Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Harvey Pekar honored with statue at local library

Cleveland finally has a fitting tribute to one of its comic book heroes. But this one isn't to the Man of Steel. It's to "Our Man," Harvey Pekar, who passed away in July 2010.

An event titled "Harvey Pekar: A Literary, Library Life" took place on Sunday in a standing-room-only presentation room at the Cleveland Heights/University Heights Library's main branch — Pekar's favorite — and was capped off with the unveiling of an interactive memorial to the writer that was funded by a Kickstarter campaign started by Joyce Brabner, his widow.

After a few announcements from library representatives and an introduction by Brabner, illustrator JT Waldman gave a presentation on what it was like to work with the writer on the posthumously released Not the Israel My Parents Promised Me. The new graphic novel centers on conversations Pekar and Waldman, both Jewish, have about the history of Judaism and of the current policies and situations in Israel. Much of their work was done in the library, and the building is featured in the book.

Following "American Splendor," a song written and performed by local musician Marissa DeSantis, the crowd was ushered upstairs for the unveiling. The statue is mounted on a wooden desk and is of a bronze Pekar essentially walking out of a comic panel.

On the reverse side of the panel is sections of chalkboard and pieces of chalk so visitors can draw their own comic, stories or notes. There's also a drawer in the desk with a glass top that contains Pekar mementos like his AARP card and eye-glasses.

The statue is near the newly enshrined Harvey & Friends Bookshop, which sells used books, DVDs and vinyl records, one of Pekar's favorite things to collect. The event also featured the dedication of a Literary Landmark plaque from Untied for Libraries in connection with Pekar's work and research done at the library.

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