Peter Kuper's illustrations and comics have appeared in magazines around the world including Time, The New York Times and MAD where he has written and illustrated SPY vs. SPY every issue since 1997. He is the co-founder of World War 3 Illustrated a political comix magazine and has remained on its editorial board since 1979.
He has produced over two dozen books including The System, Stop Forgetting To Remember, Speechless and Sticks and Stones, which won The Society of Illustrators' gold medal.
Peter has also adapted Upton Sinclair's The Jungle and many of Franz Kafka's works into comics including The Metamorphosis, which is used in high school and college curriculums in the US and abroad.
Peter lived in Oaxaca, Mexico from July 2006-2008 during a major teachers' strike and his work from that time can be seen in can be seen in his book Diario de Oaxaca, published by PM Press along with DrawnTo New York an illustrated chronicle of his three decades in New York City.
He has been teaching comics courses at The School of Visual Arts for 25 years and is a visiting professor at Harvard University.
Peter Kuper: The Wall predicts Trumps plans in 90s cartoon
Diario de Oaxaca: A Sketchbook Journal of Two Years in Mexico Author: Peter Kuper • Introduction by Martín Solares Publisher: PM Press ISBN: 978-1-62963-441-8 Published: 09/2017 Format: Paperback Size: 9.125x6.5 Page count: 240 Subjects: Art-Illustration / Latin America $24.95
Painting a vivid, personal portrait of social and political upheaval in Oaxaca, Mexico, this unique memoir employs comics, bilingual essays, photos, and sketches to chronicle the events that unfolded around a teachers’ strike and led to a seven-month siege.
When award-winning cartoonist Peter Kuper and his wife and daughter moved to the beautiful 16th century colonial town of Oaxaca in 2006, they planned to spend a quiet year or two enjoying a different culture and taking a break from the U.S. political climate under the Bush administration. What they hadn’t counted on was landing in the epicenter of Mexico’s biggest political struggle in recent years. Timely and compelling, this extraordinary firsthand account presents a distinct artistic vision of Oaxacan life, from explorations of the beauty of the environment to graphic portrayals of the fight between strikers and government troops that left more than 20 people dead, including American journalist Brad Will.
“Kuper is a colossus; I have been in awe of him for over 20 years. Teachers and students everywhere take heart: Kuper has in these pages borne witness to our seemingly endless struggle to educate and to be educated in the face of institutions that really don’t give a damn. In this ruined age we need Kuper’s unsparing compassionate visionary artistry like we need hope.” —Junot Díaz, Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
“An artist at the top of his form.” —Publisher’s Weekly
"Kuper shows drawings from the sketchbook he kept during a two-year stint in Oaxaca. His attempt to escape the last years of the Bush Administration led him to relocate to a town that turned out to be under martial law, in an area plagued by riptides, ecotourists, and stray dogs, all faithfully—and hilariously—documented here." —New Yorker
The System Author: Peter Kuper • Introduction by Calvin Reid Publisher: PM Press ISBN: 978-1-60486-811-1 Published: 05/14 Format: Hardcover Size: 11 x 7 Page Count: 112 Subjects: Graphic Novel/Politics/Art-Illustration $19.95
Actions speak louder than words.
It’s said that the flutter of insect wings in the Indian Ocean can send a hurricane crashing against the shores of the American Northeast. It’s this premise that lies at the core of The System, a wordless graphic novel created and fully painted by award-winning illustrator Peter Kuper. From the subway system to the solar system, human lives are linked by an endless array of interconnecting threads. They tie each of us to our world and it to the universe. If every action has an equal and opposite reaction, get ready to run for cover!
A sleazy stockbroker is lining his pockets. A corrupt cop is shaking down drug dealers. A mercenary bomber is setting the timer. A serial killer is stalking strippers. A political scandal is about to explode. The planet is burning. And nobody’s talking.
Told without captions or dialogue, The System is an astonishing progression of vivid imagery, each brilliantly executed panel containing a wealth of information, with layer upon layer forming a vast and intricate tour of an ominous world of coincidences and consequences.
