The difference between celebrity and celebration was an important factor for Joyce Brabner when deciding how to honor her late husband, Harvey Pekar, with a statue.
“I didn’t want it to be just a statue,” Brabner says. “If it was anything, it would be about this medium that he championed.”
The result is a desk that sits at the main branch of the Cleveland Heights/University Heights Library — Pekar’s favorite library — with a small statue of the writer walking out of a bronze comic book page atop it.
The “imagination station,” as Brabner calls it, has a chalkboard with panels on it so visitors can draw their own comic, and three drawers filled with several of the American Splendor creator’s personal belongings, art supplies and books he liked to read. We recently talked to Brabner about the tribute and what Harvey would have thought of it.
Q. What are some of Harvey’s belongings in the drawer?
A. One award that he got for being a writer that really captured a specific place — he got that for bringing Cleveland to the world. His eyeglasses. His food co-op card — the food co-op resolves a lot of arguments about what to eat. I told him, anything you can buy at the food co-op was considered actual food. The problem is that he proceeded to bring home 30 different kinds of vegetable chips because this was his way of getting his vegetables. And one of his ever-present blue bandanas is in there.
Q. What would Harvey think of the statue?
A. He would have been really angry that with his death and [me] being released from a tremendous amount of caretaking that I was doing, that I wasn’t just sitting down and doing all the things he felt that he was holding me back from. On the other hand, knowing that it was for the library, that it was about comics and not celebrity and that this message that he tried to get across to the world was actually inscribed somewhere — in the middle of the night, snuggled up in bed together, he would have patted me on the head and kissed me and thanked me.
Q. What message or story do you think Harvey would share on the chalkboard on the back of the bronze comic page?
A. You couldn’t crank him up with questions and get what you expected out of him, but I think he would have been real satisfied with everything on the front page down to when he says in Yiddish, or what he would probably say to [the question you asked]: “Oy, what do you want from my life, anyway? I gave you this statue. You want egg in your beer? You want me to write something on the back? I told you the story. It’s time for you to make your own story.”