Earlier today, it was announced that Harvey Pekar, the acclaimed writer of the long running comic American Splendor, died at the age of 70. The news circulated through both major media outlets like the New York Times, and through the internet via Twitter, Facebook, and sites like the Comics Reporter. And for good reason, Pekar's presence on the comics and cultural scene helped shape what comics are today, and how they are regarded by major critics and everyday readers alike.
I never met Pekar, I don't have any enlightening anecdotes to share with you, that's a subject for others to relate. I've read a sizable portion of his work, but I probably should have read more by now. However, I was always touched by the honesty, humor, and reality that I found in his stories. That's a rarity to find even nowadays, which makes Pekar's work even more essential to the community as a whole.
To me, more than anything, Harvey Pekar is sort of a patron saint to any cartoonist who slogs through a day job they don't want be at, only to go home and work on comics that may or may not be read by anybody. It can be lonely work, and the rewards are few and far between, but Pekar's example proves that by continually doing the work and putting that work out there for people to see, you will find admirers, and new stories to tell and new avenues to explore. Maybe that's romanticizing his impact, but that's just what his work meant to me.
For every fast rising star over the comics landscape, there are hundreds more below hunched over drawing tables, writing and scribbling and sketching out ideas during those few hours between the paycheck job. Thank God we had Harvey Pekar to show us how to get it done.