"American Splendor" writer Harvey Pekar, whose life and long-running autobiographical comic inspired a 2003 film starring Paul Giamatti, has never been known for his tech savvy. Famously avoiding computers and the online world whenever possible, Pekar surprised many fans with his latest project: an ongoing webcomic series.
Titled "The Pekar Project," the ongoing series hosted by Smith Magazine kicked off its run this week with four new comics written by Pekar and illustrated by a quartet of artists. New comics will appear every two weeks, with various interviews, lists and other types of content produced by Pekar appearing in alternate weeks. (Check out Pekar's list of recommended jazz albums that appeared last week for a taste of things to come).
I spoke with the veteran writer about this new project, his relationship with technology, and what to expect from both the series and the team of artists involved with the project.
"It's not that I got anything against technology. It's that technology has something against me," laughed Pekar when I asked about his well-documented reluctance to jump into the online world. "I have nothing against [publishing] stuff on the computer, even though I can't use one."
While "The Pekar Project" will be his first foray into ongoing webcomics, it isn't his first online comics experience. He previously contributed a story to Smith's webcomic anthology series, "Next-Door Neighbor," illustrated by veteran artist Rick Veitch.
Pekar said the demands of publishing online didn't really seem to affect his process much—in fact, the regular schedule offered him an outlet for stories that had been piling up otherwise.
"I have a lot of stories laying around that I can't find artists to do or I can't find a market for them, so I figured what the hell? The work's already done," said Pekar. "It's really easy for me to write a bunch of stories. I live through something and I go home and write about it. It's that quick."
"It's a different format, but it doesn't impress me as causing people to do major structural things with comics," he added. "Even a pretty traditional comic book writer can make valuable contributions to the Internet."
Pekar's collaborators on the series include Cleveland local Tara Seibel ("This person not only knows something about comics, but she has a good knowledge about various styles of art," said Pekar), as well as Sean Pryor, Rick Parker and Joseph Remnant (who was introduced to Pekar via veteran underground comics artist Jay Lynch).
As evidenced by the four comics that debuted in today's installment of "The Pekar Project," the artists represent a variety of styles and backgrounds—something that Pekar has always encouraged with collaborators.
"What I'd like to see is the comics style expanded. I like to see artists emphasize traditional comics art styles with fine art styles," he explained. "I like to see innovation. I don't like it when an art form becomes stagnant."
According to Pekar, the comics will generally take the form of the short pieces showcased in today's batch of stories, but readers can look forward to a few longer ("let's say, 'medium-sized'") stories, too.
"I've just been writing stuff down as it comes to me," said Pekar. "I haven't thought, 'Let me write some major opus here.' It's not going to be like these 35-page pieces I've done in the past."
Even so, since he doesn't own a computer, I had to ask the iconic writer how he plans to actually read his finished comics.
"I'll get them to make Xeroxes for me," he shrugged. "They send me advance copies of them anyway. I'm not going to see them on the Internet."
So, there you have it. And unless you're planning to have someone print them out for you too, you should head over to www.smithmag.net/pekarproject to see Pekar's new webcomic series for yourself.
You can also follow "The Pekar Project" on Twitter. (Heck, I'm told that Harvey will even be contributing a few messages himself—dictated via phone, of course.)
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