Gerry Shamray | Essays

Harvey and Me

Harvey Pekar by Gerry Shamray, 2003

I knew Harvey Pekar for many years. I cannot believe he is gone.

Illustrating his stories for American Splendor was the first freelance gig I got while I was in art school. Now here it is, over three decades later. Where did the time go?

When I first heard about American Splendor, I pictured a comic book about the history of the United States. Imagine my surprise, then, when I went to Tony Isabella's Cleveland comic shop and found a copy in the underground section. Opening up that first issue of Splendor, I saw the frank dialogue (and even some sex) and I remember thinking: how do I explain this to my parents?

It all worked out. My parents didn't disown me and I got to work with one of the true legendary Clevelanders. (Plus, I got to browse his awesome vinyl jazz collection.)

Harvey was a one-of-a-kind individual. He embraced the ordinary and made it extraordinary with his brilliant, insightful stories about day-to-day life. I have no doubt that people will be reading and learning from his clever observations on the daily grind for many decades, if not centuries. He was an artistic trendsetter who has been studied and copied by many who have made more from his influence than he ever did from his own work.

It was a true joy for me to work with him. I was flattered that he trusted me with his stories and was open to any suggestions I made on how to illustrate them. I will always remember him with fondness because he treated me as an equal in the creative process. He actually made me feel like a real artist — I mean a real artist — and I never wanted to disappoint him.

Still, it is Harvey who is the real artist, who through his vision, always inspired those around him, especially me. Thanks, Harvey, for adding some splendor into my life.

Posted in: Arts + Culture, Illustration, Obituaries

Comments [2]

A sweet, and apt, tribute. He will be missed by those of us who only knew him through his work as well.

He was a one of a kind. His vision of American Splendor pretty much nailed the world as seen through the prism of northeastern Ohio, where I grew up in the 70s.

You were a pisser Harvey, and because of that, not despite that, you leave a void in your midst.
Matthew Brett

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