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World War 3 Illustrated: A Comics & Graphics Publication Celebrating 41 Years In Print – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Peter Kuper And Seth Tobocman, Co-Founders & Editors, And Ethan Heitner, Editor…

February 24, 2021

“The other answer is we’re dinosaurs to some extent and we love print and we’re drawn to that form ourselves. It’s one that we’ve been familiar with. We used to go to the printers and stand by the presses while it came off the web press. And it was really exciting. I still have that coursing through my veins and the idea of having something arrive that’s not digital.” Peter Kuper…

“From what I can see from the sales of my books and the sales from World War 3, a lot more people want to buy a print book than an e-book.” Seth Tobocman…

“I was discovered via ink on paper. And I value that enormously. As a millennial, I absolutely appreciate and value and love print. I worked on the college newspaper when I was in college and I remember picking up from the print shop, the smell of the fresh ink, and seeing my own work in print; I don’t think of my work as real until I see it in print.” Ethan Heitner…

World War 3 Illustrated is North America’s longest-running anthology of political comics. Peter Kuper and Seth Tobocman are the founders of the magazine, which they started in 1979. It was among the first American magazines to treat comics as a medium for serious social commentary and journalism. WW3 isn’t about a war that might happen. It’s about wars ongoing – wars across the globe and in our own neighborhood, the wars we wage against each other and with ourselves.

The magazine was started and driven by passion, a labor of love for cartoonists and artists who were committed, and still are, to the political angst that seethes and thrives in our society. I spoke to Peter and Seth recently, along with Editor Ethan Heitner, about this 41-year-old go-to for lovers of all things cartoon-ly political. It was a fascinating discussion with all three. 

Seth told me that today World War 3 Illustrated is an imprint of AK Press, where they’re now selling it as an annual book. He remarked that it’s thicker and also comes out once a year and it has a square binding. Issue #51 is titled “The World We Are Fighting For” and is a beautifully-done book that is both captivating and relevant. 

So, please enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Peter Kuper and Seth Tobocman, founders and editors, and Ethan Heitner, editor, World War 3 Illustrated. 

But first the sound-bites:

On the genesis of the magazine (Peter Kuper): I’d say two words: Ronald Reagan. He was heading toward the presidency. He hadn’t been elected yet, but we were seeing the writing on the wall with great terror. And what was also on the wall was a lot of our work that was responding to what was going on in the United States at that time. A general warlike direction, with the Cold War going on, the hostage crisis in Iran; there was just this general vibe of Ronald Reagan is going to be our president with his bad acting, itchy finger on the button, and so the title World War 3 Illustrated seemed appropriate.  

Peter Kuper (Photo by Holly Kuper)

On the motivational thinking behind the magazine (Seth Tobocman): I remember Peter saying to me , I think there’s going to be a war; we should do an anti-war magazine. That was what I remember him saying.

On the business plan for World War 3 Illustrated (Peter Kuper): We have a very firm business model, which has kept us around for the last 41 years, which is nobody gets paid and there’s no money really generated besides enough to produce the magazine. I joke about this point, but there’s a real strong truth to it, because if you’re an editor on the magazine that just means you get to work more and maybe hated a bit more by the people who don’t get published, but it creates an equality in the process. It’s understood that we’re doing this for the passion and the love of the form. And the desire to communicate these ideas. 

On the role print plays for them in today’s digital age (Seth Tobocman): From what I can see from the sales of my books and the sales from World War 3, a lot more people want to buy a print book than an e-book. I don’t know if it’s true for the mainstream comics, I know they make some pretty fancy e-books for Marvel and DC Comics, it’s almost like you’re watching a movie, so it might very well be that their e-books sell better, but it seems to us that there is a market for print books. 

Seth Tobocman

On Editor Ethan Heitner, who is a millennial, being discovered via ink on paper (Ethan Heitner): I was discovered via ink on paper. And I value that enormously. As a millennial, I absolutely appreciate and value and love print.

