Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer: The Beauty Supply District by Ben Katchor (280x225mm)
Like most Pantheon books, this is a handsome object. There’s nothing extraneous here — no introductions by famous authors or anything icky like that.
As much as I love Katchor, there’s precious little development between the previous collection of Julius Knipl strips and this one: It’s still a hypnotic pile-up of weird fancies, page after page.
Katchor’s main technique in these strips is using the captions as continuous narration, while the things that happen in the panels (and the things they say) go in and out of sync with that narration. It’s a storytelling tick that demands that the reader really pay attention: A momentary lapse of attention results in the reader having to re-read the strip to get what happened.
Hey! I’d like to have a bus like that.
As with previous Katchor collections, it took me all day to read this 100 page book. It’s just so… slippery. I mean, I totally adore it, but it’s exhausting to read. I have to take frequent pauses.
The collection ends with a twenty page story. Well, a sort-of story — there’s a lot of characters and stuff going on, and the narrative wafts and weaves in strange ways.
It was nominated for two Eisner awards.
This more contemporary setting for the dreamlike metropolis also features more a lot more women than previously seen in Katchor’s work, but as they’re all wives or girlfriends there’s still no chance of any Bechdellian exchanges.
And therein may lie these comics’ genius: In shading his absurdly imagined present with a fondly recalled past, Katchor gives his eccentric Gotham an unexpected substance, a taste of humanity that lingers long after that last panel and makes the Beauty Supply District a place to visit again and again.
This blog post is part of the Punk Comix series.