World War 3 Illustrated

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World War 3 Illustrated
190px Ben Hillman
EditorVarious, rotating editorial board
DistributorTop Shelf Productions
CategoriesPolitical magazine
PublisherAK Press
First issue1980
CompanyWorld War 3 Illustrated
CountryUnited States

World War 3 Illustrated is an American comics anthology magazine with a left-wing political focus,[1][2] founded in 1979 (though the first issue was published in 1980) by New York City comic book artists Peter Kuper and Seth Tobocman,[3][4][5][6] and painter Christof Kohlhofer,[7] and subsequently produced by a collective[1] with a rotating editorship.[8]

Other frequent contributors, mostly based in New York City, include Isabella Bannerman, Sue Coe, Scott Cunningham, Eric Drooker, Sandy Jimenez, Sabrina Jones, Mac McGill, Kevin Pyle, and James Romberger.[7]

A predominantly black-and-white printed comic book story anthology, World War 3 Illustrated has featured full-color covers and occasional special color sections “within book.”


Typical World War 3 Illustrated issues are focused on a single political issue, theme or broad subject, decided upon by the editorial staff. Artists and writers are then invited to develop material addressing the issue's subject. This approach of incubating material around a different political concern or specific topic every issue has made the magazine an extremely diverse and unpredictable periodical anthology in the world of comics, and possibly the longest-running of its kind in print,[citation needed] at over 30 years of publication.

Unlike other comic book anthology-format magazines like Heavy Metal, Mad, or the defunct Epic Illustrated, World War 3 Illustrated is known less for character-based episodic features and more for the sustained or recurring presence of certain artists. The exception is Sandy Jimenez's "Shit House Poet", running exclusively in World War 3 Illustrated since 1991, making it the magazine's longest-running recurring feature with an identifiable single cast of characters.[9] 2011 marked the feature's 21st year in the magazine.[10]

Publication history[edit]

The magazine initially began as a home for comic book work and graphic/illustrated storytelling that was anti-establishment and aggressively critical of the social and political right-wing conservatism in ascension after the election of President Ronald Reagan.[4][8][5][6] In the spirit of the then-burgeoning DIY approach prevalent among independent punk and hardcore bands and musicians, the magazine took control of the means of production and distribution, foregoing possible relationships with established publishing institutions or companies for the sake of its own editorial integrity and political independence.

In the first decade of the magazine, its focus ranged from the global to the hyper-local, specifically addressing the politics and concerns affecting the neighborhoods of the Lower East Side of Manhattan: housing rights; gentrification; police brutality; racism; economic oppression.[8] The 1988 Tompkins Square Park riot was a watershed event for the magazine's founders and artistic contributors, as much of the work in the anthology had focused squarely on the political issues leading to the riot, such as the city government's policies towards squatters and the homeless. When tensions brought the riot to its most dangerous points across the two-day conflict, much of the notable imagery associated with the grassroots resistance on improvised signage and wheat-pasted posters was appropriated from published work in the magazine created by Eric Drooker, Seth Tobocman, and others.[11]

The late 1980s and 1990s saw an increasing diversity in both the number of new individual artists and writers contributing original comic book stories to World War 3 Illustrated, and a widening of the range in subject matter. The magazine has published a number of special issues on women/feminism, including Herstories (1992) Female Complaints (1999), Bitchcraft (2000), and Shameless Feminists (2021).[2]

Issue #39, Wordless Words, was a 120-page collection of wordless comics released in January 2009.[12]

In 2010–2011, New York's Exit Art gallery exhibited "Graphic Radicals", work from World War 3 Illustrated curated by Kuper, Tobocman, and Susan Willmarth celebrating the magazine's 30th anniversary.[11][8][13]

In 2014, the magazine celebrated its 35th anniversary.[4]

Issue #49, published in 2017, was titled Now Is the Time of Monsters and focused on predatory capitalism.[14]

Issue #50, Shameless Feminists, published in 2019, featured contributions from Sabrina Jones, Trina Robbins, Lauren Weinstein, Monica McKelvey Johnson, and Sandy Jimenez, among others.[2]

In 2020 the magazine published a 220-page special issue titled "The World We Are Fighting For."[5]

World War 3 Illustrated has historically carried advertising of fewer than ten pages total per issue, and has ranged in total page-count from 80 pages to 138 in recent issues of the last decade.[when?]