On what role Ethan plays at the magazine (Ethan Heitner): There’s not really clearly defined roles beyond editing individually. The structure is very loose. Part of the way Seth and Peter set it up and the way it has continued, things are dealt with on an issue by issue basis. There isn’t really a lot of stepping back and trying to tackle more long-term structural issues for the magazine. There’s this loose collective that theoretically we all need to contribute, but as far as who actually makes what decision and what people’s roles are is fluid.

On Ethan’s opinion of what the role of print is in a digital age (Ethan Heitner): I think what Seth was saying earlier, people have a hunger for print. People my age and younger are exhausted by digital, especially during this age of the pandemic. There’s a desire to have something physical to hold in your hands. It’s really coming back and it’s something that people are missing. I think they’re realizing they maybe went too far in the other direction. 

Ethan Heitner

On the future of World War 3 Illustrated (Peter Kuper): We’re already plotting for another issue and the fact is, what we have been doing the whole time is not World War 3 in the traditional apocalyptic sense, it’s more like our daily lives, the things that we’re encountering all the time. And there are a lot of first-person accounts. With what’s going on right now, all of us have direct contact with the pandemic. The graphic novel revolution has exploded and people have stopped having that question about it. As a form, it’s only gotten stronger and that’s one more good reason we’ll keep going on. 

On what makes him tick and click (Peter Kuper): Doing something that you love, drawing cartoons, definitely gets me out of bed in the mornings. And it tends to relate very often to the news. I’m looking to see what’s going on and it’s a form of therapy in addressing it. But I’m still so utterly excited about doing the drawing on a piece of paper that it gets me out of bed every morning.

On what keeps them up at night (Seth Tobocman): Arguments that I get into with people keep me up at night. The fact that all my friends who used to be radicals in the ‘80s are kind of Trump supporters which totally freaks me out. I’m like, what do I say to them? That’s what keeps me up at night, how do I convince people that they’re being completely ridiculous. Usually there’s not a way.

And now the lightly edited Mr. Magazine™ interview with Peter Kuper and Seth Tobocman, founders and editors, and Ethan Heitner, editor, World War 3 Illustrated.

A blast from the past, the very first editorial written at age 11 by Seth and Peter for their first “Phanzine”

Samir Husni: World War 3 Illustrated is a comics and graphics publication that was founded over 40 years ago, in 1979. That’s quite a milestone. What was the genesis of the magazine?

Peter Kuper: I’d say two words: Ronald Reagan. He was heading toward the presidency. He hadn’t been elected yet, but we were seeing the writing on the wall with great terror. And what was also on the wall was a lot of our work that was responding to what was going on in the United States at that time. A general warlike direction, with the Cold War going on, the hostage crisis in Iran; there was just this general vibe of Ronald Reagan is going to be our president with his bad acting, itchy finger on the button, and so the title World War 3 Illustrated seemed appropriate.  

Seth and I were both in art school at the time in Brooklyn at Pratt Institute. We were doing political comics, but there was really no outlets for the kind of things we were doing. And we were interested in getting published, but not like vanity publishing alone because there was other work that we saw on the streets, things that would be on a wall and then with the first rain would disappear, things that were really striking graphics and great commentary, but it wasn’t showing up in the mainstream and we wanted to make sure we could codify that. 

Seth Tobocman: For me, there were a couple of things. One of the things was definitely the Iran hostage crisis. I kind of bumped in and out of college and never finished. I had been at school at NYU for a few years for film and dropped out, then went to Pratt part-time to get my drawing skills together because I figured that was what I was going to do in life. 

When I was in school at NYU, there were a lot of students from Iraq there. I met a lot of foreign students. There were Socialists and Monarchists, and one guy who supported the Ayatollah Khomeini, all in my dorm. They would sit in the lounge at the dorm and no one would sit next to the Monarchists. So I was very aware that there was a real issue in Iran. And my Socialist Iranian friends were worried about the Savaq tracking them down in the United States. I was aware that these people had an issue.

