Peter Kuper’s autobiographical fiction has taken key elements from his formative years but changed all the names, including his own to Walter Kurtz, perhaps to protect the innocent (and the not so innocent). It’s a probing insight into the male psyche at a specific point in its development: despite the fact that he delves into his childhood and teenage memories, cheerfully disparaging his former self, it’s done from the perspective of a man on the cusp of fatherhood. These childhood exploits, most of which are sexual, take up the first half of the book.
The second half is the story of the modern Kuper/Kurtz. Charting his progress from pregnant father through the trials and tribulations of the early years, it’s fascinating reading for those in a similar situation. Anyone who has already gone through it will smile wryly at the situation and its inherent comedy and sadness; men currently in the thick of it may be thankful they’re not alone; while those about to embark may be shocked at its honesty – they just don’t tell you these things at anti-natal classes.
Kuper’s memoir takes a chaotic view of time, much like the process of memory as thoughts bubble to the surface of consciousness in seemingly random ways. There seems to be little structure beyond the basic stream of thought to the order in which these end up on the page, but this makes the progress of the book feel natural and unhurried. Kuper uses his design and illustration skill to delineate the memories from the present, with a third colour added to the otherwise monochromatic pages to mark the movement into memory, so despite the seeming chaos, it’s still simple to follow.
Part of Kuper’s book is about how obsessing about fatherhood, while probably unavoidable given the circumstances, changes the focus of a man’s life, and can have a dramatic impact on who he is and how he’s perceived by others. It should hit its ‘novice father’ target audience like a slap in the face, but may also enlighten both male and female to the relatively under-discussed impact that bringing children into the world has on men. So if you’re a father, a father to be or have a close friend who’s about to become a father, this could, perhaps, be the first graphic novel that’s been specifically written for you. And isn’t it about time Dads got their own comic?