OUR CANCER YEAR (Running Press, Seventh Printing, 1994; Softcover)
Original Graphic Novel
Writers: Joyce Brabner and Harvey Pekar
Artist: Frank Stack
Our Cancer Year is another in a long line of Harvey Pekar's autobiographical line of comics. While it is not branded as an American Splendor comic it is very similar in feel and tone. This time he co-writes with his wife Joyce Brabner. It's more of a shared vision than your standard Harvey Pekar story starring Our Man.
Harvey is something of a worry wart who also tends to put things off. He notices a lump on his left groin but ignores it. It starts growing and after his wife continually nags him to get it checked out, he does. Harvey is diagnosed with lymphoma. While they are able to remove it all he still has to go through chemotherapy and radiation treatment. It is during this time that things get really rough for him. Harvey has always been very self-reliant, and to put himself at the mercy of others is a humbling experience. I can't imagine anyone taking something like that well. He gets really down and almost throws in the towel a number of times. Joyce tries to keep him going but the situation becomes almost as rough on her as it is for Harvey, albeit it in a different way.
This story took place in 1990-91, with the events leading up to and including Operation Desert Storm being a secondary story as well as Harvey dealing with Joyce and her overseas volunteer work. Another facet of the story is the introduction and implementation of computers into daily life. Joyce uses a very primitive Internet to communicate with her friends overseas. Harvey wants nothing to do with it until he realizes he has to use it to communicate with her while she's away on her volunteer work.
Harvey is stubborn and keeps trying to work even though he is still on the mend. When he finally does return to work he finds that his job has been filled and that he now has to learn how to use computers. I was in my late teens when the events in this book occurred. I remember the invasion of Kuwait and the beginning of Operation Desert Storm. I also remember the primitive high school computers with the two tone green screen and 5 inch floppy disk drives. Computers were pretty useless and uninteresting back then. Harvey Pekar and I both discovered in the coming years that the world was about to change forever.
Our Cancer Year is a testament to stubbornness and overcoming impossible odds. Pekar continues to inspire many of us, even when he isn't trying to.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.25 out of 5.
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This book is wider than your standard size modern day trade paperback.
Paper stock: Fair weight matte stock.
Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover notes: Laminated cardstock cover.