My Conversation With Harvey Pekar

I was terribly saddened today to hear the news of Harvey Pekar’s death at age 70. One of the most fascinating and influential comic creators to have worked in the industry, Pekar was one of the writers who first lured me back to comics after a hiatus that lasted throughout much of the ’90s.

The “American Splendor” creator was also the subject of one of my favorite interviews.

I spoke with Pekar last September about his recently launched online comic series, “The Pekar Project,” which featured a quartet of artists illustrating some of his new, original stories. We covered a wide range of topics including his new project, modern technology, the future of comics, and yes, even a little jazz music.

I never had the honor of meeting Pekar in person, but this interview remains one of my favorite conversations with a comic creator thus far in my career. With Pekar’s passing, it seems appropriate to share more of that conversation with you — if only as a reminder of his unique take on the comics scene and how much it will be missed.

Here are some excerpts from my chat with Harvey Pekar:

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 The Evolution Of Comics: “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 Reconciling His Feelings About New Technology With The Online Comic Project: “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 Comic Creators Taking Their Work 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 Jazz Music And The Future Of The Genre: “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.”

Share your own thoughts about Pekar and let us know what you think in the comment section or on Twitter!

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