The 1990s was also by an explosive expansion in the magazine's distribution, as Ruth Schwartz of Mordam Records took on the magazine's circulation fulfillment, ensuring that it would be present in any and all outlets that already carried the notable music punk ‘zine Maximum Rocknroll.[citation needed] This distribution agreement took World War 3 Illustrated's issues international, as they were carried by Tower Records in all territories.[citation needed] The partnership with Mordam Records continued late into the 1990s, until World War 3 Illustrated handed its distribution over to Chris Staros of Top Shelf Productions and Diamond Comic Distributors.[citation needed] In 2017, AK Press took over publication of the magazine.[15]


The magazine's look is greatly informed by the work of its original founders, and also the era and context in which the anthology was initially developed: the 1980s DIY culture and grassroots activism. Much of the earlier work was created for the magazine with an eye toward visuals that could be easily reproduced in other media, such as silk-screened banners, posters, and T-shirts.[16]

In the past decade, the magazine has increasingly published work that is more varied in its graphic approach, with increasing use of halftones, grayscaling, and fine linework alongside, the established hardline work and photocollage of years past.

The magazine's logo, an image of a globe superimposed over a blazing matchstick, is indicative of the magazine's philosophy concerning the need for vigilance and recognition of perennial conflicts and systems of ongoing oppression all over the world.

Contributors and controversy[edit]

Other contributors to World War 3 Illustrated include Peter Bagge, Fly, Spain Rodriguez, Art Spiegelman,[17] Chuck Sperry, and Tom Tomorrow.[6] Imprisoned activists and writers like Mumia Abu-Jamal and embattled cartoonist Mike Diana have published work in the magazine.


  • World War 3 Illustrated 1980-1988. (1989). Fantagraphics Books. ISBN 1560970022
  • World War 3 Illustrated: Confrontational Comics. (1995). Four Walls Eight Windows. ISBN 1568580398
  • World War 3 Illustrated: 1979–2014. (2014). PM Press. ISBN 9781604869583[17][18]



  1. ^ a b Chuter, Andrew (August 3, 2020). "Five graphic novels and cartoons to politicise and criticise". Green Left.
  2. ^ a b c Lippard, Lucy (February 2021). "World War 3 Illustrated's Shameless Feminists". Brooklyn Rail. Autobiography has long been a powerful fertilizer for women's art, and I suspect that many of the stories told in Shameless Feminists are creative nonfiction, full of tales of lonely, talented, ignored women coming into their own through community support.
  3. ^ Neil Gaiman, ed., The Best American Comics 2010 (Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010), p. 321.
  4. ^ a b c Heller, Steven (July 3, 2014). "World War 3 Has Raged for 35 Years: The comics zine stays angry, even if it doesn't have Reagan to skewer anymore". The Atlantic.
  5. ^ a b c Gavaler, Chris (28 September 2020). "'WORLD WAR 3 ILLUSTRATED #51: THE WORLD WE ARE FIGHTING FOR': World War 3 Illustrated #51 displays an eclectic range of artists united in their call to save democracy from rising fascism". Pop Matters.
  6. ^ a b c Marks, Ben (December 11, 2014). "World War 3 – It's the end of the world as we know it, and I don't feel fine". Boing Boing.
  7. ^ a b Green, Karen (February 4, 2011). "Comic Adventures in Academia Blog: The Rapidograph Is Mightier Than the Sword". Comixology. Archived from the original on February 8, 2011. Retrieved 4 February 2011.
  8. ^ a b c d Cotter, Holland (January 13, 2011). "'Graphic Radicals': 30 Years of World War 3 Illustrated". The New York Times.
  9. ^ Various artists (1995). Confrontational Comics. Four Walls Eight Windows. ISBN 1-56097-002-2.
  10. ^ Clough, Rob (January 15, 2011). "Correctives & Propaganda: World War III Illustrated #41 and Borderland". The Comics Journal.
  11. ^ a b Moynihan, Colin (January 28, 2011). "A Magazine Rooted In The East Village". The Local East Village.
  12. ^ Buhle, Paul (July 15, 2009). "World War 3 Illustrated". Foreword Reviews.
  13. ^ MacDonald, Heidi. "Tonight To Do: Graphic Radicals at Exit Art," The Beat (Dec. 7, 2010).
  14. ^ Seven, John (February 13, 2019). "Review: 'Now Is The Time Of Monsters' offers radical comics to spark real resistance". The Beat.
  15. ^ World War 3 Illustrated at the Grand Comics Database
  16. ^ Joy, Stacie (July 21, 2022). "Seth Tobocman on the story behind a long-covered mural on 9th Street". EV Grieve..
  17. ^ a b Doctorow, Cory (February 26, 2015). "World War 3 Illustrated: prescient outrage from the dawn of the Piketty apocalypse". Boing Boing.
  18. ^ Kleffel, Rick (Jul 30, 2014). "PM Press: Punk, Politics and Publishing". KQED.


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