Harvey Pekar died today. I’m a latter day fan of his. I was aware of him, but really hadn’t checked out his work until after I saw his movie. I think he’s Cleveland’s biggest loss of this week (forget the Lebron crap).
What I really appreciate about Harvey is he started writing American Splendor when there was no reason to do it. By that I mean no one had done a book that dug into the intricacies of everyday life, no one else had suggested it to him, and there was no reason to believe he’d find any success with it. He did it simply because he was compelled to. Luckily, he was friends with Robert Crumb and comics are not expensive to produce.
Harvey didn’t get rich doing the book. He got small measures of fame, both from his Letterman appearances and the later movie based on his work. The market for his book was still limited, though. Despite this, he left a remarkable impression on a good number of people, myself included.
I’ll miss the little things I got from his work. That’s appropriate since his stories were all about the little things. DC/Vertigo had been publishing American Splendor recently and I’d been reading it. The stand out story for me was the one about fixing his toilet. For him, the act of actually fixing something was an affirmation of his manhood (Today I am a man!). The reason it’s stuck with me is I had the exact same experience fixing my toilet. Harvey and I have the same handicap when it comes to having practical skills.
Rest in peace, Harvey. I hope you’ve found some of the peace you struggled to find in life.