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, 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.


  1. I’m really looking forward to seeing all these projects. Hopefully on paper. I hope it all works out in a way that all the participants can be happy or at least comfortable with.

  2. I never met Harvey but a good friend of mine (another well respected writer) was pals with him, and my friend was really shook up after Harvey died, and started lapsing in a rare bit of stream-of-whatever morbid self pity – I told him “cut it out…rejoice: we got all this great work!”

  3. Dan, don’t be such a little bitch. If the BPD finger is being pointed, then let’s be fair and point it at the pair.

    That was the brilliance of their talent, the quirks and imperfections, and now’s not the time to turn it into a negative.

    And as far as the NY Times reporting on the dispute being equated to tabloid ambulance chasing, I say, isn’t this news? I mean, his is a legacy that impacted an entire culture, why wouldn’t it be news?

    All that aside, what a great talent, what a great crotchety talent the world has lost.

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