“It makes you feel good to know that there’s other people afflicted like you.” –
Harvey Pekar 1939 – 2010
Harvey Pekar was known for being many things: A writer, record collector, husband, father, grouch – but more than anything else he was known simply for being himself. I first became aware of American Splendor (Pekar’s long running autobiographical comic strip) when the brilliant movie adaptation came out back in 2003 and I was immediately fascinated by his unique approach to a medium more well known for ripped up good guys beating up on ripped up bad guys. Alternatively, American Splendor focused on the mundane everyday aspects of life and the accompanying frustration that was inevitable. To put it in Harvey’s own words: “Ordinary life is pretty complex stuff,” and within the pages of his book it was that and much more.
Over several decades of publication some of the finest artists in the world (including a certain R. Crumb) chipped in to help assist Harvey in documenting his life story culminating in arguably his most remarkable work with “Our Cancer Year:” A standalone, Harvey award winning comic released during the early nineties that chronicled Pekar’s battle with and eventual triumph over Lymphoma. I had the chance to actually meet Harvey in person at a convention some years ago and I have to say that everything I’d read and seen about the guy was absolutely true, but I was also surprised at the underlying sweetness and gentle quality about him that rarely (if ever) came across in his comics.
Harvey may have died this past week, but he left us with a body of work that will live on long after we’re gone. Harvey Pekar gave the world a great gift and though he might not have believed it (and certainly wouldn’t agree), that gift was himself. His catharsis became ours. His venting was something anyone could relate to and often made one feel as though they weren’t alone in viewing the world in a sometimes harshly realistic light. He was one of a kind and the world is a much smaller place without him.
Here’s to you Harvey, I hope they serve orange soda in Heaven.