HASPIEL: Harvey Pekar’s testament to life -- with no apologies


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New York artist Dean Haspiel was one of the artists who took the words of Harvey Pekar and brought them to new life within the pages of ‘American Splendor’ as well as in ‘The Quitter,’ the pair’s acclaimed graphic novel in 2005 that sketched out the sometime grim contours of Pekar’s youth. Haspiel wrote this appreciation for the Hero Complex. When I was a teenager, ‘American Splendor’ was the first independently published comic book I ever picked up and Harvey Pekar proved to me that comics could tell any kind of story. Literally. Plus, seeing him do his thing on David Letterman, with no permissions and no apologies, was awe-inspiring.

Years later, I was honored to have served new Pekar stories via our friendship and collaborations and happy as all get-out to have hooked him up with Ted Hope to produce a phenomenal movie based on his works.

Yes, Harvey Pekar was a certified curmudgeon who became a cultural icon, but he was a true-blue mensch, too. He always considered my sensibilities and we made a good team.

It wasn’t until much later, when I learned that both of Harvey’s parents died having suffered Alzheimer’s disease, that all this stuff about documenting the quotidian moments of his life made much sense. Sure, he was a pioneer of the autobiographical comic book, but I believe that on a subconscious level, Harvey was creating a testament of life, leaving behind empirical evidence of his unique attitude and particular history just in case he got Alzheimer’s, too.


And, if he stuck it out sans major memory loss, well hell, there were some crazy cool observations for all of us to enjoy and ponder.

Besides his avid love for jazz and Jewish history, the guy wrote his whole life in comic book form and he wasn’t gonna stop sharing it, not with the online Pekar Project in full effect. Still, 70 years old is too young to split this joint and I’ll miss our talks. I already miss his gruff voice.

Dollars to donuts, Harvey is already writing scripts for the likes of Picasso and Michelangelo to draw and giving them crap about their fancy-pants layouts while toasting an ice cold glass of orange soda with Raymond Carver, Henry Miller and Van Gogh; listening to Joe Maneri play some freestyle jazz with Thelonius Monk.

I can’t wait to see what Harvey Pekar and Edward Hopper cook up but, fingers crossed, I won’t be able to find out for a good while longer.

-- Dean Haspiel


JACKET COPY: Pekar: obsessive-compulsive, jazz-loving, curmudgeonly

CULTURE MONSTER: Reviewer’s memories of Pekar

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Jack Kirby and Frank Zappa, a cosmic friendship

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Art: Dean Haspiel.

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