"Cartooning is an art that can be universally recognized and appreciated. The purest of this form is the wordless comic, where the cartoonist creates a strictly visual language. If done properly, it is capable of displaying a range of ideas and emotions that people all over the world are able to understand. It is comparable to the early days of silent films when actors like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton only had gestures and facial expressions to tell their stories and convey complex feelings. Pantomime cartooning shares this limitation, yet the challenges are even greater. Not only are there no words to lean on, but there is also no movement. Every action and emotion in the story has to be conveyed through static images alone. Over the years there have been a few geniuses in this specialized art form. One of them is Peter Kuper. Long may his pencil, pen and brush silently flow." —Al Jaffee, Legendary Mad cartoonist
“Kuper’s brilliant visual novel, much like Fritz Lang, creates a comic noir of corruption and innocence in a city where the devil is always in the details.“ —Sue Coe, artist and author of Dead Meat
“A dark, dense, subtle portrait of the intricate continuum of urban life—and death—done in such bold strokes and shapes that you will never see the city in the same way again.“ —Kirkpatrick Sale, author of After Eden: The Evolution of Human Domination
“Though it has no word balloons or thought bubbles, The System is filled with so much urban clatter, you’ll want to seal your windows shut. Kuper uses his trademark spray-paint/stencil art to send us careening through a kinetic New York landscape, jump-cutting from a crooked cop to a stripper, panning from a homeless guy to a cell-phone yuppie. The star of the story is the dark city itself, and the point is how money ties all its occupants—whether they know it or not—together.“ —Gavin Edwards, Details
“Like a slow-motion footage of a .45 slug drifting through a gun barrel, Peter Kuper’s The System gives urban tragedy an almost graceful inevitability. The System intertwines the lives of several instantly identifiable New York City archetypes (drunken subway motormen and drug-dealing beat cops) into a dreamily suspenseful tale of corruption and ambition. Somehow Kuper orchestrates this Robert Altman-esque black comedy without any dialogue, utilizing his signature color-stencil-art style to depict a class-conscious saga superior in depth and emotion to a year’s stockpile of the New York Post.“ —Robert Morales, Vibe
“This is our world, folks, as it exists right now, teetering on the brink of something we can’t quite imagine, laid out by Peter Kuper as a flow chart of parallels and coincidences and connecting fibers so powerful and occult that a pin dropped in a back street creates shock waves that make skyscrapers tremble. The System is a silent epic in the tradition of Fritz Lang’s Dr. Mabuse and Lynd Ward’s Gods’ Man—paranoid, yes, and with good reason. —Luc Sante, author, Low Life
World War 3 Illustrated: 1979–2014 Editors: Peter Kuper and Seth Tobocman • Introduction by Bill Ayers Publisher: PM Press ISBN: 978-1-60486-958-3 Published: 05/14 Format: Hardcover Size: 10 x 8 Page Count: 320 Subjects: Art/Politics/Illustration $29.95
Founded in 1979 by Seth Tobocman and Peter Kuper, World War 3 Illustrated is a labor of love run by a collective of artists (both first-timers and established professionals) and political activists working with the unified goal of creating a home for political comics, graphics, and stirring personal stories. Their confrontational comics shine a little reality on the fantasy world of the American kleptocracy, and have inspired the developing popularity and recognition of comics as a respected art form.
This full-color retrospective exhibition is arranged thematically, including housing rights, feminism, environmental issues, religion, police brutality, globalization, and depictions of conflicts from the Middle East to the Midwest. World War 3 Illustrated isn’t about a war that may happen; it’s about the ongoing wars being waged around the world and on our very own doorsteps. World War 3 Illustrated also illuminates the war we wage on each other—and sometimes the one taking place in our own minds. World War 3 artists have been covering the topics that matter for over 30 years, and they’re just getting warmed up.
Contributors include Sue Coe, Eric Drooker, Fly, Sandy Jimenez, Sabrina Jones, Peter Kuper, Mac McGill, Kevin Pyle, Spain Rodriguez, Nicole Schulman, Seth Tobocman, Susan Willmarth, and dozens more.
“World War 3 Illustrated is the real thing. . . . As always it mixes newcomers and veterans, emphasizes content over style (but has plenty of style), keeps that content accessible and critical, and pays its printers and distributors but no one else. If it had nothing more than that kind of dedication to recommend it, it would be invaluable. But it has much, much more.“ —New York Times
“Reading WW3 is both a cleansing and an enraging experience. The graphics remind us how very serious the problems and how vile the institutions that cause them really are.“ —Utne Reader
“Powerful graphic art and comic strips from the engaged and enraged pens of urban artists. The subjects include poverty, war, homelessness and drugs; it’s a poke in the eye from the dark side of America, tempered by what the artists describe as their ’oppositional optimism.’“ —Whole Earth Review
“This is art—not marketing—on the newsstand. It represents the sort of creativity too rarely given an outlet in comics. It’s the best and longest running alternative comics anthology around.“ —Comics Journal
“The artists of World War 3 have forged a space by turns harsh and exciting, honest and rowdy, boisterous and straight-forward, always powered by the wild and unruly harmonies of love. It’s a space where hope and history rhyme, where joy and justice meet. Their voices provoke and soothe and energize. I want to hear more.“ —Bill Ayers, founder of the Weather Underground
Drawn to New York: An Illustrated Chronicle of Three Decades in New York City Author: Peter Kuper with an Introduction by Eric Drooker Publisher: PM Press ISBN: 978-1-60486-722-0 Published: May 2013 Format: Hardcover Size: 10.5 by 8 Page count: 208 Pages Subjects: Art-Illustration, History-New York City, Regional-New York City $29.95
A declaration of love to Peter Kuper’s adoptive city, where he has lived since 1977, this diary is a vibrant survey of New York City’s history. Kuper’s illustrations depict a climb to the top of the Brooklyn Bridge, the homeless living in Times Square, roller skaters in Central Park, the impact of September 11, the luxury of Wall Street, street musicians, and other scenes unique to the city. With comics, illustrations, and sketches, this work of art portrays everything from the low life to the high energy that has long made people from around the world flock to the Big Apple.
Drawn to New York is a reflection of one artist's thirty-four years on twelve miles of island with eight million people in a city whose story is ever being written.
