When I was growing up, our local library had a small collection of American Splendors dutifully shelved in the 741's. I tried reading them more than once, but couldn't. Usually, comics drawn like this had at least a couple of panels my mom didn't want me to see, you know? This was just some working shmoe talking about his stupid, boring life.
I didn't develop an appreciation for Harvey Pekar until I was well into my adulthood. It's hard not to when you're a cartoonist. After all, every great autobio comic in the last twenty years finds its roots in him. And he was a part of the generation who spearheaded the merging of the comics market and the book market, a phenomenon that I've personally benefited tremendously from.
More than this, Pekar's comics contained a message that I simply wasn't ready for until I was his fellow working shmoe. Pekar found the art in the mundane. The small, forgettable triumphs and tragedies of the everyman's every day were recorded and offered up for contemplation. Pekar gave them a... a sacredness... by making them into images on paper. This might sound weird, but the animus behind his work reminds me of a certain Catholic mystic famous for finding the divine in the small things of ordinary life.
As someone who struggles with balancing comics, family, and a day job, I deeply admire how Pekar balanced comics, family, and a day job for decades upon decades. He was an artist, but he was also a family man who worried about putting bread on the table. He mixed the creative with the practical. And he made having a day job seem romantic-- I'm reluctant to give up my own day job in part because of his example.
So thank you, Harvey Pekar. I'm going to read one of your comics before I go to sleep tonight.
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