Peter Kuper at Kutztown

Peter Kuper signing a book for Prof. Elaine Cunfer.

Peter Kuper came to Kutztown at the end of spring semester and gave a well-received Powerpoint lecture on political art. Kuper is a graphic novelist and illustrator whose work has appeared in Time, Newsweek, The NY Times, and Mad Magazine. A number of KU students, including Nick Eck, told Kuper they were fans of his graphic novel version of Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis.

Oddly enough, Kuper first contacted KU Prof. Kevin McCloskey via email in 2009 to ask for help identifying graffiti on the walls of Oaxaca, Mexico for a book project. Some of the artwork was, in fact, by McCloskey’s amigos in the ASARO collective. Kuper’s bilingual Oaxaca Diary is a fascinating mix of drawings, photos, collages and found objects. A full review of Diario de Oaxaca: A Sketchbook Journal of Two Years in Mexico can be found here at the website Commonsense2.com.

Students were impressed by Kuper’s D.I.Y. publishing empire. Even though he is published in America’s leading magazines, he still contributes to World War 3 Illustrated, the radical comic anthology he founded in 1979 along with his old friend, Seth Tobocman. After 30 years World War 3 Illustrated is still published a few times each year.

For years Kuper used black spray enamel and stencils to draw his comics. He warned students against that noxious media, noting that even with the best ventilation, he “lost a lot of brain cells.” He still works in many other media from scratchboard to Photoshop. One of his favorite sketching tools is his magic pencil, a novelty pencil with different colors swirled in a single lead. Rotating the point as he draws, Kuper manages to get a variety of colors in a single fluid line, as in the street dog, below.

He shared images from a new project, Alicia en el Pais de las Maravillas, literally translated, Alice in the Country of Marvels. This is a Spanish language retelling of Alice in Wonderland. His Mexican publisher, Sexto Piso, couldn’t give him a large advance, but they did offer him plenty of artistic freedom. Kuper told us, that by happy accident, the first edition arrived in Spain just as the publicity juggernaut for Tim Burton’s film, Alice in Wonderland, took that country by storm, and Alicia became an instant Spanish bestseller.

Oaxaca Street Scene from Diario de Oaxaca © Peter Kuper 2009

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