My Chat With Harvey Pekar

As you’ve likely heard by now, the great comics writer Harvey Pekar died on Monday. I didn’t know him personally, and am probably less qualified to share stories about him than those cartoonists who did, but I did get to hang out with him once. It was the summer of 2005, and I was in Cleveland for the Funny Times anniversary party. I’d arrived a little early, and found myself sitting in a small yard behind the Funny Times offices, waiting for other people to show up. I was chatting with the staffers, and maybe one or two other cartoonists, when all of a sudden Pekar appeared and sat down just a few feet away. It’s not every day Harvey Pekar pulls up a seat next to you; I hadn’t known he was coming, and was momentarily overwhelmed with surprise.

We got to talking about the American Splendor movie and his various projects, and I nerdily told him about my senior thesis that referenced a comic his wife Joyce Brabner had written. What I remember most clearly from our conversation was how disarmingly frank and down-to-earth he was about having to make a living again now that the flurry of attention from the movie had subsided. He put on no celebrity airs; he seemed preoccupied with the practical matters of life. Just like in his comics.

I had some audio equipment with me at the time, lent to me by a friend who asked me to interview cartoonists for a podcast. I remember being tempted to get Pekar on tape, but decided against it. It would have ruined the moment. I’m glad I didn’t.


Jen Sorensen is a cartoonist for Daily Kos, The Nation, In These Times, Politico and other publications throughout the US. She received the 2023 Berryman Award for Editorial Cartooning from the National Press Foundation, and is a recipient of the 2014 Herblock Prize and a 2013 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award. She is also a Pulitzer Finalist.



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