Harvey Pekar's Cleveland: A Tribute with Joyce Brabner, Dean Haspiel, Jeff Newelt and Joseph Remnant
April 25: 7:00PM – 8:00PM
"Comics are just words and pictures. You can do anything with words and pictures," said American Splendor's Harvey Pekar, pioneer of autobiographical comics who passed away on July 12, 2010. Celebrating the publication of the graphic novel Harvey Pekar's Cleveland, his widow and collaborator, Joyce Brabner joins two of his artists Joseph Remnant (Harvey Pekar's CLEVELAND) and Dean Haspiel (The Quitter) in a panel moderated by Jeff Newelt (editor, Harvey Pekar's CLEVELAND).
Joyce Brabner is a writer of comics who frequently collaborated with her late husband, Harvey Pekar, on his American Splendor stories. Pekar and Brabner worked with artist Frank Stack on the Harvey Award-winning graphic novel, Our Cancer Year. Brabner was portrayed by actress Hope Davis in the film adaptation of American Splendor (2003), and also appeared as herself.
Dean Haspiel is the creator of the Eisner Award-nominated comic, Billy Dogma, and founder of online literary arts journal Trip City. He is best known for his graphic novel collaborations with Harvey Pekar on The Quitter, and with Jonathan Ames on The Alcoholic and the HBO series Bored to Death, for which he won an Emmy for Main Title Design.
Jeff Newelt, aka JahFurry, is the editor of the graphic novel Harvey Pekar's Cleveland as well as the Pekar Project webcomics series. He is comics editor of SMITH, Heeb and Royal Flush magazines.
Joseph Remnant is a Los Angeles-based artist, who previously illustrated Harvey Pekar stories for SMITH magazine's Pekar Project. He recently self-published the first issue of his own comic titled Blindspot.
Buy the featured book or a $10 Strand gift card at the registers or at the door in order to attend this event. Both options admit one person. The event will be located in the Strand's 3rd floor Rare Book Room at our store at 828 Broadway at 12th Street.
Additional copies of the book (and previous books by the author, when applicable) will be available for purchase at the event.
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Greg F. Main Floor
Harvey Pekar’s Cleveland begins as a work of non-fiction. A municipal history. Indeed, the first third of the book barely features Harvey at all, save for an occasional panel in which he is depicted shuffling stooped along the streets, filling in the narration. It is fair to say the first character we meet in this story is the city itself. While not autobiographical in the sense we have come to expect from Pekar, the story of Cleveland is essential to fully understanding ”our man“.
A relative newcomer, but more than qualified, Joseph Remnant seems to particularly relish rendering both Harvey and the book’s namesake in a unique, gritty, underground style well suited to Pekar’s curmudgeonly disposition. Remnant offers one of the finest portrayals of Harvey since Robert Crumb, placing him in one deeply researched Cleveland cityscape after another. While they rely heavily on narration throughout, Pekar and Remnant are adept at using the images to advance the story, avoiding the pitfall of merely depicting verbatim what’s been said in the caption.
This technique is on full display throughout the book’s opening section, as Harvey tells of the city’s founding in the late 1790s, its rise, industrialization, prosperity, growth, politics, culture and ultimately its decay, leading up to 1939 when Pekar himself comes onto the Cleveland scene. Here the book becomes a more general life story of Harvey, moving away from the details of the city and turning Harvey loose in the environment we’re now familiar with. This environment provides the context for Harvey’s growing up, being in and out of relationships, starting his comics series “American Splendor,” and his highs and lows up to this point, some even as a result of being married to the city. In short, the story of Cleveland is the story of Harvey.
For those new to Harvey, there is plenty here that reiterates his famous persona. His chintziness, obsessive collecting, literary and historical interests, Late Show appearances and his years at the V.A. hospital are all represented, filling in necessary background without being redundant to those already familiar with his life and work. Also interesting is which details from his life Pekar chose to exclude, perhaps because they have been covered in other books or the American Splendor film. Unfortunately, this leaves Cleveland feeling somewhat slight and disproportionate, as if it was intended as a seven-hundred page autobiographical masterwork, but Pekar got tired or died before its completion.
Previously, Pekar has given us specific stories from his youth, political or historical nonfiction or often, mundane stories from his everyday life. In Cleveland, he seems to want to tell us everything. Having died last year with several projects in development, Cleveland reads very appropriately as a posthumous final work. At one point Harvey reflects on his maturity, describing a modest daily routine and goes on to offer some opinions and insight (including advice to young cartoonists) into what has become of Cleveland, and himself over the years.
For more by Remnant, check out his auteur work Blind Spot, which was highly praised upon its release in 2010. Also by Harvey: Bob and Harv’s Comics, Our Cancer Year, The Quitter, and American Splendor.