"Kuper is extraordinary, a one-of-a-kind talent, and like the city it chronicles, Drawn to New York is beautiful, mutinous, kaleidoscopic, and essential." —Junot Díaz, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
“Peter Kuper is undoubtedly the modern master whose work has refined the socially relevant comic to the highest point yet achieved.” —Newsarama
"One of the strongest and truest radical voices to emerge from contemporary America." —Alan Moore, author of Watchmen and V for Vendetta
"As a cartoonist and graphic novelist, Kuper's art reflects the sequential grid that is Manhattan. Each window tells a story, and the rows of squares and infinite right angles form a map of one man's journey through the modern labyrinth. When viewed as a whole, Kuper's concrete visions of New York amount to an epic love poem." —Eric Drooker
"The island of skyscrapers, the Mecca of cities, and well-known capital of the world, is the backdrop of this colorful odyssey of Peter Kuper and marks a triumph in his already successful career. Drawn to New York is a perfect choice while listening to 'New York, New York,' though not played by Sinatra." —Rolling Stone (Mexico)
Peter Kuper is one of the great cartoonists and any book by him is a treat. In this case, you have a highly creative individual out and about for two years in a most stimulating environment, Mexico, specifically in Oaxaca. What could be better than his sketchbook journal of his two years there? The paperback version of his “Diario de Oaxaca” recently came out from PM Press.
Kuper follows his heart and stream of thought to deliver page after page of enchanting work. He has a special multi-colored pencil that he uses. The lead in the pencil is made up of various colors. That allows much greater spontaneity as he can instantly shift the pencil to get a different color and then another and so on. He seems to have most fun with creating work that has that look of being on the fly–but can also be a mix of a long day, or night, of contemplation...
Diario de Oaxaca: A Review By Hans Rollman popMatters October 13th, 2017
Diario de Oaxaca isn’t just about the strike; it’s an eclectic and inspired collection of drawings and reminiscences of the author’s two years in Oaxaca. There’s a lot packed into the period, and yet one gets the sense that even this wide-ranging collection barely pierces the surface. From monarch butterflies and endangered tortoises, to Mesoamerican ruins, to the varieties of stray street dogs and the inspired art of a radish festival, Kuper offers the reader something more than just a sketchbook or graphic travelogue. It’s an impressionistic invitation to Oaxaca: a tantalizing sampling of the rich diversity the place has to offer. While acknowledging the violence that sometimes erupts in the place (as it does everywhere, including Kuper’s home country north of the border), he writes powerfully against the mainstream press’ depictions of an anarchic region paralyzed by daily violence.
World War 3 - It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I don’t feel fine By Ben Marks BoingBoing December 11th, 2014
But in the hands of founders Seth Tobocman and Peter Kuper, along with an ever-changing roster of new and returning artists—from Eric Drooker, Sabrina Jones, and the late Spain Rodriguez, to Sue Coe, Art Spiegelman, Chuck Sperry, and Tom Tomorrow — World War 3 has been more than a vehicle for artists to vent their anger, although many of them have done that exceedingly well. More importantly, World War 3 has been a place to build a counter narrative to the pablum ladled into the trough we know as the mainstream media, a place where the most unflinching and searing critiques can bud and flower before blasting the corpulent ruling classes to smithereens.
World War 3 Illustrated in The New York Times Gift Guide by Holland Cotter New York Times November 28th, 2014
Founded in 1977 by Peter Kuper and Seth Tobocman, World War 3 Illustrated is a collective of artist-activists working in the political comics mode, and this book amounts to what you trust will be a midcareer survey of its work thus far. More than a dozen fantastic artists, including Sue Coe, Eric Drooker and Sandy Jimenez, take us, in graphic sequences composed of shadow and light, from the 1980s culture wars to the war in Iraq, from the Reagan White House to Zuccotti Park and Tahrir Square. This is history recorded with a scathing precision. Morality meets hilarity. You find yourself shocked that you’re laughing.
The System: A Review By Rob Clough High-Low October 7th, 2014
This is my favorite of all of Kuper's comics, as it synchs up his interests in urban storytelling, political rabble-rousing, silent storytelling and his personal relationship with New York. It's also his most visually inventive and ambitious, as he spray-painted stenciled sheets to get a gritty, graffiti-inspired effect on each page. Given that the visual theme of the book is the way seemingly random people and things intersect and affect each other, the fact that colors literally bled into one another from panel to panel only helped to reinforce this theme.
The Best Collection of Radical Comics You May Ever Read by Bill Berkowitz Daily Kos October 22nd, 2014
As you read through this strikingly designed book, one cannot can’t help but admire those many young, often obscure and struggling courageous comic book artists and cartoonists who, with unbridled passion, took on unpopular issues, bashed stereotypes, tore down walls, and smashed icons.
As Kuper and Tobocmen point out in their Editor’s note: “In many ways WW3 represents a microcosm of the type of society we’d like to see -- a place where people of various backgrounds, sexual orientations, and abilities pull together to create something that benefits the whole.”
World War 3 Illustrated: A Review By Nicholas Jahr Jewish Currents November 16th, 2014
“We didn’t begin WW3 with a formal manifesto,” the editors write in their introduction (entitled… “Manifesto”). It shows. There was no house style, no hard line to tow. Instead World War 3 called up a riot of styles, a frenzy of technique and imagery, a lot of brutal black-and-white and the occasional effusion of orgiastic color. The vernacular of mainstream comics was deployed in only the most perfunctory sense; recruits looked elsewhere, borrowing from many of the major trends of 20th century painting: Surrealism, Cubism, expressionism, woodcut, collage, photorealism, airbrush, graffiti… the list probably goes on.
