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Win, Lose, and Draw

Illustrator recalls his life in terrific new book.

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The protagonist of Peter Kuper’s graphic novel Stop Forgetting to Remember: The Autobiography of Walter Kurtz is “self-centered, pompous, and very whiny,” laughs the author. “I’m self-centered, pompous, and only a little bit whiny. There’s a difference.” While parts of the book reach back to Kuper’s high and horny teen years, much of it centers on the past decade, when he became a father. “This period crossed into so many subjects I was interested in addressing,” he says. “Once I put my toe in the water to talk about personal matters, I couldn’t stop.”

Kuper, a native Clevelander who now lives in Mexico, has illustrated literary classics (like Kafka’s Metamorphosis), penned a children’s book (Theo and the Blue Note), and wrote Mad magazine’s “Spy vs. Spy” comic for years. He’s also a regular contributor to The New York Times, Time, and other revered publications. Stop Forgetting to Remember is his most personal work. “Once everybody became a character, a certain freedom fell down on me,” he says. “I didn’t want to be stuck with reality, but I can’t make up these experiences.” The book’s hilarious tale chronicles Kuper’s awkward first attempts at scoring with girls (an initial sexual encounter lasts a whopping “nanosecond”) to juggling fatherhood and work. “Comics are a great medium for covering so many different subjects,” he says. “But there aren’t too many underground people writing about having kids.” There’s also plenty of post-9/11 paranoia, political musing, and other modern fears on display. “There’s a certain degree of self-exploration,” he says. “I found out things along the way while trying to figure out who I was. It became a diary entry with a theme: Don’t forget who you were.”

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