Maybe it’s because Harvey Pekar was such an everyman, because he wrote about everyday trials and tribulations of everyday people, of himself and the other lives he chronicled in American Splendor and here in The Pekar Project; maybe it’s because of this universal identifiability that a wave of sadness, like a collective family member passed, swept across social and regular media when news spread of Harvey’s death on July 12, 2010.
Multiple Facebook walls, including my own, became instant vigils, tribes huddled around a YouTube video instead of a campfire. Twitter mourners howled like dogs at the moon, but in 140 characters and with links to blogs, videos, drawings. And the media from The New York Times and Wall Street Journal to the Washington Post and Harvey’s hometown Cleveland Plain Dealer all posted remembrances of our beloved curmudgeon who, of course, was never really a curmudgeon, but a cool cat to the end.
I’m going to write a more personal in-depth appreciation of what it was like working with Harvey, and we’re going to do a number of tributes on the Pekar Project in the coming days. In the meantime, members of the extended Pekar Project family have written moving tributes including Dean Haspiel (artist of The Quitter), Brian Heater (editor, Daily Cross Hatch and chronicler of the Pekar 70th Birthday Cleveland Expedition), Josh Neufeld (frequent Pekar collaborator, creator of A.D.: New Orleans After The Deluge), Joseph Remnant (Pekar Project artist), Michael Malice (subject of Pekar’s Ego & Hubris: The Michael Malice Story),
Sean Pryor (Pekar Project, Royal Flush artist), and Tara Seibel (Pekar Project artist.)
There are still more Pekar Project stories to come, including three more installments of Pekar’s epic encounter with Doug Rushkoff illustrated by Sean Pryor, a 15-page story about garbage drawn by Rick Parker, a guest strip drawn by Vanessa Davis, and more. Joseph Remnant is busy illustrating Harvey Pekar’s CLEVELAND a 120-page graphic novel to come from ZIP Comics in 2011. Also, the current, July 2010, issue of JUXTAPOZ contains a 13-page art-filled feature interview with Harvey on the Pekar Project.
Harvey let his readers know he had so many issues; he was anxious, obsessive, pessimistic. But one issue he never had was self-consciousness; he was 100 percent himself. Harvey was Harvey unrepentantly, and this relentlessly being himself inspired others consciously and unconsciously, even when he exposed his foibles and fuck-ups or especially when doing just that, to be more themselves.
Part of me curses G-d, didn’t Harvey deserve a break? Like wanting Charlie Brown to finally kick that fucking football out from Lucy’s hands, I wanted Harvey to relax and enjoy the fruits of his labors. The next best thing and how we can honor Harvey is for you to read his stories, and of course, buy his graphic novels. If you are an artist, you may want to draw a tribute Harvey Head to be added to our gallery of 100+ Harvey Heads that we created for his 70th Birthday (email jahfurry at gmail.com for specs).
Co-creating this Pekar Project has been one of my greatest joys and proudest achievements, and on behalf of Rick Parker, Joseph Remnant, Tara Seibel, Sean Pryor, SMITH Magazine, and myself, our condolences to all of Harvey’s family & friends and especially to his wife and collaborator Joyce Brabner.
—Jeff Newelt, Pekar Project editor