Monday, May 9, 2011

Harvey Pekar in Huntington

I should preface this post by saying that it doesn't feature any of my artwork, just a cool bit of news. Harvey Pekar's latest book was released and it's all about his time in the city I call home. Titled Huntington, West Virginia: On The Fly, it's my understanding that this may also be his last book since Harvey passed away last year.

For those of you unfamiliar with Huntington, you can watch a movie called We Are Marshall about a famous 1970s plane crash that killed our college's entire football team (the filming of which interrupted quite a few of my classes) or you can watch the first season of chef Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution where he tries to make our city not quite so fat. If those aren't you're thing then you've probably already enjoyed the work of Brad Dourif, Huntington native and voice of the possessed children's doll Chucky, and at one point you may have been up early enough to catch a glimpse of Matt Lauer, who got his start as a news anchor here.

(Also fun fact, it's said that our famous football team plane crash was the inspiration for the deceased football team in Beetlejuice.)

This book details Pekar's trip to Huntington to speak at our book fair, which is where I met him. It also talks about his cameo in a local move called The Comic Book Lady, which is about the owner of Comic World, one of our local comic shops and a downtown Huntington fixture. In fact the owners of Comic World, Shayne and Kathleen, are a significant part of the story since Pekar befriended them and hung around with them quite a bit while he was here.

It was really cool to see my comic shop featured in the pages of a graphic novel, and to actually buy it from two of the book's main characters.

Several years ago when I saw Pekar give his speech at the book fair I had yet to really gain any footholds in the art world and I wasn't positive that I ever would. I knew I was going to keep drawing forever because I love it and I can't imagine not doing it, but all throughout art school I was lead to believe that my cartoony drawings wouldn't get me much of anywhere, and that I needed to focus on either pure graphic design (what my degree is in) or more traditional arts like landscapes, portraits, etc. That's why Harvey's speech was so inspirational to me because he sung the praises of comics and comic art. It's easy for a geek like to me to talk about why I love comics, but here was this guy who was never a big comic nerd, kinda seemed like he could be your grandpa, and yet he believed that you could tell meaningful stores of any type with comics. They didn't have to be all silly and superheroes (not that there's anythingwrong with that) but they can also tell stories just as important as any novel or non-fiction book. It really gave me hope that the kind of art I was interested in wasn't useless.

When you read the story you can tell that Harvey had some preconceived notions about West Virginia, as do most people who aren't familiar with our state, but you can also tell that he was really struck by the kindness shown to him by Shayne, Kathleen, and the other people he encountered here. Not to be insensitive, but to me this book is far cooler, and far more sincere, than any movie that wishes to exploit one of our city's biggest tragedies.

Huntington may pop up in the news from time to time, but usually not for stuff quite as awesome or as relevant to my interests as being included in a Harvey Pekar book, so I'm pretty honored to have the connection. You can pick up a copy of the book here.


IAN said...

great post and great story!

Cup O Swank Studio said...

Well, (Reagan quote, lol) this is just GREAT! I met Pekar at the book fest that day as well! I was so sad to hear that he had passed away. I DID NOT KNOW he wrote this! Sincere thanks for the superbly informative post, and now that I have discovered your genius, I am now a fan and faithful follower! Your work rocks!! :)