Then suddenly around 1979, everybody in the U.S. could say Iran. In the grocery store where I’d gone every week with my mother they were selling these big buttons that read “Fuck Iran.” And it was interesting because they were selling them to all the people who would have slapped you in the face as a kid for saying the word fuck. And suddenly, they were wearing that word in big letters on their chests. And they were selling dart board of the Ayatollah Khomeini, and it was very clear to me that these people didn’t know anything about this country. They had been told this country had attacked Americans for no reason and that they hated Americans.

Looking at the papers at the time, including the New York Post and the Daily News, I just kind of looked at them and said, if these people are allowed to comment, then I think I have a right to comment because I’m not the most educated or sophisticated person in the world on this subject, but these people clearly aren’t either and they’re allowed to have a voice. 

So, I thought putting out a comic book about that would make some kind of sense. And another thing was we had this Three Mile Island meltdown, which made everybody in New York very aware of nuclear energy. And a couple of years before that there had also been the White Nights in San Francisco, which were the riots that followed the assassination of Harvey Milk. And a lot of my friends in high school were gay kids, and they were the most political kids in my high school. A lot more sophisticated than the hippies in my school actually. 

So, I was very aware of the issues around Harvey Milk. And the fact that there had been this riot. So, all of those things were kind of in the air at the time we decided to do World War 3 Illustrated. 

That said, I don’t think we were very sophisticated about politics. I had read “One-Dimensional Man” by Herbert Marcuse and there’s a quote from that book on the back cover, but I’m not sure I really knew what it meant. (Laughs) 

Peter Kuper: Just in the brass tacks of doing it; Seth and I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio and had both moved to New York. Our interest in comics also extended to doing a fanzines, so we had actually had experience starting our first fanzine when we were 11. And we did subsequent issues. So when it rolled around, we said we’re interested in comics, but there’s not really an outlet for it. The leap to doing a magazine wasn’t completely out of the blue; we actually had a pretty fair amount of experience with printing. Even dealing with the distribution in small aspects. 

Seth Tobocman: We had one issue of our fanzine that sold 1,000 copies through the mail, because it had a lot of interviews with professional cartoonists. We dealt with printers and the mysteries of finding out what actually appears in print and what doesn’t appear in print. And those questions were answered in middle school actually. I lost interest in comics in high school, but gained interest in comics at the point when I was dropping out of college. 

But we were very active comics fans in middle school. And we put out four magazines, and actually Pete put out a fifth, Between the two of us we put out five different issues at that time. 

Peter Kuper: We love the smell of printer’s ink and going to the printer, and learned something about the process too. So it was in our DNA already. 

Seth Tobocman: We arrived at 1979 with a knowledge of how to do that. We applied that to our own work and we were in a publishing environment that was still pretty hostile to everything we wanted to do, that is, I would say that there were four comic books published in the U.S. aimed at adults at that time, including ours. There really was no adult comics market in 1979 in the U.S. There were things we saw from Europe; there were the old underground comics, but the old underground comics had really become a genre fiction by 1979. They only had certain types of stories; they knew what they could sell and what they couldn’t sell, so they weren’t really this freeform thing that maybe they had seemed to be earlier. So, there was no place to print this type of work. 

Also, the left in the U.S. in the beginning of the 1980s was almost non-existent. I was in a peace organization in college consisting of five people. It was seen as very uncool to be involved in politics or socially critical at that time. There was a big reaction against the movements of the sixties. It was very hard to find someone our age who was politically active. I found more older people who were politically active. 

So we really felt that we had to create this thing ourselves, so that we could put out what we thought. And even though we were somewhat naïve and simplistic in our approach to a lot of things and a lot of our early comics looked like science fiction comics than they do political cartooning, the fact that we had done this attracted all kinds of people. That a couple of young people were putting out a political comic book. And those people came to the magazine and we learned from each person who came in and we developed our thinking through them. 

Samir Husni: Most magazines are published as a reflection of society, yours was more of an initiator. You took a tiny seed and watched it grow. Did you see that with nourishment this would happen or were you two just young and threw caution to the wind and said what the heck, let’s do it?

