Category Archives: Harvey Pekar

My own little Thing

For various reasons, I’ve had to draw Ben Grimm  (the recently published Harvey Pekar Meets the Thing, for instance—from Strange Tales Volume 2 #3…)  Hope ya got one, it was a fun issue.

Well, after the third or fourth time you draw Ben’s mug, you realize how badly you want a detailed map of the cracks on his face, and the proportions of his brow ridges, etc, as it’s hard to visualize, otherwise.  The normal solution is to roll up your sleeves and do a turnaround on the character, but I happened to have a bit of clay laying about from a different project I was mucking about with…so….

 

It's Clobberin' Time!

I tossed this together in about half an hour.  It’s the size of a baseball, more or less, and after doing it, the Thing’s face makes complete sense to me if I have to draw it from a strange angle.

Or give him dramatic lighting.

The material it’s made out of is simple air dry clay, molded by hand, with a butter knife for the flatter parts, and a push pin (for the details).

In the long run, it’s almost a form of me being lazy.  It would have taken me about an hour to do a proper turnaround map for Ben’s head, and I wouldn’t have had a chance to get really mucky and sticky.

I’ve done this a couple of times before.  I made a Two-Face model like this when I was having trouble with a Batman cover.  And I made clay models of the main characters in my graphic novel BIGG TIME when I was working on that.  It’s a super-quick way to burn a character’s features into my brain to make them “real” with your bare hands.  Usually, I find I don’t have to use the little head as a model after I’ve made it.  The act of sculpting it creates the model in my brain.  Does that make sense?

Of course, with only one colour of clay, I can’t make those baby blue eyes, the ones that make Thing the idol of millions…

Ty the Guy OUT!

Here now, your Sculpture of The Thing’s Head Moment of Zen-

The Gift of Drawing. Batman, Bill Tate, and Harvey Pekar…

When Christmas rolls around (as it did last month), our family goes for the home-made gifts quite a bit.  We make ornaments, cookies, quilts, home-made stuffed animals…and that sort of thing.  Oh, sure, we buy video games for OUR kids, as they’re too pushy to ignore if Call of Duty XII is out, but in general, we like the thoughtful, homemade presents to give to cousins, uncles, grandparents, and the like.    This year, for instance, for my mother-in-law, the entire family performed a production of the Birth of Jesus (I played Herod -as killing the first born sons of entire villages has long been a hobby) which went over very well.

But sometimes, I do folks a drawing.  And since it’s ART LAND around here, I can share ‘em with you guys.

This shot of Batman looking wet and rained on was for the nephew of one of my wife’s friends.  I’m happy with how it turned out, mostly because it’s fun for me to see influences creeping into my drawing brain.  I had JUST finished reading a Paul Gulacy mini-series the day I started this sketch, and the Gulacy-ness of the style I drew surprised me when it was done.

 

An example of the same style of drawing, only done with more skill. And no, I didn't have this in front of me when I drew my lesser sketch above.

I’m a chameleon like that.  If I’ve just read something by Kirby, I draw a little like Kirby.  If I’d just seen a Picasso, lord help the kid getting the sketch, he’ll cry and ask why Batman has three eyes.

The following is a little more like “me” drawing it…

It’s a portrait of my stepfather, Bill Tate, who passed away in 2008.  I did it for my mother’s gift this year.  It’s pencil on drawing board, about 10 x 15, and you’ll have to trust me, it looks like him.

I don’t do “sustained” drawings much in my biz…it’s usually about the quick drawing, get in, get out, and move onto the next panel, so it was a pleasant change to work on the same image for five or six hours or so….getting the likeness, working the tones, playing with the textures of hair, skin and cotton.   Makes me suddenly wish I was a portrait painter, and all this nonsense with the webbing and bat-costumes was a passing fancy.

Ah, who am I kidding? I’m a comic book guy, and wouldn’t change it for the world.  Now, I gots to get back to drawing super-heroes, or else they take away the house and car.

Ty the Guy OUT!

