Friday, December 04, 2015


Ruins is the newest graphic novel by Peter Kuper, a New York City writer and artist that has created many comics, but is still fairly unknown to the mainstream.  Whenever I see that he has published a new work, it makes my world a little bit brighter.  His works are mostly fiction, but sometimes based on real events and things that have happened in his life.   So I guess you could say many of this works are sort of autobiographical, slice-of-life, alternative, and observational.   He has also done adaptations of Franz Kafka’s work like The Metamorphosis.  The last thing I read by him was Stop Forgetting to Remember, which I enjoyed greatly (and might be the best place to start if interested in his work), but I’ve also read a number of his other works. 

Ruins is a work of fiction, though many aspects of it were inspired by real events that he, his wife, and daughter experienced during their two years spent living in Mexico.  There are a couple of storylines that crisscross throughout the book.  One of them is the actual story of a couple going to Oaxaca, Mexico  so that the wife can work on a book, and so the guy can work practice his art and drawing bugs (that area is known to flourish with it number of  bugs, insects, and animal species).
There’s another story that intersects the book and that’s the migration of the monarch butterflies as they fly from Canada to Mexico--a 2,000 to 3,000 mile trip.  A remarkable aspect of their life cycle is that while most generations only live 3 or 4 weeks, the generation that makes this arduous migration can live up to 9 months.   Also of note, their population has been diminishing due to their habitats disappearing.  You can read more about that at:

Another part of his book concerns itself with the politics that was going on at the time concerning a teacher’s strike.  They had just gotten a new governor, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, and many of the locals didn’t like him and were striking in protest.  In 2006, Ortiz ordered the police to attack the striking teachers in the early hours of June 14th.   Over the next several months, police clashed with the strikers, and a number of union members were either wounded or killed.  The strike became an international incident on October 27th when U.S. journalist Brad Will was killed by undercover police. 

All in all I enjoyed reading Kuper’s newest effort.  If I had a criticism it seems at times his male protagonist was a little too cranky, or self-obsessed.  The American journalist seemed a little bit too cartoony or oddly drawn, but it could be a fairly accurate caricature of him too.  But a few minor quibbles didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the book.   Peter also injects many things to ponder about as well, and I think the upshot message of the book is no matter how violent the government actions have gone and how destructive humans can be, life still persist and it can be pretty awesome.


At 1:16 PM, Blogger Richard Bellush said...

There are a few authors whose books I buy on sight: Tom Wolfe, F. Paul Wilson, Jack Ketchum et al. There used to be more (e.g. Gore Vidal) but they quite selfishly died. Didn't they know I wasn't done reading yet?

Many of the notable graphic novelists are a younger bunch, and I'll notice new material from Mark Millar, Bryan Lee O'Malley, and a couple others. I'm not familiar with Kuper but now I'll keep him in mind.

At 9:32 AM, Blogger El Vox said...

You made me laugh with that Gore Vidal comment, but yes, some people go before we are ready to let them go. There is a new documentary out currently called Best of Enemies, which pits William F. Buckley against Gore Vidal. It's a series of debates from 1968. I didn't agree with Buckley on politics or his views, but I always thought he was a brilliant guy. The doc is from an era where one could express their opinions and the other would actually listen.

Yes, I've always enjoyed Peter Kuper. He's one of those comic artist that grew out of the autobiographical (for lack of a better word) comic scene of the 80s or so like Harvey Pekar, Art Spiegelman, R Crumb, Seth, Chester Brown, and a bunch of others. Some of those guys didn't start out that way, but are included in that scene. At one time there were many comics along that line to choose from, but somewhere along the way started to dry up. Some like Kuper and Adrine Tomine, Chester Brown are still doing it, but it's not as plentiful as it used to be.


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