The first time I encountered him was with the publication of Give It Up and other stories, which was a series of comic adaptations of Kafka’s work. Later on, I would read his adaptation of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle (before going on to read that actual book) and that I was reminded of Kuper recently when reading The Jungle while at the same time a friend had recently purchased a comic adaptation of Kafka’s The Trial (not by Kuper, but the overlapping moments converged into one of those universal conflagrations that demand action be done or else the universe will implode: see Star Trek—any Star Trek—I’m sure it will make sense).
SpeechlessThus, with my interest sparked in Kuper, I proceeded to check out some of his other works. Two struck my fancy in particular. Speechless was a collection of work done over Kuper’s life exhibiting his range of works, overall ability and depth. What becomes striking from the onset that one might not immediately intuit from his other works (though in hindsight, it makes sense) is that degree to which Kuper’s work is political. He creates some powerfully singular images as well as sequential work that speaks volumes (and of course, is also “speechless” for certain reasons). After I was hit by Speechless (or struck speechless, perhaps), I opened up Sticks and Stones; a silent comic (also speechless; a good deal of Kuper’s work does aim for minimal text) about a stone king who directs his people into a resource war and destruction of the stick people. Of course, the story can work on many levels and be enjoyed by both adult and child with the ideas that it communicates.
In many cases, Kuper’s art with its heavy use of thick lines and angles feels particularly expressionistic and influenced by the wordless novels of Frans Masereel, Lynn Ward and the like. But he has his unique style to it, rounding out edges, creating squat and stubby characters. There’s also the color; which is a generally dark motif with a brooding element that can make his work feel (appropriately) oppressive. It’s through the heavy lines, stout images, and overwhelming images that makes his work successful in bearing the weight of his message on his readers. It’s not carrying the albatross around the neck nor a chip on the shoulder; it’s carry the weight of the world that Kuper’s pieces seem to impart on the reader.
What I find amusing within myself with regards to Kuper is he is probably someone I wouldn’t have read some ten years ago. I don’t want to go into some speel about “refined tastes” and what not to posit that I’m such a better aficionado today than previously. Too many others have gone that route. Yet, I can appreciate the growth and development that comes with being an avid reader of material. I’m happy that I’ve been able to widen—not necessarily “improve”—my tastes so that I can thoroughly enjoy Kuper and follow it up with the latest trade from Robert Kirkman’s Invincible series (which is exactly what I did with Sticks and Stones!).
Check out what Kuper’s up to and where he’s been. He’s definitely an author I intend to keep reading.
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