And now, your comic book portrait moment of zen:

 

My posthumous portrait of Harvey Pekar, printed in Strange Tales 2 #3, which came out JUST before Christmas, last month. Can you tell I was reading something by R. Crumb the day I drew this one?

I am truly Zelig Templeton.

 

Saturday Morning Harvey Pekar Tribute Part 2: In Comic Form

Saturday comes round and I get to fire another shot of brain waves and line drawings directly into the heart of the internet.

I'm just not quittin'

As everyone knows by now, the great Harvey Pekar passed away this week.  I think the proper send-off is a comic story.  That was Harvey’s way.

Glad to have known you, Harvey.  Extra glad to have worked with you.

Such a flattering portrait I did for his 70th birthday.

Ty the Guy OUT!

For last week’s BUN TOON, another exciting adventure in the life of EVERETT MANN: FREELANCE PROTAGONIST: go HERE.

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Harvey Pekar. Part 1.

Harvey was more than occasional collaborator, he was a genuine hero of mine, and I am royally pissed with the rules of the Universe, wherein he gets sick and dies.  So in between my regular duties this week (finishing a Simpsons script, editing two new indie projects and teaching at my school), I’m spending two posts going on about late great Harvey Pekar.    Today is part one:

DISCOVERING PEKAR:

I first came across him as a teenager with issue #5 of his  American Splendor (seen above) from 1980.  That’s a scan of my copy, complete with Scotch tape over the place where I tore it some years ago.

Torn comics are loved  comics.

I bought it because of my then-current drug of choice, Robert Crumb, with a cover and fifteen more pages inside by the underground master.  With Mr. Fritz the Cat on board, how could whatever this was, not be worth it?

And it was, from the moment I picked it up.

It starts by dryly advertising sickness, old age, unfunny jokes, and a decrepit Jewish guy under a banner promising the splendor of Cleveland.  That’s crack-flavored Kool-Aid to my sense of humor.

But check out this bitchin’ back cover.

That’s the first Harvey Pekar story I ever read:  Advice on how to avoid the sniffles while riding in an elevator – with a ending that strongly hints it WILL be continued next issue.    At this point I’m berserk with joy, because I’m rocking a belief that this whole magazine is going to be some sort of wry put-on about boy’s own adventure stories…giving us “TALES OF THE STUNNINGLY MUNDANE”.

But it wasn’t quite that, even if it seemed to many that it was.  There was far more tickingin the brain of Pekar than that one-off joke.  Inside were comics on the history of Cleveland neighborhoods, memories of a holocaust survivor, tales of  manners and lending money, and the existential terror of hypochondria, all sprinkled together with these tiny comic snapshots that stick to one’s memory as the days trip by.

The art by Crumb was all you could ask for, and the other two thirds of the book had it’s own treasures…from the slick, photo referenced (but baroque) Gerry Shamray:

To the very charming team of Budgett and Dumm.  These three very different styles of art added to the perfect little package that this particular issue seemed to be.

This stuff was like nothing I had every read in a comic book, or seen as entertainment anywhere, and I was junkie-hooked for life.

I mean, we did have “realism” in the comics at the time….

American Splendor #5 shared a newsstand with this Marvel Classic. It's getting real around here, man.

Not just with superheroes, but also with the gritty, true-life “undergrounds”.

This is too real man. Too f***ing real.

Nothing existed like American Splendor.  It was part comedy, part Haiku, part journalism, and part self loathing confessional, all from the unlikely  point of view of a V.A. Hospital file clerk in Ohio.

And over the years, we got Harvey’s view on the history of Jazz, obsessive compulsive disorder, race relations, more existentialist fear, cancer survival, marriage and parenthood, growing fame and fortune, brutal honesty, and the occasional knee slapping joke.

Harvey was a greater influence on my work that most people would guess, and if you read this webcomic (from just a few weeks ago), you’ll see what I’m talking about.

For my answer, and the full story, click here.

That particular webcomic got a very positive response, and I kept telling folks I hadn’t done much to deserve their praise…I simply transcribed a true story as honestly and as straightforwardly as possible, hoping to tug at your basic humanity a little.

In other words, I just stole Harvey’s act.

