“Heart of Darkness deserves to be canonical because it addresses through art what it means to be civilized and what it means to be savage, and touches on things happening now in our world: the madness of power.”
Political artist/illustrator Peter Kuper rejoins the show to talk about his new graphic adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (WW Norton). We get into the highwire act of addressing race without diluting the book or otherwise changing Conrad’s tale (that is, how do you balance adaptation and revisionism?), how Peter accidentally subjected himself to some of Marlow’s ill health while adapting the book, and how he used graphic storytelling to bring other perspectives to the story. We also discuss his trepidation about adapting a canonical book, his trepidation about drawing boats, and is trepidation about making an optimistic issue of World War 3 Illustrated. Oh, yeah, and he tells us about getting to hold Conrad’s diary from the river journey that inspired Heart of Darkness, his ongoing Spy Vs. Spy strips for Mad Magazine, and, on his 3rd appearance on the show, I finally ask him just where his progressivism started! Give it a listen! And go buy Heart of Darkness!
“One of the great ironies of censorship is that Mad Magazine was the only thing left standing after the other EC comics had to shut down, because it was more subversive than any of the others.”
“Art can speak some kind of truth that even photography fails at.”
“My intention with almost any project is to demonstrate what you can do with comics.”
“Adaptation is like taking a graduate class.”
About our Guest
Peter Kuper’s work appears regularly in The New Yorker, The Nation, and Mad, where he has written and illustrated “Spy vs. Spy” every issue since 1997. He is the co-founder of World War 3 Illustrated, a political comix magazine now in its 40th year of publication. He has produced more than two dozen books, including Sticks and Stones, The System, Diario de Oaxaca, Ruins (which won the 2016 Eisner Award), and Kafkaesque: Fourteen Stories. His new book is Heart of Darkness.
Peter has lectured extensively throughout the world and has taught comics and illustration courses at Parsons, The School of Visual Arts, and Harvard University’s first class dedicated to graphic novels. A frequent guest at literary festivals, Peter enjoys traveling the world, but will always call New York City his home.
Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Mr. Kuper’s studio on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Mr. Kuper by me. It’s on my instagram.