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Artist/Writer Peter Kuper Politically Tinged Worldview Spotlighted This December at Christmas Con

 Kuper's "The Metamorphosis.”

As the co-founder and editor of World War 3 Illustrated, a political graphics magazine that has been a forum for political artists for 43 years, artist/writer/conceptualist Peter Kuper came to my attention even before I worked with him at Heavy Metal.

The Eisner and National Cartoonists Society Award winner is a regular contributor to The New Yorker, The Nation and MAD Magazine where he has written and illustrated SPY vs. SPY every issue since 1997.

He has produced over two dozen books including “Sticks and Stones” (winner of The Society of Illustrators gold medal), "The System," "Diario de Oaxaca," "Ruins" (winner of the 2016 Eisner Award) and adaptations of many of Franz Kafka's works into comics including "The Metamorphosis.”

peter KHis latest graphic novel is an adaptation of Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness." Kuper is currently working on INterSECTS , a graphic novel history of insects and the people who have studied them that will be published by W.W. Norton in 2025. Kuper has lectured on comics extensively at schools and universities around the world. A winner of the 2018 National Cartoonists Society Award for best graphic novel and Italy’s 2022 Lucca award for best short story collection, he continues to challenge the boundaries of what makes a great graphic novel. In this email interview he tersely outlines some of ideas and history in advance of his appearance at this Saturday's Christmas Con at the New Yorker Hotel. Go

Q: It seems that you split your work between established characters, turning classics in comics and your own political essaying -- how do you balance it all?

PK: I generally find myself working seven days a week. It really comes out of my love of a variety of aspects of cartooning— gag/editorial cartoons, short form comics and graphic novels—and reacting to what’s going on in the world which is both terrifying and quite inspiring.

Q: In creating your own concepts, where do you start -- first with writing or the images?

PK: When I’m doing my weekly Charlie Hebdo four panel comic I’m looking up headline news about the environment for inspiration. For something like "Spy vs Spy," I do a lot of staring into space and thinking about the way the characters look and start doodling. Since the strip is wordless, I’m running on the visual aspect first. My New Yorker cartoons also come from news headlines or daily interactions and conversations that strike a cord.

Q: You started in an era when comics were going from being viewed as juvenile to being for serious adults -- how did you make the transition?

PK: I feel like the world made the transition — I just continued to do what I was always doing and the audience came to that work. More and more adults realized the value of comics that those of us who loved the form knew all along. Places like Heavy Metal provided an early outlet and small publishers like Fantagraphics, then some of the hipper magazines ran one pagers and after a decade of low pay I started finding more and more opportunities. Patience is a virtue!

Q: What's it like building on a legacy versus developing your own characters?

PK: With Spy vs Spy I really didn’t have to do too much building, just continue to walk in the pointy footsteps of Antonio Prohias (the late Cuban-American cartoonist was the creator of the satirical comic strip Spy vs. Spy, which he illustrated for Mad Magazine from 1961 to 1987). His characters were in my DNA from years and years of reading Mad. With my own work I’m probably the most consistent character I’ve created through autobiographical comics which are changing all the time. I can only hope there’s an audience that is interested in following that particular nutty character and all his crazy choices.

Q: Would you like to move your work into other media, make a doc or do a series?

PK: I spent a year and a half developing my autobiographical comics into an animated series for HBO back in the late '90s. I worked on a documentary with a couple of Harvard professors doing some animation about the containment of nuclear waste. And I did art exhibitions like one I had at the New York Public library last year. There have been a number of other projects outside of comics. I am open to these possibilities, but I found myself focused on books. This is the place where I have the most control and best outcomes with finished projects.

Q: Where do you see yourself going?

PK: Home, after a long day at my studio. Eventually dying, but, hopefully, not before I finish my next book called "INterSECTS," which is a 250-page graphic novel about the history of insects and the people who have studied them. I've been working on that for nearly four years and it comes out in May 2025. Then I planned to have a number of exhibitions of work from that book, hopefully institutions like natural history museums.

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