature of reality, touched it directly as happened to John during some of his physically weakest moments, as the line between life and death began to blur slightly, as he describes above, it gives you an inner strength to endure, and endure he does. There are some experiential aspects of faith it is impossible to put into words, they are by their very nature beyond words and ineffable, but John does a wonderful job of expressing the profound joy and deep serenity they bring. As a balm to the suffering, they are like no other.
Ultimately this is a work about transformation and perseverance. Positive change in one's circumstances, of any sort, inward or indeed outward, can't come without hard work. Also, you do need a lot of it to become one of the best autobiographical comics creators of your generation - of any generation - which John most certainly is. With a body of work stretching over decades that's ultimately uplifting and illuminating in equal measure, he's a genuine treasure. A triple treasure perhaps. (Sorry, a little Zen in-joke I couldn't resist.)
I wish him continued good health and all the happiness in the world. Keep shining your light, Jon.