It's official: The Harvey Pekar library statue will be built.
His widow Joyce Brabner's fundraising campaign on the website Kickstarter closed Sunday night with $38,356 in pledges. Brabner says she hopes to dedicate the Comics as Art and Literature Desk inside the Cleveland Heights-University Heights library on what would've been Pekar's next birthday, Oct. 8, 2012.
"It's great to take this thing that hurts and turn it into something that could matter," Brabner says.
Pekar, Cleveland's legendary underground comic-book writer, died last July at age 70. The memorial is Brabner's response to an earlier idea for memorializing Pekar: Some fans wanted to erect a statue over his grave in Lake View Cemetery.
"When Harvey died, there were all these New York folks banging the drum, saying Harvey needs a statue, he was a working class hero, a literary lion, our man," says Brabner. "I thought they were nuts."
Brabner and Pekar felt a person's works should be celebrated after death, not the person. So Brabner took the statue idea and turned it into a practical memorial dedicated to creativity: a desk and small statue dedicated to comics, the genre Pekar did so much to elevate into a serious form of literature.
The desk will always be filled with pencils, paper, and art materials from the art supply company Faber-Castell. Rising from the desk will be a bronze plaque of a comic book page. A small statue of Pekar, shrugging his shoulders, will step out of it. Two Pekar quotes about his artistic philosophy will be engraved on the memorial: "Anybody’s life story is potentially the source of a great novel, comic book, or movie," and, "Comics are words and pictures. You can do anything with words and pictures."
"If somebody sits down at the desk and starts to make the connection that their stories are worth telling, that’s an important message," Brabner says.
Pekar is on Clevelanders' minds because a preview of his forthcoming book, Harvey Pekar's Cleveland, ran in Monday's Plain Dealer. Unfortunately, the accompanying article erroneously reported that the book came out Monday, causing readers to deluge Pekar's favorite bookstore, Mac's Backs, with phone calls. Actually, the book comes out in March.
The article was right about this, though: Pekar fans can still contribute to the memorial project. Donations will cover incidental expenses, everything from installation and legal fees to shipping gifts to pledgers. (For instance, Brabner has promised to create and send Harvey Pekar dolls to the 29 people who donated $125-$199 to the Kickstarter campaign.) Any proceeds left over will go to expanding the Heights Library's comic book collection. To contribute to the campaign, send money through PayPal to email@example.com, or a check to The Estate of Harvey L. Pekar, P.O. Box 18471, Cleveland Heights, OH 44118.
To read the obituary for Pekar on the Cleveland Magazine blog, click here. To read our essay about him in Cleveland Magazine's December 2010 cover package, "Our Miserable Year," click here.
(art from smithmag.net/pekarproject)