Don't Quit Now

Columbus Alive | October 27, 2005
With more than 30 years of autobiographical comics writing under his belt—comics well-received enough to give him scads of mainstream media coverage, TV appearances and a critically acclaimed and award-winning movie based on his work—does Clevelander Harvey Pekar really have anything left to reveal about himself?

Well, yes, actually. While Pekar’s name has become virtually synonymous with grouchiness, curmudgeonliness and middle-aged angst, the story of who he is and how he came to be—his secret origin, in comics parlance—has always remained secret. At least until today, when DC’s Vertigo imprint released Pekar’s The Quitter, a graphic novel wordily narrated by Pekar and boldly, beautifully illustrated by Dean Haspiel.

Named for young Pekar’s tendency to quit anything that seemed too difficult for him to succeed at almost immediately (sports, school, the Navy, jobs), it’s the sort of uncomfortably revelatory work he’s become known for through American Splendor. From Pekar’s previous work and peculiar level of almost-celebrity, he seems like he was born as an old man, and his tale seems to both back that up and negate it.

While Pekar is physically young and virile, he seems to worry at an old man’s level of anxiety. Blessed with a photographic memory and the ability to flatten any opponent—a skill he acquired from being beaten by groups of Cleveland toughs as a youngster—but cursed with anxiety issues in a pre-mental health era, he comes across as both admirable and pathetic simultaneously. In other words, like a real person, like you or me.

The last page is perhaps the most uncomfortable, as Haspiel’s drawing of Pekar stares out at the reader and articulates his anxiety about the sales for the book you just got done reading. He’s always worried about making enough money to support his family, how critics will receive his books, if anyone will bother to buy them, he says. It’s like a last minute guilt trip to review it kindly, but it’s a superfluous gesture. Pekar hasn’t quit comics yet, and The Quitter is another great example of why he never should.

Columbus Alive

Founded in 1983, Alive is the Capital City's oldest and only independent alternative and is known for providing a forum for the area's free thinkers. The paper's spirited and original perspective on music, arts and culture distinguish it from the...
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