This is a very good book for what it is, but parts are a pretty rough read. World War 3 magazine is a comics venue for anti-establishment, shake-the-status-quo, even revolutionary artists whose purpose is to shock readers into action. It is not gratuitous, but it will definitely be shocking to many; it is not for children. The drawings and stories deal with intense and very mature themes such as violence and sexuality, oppression, and hypocrisy in war, government, and politics. The story of the Tuskagee syphilis experiments; Hurricane Katrina survivors; global warming; homelessness and poverty; incarceration; and 9-11 NYC all share pages here, in powerful art that marries text with illustration to perfect effect.The book is very politically liberal, way too partisan, which is a shame, because that diminishes its credibility as a speaker of truth, exposing injustice wherever it is found; I wish some balance had been added. Nevertheless, it tells important stories that are worthy reading for anyone who is willing to look deeply at all facets to find the truth of things. These comics are individual, raw, exceedingly biased precisely because they are so personal, and will stay with the reader for a long time to come.
Changing the world with comics By Sreejita Biswas Bangalore Mirror September 12th, 2014
Known for his illustrated journal World War 3 and Spy vs Spy, American cartoonist Peter Kuper who will be in Bangalore gives us a peek into his life and work
Peter Kuper says New York City is his ultimate muse. In fact, all his works have been motivated by his love for travel. Whether it's long journeys to corners of the world or mere subway rides, travelling is his favourite way to reinvigorate his ideas. "I love the process of discovery. Visiting a foreign country almost makes me feel like a newborn. Each environment affects the way I draw. The visuals, smells and sounds all get into my fingertips and are deciphered in my sketchbook," he says with a smile.
Horror than Hope: The Comic Art of World War 3 Illustrated By M.C. Library Journal September 15th, 2014
George Washington, Mahandas K. Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr. led rebellions against injustice, and the fight goes on worldwide. For the past 35 years, World War 3 Illustrated has published progressive comics commentary on macro- and micropolitical struggles, and this anniversary anthology presents 80-plus selections grouped roughly by theme. Police brutality, environmental issues, women's empowerment, 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and the Occupy movement, for example, all come to life here in personal as well as broader narratives. Always passionate and striking, the pieces range from "Jesus Is Suffering for You," Mike Diana's primitively drawn but explicit and devastating satire on Sunday school through "K-9's First Time," K-9 and Fly's somber account of a nine-year-old girl pressured into sex (finely crafted pen-and-ink drawings) to Kuper's teal-washed inks about the Israel/Palestine hostilities. An especially cutting send-up, also from Kuper, slams George Bush as anti-health insurance and prowar but in the color kiddy cartooning style of the old Richie Rich comics.
VERDICT While background notes would have clarified selections lacking contextual details, this disturbing yet stirring sampler of views, topics, and techniques for activist comics should prove enlightening and inspirational reading.
Peter Kuper’s The System By Thomas L. Batten Library Journal September 2014
Following a huge cast of characters from every tier of urban life-including an oily stockbroker, a love-struck interracial couple, a disgraced detective seeking redemption by catching a serial killer, and an international saboteur-Kuper (World War 3 Illustrated) presents an absolutely epic tale, all the more impressive for being sans dialog or captions. Inhabiting New York City at the peak of a political scandal, Kuper's characters navigate a city in which each brief meeting or missed connection serves as another link in a chain connecting every life, escalating in some cases to moments of grace and in others to catastrophe. Illustrating in a distinctive stencil and street art-influenced style, Kuper manages to pack an incredible amount of detail into every panel, so what at a glance looks like a breezy read is actually incredibly dense and absorbing.
Verdict Although told with a relative lack of text, The System has the heft of a literary novel and should be embraced by both comics fans and open-minded readers of literary fiction.
Peter Kuper’s The System By Win Wiacek Now Read This! August 25th, 2014
Artist, storyteller and activist Peter Kuper was born in Summit, New Jersey in 1958, before the family moved to Cleveland when he was six. The youngster met fellow comics fan Seth Tobocman and they progressed through the school system, catching the bug for self-publishing early. They then attended Kent State University together. Graduating, they moved to New York in 1979 and, whilst both studying at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, created the political art/comics magazine World War 3 Illustrated...
There are so many million stories in The City and they are all connected through the unceasing urban pulse and incessant, unending forward motion of The System…
Clever, compulsive and breathtakingly engrossing, this delicious exercise in dramatic interconnectivity and carefully constructed symbolism is a brilliant example of how smart and powerful comics can be.
Peter Kuper’s The System: By John Seven Vermicious August 15th, 2014
"...Kuper latches onto the human flotsam from all over the city — taxi drivers, strippers, street preachers, kids, cops on the verge of retirement, young people in love — and mixes them up in the grimy urban blender to see how they interact. There is plenty of tragedy to go around, some hope to soften the blow, and one cynical final point. It’s not a system I would necessarily want to be part of — and, full disclosure, I was once — but Kuper manages to capture it with an elegant, colorful flow and detail."
"In a moment of heightened awareness one day back in 1995, Peter Kuper, while riding the packed #2 train, began wondering about his fellow passengers and their destinations in a new way.
“Was this trip all we have in common,” he thought, “or might our lives crisscross and impact one another in positive or even catastrophic ways. If the flap of a butterfly’s wings in China could cause a storm in Manhattan, what would the various actions of a subway full of commuters incite?”"...
Horror than Hope: The Comic Art of World War 3 Illustrated By Paul Buhle Dissent Magazine July 24th, 2014
It is safe to say that nothing, in the annals of comic art, has ever resembled World War 3 Illustrated. New issues have come out more or less annually for the past thirty-five years, though they have not always been easy to locate West of the Hudson river; distribution has not been a strong point, but the art, rarely repetitive or clichéd, has been. Year to year and decade to decade, it has been drawn by new hands, in a continual effort to bring along young artists committed to social themes but groping for their own way forward. Luckily for comic enthusiasts everywhere, this remarkable body of work is now collected in an oversized, chock-full volume.
