World War 3 Illustrated (WW3I) is North America’s longest-running comic anthology around the themes of social commentary and journalism, run by a volunteer collective of political activists and artists. It makes itself pretty clear in that it “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.”
For its #51 issue, ‘The World We Are Fighting For’, it is edited by Peter Kuper, Ethan Heiner and Seth Tobocman, and it wanders around the causes of cycles of oppression and pain that repeat themselves, but also the strength of the people opposing them and the cycles of solidarity, mutual aid and movements we thrive in. From the fight for the right of housing or to stop pipelines in Native lands, to amplify voices of LGBT+ incarcerated people, to tales of personal and political history, ‘The World We Are Fighting For’ is a drawn collective chant to everyone involved in the struggle for making this a better, safer world.
Reaching out to WW3I, we had the immense luck of having Seth Tobocman for a video-recorded chat with Comic Watch’s own Duna Haller (that you can watch at the end of the article). Starting with a powerful slideshow and reading of his comics from World War 3 Illustrated, that touch from pandemic mishandling by the USA government, to a broader shout against capitalism’s environmental and human consequences, to a piece called “What To Do About It?”, that portrays his involvement as an artist in activism from the 80s. It’s in “What To Do About It?” that Seth homages the life and death of Michael Stewart, whose murder by the hands of a policeman is portrayed in one of the panels of the story, reminding us of the pressing issue that Black Lives Should Matter.
After the reading, and growing from his involvement on art and activism, the conversation navigates towards artists in activism and how the magazine started as a shout against Reaganism, and how he met Maggie Smith, a bar owner who sent the magazine to political prisoners (like Mumia Abu-Jamal or Ramona Africa) that later sent them letters about it. Seth also talks about some of his earlier influences as a child, like Marie Severin on The Incredible Hulk, and how those lead to discovering and meeting underground artists like Catherine Jeffrey Jones, whose book SPASM is “probably the best comic he ever read”. Then Seth tells us his detailed story of getting into political comics and creating WW3I. It is “a collectively run publication, about 20 people are considered editors and everybody who makes decisions on WW3I writes and draws comics.”
Some of the work from the anthology highlighted in our conversation are José Muñoz‘s cover, Mohammad Sabaaneh‘s long-running splash of war and injustice in The History of The World, John Vasquez Mejías‘ except from the story about a colonized people’s liberation The Puerto Rican War, Colleen Thighe‘s hope-infusing posters, Sandy Jiménez‘s satirical comics… Gets to the heart of what comics dare to dream and to be.
As you’ll see in the video below, it all goes back to comics and what they mean to us. To the question “why do you do comics?” Seth just answers “Because it’s a language which I can express myself on. Because I learned to draw when I was very young, and it has always worked for me. Because I just love comics, I love arranging images in a page and figuring how to make them readable, and I could spend all day doing it. On a good day, I do spend all day doing it… It’s really very simple. It’s not because it’s a great way to put out political information. It happens to be, but that’s not why I do it. I do it because I love comics.”
Seth Tobocman on ‘The World We Are Fighting For’ & The Space Within Art And Solidarity
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