The four-year collection of a visionary polymath’s cartoons about urban living.
These delicately constructed, one-page epics originally appeared between 2008 and 2012 as the back page of contemporary design magazine Metropolis. As written and crafted by Katchor (The Cardboard Valise, 2011, etc.), these “picture-stories” are funnier, more interesting and more focused than some of the artist’s other graphic novels. Some of the most imaginative stories involve buildings with peculiar characteristics—the shoe-fitting bench in “The Symbolic Building,” or “The Souvenir Museum,” where a single souvenir is offered for sale in the gift shop. The drawings are spare, and the humor is arid, particularly in the stories about architecture and the way we engage with urban corridors. In “Behind Sty Center,” a lively row of small businesses is wiped away to the desolate blankness of a visual vacuum. “Three hundred feet from the entrance to a mixed-use entertainment complex, two tourists die of boredom,” Katchor deadpans. Still others delve into the psychological effects that design can effect. “Aisle Lights” laments the wanton use of electricity that stems from our increasing consolation from the warm glow of electric light. “Crowd Control” explores that delicious pleasure that stems from ducking a velvet rope—“The physical expression of our free will,” Katchor’s Everyman dubs it. Many others are simply very funny exercises in satire, such as “Under the Bed,” which illustrates the old urban legend about the famine of rental space in our metropolises. Sure, the subject matter can be a little dry, particularly for those who don’t harbor a secret passion for urban planning and product utility.
Katchor’s wry humor and unique view on the subject are well worth exploring.