They started World War 3 Illustrated also because in 1979 mainstream comics publishers wanted capes and tights. And “the remaining underground comics publishers also had a formula to sell their books that was pretty narrow,” Tobocman says. “Book publishers had not yet learned the phrase ‘graphic novel.’”
So the duo conceived of a self-funded magazine, which now spans 45 issues, as an outlet for scores of other comics, grafitti and street artists, including Tom Tomorrow, Sabrina Jones, Eric Drooker, Ward Sutton, Sue Coe, Isabelle Dervaux, and more. “The magazine sort of generates its own energy in that there is a constant stream of new artists joining the group,” Tobocman says. “There are today people working on the magazine who are younger than the magazine itself.”
Thirty-Five Years of Bashing Seterotypes, Tearing Down Walls, Smashing Icons and Visionary Cartooning By Bill Berkowitz Truthout July 5th, 2014
"In 1979, in the wake of a meltdown at Three Mile Island, the founding of the Moral Majority by the Rev. Jerry Falwell, the murder of gay politician Harvey Milk in San Francisco's City Hall, the Iranian hostage crisis and the impending election of Ronald Reagan, Seth Tobocman and Peter Kuper, two art students at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, decided the time was ripe for an antiwar comic book.
Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, two guys from Cleveland, had revolutionized comic books in 1938, with the publication of a story called Superman: Champion of the Oppressed, in Action Comics #1. Forty-one years later, Tobocman and Kuper, who grew up in Cleveland and knew each other since the first grade, were ready to create a home for political comics, graphics and stirring personal stories..."
Peter Kuper’s The System: A Work of Art in Publishing By Zach Roberts Comicbook.com July 4th, 2014
Peter Kuper's The System takes us through several people's lives, told in wordless vignettes that in the end intersect each other and then begin a new story.
The book starts with a quote by William Blake "I must create a system or be enslaved by another man's" it's this idea that seems to drive much of the story of The System. Everyone is living their own lives thinking they're not connected to some larger system - but as this story shows everyone, especially those living in a big city is.
"In the latest episode of the RiYL podcast, Brian Heater interviews the author of multiple Kafka adaptations and a sketchbook diary chronicling his time in Mexico.
Every time I speak to Peter Kuper, the conversation invariably turns to New York — or, as is often the case, begins there. It’s my own fault. I’ve got this insatiable need to ask fellow residents, artists in particular, what keeps them in the city’s orbit. Kuper is a particularly interesting case study, having left the city — and country — in 2006, for a life in Mexico..."
World War 3 Illustrated: A Review on Comics Grinder by Henry Chamberlain Comics Grinder June 23rd, 2014
"There is a stark beauty to be found in the 320 pages of this full-color special collection of comics, World War 3 Illustrated 1979-2014, published by PM Press and set for release this July. I call it a stark beauty for good reason. I think it is the most economical way to express the urgency and the severity of the issues being confronted. It’s also a quick way to say that this is thoughtful and vital art that you’ll find in this collection of some of the best work to appear in the semi-annual anthology, World War 3 Illustrated." Read more | Buy book now | Download e-Book now | Back to reviews | Back to top
Interview: Peter Kuper, The System and World War 3 Illustrated 1979-2014 by Henry Chamberlain Comics Grinder June 23rd, 2014
Peter Kuper is passionate about comics, New York City, and activism. He has established himself as a leading authority on all three subjects in a remarkable career that continues to explore and to grow. Where to begin? Well, many readers will know Mr. Kuper for his continuous work on “Spy vs. Spy” in MAD Magazine, since 1997. In that same year, his landmark graphic novel, “The System” was published. And it all begins with a love for underground comics and pushing the limits. This would lead to “World War 3 Illustrated,” started by Kuper and his childhood friend, Seth Tobocman. All sorts of subversive ideas were percolating between these two cartoonists while growing up in Cleveland. We discuss a key moment that brought things to a boil.
In this week's More To Come podcast interview special, Calvin Reid talks with comics creator, publisher and educator Peter Kuper, co-founder of the long running Indie political comics anthology "World War 3 Illustrated" about teaching a comics course at Harvard, his history in comics, the 35th anniversary World War 3 Illustrated hardcover collection, his artistic method and more.
Kuper & Tobocman Celebrate “World War 3 Illustrated”: Comic Book Resource By Alex Dueben Comic Book Resource May 14th, 2014
With extensive careers in art, illustration and comics, childhood friends Peter Kuper and Seth Tobocman founded "World War 3 Illustrated" ("WW3") in 1979, an anthology series with a left-wing political focus. Edited by various creators over the years, "World War 3 Illustrated" contributors include artists James Romberger, Sandy Jimenez, Sue Coe and more. Kuper and Tobocman continue to edit and contribute to the anthology, distributed in the modern era by Top Shelf....CBR News spoke with Kuper and Tobocman about the anniversary of "WW3" and its impact on comics and social movements, as well as the publication of PM Press' big 35th Anniversary hardcover and the lasting impact of "World War 3 Illustrated" as an anthology.