Seth Tobocman: I remember Peter saying to me , I think there’s going to be a war; we should do an anti-war magazine. That was what I remember him saying. We’d grown up through a period of the 1960s and we lived in Cleveland Heights, which was the neighborhood my father decided to live in because it was close to his job at the university. 

And we knew when we were kids that all kinds of crazy things were going on. And then we knew when we were teenagers that all kinds of crazy things were no longer going on, which was an odd perspective that we had. We saw these things come in and then we saw them go out as sort of passive observers from the security of Cleveland Heights, which wasn’t always secure. I remember one time my father brought all his research home because he was afraid his offices would be burned down. 

Peter Kuper: There was a time period during the sixties where there was a lot of marching and people’s lives were on the line going to Vietnam and so it made people very proactive. And then post-Vietnam and post-Nixon, there was a cooling off period and a lot of the steam went out of the engine in that respect. 

We grew up reading underground comics and I thought I was going to be an underground comic artist. I remember being frustrated by the fact that every time our generation arrived somewhere, things were just closing. There was a beat generation and a Summer of Love and then the underground comic scene. And we arrived just in time for them to tell us sorry, that door is now shut. 

To zoom forward, I think what we’ve found with World War 3 is that those groups weren’t there for those people either, they had to form them. So, creating World War 3 was kind of like producing an environment where we would have an interaction with other artists; where we would create a community and we’d be able to have that thing that we felt was missing. But it was not going to spontaneously appear. 

Samir Husni: It seems to me that World War 3 Illustrated was driven by passion. What about the business plan? Did you ever think we have to make money to continue doing this?

Peter Kuper: We have a very firm business model, which has kept us around for the last 41 years, which is nobody gets paid and there’s no money really generated besides enough to produce the magazine. I joke about this point, but there’s a real strong truth to it, because if you’re an editor on the magazine that just means you get to work more and are maybe hated a bit more by the people who don’t get published, but it creates an equality in the process. It’s understood that we’re doing this for the passion and the love of the form. And the desire to communicate these ideas. 

It’s not like there’s a golden ticket involved in it. The only frustration is the extent to which that holds us back from doing more, because finances have to be dealt with. We’re not business people. Having said that, we’ve managed to pull off a number of things, surviving for all of these years being number one, without having money involved. What we do make gets turned back into producing the next issue. 

Seth Tobocman: When we started out, maybe there were times we thought that someday we’d get paid and be able to pay everyone involved in this, but we really didn’t know. We had to feel our way around it. Very early on we got some distribution from some local distributors. There was a company called Trojan that mostly distributing porn, but they distributed us and they distributed Raw in the New York area. There was a guy named Joe Massey who was our distributor for many years, but those were very small quantities. 

What was really the breakthrough for us was around the 4th issue we connected with Mordam Records, which was a distribution company set up to distribute the records of the Dead Kennedys and set up to distribute the magazine Maximum Rocknroll, which was a punk rock fanzine, with a somewhat left orientation coming out of the West Coast. West Coast punk was really political; East Coast punk was not. 

Peter Kuper: What’s really important here is that was at a time when there were comic shops, but we very strongly believed that there was an audience like ourselves who were really interested in adult material in the comic form. But a lot of those people didn’t want to walk into a shop that had a giant Superman cutout when they walked through the door. And they were really put off by that. 

By getting a record distributor, we reached into this area that was a very solid base and we ended up in Tower Records back when they had record stores. People would stumble upon us, and then you didn’t find comics on the shelves in record stores for the most part. They started to carry alternative comics that were developed from publishers like Fantagraphics, but that was a huge breakthrough because we were constantly saying there was an audience for this, but we’re not reaching them in the comic shops. When we got through that door to this alternative area, it made a lot of things possible.

Seth Tobocman: We would get letters from all kinds of small towns where somebody would say they just discovered our magazine at the place where they bought punk records. And they would say they had never seen anything like it and it had changed their life to find it. We got a lot of those types of letters in the ‘80s. 

One of the good things that the punk rock people did, the West Coast people did, was they developed a lot of small business reps in various towns who only sold alternative records. They might be making money or they might not, but they were passionate about it. My general sense is, the Dead Kennedys records sold well enough to underwrite all the other things distributed by Mordam Records.  

