Changing the world with comicsBy Sreejita Biswas
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.
One of the best known American cartoonists, Kuper's claim to fame is perhaps his incredible work on Spy vs Spy. Ask him and he'll give you a detailed explanation. "Spy vs Spy is a spy dressed in black with a very pointy nose, trying to kill a spy dressed in white with a very pointy nose. They kill each other in every comic in complicated ways and return to do it again and again. It was created by a Cuban artist, named Antonio Prohias, in 1961 as a comment on the Cold War. It's Ying vs. Yang, Hindus vs Muslims, War vs Peace. Futile destruction — everybody loses, but in the case of Spy vs Spy there are also laughs," he says.
Those who have wandered beyond the popular know that his association with World War 3 is an epic in itself. An illustrated magazine that addressed political and social issues through comics, World War 3 was founded in 1979. It's made up of a number of people from various backgrounds, genders and ideologies united by the idea of telling a story through comics. "The magazine represents the kind of society we'd like to see; driven not by profit but by artistic expression towards a better understanding of our world and ourselves."
As digitisation rapidly overwhelms the print form, some believe the art form of comic journalism is dying a slow death. But Kuper is not one of those pessimists. "It is a developing art that opens the door to communicating big ideas through a series of images and text," he says. "When done properly and printed or photocopied, it can put a great deal of information into peoples' hands without expensive computers and an internet connection. It is a democratic form."
When asked how difficult it is to make a comic, he unsurprisingly admits that it is perhaps the hardest. "For an individual to create a really smart, compelling comic they have to be a writer, penciller, inker, letterer, colourist and designer. They have to know visual pacing, understand how to direct the reader's eyes, know perspective and architecture, fashion and character design and have something to say that connects with readers."
His message for his in India: "I'm looking forward to meeting comic readers and learning more about the culture and inspiration that made them get interested in this art form. I'm also interested in getting exposure to India as a country."
The author is the co-founder of StripTease the Mag, a magazine about comics and graphic novels from all over the world
The Bangalore Comic Con will be held at White Orchid Convention Centre, Nagawara from 11 am to 8 pm on September 13 and 14