On Monday I found out via Twitter that Harvey Pekar had died, age 70. I was stopped in my tracks. I was working on a kid’s comic and listening to the B52s but my mood could not have been more somber.
I’ve said before that Pekar’s ‘American Splendor’ was my first inspiration to make a serious attempt at autobio comics. I’d dabbled before but it was Splendor that showed me that autobio doesn’t have to be all about yourself, the things that happen to you and around you, the small, neglected, wonderful parts of life are as worth recording as anything else.
I’d never met Harvey but yet I feel a great loss, as I’m sure anyone else affected and inspired by his work does this week. I can barely imagine what a shock it must be for those who knew him and worked with him. I had planned to send Harvey my comics when I had wrapped up The Everyday (in a mere 4 strips time) to see what he thought of them, and make a first step towards one of my biggest comic ambitions; drawing a story for Harvey Pekar. I won’t get to do that now, which is sad, but I’m sadder to realise that I’ll never get to meet him and say “Thank you”.
For some semblance of closure I watched the film of ‘American Splendor’ and I noticed the glasses of orange that appear throughout. “Do you like orange soda?” Shari Springer Berman, the film’s co-director asks him, “Yeah, orange is alright.” Pekar replies merrily. Later on, Pekar played by Paul Giamatti, walks down the corridor of an LA hotel with a champagne bucket in is arms. Cut to the next shot in his hotel room and the camera pans across from the bucket holding a big bottle of orange soda. This little detail made me smile and so I including it in the above drawing, my tribute to Harvey.
I also started a group on Flickr for other people to add their drawings of Harvey, called, Draw Harvey! I invite anyone to add a drawing.
There’s a similar gallery of images of Harvey over at the Pekar Project called Harvey Heads, organised by Pekar’s editor Jeff Newlett (whose dedication to the artform of comics is unparalleled) for Harvey’s 70th birthday in October last year. The idea was to get 70 heads but so many artists contributed it’s around 100 now and Jeff is still taking submissions.
Harvey Pekar is the only man with a comb over that I have ever idolised. He will be greatly missed.