Samir Husni: Why do you think you’re still doing print and publishing a printed magazine in this digital age? What role does print play today?

Seth Tobocman: From what I can see from the sales of my books and the sales from World War 3, a lot more people want to buy a print book than an e-book. I don’t know if it’s true for the mainstream comics, I know they make some pretty fancy e-books for Marvel and DC Comics, it’s almost like you’re watching a movie, so it might very well be that their e-books sell better, but it seems to us that there is a market for print books. 

What we’ve had to do in recent years is, first of all, Mordam Records, the whole record industry disappeared. Just vanished. When Tower Records closed we lost about 500 copy sales per issue. And the magazine distributors that we dealt with became smaller and smaller, asked for fewer and fewer copies. And I don’t think that had any relation to us, it had relation to the amount of business they were doing. 

Most recently, we have become an imprint of AK Press where we’re now selling it as an annual book. So, we’re calling it a book. It’s thicker and it’s once a year; it has a square binding; it’s 7×9, and it’s a book. Our distribution has gone back up a little since we became a book and an imprint of AK Press. So it seems like the bookstores have recovered somewhat from the loss they suffered because people still prefer a print book to an e-book, unless it’s a classic and they can download it for free. 

Peter Kuper: The other answer is we’re dinosaurs to some extent and we love print and we’re drawn to that form ourselves. It’s one that we’ve been familiar with. We used to go to the printers and stand by the presses while it came off the web press. And it was really exciting. I still have that coursing through my veins and the idea of having something arrive that’s not digital. 

Ethan Heitner: When people ask us why we haven’t moved to digital, I just want to crack up, because we wouldn’t know how. (Laughs) That’s why we’re still in print, because that’s what we know how to do. In 1979, I hadn’t been born yet. In 1980, I wasn’t born yet. In 1983, when I showed up on the scene, World War 3 was already an established fact of life, but I joined the audience of the magazine in the Tower Records days of the ‘90s. That’s how I got World War 3. 

When I first wanted to join World War 3 as a cartoonist in 2007/2008, the Internet started in 1994, the digital revolution began in 2007/2008; in 2007/2008 I moved to New York with the desire to become a cartoonist and join World War 3. And I found out that the issues that were being printed then did not have an email address, they did not have a website; they listed a P.O. Box on the inside cover for a contact. I was like, this is ridiculous. No way was I writing to a P.O. Box. (Laughs)

I’m making jokes, but actually I’m much less insistent on these things now because I don’t want to spend any more time in front of a computer than I have to either. And the way I did finally meet Seth was in a great, non-digital way. I was making comics that were being distributed at protests in New York City; printed flyers that were being passed out on the street and Seth found one of my flyers and wrote his phone number on the back of it and said give my phone number to whomever drew this comment and that’s how I finally got involved. 

One of the first things I did do when I became involved with the magazine was set up a Gmail account for the magazine, so people did not have to write to a P.O. Box to contact us. I eventually set up a Twitter account and a Facebook account and other social media. 

Samir Husni: So, Ethan you were discovered via ink on paper?

Ethan Heitner: Exactly. I was discovered via ink on paper. And I value that enormously. As a millennial, I absolutely appreciate and value and love print. I worked on the college newspaper when I was in college and I remember picking it up from the print shop, the smell of the fresh ink, and seeing my own work in print; I don’t think of my work as real until I see it in print. 

Samir Husni: Besides being a co-editor, what role do you play today with World War 3 Illustrated?

Ethan Heitner: There’s not really clearly defined roles beyond editing individually. The structure is very loose. Part of the way Seth and Peter set it up and the way it has continued, things are dealt with on an issue by issue basis. There isn’t really a lot of stepping back and trying to tackle more long-term structural issues for the magazine. There’s this loose collective that theoretically we all need to contribute, but as far as who actually makes what decision and what people’s roles are is fluid. 

