Cleveland is getting a park dedicated to its comics laureate, Harvey Pekar, whose long running American Splendor comic captured the quotidian lives of Clevelanders. The celebration will run all afternoon with music and a screening of the film American Splendor (for my money the best comic book movie of all.)
The afternoon will see a permanent installation of six banners drawn by Joseph Remnant ad overseen by Pekar’s widow, Joyce Brabner—they will tell their own comics story for those who visit the corner. One is shown below.
Brabner gave her blessing to the project as a way to reclaim the location—the NW corner of Coventry Road and Euclid Heights Boulevard in Cleveland Heights—as a public space. In a statement she wrote:
For a few years, now, I’ve been asked to endorse installation of a big, permanent “Harvey Pekar” billboard on a wall in my neighborhood: an image of American Splendor #1 “where it all started.” I’ve always said no. This year, I saw an opportunity and said I would co-operate if a nearby corner was returned to its earlier, youth/arts friendly state by removing the big blocky “people bumper” planters that were installed to discourage assembly– and by welcoming back young people, street musicians, storytellers, chess players, etc. to a communal meeting space and encouraging artists, storytellers and comics makers.
The corner is where (young) Harvey used to try out material on the crowd, as a sort of stand up comedian who later wrote and published his stories about neighborhood life in his American Splendor autobio comic books. The spot had been a haven for nonconformist and creative youth until overblown anxiety about flash mobs and kids hanging around without money to support local business led to curfews and what many felt was repressive “rezoning” and redesign.
On July 25, Cleveland Heights will turn the space where it really did all start for Harvey into “Harvey Pekar Park,” complete with tiny amphitheater for future “Harveys” and small-scale performance. I’ve designed permanent banners of a special American Splendor story (illustrated by Joseph Remnant) that can be read as you walk from lamp post to lamp post.
The day the park is dedicated, they’ll hold a small “Harvey Pekar Comics Festival.” There will be a jazz concert and a showing of the film American Splendor.
The corner will be open for storytelling.
It’s a fitting tribute to a man who elevated this everyday life via comics to the status of literature.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.