In addition to providing a history of the eponymous political comics anthology, this collection also traces the development of the progressive politics that came to define the Occupy movement of 2011. Appropriately, the collection ends with that explosive protest. It begins with the East Village squatting scene, viewed through the comics of the period, and covers broader topics like police brutality, women's rights and religion, with a New York-centric focus. As the anthology stomps through the years, 9/11 is discussed, along with Israel, Hurricane Katrina, the Bush presidency, the Oaxaca riots, and other trouble spots. At times, the comics resemble the cartoonish agitprop that has become standard in radical protest over the decades, and readers' appreciation of them will depend as much on their agreement with the authors' views as on the aesthetic merits. Still there is no disputing the passion and conviction on every page. The best work-particularly that of Peter Kuper and Eric Drooker-uses biographical elements to personalize the topic. Far ahead of its time, World War 3 paved the way for the more established forms of comics journalism now. Even when the passion on display here overcomes craft, this is an indispensable collection of groundbreaking comics.
World War 3 Illustrated, An ‘Open Platform For Protest’ Celebrates 35 Years At MoCCA Fest By Hannah Means Shannon Bleeding Cool April 8th, 2014
"Moderator Calvin Reid of Publishers Weekly introduced a small battalion of WW3 editors and contributors, and we later learned that a number of contributors were waiting quietly in the audience also, listening to what their colleagues had to say. One of the landmarks that dignified the panel event was the recent release of the Kickstarter-funded large hard back anthology collecting selected comics in a topic-based and chronological system of arrangement, essentially telling the history and the concerns of WW3 Illustrated over the years..."
Starred Review. Kuper has long been among the most politically engaged and stylistically distinctive artists working in comics, and both qualities take center stage here. This dazzling annotated sketchbook recounts two years Kuper and his family spent living in Oaxaca, Mexico. Anticipating a sojourn from American politics, Kuper instead found himself in a city roiled by a teachers' strike that was violently suppressed by the regional government. He recorded his observations in his sketchbook and in illustrated letters home, crisply reproduced in this bilingual (English and Spanish) book. Kuper's facility with diverse art media shines in early pages covering political action, as colorfully penciled protestors stand against rigidly inked military barricades set against the lush backdrops of Oaxaca. As the populist forces are rapidly suppressed, Kuper records a panoply of further visual impressions: beaches, stores, dogs, vendors, ancient ruins, street art and many, many insects. Throughout, Kuper's letters, rooted in personal observation but clearly intended as eyewitness reports for public consumption, provide helpful context. And if his increasingly profuse style mixing suggests a departure from earlier visual in the book, the final observations about a beautiful, merciless natural order obliquely ratify the political convictions that open the book.
Peter Kuper left the United States in 2006 in search of some peace and quiet. Instead, the award-winning cartoonist found a strike, a government crackdown, and a political storm in Oaxaca. True to the form that led him to co-found the political graphics magazine World War 3, Kuper soon started drawing and writing about what he was seeing around him. The result is Diario de Oaxaca, A Sketchbook of Two Years in Mexico. With text in both English and Spanish, the book is a chronicle in sketches, writing, and photographs, of Kuper’s time in Oaxaca and what he saw during the political turmoil of those two years.
When Peter Kuper, the cartoonist widely known for his Spy Vs. Spy strip in MAD magazine, told me that he was moving his family to Oaxaca City, Mexico three years ago, I asked if he would be interested in posting stories for DART. Without hesitation, he agreed, and his first article appeared on November 10, 2006. The last story, Oaxaca Journal V. 14, was published in June 2008.
Next week, Peter will celebrate the publication of Diario de Oaxaca: A Sketchbook Journal of Two Years in Mexico. Here’s a report on the chat we had by email this week about his experience.
Drawn to New York: A Review By John Seven Vermicious October 16th, 2013
Kuper’s New York is one filled with raunch and sleaze and weirdness in a more major way than exists now, when the sweeping and sometimes disturbing craziness of the city functioned as an abstract soap opera better than anything you could find on television. For those who never had the adventure of living in that New York, Kuper’s book does an excellent job of relaying that experience through the intensity and dark humor of his art.
Tools of the Trade: Drawn to New York By Rob Clough High-Low January 14th, 2014
Throughout the book, Kuper throws example after example of this push-and-pull love and hatred that most New Yorkers feel about their city. There are moments of fleeting beauty, visceral expressions of disgust, extended riffs on decay and corruption, and an understanding of constant and unrelenting change. Kuper depicts a kind of race between the exploiters and the preservers, hoping against hope that the preservers stave off police brutality, the increased divisions between rich and poor, and the potential destruction of the city. Kuper's aesthetic is a melting pot of influences not unlike the city itself: graffiti, collage, line drawing, paint, etc. His drawings featuring a multitude of different colors in colored pencil are especially lively and tend to represent a free expression of his imagination.
Drawn to New York: A Review By Brian Heater Boing Boing June 28th, 2013
Peter Kuper packs a million shapes and colors and emotions into a page, and if you look up for a moment at the two young women have a loud conversation about their sex lives, you’ll probably miss a solid 100 thousand. But it’s a book that can be taken in pieces, a wide-ranging collection of comics, sketches and commissioned illustrations lacking in an over-arching narrative arc (if that’s what you’re in the market for, I’d nudge you toward the largely autobiographical Stop Forgetting to Remember). It’s fractured and chaotic, and for those looking in from the outside, the grime may well have all the tourist appeal of Penn Station.
