Julius Knipl, the hero of Ben Katchor’s beloved alternative-weekly comic strip, wanders around a transcendental, mournful, poeticized New York City-of-the-imagination. He passes advertisements for products such as "Mortal Coil Mattresses" and "Oblivion Water" (slogan: Forget about it!) and makes introspective and resonant observations that make you (or make me) think: “THIS, THIS is the city I was born to live in!"
With their sketchy-cool style, the comics have an echoic quality, evoking both nostalgia and a longing for transcendence. Mr. Knipl (as Katchor refers to his protagonist) is a boxy-shaped man whose endless peregrinations through an urban setting are themselves a threading of the labyrinth, one that seems 1940s-inflected, and which, in spite of its maze-like complexity, exudes an austerity that is perhaps informed by a post-war imagination. Katchor himself was born in 1951, and, as critic Robert Birnbaum notes, “was raised in Brooklyn by parents who were committed Communists in a Yiddish household. He studied art at Brooklyn College and attended the School of Visual Arts. He was a contributor to Art Spiegelman's legendary 'cutting edge' graphics magazine Raw, and his strips Julius Knipl Real Estate Photographer and The Cardboard Valise have been syndicated in alternative papers and magazines around the United States since 1988.” Birnbaum calls Katchor "the most poetic, deeply layered artist ever to draw a comic strip." Read Julius Knipl—I think you’ll agree.