Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2010

Harvey Pekar

From the 1970s, Harvey Pekar was one of the giants of the comic-book medium. His revealing autobiographical stories, in the pages of his American Splendor series and in books like Our Cancer Year (a collaboration with his wife Joyce Brabner and artist Frank Stack), had a profound influence on a generation of American cartoonists. Harvey, an autodidact and voracious reader, could draw only stick figures himself, but he saw no reason why comics could not tackle the same human themes as literature and art-house cinema. To that end, he enlisted a host of cartoonists to illustrate his scripts, including, most famously, underground legend Robert Crumb. As a full-time file clerk at a Veterans Administration hospital in Cleveland, Harvey was one of the only authentic working-class voices in the arts. Despite his success — and the 2003 movie about his life, American Splendor, in which he was played by Paul Giamatti — Harvey was never convinced he had "made it." He always seemed to be girding himself for more struggles ahead.

Joe Sacco

Sacco is a journalist and comics artist; his latest book is Footnotes in Gaza