John Hill

Writer; Editor; Designer / United States /

John Hill’s Notable Books of 2013

1 book
Ben Katchor

A highlight of Metropolis magazine since 1998 has been Ben Katchor’s comic strips that grace the monthly’s back page. The funny and nostalgic stories describe our multifaceted relationships with the world of design, be it the implements we wield, the spaces we inhabit, or the cities we move through. The broad range of subjects parallels the concerns of Metropolis itself, making the relationship between the magazine and illustrator a fitting one.

This book collects 15 years worth of strips that capture Katchor’s amazing consistency in churning out pieces that draw us into a parallel world that resembles New York City but is made up of oddly named places and even odder characters. The strips also trace the magazine’s evolution over the same period, most overtly in “The Tragic History of the Oversized Magazines,” which takes up a two-page spread roughly in the center of the book (newer readers may not know it, but Metropolis used to be an impressive, tabloid-sized magazine), and in the way the comics change in size from beginning to end.

Without an introductory or any other essay to be found, the collection lets the strips stand on their own. And they do so extremely well, even though on repeated readings (in order or jumping around) most of the strips do reveal a structural and narrative logic. But to imbibe, in one place, stories about the design of a “new building ruined by the sound of the common wall light switch" and “boys wielding cheap bristle brushes and pails of 14-karat gold paint” roaming the streets to fulfill their “decorative impulse” on surfaces of neutral color, among many other memorable strips, is one of the greatest treats of 2013.

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