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Remembering Harvey Pekar

Comic book author Harvey Pekar died this week, at 70. He was best known for the autobiographical series “American Splendor,” about his 30 years as a file clerk at a V.A. hospital, which was made into a critically-lauded film.

We spoke with him 2005 about his life and story. Listen back to our full interview here (starts at 7:23):

Here’s an excerpt from the interview – Harvey Pekar, on how he got started writing comics. He’d been working as a hospital file clerk, and writing jazz criticism:

HARVEY PEKAR:
In 1962 though, a few years after I started writing this criticism, I met Robert Crum in Cleveland. Crum had come to Cleveland to live, from Philadelphia.

TOM ASHBROOK:
The great cartoonist, Fritz the cat and a whole slew of things since.

HARVEY PEKAR:
Right. I saw some of his stuff – he lived about a block and a half away from me.

I had been familiar with comics when I was a little kid – I used to read them – but I got sick of them because I thought they were just all kids stuff. When I saw Crum’s work, I saw that they could appeal to adults, and I thought they had great potential that hadn’t been tapped. I started theorizing about maybe doing comics about areas that hadn’t been touched on. In my case, what did I know about? I knew about just slogging it out on a 40-hour-a-week basis, and I thought that life was an interesting life. I thought you ran into a lot of dramatic situations and challenges, and you had a lot of heartbreak, and you had a lot of good times – there’s humor in the life. And I decided I’d try and write about that.

Finally, in 1972, I wrote a bunch of stories in storyboard form, and I showed them to Crum who was visiting me. I said, “What do you think, man, you think these are ok? You think they’re viable?” And he says, “Yeah, I’d like to take some of these home and illustrate them.”

So I said, “Oh, man, go ahead”

And he did. And he got my stuff published, and that was a great way to start.

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