R.I.P. Harvey Pekar. some of his comics were incredibly boring. Some of them were good. But the power of his influence and his unique presence can not be overstated. Harvey is best known for his American Splendor comic book, which focused almost exclusively on incidents from his own life. The first issue of American Splendor came out in 1976, which puts Harvey 10 years ahead of the curve, and is one reason that he is the the father of Autobiographical Comics. So many comickers, such as Chester Brown, James Kolcahalka, David Collier, Joe Matt, John Porcellino, and others, follow in Pekar’s footsteps. No one before, and no one since, with the possible exception of John Porcellino, has been so dedicated to Autobio comics.
Pekar didn’t draw his own comics, and featured a host of undergroundy collaborators, including my favorite, Joe Sacco. In recent years Pekar has changed the pace with a couple of standalone graphic novels, including a nonfiction graphic novel called Macedonia. (One that I really want to read.) He also edited the Best American Comics 2006 book from Houghton-Mifflin, which is an interesting way of seeing Pekar’s comics taste. In prose writing, Pekar’s peers would be Charles Bukowski, and Studs Terkel. I can’t attribute the quote with 100% accuracy, but I believe Harvey once said “I don’t write stories to help people escape from their lives. I write stories to push them into their lives”