This week, the Pekar Project presents three new Harvey Pekar stories: “Legendary Vienna,” a lecture on Austria-Hungarian Jewish geography Crumbishly illustrated by Joseph Remnant and guest-starring yours truly as the lectured one; “Da Vinci for Dummies” a DIS-sertation on the Mona Lisa jazzily-drawn and impressionisticaly-colored by Tara Seibel; and “Zen Comics” a goofy epiphony extra-crisply rendered by Rick Parker.
“Watch out, ‘cos when you work with Harvey, you wind up in Harvey’s work,” warned artist Dean Haspiel and he should know, having drawn many American Splendor stories plusThe Quitter, a full-length graphic novel about Harvey’s youth. Dean also edited Next-Door Neighbor, SMITH’s previous true-life webcomics series for which Harvey contributed a story, and was my working-with-Harvey advisor when I got things rolling as editor. How I wound up crossing into the Pekarverse in “Legendary Vienna” reveals a bit of both how we work together and Harvey’s own process. One day Harvey’s reading me the script to “Back In The Day,” over the phone, which of course I insta-greenlit, and then we somehow started yappin’ about Judaism. He asks where my family’s from, and I go, “uh…. I think Vienna,” and Harvey goes “Vienna! Man, sayin yer from Vienna is like being from Yonkers and sayin’ yer from Manhattan…. Vienna… I don’t think so” and then he riffs out a passionate history lesson, hangs up, calls me the next day and goes, “So, I got another story for you, so, I’m talking to you….” I gulped and greenlit. Joseph made the decision to transform the phone convo to one taking place at a comics convention instead, and we let that slide, even in a “nonfiction comic” because that was more visually interesting and the setting didn’t materially affect the essence of the piece.