:: Sunday, August 24, 2003 ::

From off the streets of Cleveland...Comes Harvey Pekar

Around 20 years ago I was in Edinburgh's late lamented "Science Fiction Book Shop" spending my paper round money, or whatever, on comics. I picked up a book called American Splendour by a guy called Harvey Pekar. To say it was unlike the various x-books etc I also bought, would be an understatement. The book was an autobiographical look at the life of a working class guy in Cleveland, USA. His job as a file clerk in a hospital, his obsessive record collecting, his ailments. Sometimes nothing much happened at all in the stories, it was like real life. There were no convenient 30 page stories with all plot threads wrapped up nicely at the end. There were no plots to speak of.

Over the years I picked up more of Harvey's stuff and watched his life as it happened. His collaborations with Robert Crumb, his marriage, his battle with cancer (in "Our Cancer Year"). He has recently done work based on interviews with black vietnam veterans.

Yesterday I finally got to meet Harvey as he spoke at a seminar at the Edinburgh Film Festival on, yep, comics and movies. He was speaking alongside his wife and co-collaborator Joyce Brabner (who is a veteran anti-war campaigner), his adopted daughter Danielle, artist Bryan Talbot (Tale of One Bad Rat/Luthor Arkwright) and writer Warren Ellis (Planetary/Transmetropolitan). Pictured below projected on the big screen.

Harvey Pekar at the Edinburgh Film Festival

Why the film festival? Well, American Splendour has been made into a movie. Not only that but it has won prizes at Cannes and Sundance and garnered rave reviews.

American Splendour Film website

The Grauniad described the film thusly:

"This is minimalist, deflective humour about working class life in a big American industrialised city and it works very well in much the same vein as the American Splendour magazines cartoons themselves."

And what is more Harvey and family have a blog detailing their work, the film's progress and Danielle's attempts to meet good looking young actors during their numerous promotional trips.

I particularly liked this description from Danielle of a promo at a comics convention:

"As our odd procession walked inside the convention center my jaw dropped: a place filled from top to bottom with geeks, geeks, and more geeks, and a few nerds scattered here and there."

Did I get Harvey to sign his book for me? Too right.

And Harvey has a great blog entry on underground comic artist Spain, whom he worked with:

"The underground cartoonists of the 60s and early 70s fought against the oppressor, but many of today’s comic book artists don’t seem to realize that there’s one around."

:: Alister | 4:29 pm | save this page to del.icio.us Save This Page | permalink⊕ | |


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