Seeking Solace at the Symmetry Shop (An Appreciation of Ben Katchor)

Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer: The Beauty Supply District
Pantheon Books, 2000

The Jew of New York
Pantheon Books, 1998

The central joke in "The Beauty Supply District" is neatly summed up by this gem from Carol Lay‘s old Frequently Asked Questions page:

Q: Where do you get your ideas?
A: I buy them in enormous rolls from Hammacher Schlemmer.

The Beauty Supply District—another picturesque corner of Ben Katchor's New York-like city—is a little warren of shops where art and design ideas are sold over the counter. Towering geniuses of the art world make furtive visits to punch up their paintings, atonal compositions, and what have you. Commercial manufacturers stride in with less trepidation, aiming to put a new gloss on their line of olive products.

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Advice for Writers: Write What You Know (Because Learning Something New Would be TERRIBLE.)

“Write What You Know” is probably the most common advice writers receive, so much so that it is accepted wisdom; and yet this is quite possibly the worst advice ever given to a writer.  Here is what I understand this advice to mean: writers should be lazy and ignorant, and we should never, ever challenge ourselves to try to understand people who aren’t ourselves.

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Advice for Writers: Write Every Day. Or Don’t. Either Way, Really.

One of the standard bits of advice that gets trotted out for writers, whether in writing workshops, or seminars, or just at author Q&As, in response to the inevitable “what advice would you give a young writer” question is this: write very day.  Set aside a particular block of time each day, during which you will write.  Even if you have no ideas, you will write.  Even if every sentence you type is worse than the last, you will write.  Treat it like it’s your job, because it is, and if you give into letting yourself off the hook because you don’t have an idea one day, you will inevitably do the same the next, and the day after that, and so on, ad infinitum.

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Updates from the World O’ Webcomics

Thanks to our current sponsors: the webcomic Please Rewind, and the Learn to Draw the Human Figure video series.  More sponsorships available – CHEAP! 

The June issue continues here at ComixTalk: an Interview with the creator of SPQR Blues — Carol "Klio" Burrell; an interview with Faith Erin Hicks who just won the Joe Shuster award for Canada's Favorite Comic Book Creator, an interview with Dylan Meconis, the creator of Family Man; and Dr. Haus reviews Gun Baby.

Digital Strips blogs about the release of Jerry Stephens' new webcomic management system – BitArtist.  If anyone gets a chance to test this out please let us know what you think of it.

Howard Tayler's podcast Writing Excuses covers plot twists.

Jim Zub has written a story for  the Pop Gun 2 anthology with artwork by Chris Stevens.  It looks awesome!

Could it be?  Is Caleb coming back to webcomics?

Funny — Webcomic Warrior Action Figures!

Lots of superhero movie casting rumors at Blog@Newsarama including this interesting bit that Robert Downey Jr. is in negotiations to star in DreamWorks/Universal’s Cowboys & Aliens, based on the Platinum Studios graphic novel by by Fred Van Lente and Andrew Foley, from an idea by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg.

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Evan Dham has finished his webcomic novel Rice Boy.


Rob Clough does short reviews of a whole bunch of webcomics over at Sequart.

Mr Myth talks up Chainmail Bikini and Darths and Droids.


Neil Gaiman points out some trademarks issues and links to recent comics-related issues.


Microsoft has Steve Niles, Dr. Revolt; Kime Buzzelli; and Gary Panter working on a graphic novel for the Zune called The Lost Ones.  Wow… I guess Microsoft tries a lot of things but turning the Zune into a comics reader is surpising to me. (h/t Journalista!)


Jason Boog collects links to advice on how to promote your writing which seems pretty applicable to comics.

Shannon Wheeler (Too Much Coffee Man) also throws out some self-promotion ideas he’s considering.

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There’s No Such Thing As Writer’s Block

Years ago I was looking at how much cartooning — writing, pencilling, inking, and coloring — was required to keep Schlock Mercenary going each day, and I asked myself how I could possibly be doing it. Because without knowing how, I WAS doing it. And while thinking along these lines I began to wonder whether discovering how it was done would have some sort of quasi-quantum effect, wherein I find that I can either know how its done, or do it, but not both.

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Breathing Life into Your Characters

Don't let your characters fall flat! Making 2-dimensional characters 3-dimensional.

Characterization is one of those bugaboos of writing that is especially easy to overlook on a comics project where the majority of time and effort is usually spent designing visual elements. In prose, it's hard to sell a reader on a poorly developed character. By its very nature, prose takes us into the mind of a character very quickly. In comics, it's far easier to end up with a character who is all visual flash, and not even realize it until the project has hit the shelves. How many mangas have you read featuring the adventures of a quietly sweet, inoffensive girl, with such varied interests as snacking and being nice to freshmen? Or American comics about tough, brooding anti-heros? Stop me if you've heard the one about the Silent But Deadly Warrior Woman with a Tragic Past(TM) and a penchant for wandering around her apartment in Victoria's Secret undergarments.

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Jim Zubkavich Posting Art Again

Jim Zubkavich, original Comixpedia columnist and creator of early popular and praised webcomic, Makeshift Miracle, is posting art again on his live journal.

Jim has updated a list of his writings on comics — in addition to his earlier writing for Comixpedia, he's been writing recently for Newsarama. His latest column at Newsarama is on social skills and networking in the comics industry.

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