I did flash back a few times to what I had seen in American Splendor, the first occasion when I was working a random part time job at a local department store as a dressing room attendant. It was my job to take, refold and rehang clothing from the dressing rooms and needless to say it was a mind-numbingly repetitive and extremely boring gig. One day, in the middle of what seemed to be an endless shift, I found myself imagining what the customers would look like if they were drawn by R. Crumb and were characters in a comic strip of my life just like Harvey’s in American Splendor. I recall that I thought at the time that however mundane Harvey’s job was in his comics, my job was way too boring and useless to make a good setting for a comic strip.
I would not think of Harvey Pekar or his comics until many years later when in 2003 I caught wind of the American Splendor movie which had just been released. I was married by then, and I recall mentioning to my wife, Anna Liza that we should see that film on our “date night” but for one reason or other we never got around to it and soon the movie was out of the theaters. It was not until 2005 when I spotted the American Splendor DVD at my video store that my wife and I would finally get a chance to see this movie. Needless to say, we both immediately fell in love with Harvey Pekar and soon purchased our own DVD of the film for our collection. Soon, we picked up copies of a few American Splendor paperback compilations at the store and added those to our home library.
One night, we saw that Anthony Bordain’s “No Reservations” show was featuring the town of Cleveland, Ohio where Harvey was from. We watched it for the hell of it when suddenly there he was on the screen- Harvey talking with Bordain, meeting up with Toby Radloff in a trippy jacket, showing off his town. We recorded the piece and watched it over and over again.
Flash forward to July 2010: I was at work - now as a funeral director – when I saw a piece on Yahoo news announcing that Harvey Pekar had been found dead in his home in Cleveland. My heart immediately sank and I went outside to call my wife to tell her the bad news. Throughout the rest of the day I felt as if I had lost a relative or a close friend even if I had never actually met Harvey. I realized that his death touched me on a deep and personal level that I had thought my position as a funeral director had made me immune from ever feeling to this degree.