Kuper's trademark surrealism offers cartoon scenarios where Donald Trump and Harry Helmsley build a giant wall through the middle of Manhattan, just like Berlin, and create a post apocalyptic absurd adventure, as well as numerous dream scenarios that throw the city into situations where the dreamer must confront his place within it.
Kuper finishes up the collection with work pertaining to 9-11 and how that changed things, including his conceit that New York City wasn't really part of America.
Kuper's New York is one filled with raunch and sleaze and weirdness in a more major way than exists now, when the sweeping and sometimes disturbing craziness of the city functioned as an abstract soap opera better than anything you could find on television. For those who never had the adventure of living in that New York, Kuper's book does an excellent job of relaying that experience through the intensity and dark humor of his art.
As an artist and writer Mr. Kuper’s ability to shift shapes and perspective, often within the same story, is amazing. His work can bring you to a sudden stop of self-awareness and then leave you laughing your bottom off. Anchoring this look at NYC is the way he moves so effortlessly between watercolors to pencils or collage and then into a comic-style short story.
His approach to his art is as varied as the people and buildings he writes and draws.
Adapting Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal into the modern era he illustrates the century’s old essay on society’s inability to care for it’s young in inks that hold deep and threatening shadows. The style resembles aged woodcut drawings.
Illustrator to City: It's Personal By Steven Kurutz New York Times June 5th, 2013
Peter Kuper, the cartoonist and illustrator, has tried to capture his three decades in New York, and the city itself, with Drawn to New York (PM Press; $29.95). "You can't be comprehensive because it's too big a piece of pie to swallow - or apple, rather," Mr. Kuper said. Instead, he inks his own experiences, which seem informed by the twin responses shared by many New York transplants: anxiety and wonder. In one illustration, a lone man looks out from his darkened apartment and wonders how many people are having sex at that moment. Another panel tells the story of a long-ago night when Mr. Kuper and a friend scaled the suspension cables of the Brooklyn Bridge. The artistic styles change from page to page, mirroring the frenetic, unpredictable nature of the city. As Mr. Kuper said, "The thing I like about New York is the quality of feeling like you're traveling at all times."
This collection of sketchbook pages and finished art brilliantly displays Kuper's fascination with the city he has called home for over four decades. Lovingly reproduced in b&w and color from a variety of mediums, the art focuses on tiny people trying to survive in the vast metropolis. Some pieces emphasize N.Y.C.'s vitality, and Kuper's characters can't imagine living anywhere else; still the place looks more threatening than attractive as individuals become part of geometric patterns while buildings wear anguished expressions. Demonstrating how vulnerable humans are when they're packed so closely together, the people here are victims of real-estate tycoons, politicians-and their own selfishness and greed, as seen in an illustrated version of Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal." A near-masterpiece of New York cultural anthropology.
Drawn to New York: A Review By Nicole Burton Ad Astra May 18th, 2013
Kuper’s recently published work is building on the available literature making an argument for “graphic biographies” – not for people, but for places. Cities. Something attracts us to these massive collections of social activity that take on a life and personality all their own, and actually change us in the process. Radical artist (and former New Yorker) Eric Drooker postulates in the beginning of the book that people move to NYC as much to find careers and connections as they come to find themselves. Drawn to New York is a dedication to that power.
Drawn to New York: A Review By The New York Comics & Picture-Story Symposium The Rumpus May 3rd, 2013
"Another unique aspect of the city Kuper touched upon was the way its architecture challenges the definitions of high and low. The city’s population disappears underground and then resurfaces only to disappear once more to the top of a sky scraper or into the depths of the urban jungle. The skyline dips and ducks, the streets are strewn with gaping holes. Everyone has a different destination but the rhythm is unanimous. Just as they pump the city with a continuous stream of traffic, the visual chronicles of the city all merge into a single musical continuum. Throughout art history, the terminology for artforms that have crossed over set lines has often been deprecative. Such is the term “Ashcan School” for artists who turned to document the underbelly of the city life, or the term “Graphic Novels” describing the literary works of Lynd Ward and Will Eisner. However, the contrast and resistance are authentic to the nature of the city. Kuper said he based the design of his book on this notion of blurring the lines..."
This oversized, four-color 30-year compendium of comics, magazine illustrations, painting and sketchbook work by the artist best known for his "Spy vs Spy" pages in Mad Magazine, is stunning in its variety and vividness. "Chronicle" is evidently a play on words, because Kuper is looking at his Manhattan experience - ever since he moved from Cleveland in 1977 - from all sorts of angles, including geographical, aerial, animal, and, of course, human. It's not always a pretty sight, that's the price of admission to the real-life Greatest Show on Earth. The Mexican and French publishers of the volume, which preceded this version, must think so, too.
'Rama Rating 8 of 10 for Peter Kuper's Drawn to New York By Michael C Lorah Newsarama.com March 19th, 2013Whether you live or work on the island, visit as a tourist, or absorb the city’s iconography through its omnipresent pop culture presence, everybody takes something unique away from New York City. Drawn to New York: An Illustrated Chronicle of Three Decades in New York City is Peter Kuper's New York, and anybody who's spent any time here, physically or otherwise, will recognize the energy and architecture, the grime and crowds, the beautiful humanity, the foods and odors (on one page, he uses smears of color in an attempt to show the smells of parts of the city) and sights. Love it or not, there’s no place on Earth quite like New York City, and few people have captured it as effectively as Kuper.
