HARVEY PEKAR 1939-2010
Harvey Pekar was the first writer I brought into Vertigo. My first week on the job. Needless to say, I was pretty excited.
Now it’s six years later and suddenly, Harvey is gone.
I’m still in shock. I knew about his health problems, but somehow, Harvey seemed like one of those guys who would just keep going and going. When we worked together, Harvey called every day. He read every script over the phone before he mailed it. (He always mailed it. The U.S. Postal Service could count on Harvey.) The first graphic novel he wrote for me was called THE QUITTER. The title was right for the book, but not for the Harvey I knew.
When I was editing his latest and as it turned out, last issues of AMERICAN SPLENDOR and had a two or three-page hole to fill, I called him. He often had a call with a different publisher going on his second house line, or a jazz disc on the turntable for a review he was writing.
But within an hour (usually quicker), he’d call back and read his new story to me. Nothing could stop him. It never even occurred to me that anything would. His comics were not “about” his life. They were, quite literally, his life. In pencil and ink.
So we now live in an America without Harvey Pekar, a place that for me becomes just a little more difficult to figure out. We produce, in this country, very few of those voices that can give us a bit of guidance through this maze of life.
Now we have one less.
Harvey created a new kind of comics. Call them "graphic memoir," "indie" or whatever, they were comics for anyone who’s ever looked in a mirror, seen a less-than-perfect person, then gone on with life anyway. Harvey made comics into art for the people. For you and me.
He leaves an enormous body of work. But Harvey also leaves us a trust, that his art for the people will keep going and going. I hope that all of us who read, love and create comics remember to keep that trust.
Now that he’s no longer part of my life, I hope I will.
At least I’ll try to do what you would do, Harvey. The best I can.
---- Jonathan Vankin