Harvey Pekar, American Artist

It was July 10th, just after midnight, when his wife looked in on him and discovered Harvey Pekar, one of the most singular voices in American literature, had died.

He grew up in Cleveland, the son of a Talmudic scholar, and aside from a stint in the US Navy, he lived there all his life. For many years, he worked as a file clerk at a veteran's hospital. 

In the mid-60s, his love of jazz music led to a friendship with Robert Crumb, and he was inspired to create his own underground comic, American Splendour.

He described American Splendor as "an autobiography written as it's happening. The theme is about staying alive. Getting a job, finding a mate, having a place to live, finding a creative outlet. Life is a war of attrition. You have to stay active on all fronts. It's one thing after another. I've tried to control a chaotic universe. And it's a losing battle. But I can't let go. I've tried, but I can't."

One of many things that made his work so unique was the wide variety of illustrators he worked with over the years. The result is a series where Harvey's writing is a consistent element while the visual styles cover the waterfront of contemporary graphic novels.

His fellow cartoonist Seth said Harvey was "...probably the first person who wanted to use the comics medium seriously as a writer. Certainly the first person to toss every genre element out the window and try to capture something of the genuine experience of living: not just some technique of real life glossed onto a story — not satire, or sick humor or everyday melodrama — but the genuine desire to transmit from one person to another just what life feels like."

His life was not an easy one, but he would never let his work shrink away from the day to day, whether it was funny, horrific, or both.

Harvey earned the respect of his peers and the artists who followed behind him.

On a good day, he may even have found that rarest of artistic moments, where he even impressed himself.

Harvey Pekar

October 8, 1939 – July 12, 2010

Learn more about this remarkable writer at these sites:






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