American Culture

I Don’t Know, Man: A Tribute to Harvey Pekar

Harvey Pekar would have turned 71 today.

I imagine that in between a phone interview or two, he would’ve found time to write a bit, listen to some old music, write some more, tape up his favorite winter coat, misplace his keys, complain about something frivolous, write some more, flash a grin at some point and end a sentence with “man,” and pekarperhaps spend a few reflective moments looking out the window at the gray October sky of Cleveland Heights.

The esteemed chronicler of quotidian America passed away on July 12 of this year, surely having gained some measure of satisfaction that he contributed something worthwhile in life as he set out to do, and just as surely second-guessing that notion.

In tribute to Pekar, Scholars and Rogues invited cartoonists and artists—among them distinguished veterans, rising stars, and enigmas from dark corners of the underground—to illustrate panels accompanying text about events in his life, in the manner that Pekar produced his classic American Splendor series. Each week from October 2010 to January 2011, individual contributions were highlighted, but with the conclusion of the series they’re all now gathered on this page permanently. (Click on the images to see full posts.)

And bless you, Harvey, wherever you’re fretting… you gained much more than a footnote in history.

Photo credit: Brian Heater at The Daily Cross Hatch

Panel 1: Karl Christian
Karl Christian

Panel 2: Derf

Panel 3: Aaron Williams
Aaron Williams

Panel 4: Mike Sheehan
Mike Sheehan

Panel 5: Mike Keefe
Mike Keefe

Panel 6: Benjamin Frisch
Benjamin Frisch

Panel 7: Karl Christian
Karl Christian

Panel 8: Aengus Cargo
Aengus Cargo

Panel 9: Kenny Be
Kenny Be

Panel 10: Zina Saunders
Zina Saunders

Panel 11: James Smith
James Smith

Panel 12: Bill Alger
Bill Alger

53 replies »

  1. I was looking forward to Kenny Be’s offering for a LONG time… he’s a legend round these parts, and we were thrilled to have him aboard the tribute. As expected, he delivered, and then some. Thanks Kenny, it’s fantastic…

  2. Zina was quite excited to try and capture the spirit of Robert Crumb’s reflection on Pekar, and she did. I’m thrilled that she took the time to join the tribute, as she’s a favorite of mine… you all have probably seen her imaginative and often darkly humorous watercolors on magazine covers and elsewhere.

  3. I remember Harvey Pekar very well. When I was a teenager growing up in Cleveland, we used to go down to Coventry and hang out at Arabica. Harvey was always there. Sometimes with Gary Domm, most times by himself. We always tried to talk to him as he would get all cranky with us and say the funniest things trying to be mean and crotchety. I never bought it. I always felt that there was a nice (relatively) person beneath the surface but he just liked being unhappy in the world. Like being unhappy made him happy. When I was older, in college, I would seek him out and sit and try and talk with him. he was more famous then and sometimes didn’t want to be bothered. But somethimes he was absolutely amazing. I wish I recorded some of those conversations. I will never forget Harvey. he made a heck of an impression on me.