Harvey Pekar, of Cleveland Heights, has spent 30 years underground. Soon, that all could change. For more than three decades, his alternative/cult comic-book series, "American Splendor," has captured the mundane reality of everyday life. But in January, the film adaptation of "American Splendor" won the Grand Jury Award at the Sundance Film Festival.
Will Harvey suddenly become a household name? And will he become David Letterman's most aggravating guest again?
"I'm a pessimist," says Pekar,"so I doubt it."
What was the audience reaction at Sundance?
I was surprised. I'm sure most of them had no idea who I was or had never read anything I've ever written, but they were very, very positive.
Why did that surprise you?
My work has never exactly been known for its widespread appeal. It was nice.
I got hate mail once.
Better than nothing, I suppose.
Your stories reflect the mundane experiences of life. Did you really think anyone would read them?
Sure. I mean, the stuff I write about happens to most people every day.
Is anything just too mundane to write about?
I don't think so.
Is this too mundane?
I'm not sure yet.
When I was 14, I sold 2,500 comic books for $200. How dumb am I?
A lot of people have stories like that.
I was hoping for a little compassion.
I realize that.
What happened with Letterman?
The thing is, Letterman had me on his show eight times. He liked having me as this "dese and dose" kind of Cleveland guy, like the characters in my comics. And for the most part, I was willing to go with it. Then I decided to push the envelope a bit and talk about the hypocrisy of his parent company, GE. He wasn't too happy.
You pushed the envelope?
Hard to believe, I know.
I just read an old issue of "American Splendor" where Batman picked his nose and then, well, re-deposited it in his mouth.
That was the artist's idea.
Was it a deep-rooted cultural message about stripping away the aura of our heroes?
No, it was more about Batman picking his nose and eating it.
How do you want to be remembered?
I don't know. I just want people to like my work.
You're also a jazz critic. Any interest in today's pop music?
Any value in Britney Spears?
I bet your daughter likes her.
I like her.