A sketchbook is a secret thing, a collection of unfinished and often times abandoned ideas never intended for public consumption—at least not in their current state. It’s a private space for honing one’s craft and workshopping, separating good ideas from those best left unexplored...
Even when Kuper’s experiments prove less successful, however, the book is a downright stunning—and thoroughly engaging—read. Proper sketchbook or no, Diario de Oaxaca is one of the strongest travelogues this medium has produced in recent memory.
Diario De Oaxaca: A Review By Geoff Gossett World Literature in Review
Outside of the clashes, Kuper managed to put together a beautiful collage of all the southern Mexico has to offer. In the hands of an illustrator with such creative gifts, Oaxaca is a brilliant dreamscape whose bugs and vegetation are as visually appealing as its protest graffiti and wild dogs.
If you are familiar with the teacher’s strike, repression and uprising that is the underlying subject of Diario de Oaxaca, what is likely to keep your attention is Kuper’s fantastic artwork, where everything from drawings of protests and stenciled posters to insects and building interiors grace dozens of colorful pages. Lovingly translated, readers can follow the typeset-style text in English or Spanish. At a time when so many publishers are playing it safe, PM Press takes a tremendous risk offering up what must be a costly item to print at an affordable rate to consumers. Nevertheless, the stunning volume is a treat for readers.
The origins of life, humans bent on logic, political strife, the little disturbances that make us itch, and family dysfunction preoccupy the best recent graphic novels. Despite great differences in style and attitude, all delight in presenting fresh ways of seeing the world.
In 2006, illustrator Kuper moved from New York to the impoverished but ethnically and historically rich southern Mexican city of Oaxaca, bringing his wife and pre-teen daughter. The region was wracked by a massive teachers’ strike that made headlines worldwide, by the corruption of the state’s notorious governor, and by conflicts in the streets involving tens of thousands of protesters and troops—an interesting place for a politically minded artist to be. Kuper has done covers and other illustrations for a host of major topical publications including TIME, Newsweek, the Progressive, and the New York Times, and has for more than a decade drawn the “Spy vs. Spy” comic series for MAD Magazine. This is the appealing product of his two years in Mexico. Kuper’s diary entries, paired with a side-by-side translation into Spanish, help set the context for the 150-odd pages of paintings, sketches, cartoons, and collages that are the highlight of this book. Kuper’s offbeat eye and his MAD sensibility make for some striking images—comical ones, too, such as his Day of the Dead tribute to the Peanuts gang, which shows the skeletal dog Znupé digging through a boneyard while his Charlie Brown ruminates about death. Fans of comics and art lovers will appreciate Kuper’s unusual take on a remarkable place. Recommended for libraries, particularly those with graphic art and design collections, as well as general bookstores.—Bruce Jensen, Rohrbach Lib., Kutztown, PA
A warning: this book missed Diamond's cutoff numbers, so you may have a hard time finding it in your local comics shop. But it's worth the extra effort to track down a copy. Peter Kuper, co-founder and co-editor of "World War 3 Illustrated" and current author of "Mad"'s "Spy vs. Spy", spent two years living in the southern Mexican state Oaxaca, arriving just in time for an annual teachers' strike in the cause of increased wages to turn violent, leaving dozens of people dead.
Kuper has long been among the most politically engaged and stylistically distinctive artists working in comics, and both qualities take center stage here. This dazzling annotated sketchbook recounts two years Kuper and his family spent living in Oaxaca, Mexico. Anticipating a sojourn from American politics, Kuper instead found himself in a city roiled by a teachers' strike that was violently suppressed by the regional government. He recorded his observations in his sketchbook and in illustrated letters home, crisply reproduced in this bilingual (English and Spanish) book. Kuper's facility with diverse art media shines in early pages covering political action, as colorfully penciled protestors stand against rigidly inked military barricades set against the lush backdrops of Oaxaca. As the populist forces are rapidly suppressed, Kuper records a panoply of further visual impressions: beaches, stores, dogs, vendors, ancient ruins, street art and many, many insects. Throughout, Kuper's letters, rooted in personal observation but clearly intended as eyewitness reports for public consumption, provide helpful context. And if his increasingly profuse style mixing suggests a departure from earlier visual in the book, the final observations about a beautiful, merciless natural order obliquely ratify the political convictions that open the book. (Sept.)
Kuper’s hardcover opus Diario de Oaxaca, excerpted briefly in Wordless Worlds, is not as distant as it might appear at first glance. Peter Kuper is probably stuck with his best known credit, “Spy vs Spy” in Mad magazine, at least until this publication (in its second half-century and now reduced to quarterly appearance) goes out of business. Kuper inherited the spy piece from another era of Mad, and it has been noticeably wordless all these decades (Kuper took over it over in 1997). The author of arguably the only pantomime strip in widely-distributed comic art, Kuper explored the wordless form throughout his career in graphic novels like The System and Sticks and Stones. With Diario, his sketchbook journal from two years of living in Mexico, he is the observer removed not by silence so much as a keen awareness of his personal status: as visitor.
Diario De Oaxaca may be Peter Kuper’s greatest accomplishment as an artist. It flatters all of his strengths as an artist and limits his flaws. The simplicity of the project and the mere fact that it didn’t start out to be anything other than a journal of his two years spent in Mexico with his family were keys to the book’s understated impact. Kuper is a wizard with his colored pencils and has a fabulous eye for detail. His years spent thinking and drawing stories related to his own political activism certainly informs that eye and his writing. He’s also more than proficient with all sorts of storytelling tricks.