Harvey Pekar’s Cleveland.
by Harvey Pekar and Joseph Remnant
Published by Top Shelf Productions and ZIP Comics
This comic is a real gem. Pekar takes the reader on a very interesting and well researched history tour of Cleveland, which is beautifully intertwined with his own experiences and life in the city. Pekar is frequently in the panel, taking the reader through journey of ‘his’ city.
The journey is beautiful, as we learn about this Midwestern city, how it came about, the reasons it expanded, the work that was done to connect it, and generally the growth of a settlement next to a lake into a very big city, which at one stage had the tallest building in America.
At times Pekar’s sharp perception of the city illustrates what it was really like at varying places in history. He is honest and refreshing about racial issues, clearly stating what types of folk were living where, and pointedly and unashamedly discussing how areas got bad names for no good reason, and whether the middle classes moving from an area, and taking their taxes with them, in actual fact created a self fulfilling prophecy.
It is also a lovely biographical work. His frankness to the reader is crisp and endears him. Even though he doesn’t smile much, he has a humanity that is brutally honest.
A number of elements really hit home. I loved how he characterised his feelings and anxieties for the woman who would be his second wife, was saddened as he was himself when his jazz collection was sold, and was really pleased to see a couple of photos of him, one on his seventieth birthday and another in the neighbourhood of Coventry, showing him quite happy and smiling.
The historical element is really cleverly done and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this comic. Pekar is something of a recent phenomenon to me, at least. Before the movie American Splendour, I had not heard of him, or his work, although I know his graphic novels were available in the eighties.
So I was pleased to be able to read and enjoy this book with very few expectations and find it so rewarding.
A really nice comic, made all the sadder, by the photos of the author, in the back, and the kind words in the introduction by Alan Moore, as Pekar has left this mortal coil, but he has granted us quite a body of work that will allow him to live on.