June 12, 2008
Comic book strip draws on historical New York
(Page 2 - Previous Page)Homesickness is an ongoing theme in the Knipl series. "Every week, in the eight panels of a new installment of 'Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer,' Katchor manages to teleport the reader to a particular urban past -- a rumbling, lunar cityscape of brick and wire that was young and raucous in the heyday of the Yellow Kid," Michael Chabon wrote in the introduction to "Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer: Stories" (Little, Brown and Company, 1996.) A sequel, "Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer: The Beauty Supply District," was published by Pantheon Books in 2000.
Katchor said he doesn't think there is a message to his comics -- just a model that people can contemplate. "It should send you back into the world looking at the world in some more subtle way," he said. "It's a lesson in how to look at the world."
Where cartoon characters and comics were once mostly relegated to a side note, now the genre is hot -- with Hollywood bombarding the summer Comic-Con festival in San Diego to turn superheroes into complex characters like Spider-man and Iron Man, and book editors clamoring for the next big graphic novel to follow the success of "Persepolis," an Iranian girl's memoir that became an Oscar-nominated film.
But Katchor is nonplussed by the notion of the graphic novel. "Publishers understand how to sell novels, so they promote the idea of a long-form comic strip," he said. But he said he has no plans to write a long-form book (although one of his strips, "The Evening Combinator," continues for 17 pages). "My interest is in the short form. Most long comics are boring -- I think they are just too long," he said. "The power of comics is in their concision.
"It's not a daily newspaper strip; it's not that kind of simple thing."
Ben Katchor will appear on the panel, "Larger Than Life: Romancing the Lower East Side" on Sunday, June 29, at 2:45 p.m. as part of the Nextbook Los Angeles Festival of Ideas at UCLA. The festival on June 29 will run from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. For further information, call the UCLA box office at (310) 825-2101 or visit http://www.nextbook.org/festivals/la2008.html.
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