COMING UP IN PART TWO:

As I was writing this column, it occurred to me that the truly best way to tell the story of meeting and eventually working with Harvey Pekar, is in comic form…  So I’m drawing it as we speak, and it will be ready for Saturday Morning with Bun Toons.   Hope to see you there.

In the meantime, here’s some pages from a couple of the stories we did together for the last run of American Splendor at Vertigo.   There was vague talk of doing a graphic novel together recently, or maybe something else, but it never got worked out, I figured I’d have time when my schedule cleared up, and I’d talk to Harvey about it in another month or so…

I should not have waited to call him back.

Words cannot describe the fun it is to get to work with one of your lifelong heroes.  Literally a dream come true.

HARVEY PEKAR  FUN EXTRAS:

Back in the 80s, Harvey had a fan on the Letterman staff who booked our hero to appear a dozen times or so on Dave’s old NBC show. Harvey generally behaved in a very entertaining manner for a while, but as the bookings continued, he started to become quixotically obsessive about “outing” NBC as a front for the Pentagon war machine.  Promise me you’ll head over to youtube, and watch this delightful battle of egos from the early days of colour TV and sound transmission.   It’s a big part of why Harvey Pekar was the subject of a magnificent Hollywood movie about his life a half dozen years back.  The Letterman appearances introduced him to a larger audience, and it made for phenomenally entertaining comics and TV.

"You have crappy donuts in the green room, man"

See you Friday for a new and shocking HOVERBOY FRIDAY, and on Saturday for HARVEY PEKAR:  CRABBY MAN-CHILD OF DESTINY!  The Unauthorized Webcomic.

Ty the Guy OUT!

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Harvey Pekar

Harvey Pekar passed away very early this morning, I just heard about it now.

As anyone looking at the top of this blog will notice, Harvey Pekar’s  face is staring out at my blog readers from a story Harvey and I did together a year or so ago.  We did a few things together, and we were,  at some point in the future, supposed to do some more.

I’m afraid I’m not going to blog much about this today, because I need to take a day or so to digest his passing.  One of my heroes, one of the most interesting people I ever met, and aren’t we all lucky that we got to know him, either  through his movie,  his writing or his simply being here, and loudly refusing to shut up.

Damn, damn, damn.

I’ll give you a proper send off in a day or so, Harve.

Ty the Guy

SOMETIMES, THE ROUGH…and another of the increasingly late Hoverboy Fridays!

Clearly, I’m mad, I tell you.  MAD.

batrobinadv sketch 11

I’m one of those guys who spend their lives liking the rough sketch better than the final art.  It’s a curse.   I have a fondness for the scribbled, eccentric, humanistic and unembarrassed linework of a rough sketch.  There’s a lovely connection to movement and thought in the first contact with the image to muscles and paper,  often softened unbearably by turning it into a final illustration.   As a professional drawer-boy, I’m always fighting between “cleaning it up” and “letting it live”.

The Batman sketch from an old, old Adventures cover, (which I just found in a box yesterday, and hence this post) is less than three inches high.  It’s drawn in pencil and a thick pentel marker which was clearly drying out, as the background becomes less dark to the right. But the sense of danger, the monster, and the expressions on everyone’s face works for me in a way the final doesn’t.

harvey pekar rough to finishMy Pekar’s AMERICAN SPLENDOR work last year did the same thing to to me.  I was going for a very sedate, “realistic” Curt Swan type of storytelling for Harvey, since that was the basic feel of this particular script…but the rough layouts had a Kirby-like energy to them, with a lively and playful sense of proportion that I wish had fit the story.

( for more Harvey online, click here)

Again, these layouts are about three inches tall, and the final art is fifteen inches high…so the movements spideytorch 2 1 roughof your hands vs. the movements of your shoulders are going to be different.

I just got through reading an issue of Marvel’s new “STRANGE TALES” comic, with folks like Peter Bagge, and James  Kochalka doing very indy looking work on Marvel super-heroes.  Astoundingly great fun, and some of the pages have the same feel as my rough pages do…before I clean myself up.

