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Katchor embodies his love of the fading small-business community of New York City in the title character, a downtrodden schlep who wanders the streets taking pictures and being sidetracked into surreal escapades. Strips often depict Knipl's chance encounters with obscure, marginal businesses (e.g. a company that distributes newspaper weights to newsstands), eccentric hobbyists, and enigmatic details of the urban landscape. There is rarely continuity between the strips, and Knipl is the only recurring character.
A collection of Julius Knipl strips was published in 1991 by Penguin Books (as a RAW One-Shot) as Cheap Novelties: The Pleasures of Urban Decay. Another collection was published in 1996 by Little, Brown and Company under the title Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer: Stories. Pantheon Books published a third volume of strips, The Beauty Supply District, in 2000. Each book includes one long story in addition to the self-contained weekly strips. Translated collections of the strip in French and Japanese have also been released.
NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday ran audio versions of several Julius Knipl stories in 1995 and 1996, narrated by Ben Katchor and starring Jerry Stiller as Julius Knipl.
The word knipl means roughly "nest egg" in Yiddish.