When Harvey Pekar died on July 12th, he was revealed in death to be a figure more influential and revered than he would ever have dared hope in life. He left a literary legacy as well as a wealth of projects in the pipeline. And he also left some awkwardness, as Dave Itzkoff in the New York Times writes in a revealing piece entitled The Unsettled Afterlife of Harvey Pekar:
His obsessive drive combined with the sheer number of his collaborations produced a two-dimensional record of his shaggy life, rendered in varying styles by numerous illustrators. Now only his widow and the artists he worked with are left to narrate his final chapter, a tale of bruised feelings and allegations of opportunism, with nothing more at stake than the writer’s modest legacy. But no matter how it plays out, Mr. Pekar is bound to emerge as enigmatic as ever.
Part of the problem stems from a personality conflict between Pekar’s soulmate and artistic collaborator, Joyce Brabner, and Tara Seibel, one of the artists on the webcomic, The Pekar Project. There’s also some discussion of the matter of the day, as The Pekar Project was done under the no money upfront/book deal back-end project.
The arrangement was different from what Mr. Pekar and Ms. Brabner were used to. “People think that they should get paid up front especially when they have a history of getting paid up front,” said Mr. Haspiel, who runs his own Web comics site, act-i-vate.com. But Mr. Pekar agreed to it because “he understood that you have to promote yourself, and you have to be out there constantly,” Mr. Haspiel said. “Not only working with Joyce.”
The piece paints a rather unsettled picture of Pekar’s affairs, which includes a wealth of material yet to come out. In addition to a projected Pekar Project collection, there’s Harvey Pekar’s Cleveland, illustrated by Joseph Remnant; Huntington, West Virginia, ‘On the Fly’ and Harvey and Joyce’s Big Book of Marriage, which will be published by Random House. Brabner herself is finishing Not the Israel My Parents Promised, to be illustrated by JT Waldman, which FSG will publish.
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.