Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Harvey Pekar: 'Ordinary life is really complex stuff'

The thing about the late, great Harvey Pekar is that he saw day-to-day life could be as exciting as Batman battling the Joker. He was really the first to tap into the power of autobiographical comix, and the godfather of the work of dozens of creators like James Kochalka, Howard Cruse, Craig Thompson, Joe Matt and my ol' pal Jason Marcy. Everyone who came to realise that the ordinary world could be extraordinary.

American Splendor was kind of an ironic title for his life's work, but Pekar took us through his mundane world -- working as a file clerk, love and obsessions and cancer and pain, the whole shebang. He was an utterly unique, cranky and unpolished voice in comics at the time he began his work -- even Robert Crumb, whom Pekar collaborated with, tended toward more fantastical, surreal work rather than the grit and grunge of daily life.

I'll miss his cantankerous voice, but am glad he's left so much behind to enjoy. Start with one of the big thick American Splendor collections, and you can't go wrong with the superb 2003 movie, which in my mind is one of the most creative and thought-provoking comic book adaptations we've seen in this era of superhero overkill. Godspeed, Harvey.

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