CLEVELAND (Z2, Second Printing, 2017; Hardcover)
Original Graphic Novel from 2012
Writer: Harvey Pekar
Artist: Joseph Remnant
Comic books are considered the ninth artform, which seems kind of low on the totem pole of art since they have the expressive capability of literature along with the visual impact of cinema. Not all comic books are art, nor do they need to be. I am admittedly of the “capes” set, meaning that superheroes are my first and primary interest. Over the years my tastes have expanded and I have dipped my toe into other waters while remaining loyal to my beloved superheroes.
Harvey Pekar comics are deceptive, as they often look crude and sloppy when compared to their more polished mainstream counterparts, but in terms of accomplishing and saying something they are art of the highest order. I have to be in a very specific frame of mind to read Pekar. I was going through a brutal divorce and a bitter custody battle throughout most of last year, and when life was at it's bleakest point a friend told me to check out Pekar. American Splendor was like a lifesaver thrown to me as I was drowning. I'll put it to you like this. I own over 1100 collected editions yet only have two bookshelves. The rest are all kept in acid free magazine boxes. I keep all of my Pekar books on the shelf in case I need one, the comic book equivalent of “break glass in case of emergency”.
Cleveland is Pekar's autobiography. He is from Cleveland and never left, nor did he ever want to. The first forty or so pages of this roughly 120 page book is Pekar setting the stage with the history of Cleveland peppered with his worldview. Pekar is the son of Polish immigrants and grew up poor. His views on poverty and race are to the point and pull no punches. He watched the city go down the tubes and come back in some ways while watching lots of problems get rearranged like so many deck chairs. Life is like that. There are no answers to some questions.
This was among Pekar's final projects and was published posthumously, adding to it's poignancy. Here we see a 70 year old Pekar musing about life and seemingly resigned to his fate. His bitterness has mostly subsided and he has taken a matter of fact stance on relationships. I haven't read all of his work, but this is the finest artwork that I have seen in any of his books thus far. Remnant's art perfectly suits the mood of the book.
There are times when I miss my 20s. I knew all of the answers, as young people tend to do. In my 30s I realized that not only did I not know the answers, I didn't even know the questions. In my 40s I have found that there aren't even questions. On a cosmic scale none of this matters. The beauty of Pekar is that he makes normal everyday existence seem of cosmic importance. I have several more Pekar books sitting on my bookshelf, sitting there like a fire extinguisher in case of personal emergency. As much as I love his material I am not in any rush to read them. They will be read when the universe deems it necessary. God bless Harvey Pekar.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 5 out of 5.
The OCD zone- This book is slightly smaller than your standard collected edition.
Paper stock: Uncoated stock.
Binding: Sewn binding, a bit stiff but no big deal since the book is small and light.
Hardback cover notes: Matte casewrap with a quarter binding wrapped around the spine.