Monday, July 12, 2010

"Life seemed so sweet and so sad, and so hard to let go of in the end. But hey, man, every day is a brand new deal, right? Just keep on working and something's bound to turn up."
-American Splendor

So, it was reported today that Harvey Pekar, the creator of American Splendor, has passed away at the age of 70. To say it's a sad day would be a bit of an understatement, but it should be said regardless. Looking on Twitter this morning I found someone who commented that "Your [Pekar's] 'boring life' made mine more interesting" and I think that's a great summation of Harvey's legacy. He offered his readers an unabashed window into his life and in doing so gave a profound and beautiful significance to the seemingly monotinous moments we experience every day. His writing was such that it not only entertained but helped us to look at our own lives in a better way. Suddenly the importance of the things we often forget, the little tragidies and uncelebrated victories we encounter every day, became clearer and easier to see.

Simply put, some people make our lives better by giving us something great to experience, others by helping us to appreciate the experiences we already have. Harvey Pekar did both.

Now this is all stuff that I'm sure other people have said countless times before me but I feel it important that it be said again, or at least that I be the one to say it this time. You see, truth be told, I don't think I'd be the person I am today without Harvey's work. It was American Splendor that reintroduced me to comics. I was a fan growing up, but the older I got the more disillusioned I became. It wasn't until exposed to American Splendor as a college student that a whole new world was opened up to me and a whole new love for comics was born.

Sure I was late to the party, with American Splendor having been published for over two decades at this point, but the impact it had on my twenty year old self was none the less profound. Suddenly, what I thought to be only a nostalgic item from my past, was once again a medium that would shape the person I am. Through Harvey's work the limitless potential that comics offered was laid out at my feet and I knew it was the path I needed to follow. Inspired by Harvey I wrote and self published my first mini-comic a few months later, and the rest as they say is history.

I may never be the writer that Harvey was and I may never capture the honesty and beauty of life the way he did, but looking back on my life I can at least see the poetry of what American Splendor meant to me. In a seemingly insignificant moment I discovered a new book, a new writer, and it was in that insignificant moment something profound happened that changed the person I was.