Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Harvey Pekar, RIP

"Comics are words and pictures. You can do anything with words and pictures" 

Harvey Pekar, 1939-2010

I was sorry to hear yesterday's news about the passing of Harvey Pekar, the writer of the autobiographical comic series American Splendor, which inspired the 2003 film of the same name. 

I always felt like I'd met him, even though I never had, and I guess that's a response a lot of people have had to his work.

Other people will write fuller assessments of his work, but the thing that particularly saddened me is that despite the widespread coverage of his death, his work is still under-appreciated and under-read because of the form he used to express himself.

I've got a good friend who is relentlessly (and sometimes pretentiously) high-brow in her cultural consumption. However, while she sometimes rolls her eyes condescendingly at me for reading comics, she's still got a shelf of Harry bloody Potter that she'll defend to the death.

That's not a dig at Harry Potter per se. I'm just pointing out how blinkered a lot of people are to the reams of challenging and rewarding material being published in comic form. If you enjoy narrative in the forms of fiction, film or theatre, you're missing out if you're not even dipping your toes into comics or 'graphic novels'.

Do yourself a favour and start signing up to the blogs and mailshots of wonderful shops like Gosh in London or Page 45 in Nottingham; check out the catalogues of publishers like Fantagraphics and Top Shelf; or follow the recommendations of critics like Paul Gravett. Go on – surprise yourself!

(PS. I'd originally planned a similar blog to celebrate the work of Eddie Campbell, a very different creator of autobiographical comics, but unfortunately it took the death of Harvey Pekar to force my hand.)

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