In The Hands of Heroes: Harvey Pekar takes you deep into Cleveland's history
Credit: HARVEY PEKAR AND JOSEPH REMNANT
Harvey Pekar's Cleveland is the last novel from one of the greatest comic writers in history.
Cleveland starts off with a visibly aged Harvey Pekar walking the streets of Cleveland, Ohio saying, “Yeah, I’ve had plenty of good day...” It then bounces back in time to potentially one of the city’s highest points in its history: the Cleveland Indians winning the 1948 World Series. For Pekar, it’s one of the best days he can remember.
From that point, Pekar dives into the settlement of Cleveland, giving a detailed and robust history of the city he loves. Complete with racism and riots, Pekar still manages to find the small, beautiful, hidden features of the place, like Kay’s, a used bookstore he frequented as a teenager, finding what he considered prized items like Football Facts & Figures.
Pekar goes into a detailed history of his life, career, friendships and romances. From his first marriage, to his second and his third, he doesn’t spruce anything up. He keeps in all the gory and uncomfortable details, because that’s what true storytellers do.
This is Pekar’s legacy.
He tells a tale not just of a man, but the city he loves so much that he dedicated an entire novel to it. He wrote Cleveland at 70 years old, and he paints a portrait of what it’s like to be an aging man that still holds many dreams he wishes to accomplish in the city that he holds dear to his heart. He was born and raised in Cleveland, where he made a name for himself and where he would ultimately pass on.
Critics call this novel Pekar’s last and greatest works.
Michael Cavna of the Washington Post wrote that Pekar “helped change the appreciation for, and perceptions, of the graphic novel, the drawn memoir, [and] the autobiographical comic narrative.” He’s one of the greats that helped shaped how comics are viewed today, and for that, comic lovers everywhere should be grateful. He’s inspired many to look to their own lives and experiences in order to influence their writing, which helps create a more real and believable storyline.
If you’re expecting a grand tale of fiction and excitement, you might be disappointed by Cleveland. But if you want to read the one last labour of love that a great comic writer poured his soul into, then this is the novel for you.
If you can’t get enough of Pekar, check out the film based around his life, American Splendor, and comic series of the same name.
For this novel or others like it, check out Heroes Comics downtown at 186 Dundas St.