If only I hadn’t seen so much Harvey Kurtzman while growing up.  I could rid myself of this demon of liking the roughs.

AND NOW—

FOR THOSE WHO DEMAND THEIR HOVERBOY FRIDAYS ON FRIDAY, I GIVE A FIE TO THEE!  A FEE FIE!

hovermuppetHoverboy Fridays continue to wander the calendar, and we find one barging into Sunday.  I’m only making this rare exception to move Hoverboy Fridays from its regular spot on Tuesdays, to this weekend, because the most recent update is topical!  It has to do with Hoverboy’s very tenuous connection to Sesame Street, which celebrated it’s 40th, or 45th anniversary this week, I wasn’t paying enough attention when Wolf Blitzer mentioned it.

Go to the Hoverboy museum and read more about this astounding connection between Kermit the Frog and The Boy Who Hovers.

www.hoverboy.com (for those who don’t hyper link well).

Ty the Guy.  AWAAAY!

My inner Mad

021 jay leno

00 spockWhen I put up those Harvey Pekar sketches last week, I mentioned that neither of the drawings were in my “usual” style of doing a likeness.  At this point in my career, I’m not sure I have a style, but I do have some vague idea of what sort of final drawing will look right to my eyes, and these ideas are usually rooted in Mort Drucker and John Severin…two of the great Mad artists of my youth.

As you can see by the drawing of a young Jay Leno (done for a Canadian TV Guide some years ago) and the Movie Spock (done for my own amusement last year), my line work tends towards Drucker’s when I’m just trying to make a portrait.

00 woody

Oddly enough, when I fit a likeness into a story (as I did with these panels from various editions of the Factoid BIG BOOK series, or as I’m currently doing with my fun Dexter gig), I find my line work and sensibility tends towards John Severin.   Probably because Severin was slavishly realistic, and Drucker was more playful.

00 orsonEither way, when you add the Jack Davis influence in the Pekar drawing below (coupled with a blatant attempt to inject a little R. Crumb in there, another Harvey Kurtzman protege), I’ve obviously never gotten over my early crush on Mad Magazine.

And I ain’t never gonna.

Ty the Guy

00 frank and mia

Happy 70th Birthday, Harvey Pekar.

Here’s a couple of drawings I did this week to celebrate Harvey Pekar’s 70th Birthday.

Harvey 1


(Click to see the many lovely contributions from a host of other artists at the Harvey Pekar Project Online at smithmag.net)

The realistic portrait I did first– sort of in the the style of Gene Day.  My wife had recently coloured a portrait of Gene for her work, and it had caused a mild nostalgia in me, enough to pull out a bunch of Gene’s Batmans and Masters of Kung Fu… With all those comics in my brain Gene’s style crept into my hands as I was sketching this portrait of Harvey, which it’s never done before, but I’m clearly more of a Zelig than I wish to be.  AK!  GHOST OF GENE DAY!!

Harvey 2

In the long run, I didn’t like the Gene Day-ish drawing because it’s basically just a portrait of Harvey, sketched from a photo, and really, didn’t bring anything to his unique and iconic character– beyond my skills to capture a likeness, and an odd departure for the way I usually draw (which, when I do portraits,  is far more like Mort Drucker –I’ll show you guys later…).

So after an hour or so of carefully capturing Mr. Pekar’s likeness, and inking and washing it in a casual style (to disguise all the labour and erasing in doing the basic portrait), I tossed the whole thing out, and did a cartoon of Harvey out of my head in about three minutes that feels like HARVEY PEKAR to me, even if it doesn’t look as exactly like him.  The madness, the beauty and the Harvey-ness of the character is more “correct” IMHO, when rendered in an expressionist and unconscious way.  Somehow, making it look too much like Harvey the human being, is almost a disservice to Harvey, the beloved comic character.

And I know he’d disagree with me, which is why I LOVE the man.

Happy Birthday Harvey.  You are a treasure to our medium, and it’s always a joy to share a page or a conversation with you.

Harvey 1

Harvey 2

Now, is it just me, or does the second one look like “Middle-Aged Man Logan?”.

Ty the Guy.