"American Splendor" author Harvey Pekar died early Monday (July 12) at the age of 70, leaving behind a voluminous exploration of his grumpy musings and everyman life experiences, his anxieties and his foibles, his pals and his demons. Pekar's comics, illustrated by the likes of legend R. Crumb, were like a mid-'70s version of a blog, an almost living journal in which the author committed every triumph and every indignity to the page.
He toiled as an underground comic for years, popping up every so often on "Late Night With David Letterman" for memorably disastrous appearances. Then in 2003, Paul Giamatti played Pekar in the Sundance-winning, Oscar-nominated biopic "American Splendor," and Pekar's work went from cult object to well-known commodity.
Last September, MTV News had the opportunity to chat with Pekar as he launched "The Pekar Project," a new webcomic series. As we look back and celebrate the life and work of a true artist, here is Harvey Pekar in his own words:
On His Writing Process: "It's real easy for me to write a lot of stories. I just go and I live through something and I go home and write about it. It's that quick."
On Artistic Innovation: "I'd like to see the comics' style expanded. I'd like to see artists synthesize traditional comics arts style with fine-arts styles or whatever. I like to see innovation. I don't like it when an art form becomes stagnant."
On Writing His Own Webcomics: "It's not that I got anything against technology. It's that technology has something against me. I have nothing against [publishing] stuff on the computer, even though I can't use one. ... I've just been writing stuff as it comes to me. I haven't thought as, 'Let me write some kind of a major opus.' I want to see what happens. I'll stand behind what I did."
On Comics Writers Turning to the Internet: "I think it was meant to be. When the Internet came about, that was the logical place for everyone to turn. If you look at blogs, a lot of them are memoirs or opinion pieces — stuff that's been done in the past. Blogs are fairly short, and they're used on the Internet. I don't think the content of a lot of the blogs is very different. I think the medium is different, and you're able to reach huge audiences with a minimal amount of spending."
On His Love of Jazz: "Jazz is in a very, very precarious situation right now. A respectable-sized audience hasn't really been able to follow developments in jazz since the free jazz movement in the '60s. Some of them can't even get with John Coltrane. Audiences are diminishing more and more rapidly. Some of the top young musicians with something new to say can't get record companies to put out their stuff. Jazz won't die exactly. Jazz musicians are all going to be playing old music if they want to make a living at it, like what Wynton Marsalis is doing."
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