All the Indie auto-bio graphic novels that hit bestseller lists today owe everything to Harvey Pekar.
The Underground Comix revolution of the counterculture (’67-’74) had assailed the status quo with acerbic farce and excess, but Harvey saw a better potential than just surrealism, drugs, and sex. He poached their star artist, Robert Crumb, in 1975 to illustrate short vignettes of his normal life. Self-publishing the annual magazine "American Splendor" for two decades, he pioneered a new way of expressing adult life that expanded and elevated the art form.
Harvey turned comics from fantasy into a memoir and diary of reality. Whether navigating life’s mysteries or another tricky day of urban survival, he wrote in a personal voice that spoke to any individual. He made maneuvering the mundane heroic and sorting the heart literate. This mature perspective helped change public perception of the comics medium when compiled in anthology books. Without his wry and poignant confessionals, the mainstream success of graphic novels like Spiegelman’s "Maus," Clowes’ "Ghost World," Gloeckner’s "Diary of a Teenage Girl," Bechdel’s "Fun Home," and Thompson’s "Blankets" would have been impossible. Without his working-class political commentary, there wouldn’t have been Moore and Sienkiewicz’s "Brought to Light," Sacco’s "Palestine," Cruze’s "Stuck Rubber Baby," or Satrapi’s "Persepolis." Or countless graphic novelists, graphic journalists, blog activists, or web editorialists.
Harvey made the personal political and the political personal. And he advanced comix and comix films to a higher, deeper level.