Wed. Jan 26th, 2022

“I was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on October 8, 1939, five years after World War II started. For what that’s worth to anyone,” is how award-winning writer Harvey Pekar introduces us to his youth in the form of his latest graphic novel, “The Quitter.” Harvey takes on the role of narrator literally, as his illustrated counterpart walks onto the comic panel, looks the reader in the eye and tells everyone what he or she is about to encounter as they flip the page. For those that don’t know, Harvey Pekar has gained nationwide acclaim for “American Splendor,” his long-running autobiographical comic book series that has been printed since 1976. Tired that comics were limited to mainly super hero stories, Harvey took it upon himself to write something that would be interesting to him: every-day, ordinary life. In many ways, “The Quitter” is a prequel to “American Splendor” in the sense that Harvey takes us on a journey through his childhood, teenage and young adult years just before his comic book career took off. In vivid detail, through imagery and words, Harvey explains his life as the son of Jewish immigrants and how his mother never gave him any self-confidence, telling him that he should always “expect the worst so you’re not disappointed.”

As an elementary school student, Harvey found himself constantly being beaten up because he was a minority in a neighborhood that was predominately African-American. Through his middle school and high school years, Harvey finds himself in many street fights against those weaker than him in an attempt to build his own self-image yet, never quite finding that fulfillment that he longs for. As he grows older, he finds himself quitting more and more things, from the football team, the Navy and even college. He struggles to find a purpose in his own life. Harvey doesn’t go for any plot twists or complex stories. His writing is very simple, very straight to the point and very honest, and that is the most fulfilling thing about “The Quitter.”

The book keeps the reader involved and interested, and it’s hard to put it down. As I made my way through the comic, I felt as if Harvey Pekar was someone I could know in my own life; he presents his story in such a personal, intimate way that you can’t help but want to talk to him and be his friend. At times I had to remind myself that everything I was reading actually had happened, and that realization alone is amazing.

The book is black-and-white and very well drawn by Dean Haspiel and Lee Loughridge. It is a short read, but you will find yourself wanting to read it again and again. Just like Harvey Pekar said, “Ordinary life is pretty complex stuff.

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