We at Thought Balloonists wish to extend our sympathy to the family and friends of Harvey Pekar, whose death was reported today.This is a sad loss, and tough to come to terms with.
From a critical perspective, American Splendor was one of the great, transforming contributions to underground and alternative comix -- to American comics publishing period. Certainly it was one of the signal, one of the most influential, comics magazines of the past forty years. What a splendid intervention it was: a life-and-times that spoke not only about Harvey Pekar but also about his milieu, his city, his culture(s), and his continual response to social change. Unprecedented in comics, and a quiet joy to read in any case.
Speaking personally, Pekar's work meant the world to me. I can't imagine the comics landscape today without Harvey's influence, which suffused alternative comics and made that landscape so much more interesting, vital and warm. Without American Splendor, I don't know if my level of interest in alternative comics would be nearly so high.
The series, and Pekar's other comics projects that grew out of it, were quirky and unpredictable and filled with grace notes of unaffected, crazy humanity. They also expressed a curiosity about life and other people that is too often overlooked. Pekar's gift was to bring everyday things to life, starting, almost always, with himself as focalizer, but reaching farther than himself. American Splendor was not only testimony to a life stubbornly lived and vividly observed, but also the work of a brilliant -- not just abrasively comical, not just winningly neurotic, but brilliant -- searching, and original mind.
Harvey was writing comics right up to the end and, I think, would've written a lot more. His passing is a sad, preemptive loss, and fills me with great sorrow.
We'll have more to say about Harvey in the days ahead (I'm on the road, and unfortunately not able to say much more right now). But we couldn't let this day pass without mourning his loss and extending sympathy to Harvey's wife and partner, Joyce Brabner, and to all his acquaintance.
RIP, Harvey. You changed comics, and told stories we will always remember.