Monday, July 12, 2010

Harvey Pekar was an unusual guy...

Here's a nice write-up of Harvey Pekar by David Ulin in the LA Times. Pekar was perhaps one of the greatest comic-book writers of all time. But he wrote about seemingly nothing and couldn't draw. Yet his comics are steeped in reality and are thought-provoking meditations on day-to-day existence--the frustrations and simple pleasures of a "regular guy's" life. Yet he was no regular guy at all. He was a complete iconoclast, masquerading as a regular guy. What an artistic blend of interesting contradictions was Harvey Pekar.

One of my friends left this 1981 issue of American Splendor behind (among many other things) when she moved across the country. This was my introduction to Harvey Pekar's work. I didn't know what to make of it at first. I had stacks of underground comics lying around from my friend's booty and my own collection that I was slowly building by haunting San Francisco comic-book shops (that's another story--guys who ran comic-book stores back in the 80s--hoo boy). Most underground comics blew up reality into surreal, angry chunks of graphic matter. Drugs, sexual kinks and raving madness were typical themes. That wasn't the scenario with American Splendor.

I didn't understand the "banality of life" situation that Harvey was getting at so cleverly throughout his work. I was in my early 20s, maybe even younger, and life was a banquet unfolding, you know? NOW I get it. Heh. I did like his tone and outlook. He was an observer and he was very creative, using comics to string together biographical moments of time.

A panel from my favorite story from this issue, "Rip-off Chick." The story of a small-town femme-fatale and a bad relationship, illustrated by Greg Budgett and Gary Dumm. Back in my early years, this resonated.
A thoughtful discussion about the comics medium.

Harvey messes with the sleek talk-show format in 1987. True performance art and entertaining too.

You haven't seen "American Splendor" yet? One of my favorite movies ever and VERY inspiring, like the man himself.

So long, American original.

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