by Harvey Pekar
& Tara Seibel
with Harvey Pekar
Ohioana Book Festival
by Sue Lense
on May 10th, the Ohioana Library held its annual Book Festival
at the State Library. It was my great fortune to interview Harvey
Pekar of “American Splendor.”
Harvey hates to travel outside Cleveland, but “loves the
spotlight.” Unassuming in his light blue polo shirt and
jeans, Pekar remains Pekar, unique yet as ordinary as the rest
of us. I was struck by his approachability, his modesty regarding
his obvious influence on many, and most of all by his genuine
love of humanity. He was always sure to give credit where it
was due and spelled the last names of anyone he mentioned. He
is one mensch of a homo sapiens.
Q: In a quote from an interview with Steve
Leiber & Jim Ottaviani you said, “Every life is the
subject of a potentially great novel.”
Everyday people make up 99% of the population–that is
until they are dead are still-born or something. I’m not
interested in reading about the life of Princess Diana, and
I like realistic art. I worked as a file clerk in a Veteran’s
hospital and though I changed a few names, what I wrote about
is true, and it was mostly affectionate. That is what I know.
Authors who don’t think they want to write about that
Q: In different interview Kurt Vonnegut was
mentioned with the quote, “Don’t be a writer, be
something, then write.”
I don’t want to take issue with Kurt Vonnegut—it’s
true. He might have been pretty old by the time he said it.
How do you decide what to work on?
You can do anything with comics and I wish people would do more
with the medium. For me, it has been autobiographical based
on what was going on in my life. I used to memorize conversations.
There were some great lines and I used to grab a piece of paper
and write on the spot. Sometimes it would make me feel embarrassed,
but a lot of material came from folks at the VA. I knew from
the beginning that what I was doing was revolutionary for the
time, so I had to self-publish. Now things are much easier–I
am approached directly by other authors, publishers and artists.
Q: Could you address some of the more current
autobiographical graphic novelists?
I like Allison Bechdel of “Fun House.” I tried to
promote her. She knocked me out. I got to meet her. She is a
nice person and is getting the attention she deserves.
Q: What about your collaboration with artists?
Back in the 1960's I was doing a lot of reviews. Jazz brought
Robert Crumb and I together. He is into the old stuff and I
liked the newer work so there wasn’t a lot of overlap.
Anyway, I gave some of my work to him and then he shared some
stories with other illustrators. Joe Sacco and Leonard Rifas
did more realism, political and historical stuff. Rifas was
looked over, which is too bad. I think he is teaching somewhere
now. As for a strip, “Gasoline Alley” was on track.
I hate fantasy. Mythology can be ok. Artists like Alan Moore
are so much smarter. I hate gratuitous violence. I hate the
super heroes style. What I do enjoy are artists like Chris Ware,
Dan Clowes, Joe Sacco and R. Crumb. Crumb by the way, is doing
a serious illustrated version of the Biblical Genesis. He bought
his home in France with a couple of boxes of his sketch books.
I’ve been asked to do a serious history of the Middle
East, but I’m not sure how to end it.
Frank Stack is another artist I like. He was an underground
comic pioneer. He did “Our Cancer Year.” His father
was a big Christian so he had to use a pen name. Stack did a
take off on Jesus and his return. You can imagine what his father
would have thought about that.
Q: On to your film, do you want to talk about
Yeah, it saved me financially. I gave half of the earnings to
my wife. Most of it was filmed in Lakewood, West of Cleveland.
I used to go to the set for free food. Dean Haspeil had a working
history with me. He approached a movie producer friend. There
was a phone call, and I got an option right away. HBO was talked
into making the film. I got lots of money for that. The movie
sparked new interest in my work. A husband and wife team who
did documentaries wrote the screenplay. They came up with good
ideas, as in casting multiple actors for the same character
and some animation. Giomatti, who played the lead, was relatively
unknown at the time. The film hit the new wave of graphic novel
interest at the right time.
Q: What about some of your new projects?
I’m writing about the SDS and the Wobblies. No one knows
about the Wobblies. I’ve also done a history of the Beats,
but the title is yet unknown. Another book is coming out with
intertwined short stories from “American Splendor”.
I’m also working on a biography of Lenny Bruce.
Q: What do you do for fun?
I read good reviews of my work. I get a lot of fan mail. My
name is in the phone book and I love calls. Right now I am working
with an illustrator named Tara Seibel.
Q: If you were a kitchen utensil, what would
Something that turns fat. Doughnuts and french fries are my
C. Mehrl Bennett
Non-Fiction Theater of the Truly Mundane
Base on Balls
A modest living room in an old farmhouse circa 1961. A family
of six consisting of a mother, father, three boys (Aged
10, 9 and 8) and the youngest girl (6) sits stage right
on a hodge-podge of worn overstuffed furniture. A large
steam radiator is located directly below the front window.
They are watching the Cleveland Indians play baseball on
Early American console television.
The image is black and white. Sportscaster Ken Coleman’s
voice emanates from the T.V.
Ken Coleman – Vic Power takes ball four and trots
to first base!
Ricky (the oldest boy) – Gee, I wonder what the first
baseman is saying to Vic Power?
