In a region that boasts Nobel laureates (Czeslaw Milosz), Pulitzer Prize-winners (Michael Chabon), and a pantheon of lionized literati ranging from Terry McMillan to Maxine Hong Kingston to Ursula K. Le Guin, the competition is as stiff as the steel shaft of a classic fountain pen. And that's not even mentioning the nonfiction icons. Brilliant writers rhapsodize, but Oakland's Dan Clowes merits extra credit because not only does he write like a dream -- his screenplay for Ghost World, coauthored with local filmmaker Terry Zwigoff, was nominated for an Academy Award in 2001 -- he draws like one too. Before creating the quirky-gals comic that made him world-famous, the mainly-self-taught Clowes had been penning his darkly hilarious Eightball series since 1989, making outspoken fans of Matt Groening and Art Spiegelman. Other works such as David Boring and Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron make sleaze endearing and lend dizzying depth to anomie.