In 2011-2013, I sort of tried to get us a little bit more coherent internally, just to get us a more consistent web presence, to think about questions of distribution, to think about questions of digital distribution, and I didn’t make a lot of progress, that’s when I set up our Tumblr account and our Gmail account, and I set up other social media accounts. 

In 2013, I got a little burned out, so I took a break. It was difficult. There’s this generational divide, in terms of technology. And it’s such a loose structure, that’s it’s hard to make change happen. Recently, Seth asked me to get more involved again and that’s why I helped with #51. That’s the first issue I’ve been directly involved with for a while. We started that process in 2016/2017. After Trump got elected, I got a little bit more involved again. In 2017, I actually rejoined the editorial board.

Samir Husni: As a millennial, what do you think the role of print is in this digital age?

Ethan Heitner: I think what Seth was saying earlier, people have a hunger for print. People my age and younger are exhausted by digital, especially during this age of the pandemic. There’s a desire to have something physical to hold in your hands. It’s really coming back and it’s something that people are missing. I think they’re realizing they maybe went too far in the other direction.

Peter Kuper: It’s like vinyl as well. There’s a younger generation that doesn’t want everything to be in zeros and ones. 

Ethan Heitner: It’s shifted from a more mass production model to more of a curated production model. But World War 3 was always sort of a curated audience anyway. World War 3’s audience is also not necessarily a mass audience. It would be great if it were, but we’re not kidding ourselves. We know that it’s not. It’s always going to be something that reaches that subsect of the population and that population is also maybe more appreciative of print. If the goal was to reach as many people as possible, then it would absolutely make sense to push more of a digital platform. 

Seth Tobocman: One of the things, and Ethan is aware of this, the advent of digital media changes the purpose of a magazine like World War 3. During the first 20 or 30 years of production of the magazine, if I saw a point of view that was interesting, but wasn’t getting out there; even if I disagreed with it, I would feel I had some obligation to help this poor soul reach an audience because no one would ever listen to them. 

Whereas with the advent of the Internet, everybody can get into the public in some form, no matter how weird they are or how unqualified. The first time a computer geek friend of mine showed me the Internet, one of the first sites he showed me was a site that told you Hitler was still alive and lived on the dark side of the moon and visited the Earth in a flying saucer. And that guy had one of the first websites. 

And the idea of getting something out right away is much better served by the Internet than served by print. And I think that really hurt the newspapers. Facebook is all about speed, not about quality. People put things out on social media before they even think about what they’re writing. That’s one of the problems with it.

So what we’re doing now has a different role, it’s like is this good enough to spend some money on printing so that somebody can spend some money on buying it? And will it have value in a year? Will it still mean something in a year? I think one of the really nice things about drawing comics is it takes so much time. If I’m writing something on Facebook, I might write something really stupid because it only takes me a minute, I don’t have time to think about it. If I write a stupid comic strip it’s going to take a lot longer to draw than to write it and if it’s a dumb idea, I’m going to change it before it comes out. 

Samir Husni: What do you think is the future of World War 3 Illustrated? Are we still at war after those 41 years?

Peter Kuper: Hopefully, because we’ve been publishing, we’ve kept the war from happening. That’s one of the great things that we’ve done. I have to say that I’m very happy about that success. As long as we’re publishing, there won’t be a World War 4. But we’re already plotting for another issue and the fact is, what we have been doing the whole time is not World War 3 in the traditional apocalyptic sense, it’s more like our daily lives, the things that we’re encountering all the time. And there are a lot of first-person accounts. With what’s going on right now, all of us have direct contact with the pandemic. 

So, the stories we have to tell are pretty bottomless. I don’t see any end to it. Only when we have passed as humans will there be a necessary end to producing this kind of material, whether it will be in the form of the magazine or not is impossible to say, but we certainly didn’t look in 1979 ahead and say yep, in 2021 we’re going to be doing a new issue. That did come as a surprise. 