After a moment of contemplation the mother chirps pleasantly
– You’re a Goddamned asshole!
Ricky, Jimmy, Donny and Kathy – GASP!
Father – AAAAAAANNE!!!
Father – Dick “Snook” Brown
Mother – Anne “Gus” Brown
Ricky – himself
Jimmy – himself
Donny – himself
Kathy – herself
Ken Coleman – himself
by Dennis Toth
On restless nights crowded
with intermittent meditations
of early selves forgotten
and futures lost
in endless rounds of
jabber and digressions,
only then do I remember
my recent, post-dated sense
by Sue Lense
The Best of Shadowbox 2008
Easton Town Center
* * * * *
by Rick Brown
Over the years
I have found writing reviews for Shadowbox gets more and more
difficult. But it’s for a good reason. Their shows are
too enjoyable. Over the past couple years I have seen the Shadowbox
troupe incorporate new angles…like video images on television
screens, more dance routines, circus stunts, etc. into their
performances. At first this didn’t always work out well...especially
But with experience comes wisdom. And every year I tell people
in my “Best of…” review that this is the show
to see if you have never seen Shadowbox. But this year I must
say the current ensemble of 2007-2008’s best sketches,
music et al is “The BEST of all the BEST OF’s”
I have seen in the six years I have been reviewing these talented
wonderful people. And boy am I glad I invited two friends…one
of whom had seen Shadowbox years ago and was not impressed and
one a certified “virgin”…to join my wife Yvonne
and I for the show!
to the Forbidden Planet
Easton Town Center
* * * * *
by Rick Brown
Okay…here’s the deal. I am not going to even TRY
to explain with any detail the plot of this musical. You probably
wouldn’t believe me anyway. Suffice it to say this is
a science fiction play loosely (and I mean loosely)
based on Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”. Written
in the style of the Bard’s Old English by a guy named
Bob Carlton, it is also loosely based on the 1956 film Forbidden
Planet. So here goes my loosely written review.
stars as the singing, dancing Captain Tempest who commands
what begins as a routine passenger jaunt into space aboard
his spacecraft. Along with an able crew including Cookie (the
teenage cook played by Brian Westbrook) Navigational Officer
(Lori Hunt) and Bosun (Jerrod Wigton), Tempest is befuddled
and intimidated by new Science Officer Gloria (Julie Klein).
Gloria is a strong, vocal feminist and Captain Tempest is
an old fashioned misogynist…at least initially. Their
conflicted arguing soon breaks into the most intriguing version
of James Brown’s “This Is A Man’s World”
I have ever heard.
of the Damned
by Dennis Toth
There are movies and there are films, each separated by rifts
in elitist attitudes and adolescent obsessions. Then there is
the cinema of the damned, a vast skid-row of Jungian shadows
and Freudian dreams. Like a flea market held at an abandoned
drive-in, this is a place stocked with life's most tawdry and
potent fragments from the collective sub-conscious. Here, and
here alone, we find the poetry of the lost and doomed.
there is a barker stationed at this particular gate of Hell,
he will look like Vincent Price. In a career that see-sawed
from second string respectability to senior citizen camp parody,
Price rose and fell and rose again. He went from being a simple
servant within the back lots of RKO and Universal Studios to
his late career as master of the Edgar Allan Poe genre in the
dingy back alleys of American International Pictures. Though
his career turned into a lemon, Price successfully took over
the entire lemonade stand. He became the unchallenged King of
Raconteur Theater Company
May 29 – June 14
A couple Saturday evenings ago my wife Yvonne and I were out
celebrating our anniversary. We had a wonderful dinner and
took in After The Afterglow at the delightfully funky Kafe
Karouac in the Ohio State University campus area. This being
the premier production by this new troupe I had no idea what
to expect. After The Afterglow is a part of what Raconteur
calls it’s “Flex Series”. That being an
evening of two short plays with the option to take in both
or to see one or the other. This is a great idea! And coupled
with the friendly funkiness of Kafe Kerouac and the charming
“thrown together” feel of the performance space
made for a fun date…even after 34 years together! With
the rows of at least three different types of chairs and temporary
black curtains hanging from the walls, the implied spontaneity
was celebratory!! (Hey everyone….let’s put on
a PLAY!!) The bittersweet irony however, was that these two
productions centered on couples arguing for what seemed the
duration of each presentation. I simply sighed and smiled.
the time that comes with laughing
she just goes on and on.
no special earlobe'd villain,
no righteous brain pan,
no mellow reasoning.
cheeks are tired. the day ahead of me is full.
i hate full days. i really do.
want something to kick around in. water mostly, a little blood.
the lost hammock of our forever fuck, our forever fucking.
the mouth passion i once felt and now have lost. it's lost itself
bottlepain. i stop and sit and feel the paranoid skin
sift and wrap 'round my shoulders.
i'm dead for trees again.
we're snapping at the wrong turtles,
not thinking past a bullet that can't hurt a cartoon thought,
can't break up a spaghetti plate,
can't make a joker stand up yet.
stop just long enough to confront
every demon, every bastard, every equal bitch
and pour cold water on all those heads..
and shitting and crying.