Tuesday, July 13, 2010

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Monday July 12, 2010 Harvey Pekar the comic book writer died. I'd been a fan of his comics since around 1985 or so when I ran into a guy I knew going to Odessa College. I'd met Bill thru the OC Jazz Band thru another friend, Mark, that played bass. Bill played guitar rather well, and Mark, the other mutual friend, got me in the jazz band as well (as I played a little rhythm guitar, but I'm hardly a great player by any means). At any rate, I found out that Bill was into comics, not the superhero type that is the typical fare, but he liked the undergrounds and what grew out of that movement, which became known as the alternative comic, which also grew into the autobiographical or sometimes nonfiction comic. Bill was more interested in R. Crumb, and mentioned Pekar's comic, American Splendor, describing it as about normal life and doesn't really go any where. That lack of description or his inability to aptly describe the comic intrigued me. So the next time my brother and I went down to Austin, Tx., we'd usually drop by Austin Books, which is a huge comic shop there.

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Sure enough they had quite a few American Splendors on hand. So I bought quite a few, and read them and enjoyed them as well. What I really could relate to was that Harvey was just a regular guy (like me), enjoyed collecting vinyl records (most jazz), and had all the trials and tribulations of everyday life: marriages that didn't work out for him, boring jobs that go nowhere, worrying about where he's headed in life, going to the markets to buy food, reading literature, and enjoying whatever small things he can get into in his free time away from his daily grind. It wasn't long after that that I started taking drawing classes out at OC as well, and met a couple that were into comics. They gravitated towards pulps, super heroes, and that only got me more interested in comics. I later found out thru another friend that there were conventions held in Dallas. One of the first or second Cons we went to had Harvey Pekar and several other guest. My brother and I went in the Con, looked around a bit, and sure enough there was Harvey (single at the time) sitting there with his head propped up on the table looking kind of bored, as there weren't many people around. He perked up though when he saw that we were fans of his comics and writing. He was funny and friendly, and my brother asked him if we could get a picture, which I did. But I had a new camera, and I didn't know how to work very well, so it took me a bit to frame everything and get the shot ready. He grew impatient during that ordeal, and kept say, you about ready to shot that picture? Cracked me up as that's how he paints himself in his books...impatient! At any rate, he was cordial and friendly, and told us to go eat at Denny's. He said that they had that new Grand Slam breakfast on the menu, and it was really worth it.

Later on, the movie, American Splendor, the movie came out and me and my brother went to the Angelika movie theater in Dallas to see it. It was well received, and I was happy for Harvey and his new wife, Joyce, as his comic was starting to pay off for him a little bit, he was getting more recognition, and I know the extra income made his life a little better. Harvey worried a lot as he'd come down with cancer, which he'd written about in his book, Our Cancer Year, and had also bought a new house, and had taken in a friend's daughter to raise as well. It's a good independent film, and I recommend giving it a watch if you haven't done so.

Rest in peace, Harvey. You made my life better, I'm sure you touched others as well.

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