Until fairly recently, Harvey Pekar says, he “always had a lot of trouble” getting artists to illustrate his stories. “I had to work with some people who were not that good. It was either that or nothing.”The Pekar Project is a web comic series published by SMITH magazine, edited by Jeff Newelt. It’s a multifaceted adventure in the real-life stories of Harvey. New comics are published every other week at smithmag.net, along with interviews, artist spotlights and other material. Artists include New Yorkers Rick Parker and Sean Pryor, Los Angelino Joseph Remnant and Clevelander Tara Seibel.
“I met Tara at a workshop at Lakeland [Community College],” says Pekar. “The other three came to me from Jeff, who just sent me people he thought were real good. They were really anxious to work with me, even though they weren’t getting paid.”
Not getting paid is not unusual in the world of storytelling and comics, especially online. Pekar is hopeful that the Pekar Project will attract the interest of a print publisher.
For the first Project, Seibel depicted a conversation Pekar had with comic-book colleague R. Crumb. They talked about contemporary artists’ and musicians’ struggle to find an audience, which was a key concept in the opera Leave Me Alone, for which Pekar wrote the libretto.
“If nothing ever comes of [the Pekar Project], it wouldn’t be a big huge loss. It’s not like I’ve been chiseling away at a big block of stone to make a sculpture or something.”
And whether the Pekar Project sees print or not, the Pennello Gallery (12407 Mayfield Rd., 216.707.9390) will show original art from the series in an exhibit called The Pekar Project Live: From Web to Walls. It opens with a reception from 7-11 p.m. Friday, October 3, and continues through October 9. — Michael Gill