So now, having witnessed our longevity I feel like yes, this could go on for years and years more because there’s a lot of people that really want to express themselves and need a form for it. And in mainstream publishing it’s very limited to do an 11-page comic strip about something personal, say? There are more outlets with graphic novels, for example, in the process of doing the magazine, we’ve witnessed a change from comics as a low art form, or not even an art form, to being one of the most powerful sections of a bookstore and online. The graphic novel revolution has exploded and people have stopped having that question about it. As a form, it’s only gotten stronger and that’s one more good reason we’ll keep going on.

Seth Tobocman: I think the definition of comics and who makes comics has really expanded. Pete and I both teach and our classes are mostly young women, which when we started the magazine there was a real push to say there should be more women working on the magazine. We generally had to find people who had never drawn a comic strip before and teach them to draw comics, so that we would have women working on the magazine. Comics in the U.S. was a very male genre. 

Ethan has done a lot of work with us to bring in cartoonists from Palestine, Egypt and Lebanon that we hadn’t known about. And I’ve become aware that there are a lot of comics being done around the world that are in a lot of ways very much influenced by the ‘80s alternative comics from the U.S. and Europe, but have a subject material on a notion of who the protagonist is; it’s much broader. I think there are a lot of new voices starting to use this medium. 

One of the good things about World War 3 and a good reason to keep it going is we have dinosaurs like me and Peter Kuper and Sue Coe on this magazine, and then we have someone like Colleen Tighe who is completely new and represents a different generation of people. So there’s a way of creating a continuity, saying this idea has been around, this idea has developed, and this idea has retained its integrity for this amount of time. And I think there’s a reason to go forward and continue it. 

Ethan Heitner: I actually do try to push Seth and Peter to say why are we doing this? What is the reason? It’s not the situation when they started, just getting a form or getting a point of view out there, because now anybody can get their point of view out there. And there’s also a lot more forms for graphic journalism comics that deal with politics. There are all sorts of websites and magazines that actually will publish a 16-page story. And they might actually pay you for it. 

So one question I always try to bring is what is the unique thing that WW3 does; it’s not a question that has an answer, but I think we keep trying to look for it. One of the many great advantages of the digital age is we now can get comics directly from Palestine, Egypt, and Lebanon; from anywhere in the world. And finding that work is very valuable. So as long as we keep finding that work that is valuable, that’s the fun part of putting together the magazine. It’s very exciting.

Samir Husni: What makes you tick and click and motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?

Peter Kuper: Doing something that you love, drawing cartoons, definitely gets me out of bed in the mornings. And it tends to relate very often to the news. I’m looking to see what’s going on and it’s a form of therapy in addressing it. But I’m still so utterly excited about doing the drawing on a piece of paper that it gets me out of bed every morning. 

Seth Tobocman: This is absolutely the right question because drawing comics get me out of bed in the mornings. I’m an old guy and I’ll wake up in the morning and I’ll think about everything that went wrong in my life and then I have a comic strip to draw. So I get up and start drawing it. And comic strips take a long time to draw, you have page after page and then a deadline. So you always have some work to do, which is really helpful. 

Samir Husni: My typical last question; what keeps you up at night?

Peter Kuper: Doom scrolling, especially in the last four years, though it’s run longer than that. Seeing what madness has occurred, even in some final hour of the day. And on the pleasure side, there are so many things that I want to read and it’s just impossible to keep up with all of that.

Seth Tobocman: Arguments that I get into with people keep me up at night. The fact that all my friends who used to be radicals in the ‘80s are kind of Trump supporters which totally freaks me out. I’m like, what do I say to them? That’s what keeps me up at night, how do I convince people that they’re being completely ridiculous. Usually there’s not a way. 

Ethan Heitner: My three-year-old gets me up in the morning and he’s the one who usually wakes me up at night.

Samir Husni: Thank you all. 

One comment

  1. These guys are hilarious! “Doing something that you love, drawing cartoons, definitely gets me out of bed in the mornings. And it tends to relate very often to the news. I’m looking to see what’s going on and it’s a form of therapy in addressing it. But I’m still so utterly excited about doing the drawing on a piece of paper that it gets me out of bed every morning,” shows the heart of their work to me. I love how they took their talents and passions and turned it into something they can offer the world.



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