It would have pleased Harvey Pekar, I think, that his passing yesterday was noted in every media outlet from the New Yorker to EW, and not just because they made a movie about him, but as a literary figure of worth and stature. Harvey’s life’s work was in showing that the ordinary was important, and a working class existence was not a prison but a journey through the profound and beautiful that anyone could experience if they took the time. He found that beauty in simple, quotidian things and experiences that others might have found trivial or mundane, but in the end his message was that what else is there? Life as it is lived is the most precious gift of all.
The Cleveland Plains Dealer is reporting that underground comics legend Harvey Pekar died last night. Pekar’s wife, Joyce Brabner found him dead at about 1 am. Pekar had battled lymphoma previously, as chronicled in Our Cancer Year, but the cause of death is awaiting an autopsy.
Pekar was best known as author of American Splendor, an autobiographical comic that adapted Pekar’s lowly life as a filing clerk at the Cleveland VA into a journey of humor, drama and insight as memorable as any fictional hero, hiring artist friends such as R. Crumb, Gary Dumm, Frank Stack and others to illustrate his stories. American Splendor was an early self-publishing success story of sorts — while its acclaim gained Pekar enough notoriety for him to become a semi-regular on the David Letterman Show (until erratic on-air behavior got him banned) he still had to work at the VA to rely on getting a pension and continuing to make a living — indie comics was not a cash cow.
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is in interesting entry in the world of long-form cinematic Batman stories for a few different reasons. First, it manages to do what the Tim Burton movies were unable to — make Bruce Wayne/Batman the protagonist of his own story. Second, it’s primarily a detective story as opposed to an action story. Third, at least half of the story is told in flashback, a parallel-action setup ambitious for an animated movie thought of as primarily for kids. Lastly, the story it tells is rather emotional and internal — Bruce/Batman broods a lot in this movie, even by his own standards. The action sequences feel perfunctory and tacked-on. The two that come to mind — a truck chase and the explosive finale — are poorly motivated and don’t advance the plot in any meaningful way.
Via PR, Gary Friedrich, a seminal figure of Marvel in the 60s and 70s and co-creator of Ghost Rider, and the late Otto Binder, without whom there would be no Supergirl or Krypto or hundreds of other comics, are the two latest recipients of the Bill Finger Award. This honor is presented annually at the the San Diego Comic-Con to honor one living writer, and one deceased who have made significant contributions to the comics industry.
The young people of today can hardly be expected to understand the impact that Tim Burton’s Batman had on movie-goers in the summer of 1989. The general audience of 1989 knew Batman only as the campy, self-conscious, broad-daylight superhero of the Adam West TV show. Nothing in movies prepared viewers for this radical re-thinking of the character, the weird darkness of the themes, the dense, oppressive production design or Jack Nicholson’s performance as The Joker. All of it was alarming, electrifying stuff back then. (Of course, it was all familiar territory for people who had read The Dark Knight Returns and The Killing Joke, but that’s another story.)
During his six years as Marketing Manager at Marvel Comics, Jim McCann definitely established himself as a strong candidate for Nicest Guy In Comics, and certainly helped out The Beat on many occasions. This Thursday will be his last day on staff at Marvel, however, as he leaves to pursue his writing career with both regular Marvel writing gigs and a stiking creator-owned project, THE RETURN OF THE DAPPER MEN, coming this fall from Archaia. As McCann mentions in the interview, he long had a background in writing, but his outgoing nature usually ended up spinning him towards marketing jobs, but now he’s sticking with the path to what he wants to do.
McCann has definitely been in the middle of some of Marvel’s wildest rides over the last six years, and when he suggested an “exit interview,” we thought it would be a good way to look back on them. Plus he suggested a music number to end it all, so we had to go along. You won’t find too much muckraking here -—McCann could easily segue into inspirational speaking -— and things might get a little sappy at the end, but not every one can be a tearjerker!
Tweet As reported in a Twitter posting, Marc Bernardin was among those let go at Entertaiment Weekly yesterday, part of a general bloodbath at Time Inc. this week — as many as 500 employees are expected to be let go. Bernardin, who received the news while on vacation, tweeted: Ladies and gentlemen, my 15-yr tenure [...]
TweetICv2 has a full report on an appearance by internationally acclaimed author Salman Rushdie (shown above with his ex, Padma Lakshmi) proclaiming his interest in writing a graphic novel on the Craig Ferguson Show. Rushdie answered, “Yeah, and actually I got asked recently if I’d like to write a graphic novel. I was kind of [...]
Tweet § If all profiles/travelogues were as good as Brian Heater’s account of a trip to Cleveland for Harvey Pekar’s 70th birthday, people wouldn’t wonder about the state of comics journalism. In five days, Harvey Pekar will turn 70, a fact commemorated by the cake in the center of the room, shaped like a giant [...]
Tweet Over at TCR, Ng Suat Tong labors mightily and makes the startling and groundbreaking twin discoveries that cartoonists who write use the formal conventions of the comics medium more fluently than writer artist teams and — even more shockingly — that few comics writers are as inventive as Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. While [...]
Tweet Steven Seagle writes to tell us: Man of Action Studios, the creative collective of Joe Casey, Joe Kelly, Duncan Rouleau, and Steven T. Seagle – creators of the hit BEN 10 franchise and the upcoming GENERATOR REX both for Cartoon Network as well as countless cult comic books will return to booth 2007 at [...]
Tweet John Broome Photo by Maureen McTigue Frank Jacobs The winners of the award recognizing pioneering comics writers have been announced: John Broome and Frank Jacobs have been selected to receive the 2009 Bill Finger Award for Excellence in Comic Book Writing. The choice made by a blue-ribbon committee chaired by writer-historian Mark Evanier was [...]