Harvey Pekar's ClevelandBook |
To the end, a man and his city.
Harvey Pekar was best known for writing and publishing American Splendor, an autobiographical comic book series that chronicled the daily life of an average Joe in Cleveland. The author passed away in 2010, but one of his final works, the recently-released Harvey Pekar's Cleveland, continues that highly personal approach while weaving in an illustrated history of the title city. The extensive prologue focuses on Cleveland's founding and gradual rise to a major industrial hub during World War II. Unfortunately, racial unrest and suburban exodus contribute to its decline, and by the time Pekar is born in 1939, the city has seen better days. From this point on, the narrative alternates between the author's life story, modern-day sequences in which he defends the livability of Cleveland in his familiar confrontational style, and digressions about fellow Clevelanders like John Zubal, who founded a successful bookstore empire. Pekar spent the vast majority of his life in the title city, observing it through good and bad times alike. He writes about its simple pleasures with his usual attention for the peculiar: he recalls a favorite bookshop where the owner's wife was always nasty to customers, and at another point, waxes on about a chocolate malted that only cost a dime. While the events in Pekar's life occasionally take a bleak turn, this only serves to illustrate how he's a true son of Cleveland, for like his hometown he stoically endures despite getting bloodied by forces beyond his control. The artwork by Joseph Remnant matches the script for ambitiousness - reflecting the city's changing fashions, architectural designs, and other details - and with its extensive cross-hatching fittingly resembles R. Crumb, who collaborated with Pekar on his first comics. Overall, Harvey Pekar's Cleveland is both a fitting capstone to his life as well as a passionate tribute to the city that helped shape it.