About this project
The whole story is every bit as verbose as one of Harvey's text heavy comic panels or lunch with Joyce. If you're impatient, skip over the videos we've embedded. If you're really, really impatient-- as Harvey so often was-- let's start with the quick pitch:
A way to celebrate comics as art and literature at a Cleveland Heights public library. A literary landmark, a desk that's always filled with paper and pencils for people to sit and write or draw comics at the same place where Harvey Pekar liked to work.
Mounted on the desk, a sculpted bronze comic book “page.” Stepping out from a panel, Harvey-- using his semi celebrity to focus on the creative possibilities of the art form he opened up to so many people. On the reverse, gridded into bronze ruled "panels," a giant slate storyboard that looks very much the way Harvey always started his own scripts. (He wrote and drew stick figures, just like Paul Giamatti in that movie.) Plenty of chalk and plenty of encouragement from a library that cherishes comics. At different times each year, a librarian can unlock the middle drawer of the desk and pull out copies of books that Harvey read as a kid that inspired him to write, AMERICAN SPLENDOR scripts, memorabilia and anything else that could inspire library patrons to be creative with comics.
The desk and statue will be mounted next to the library's “Harvey & Friends Used Bookstore"* and facing the library's ever growing comics shelves. Every so often a Kickstarter campaign runs over. If that happens, once all the bills are paid, the Estate of Harvey Pekar will use the rest of the money to add to the library's no-white-gloves, read and enjoy(!) collection.
* Named after Harvey. The library knew and loved him.
For those who like details and good gossip, a longer explanation
When Harvey died in July, 2010 there was some silly buzz about raising a statue of “Our Man, the autobio comics and indie film legend.” This made Harvey's wife and collaborator Joyce Brabner terribly uncomfortable. Not only was she hustling to cover cemetery expenses, local fans had been unable to erect a statue of that other Cleveland comic book hero, Superman.
Sculptor Justin Coulter was tending bar that night. The bronze casting foundry he had worked at for 7 years had closed and like Harvey, Justin works several gigs so as to also make art. He began making little clay models (maquettes) of a possible sculpture.
This was not making Joyce's life any easier. She called it the “celebrity vs. celebration” dilemma. She was very uncomfortable with the idea of Harvey-as-monument, but she realized she lived in a city that had giant stone statues of the Greco-Roman gods of literature, commerce, industry and transportation.
So, why not use Harvey's para-celebrity to promote Comics as Art & Literature?
Justin redesigned the models, now turning into a memorial that would encourage anyone and everyone to think about writing or drawing stories about themselves, about whatever they could imagine. He and Joyce decided on a large bronze comic book page with captions that proclaimed, as Harvey said, “Comics are words and pictures. You can make anything you want with words and pictures.” “Anybody's life story is potentially the source of a great novel, comic book or movie.” And in very small letters, directly under Harvey, in Yiddish, what he really would have said, “Oy! What do you want from my life anyway?”
Thinking comics, Joyce realized this left them with a reverse “page” on the back of the memorial. She decided to turn it into a giant slate storyboard, upon which people could draw their own comics. That's what killed the idea of placing the memorial on Harvey's as yet unmarked grave. It would not be polite to the other guests of the cemetery. And of all this came the much better idea to redesign the memorial and install it at the Cleveland Heights Public Library-- a very comics friendly place, indeed-- where, because a giant block of granite or marble was no longer required, costs could be cut in half by mounting everything on a reinforced wooden desk.
This video explains it all and shows off the kind of support the library offers the Comics as Art & Literature statue project. Unlike the infamous Kickstarter Detroit Robocop statue, we've made sure this would be a welcome, wanted by (most) of the suits, piece of public art. So, if you have time to watch anything, watch this one. (Nancy Levin gets comics.)
Harvey's connection to the library and librarians he loved is described in this last video, as well. But, if you really did read all the way to the bottom of this, it can be assumed that you're a literate and flexible thinker, someone who also loves his or her own library. No one's talking about erecting Comics as Art & Literature desks in other libraries yet. It could happen... Joyce would agree. But the truth is, the Estate of Harvey Pekar is pretty much just Joyce with the help of some friends. She can not afford to bankroll this project herself and things would have been so much easier for her if she could have simply sprinkled Harvey's ashes in the backyard.
If, after all the bills have been paid, there's any money left over, that cash goes to buy still more graphic novels for the library.
A tremendous amount of goodwill has gone into the design of this project. It's not an ego driven memorial to a dead husband. It's intended only as an offer to use someone's good name and memory to celebrate comics as art and literature and encourage people to make comics. “Comics are words and pictures. You can do anything with words and pictures.”
Exactly when can we expect a statue and our rewards?
Some of the rewards offered can not be delivered until the statue is erected, so we're shooting for what would have been Harvey's October 8, 2012 birthday. We will send what we can as soon as we can, hoping to get the Winter Holiday 2011 rewards out in time for whatever you celebrate. And not all the rewards are up yet. Some other folk, including those famous and infamous, have promised things we'll post later.
Kickstarter says this project is already 100% funded. Do you really need more money?
Well... yes. Joyce low balled project costs, expecting to be able to make up the difference. But there are some tax problems, etc. Here's the latest:
OK... You offer "A phone call-- if not a coffee date-- with one of the stars of the film, AMERICAN SPLENDOR." Who do I get to hang with?
You have $1,500 to contribute to the cause and you're worrying about hanging with good company? I always thought people with that kind of discretionary income never worried about glam dates for the prom.
It depends on what coast you live on, I guess. Phone calls are no problem but for an actual sit down date, Judah Friedlander (plated Toby, now on 30 Rock) is our East Coast guy, with James Urbaniak (played Crumb, all over the place in cinema and, in cartoons, the voice of Dr. Venture) covers the West. You are sort of stuck with me or real Toby if you live in the middle of the country. We are each very interesting people but probably not who you had in mind. My last Screen Actors Guild residual check was for $2.22 which probably doesn't mean much, unless you are into numerology.
Yes, but please think this through. The book is yet to be published. And Harvey is dead. So, whose autograph are we talking about?
"Comics are words and PICTURES." I suppose I can pony up something else, like a cancelled check, and paste that inside...
On the slide show you describe a "Jewish god of file clerks," a "Jewish god of grumpy people" and a "Jewish god of frumpy people." Aren't you supposed to say "Jewish G-D?"
Ask your rabbi. If Harvey is anywhere in Gan Eden, we doubt he's in charge-- although he might be roaming the halls, file charts in hand. Which means this time he's REALLY in trouble if he's caught swiping office supplies, using the phone to make long distance calls or pilfering doughnuts.