Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Recently Read: The Quitter, by Harvey Pekar and Dean Haspiel

The Quitter is actually a story of resilience. One of the last stories autobiographical comics pioneer Harvey Pekar wrote, it covers his early, post WWII years as a son of Polish immigrants living in Cleveland. Illustrated by Dean Haspiel, The Quitter is, typically, brutally honest.

To an extent not previously explored, Pekar was a fighter and bully in his youth, resorting to violence as a means of earning respect he wasn't otherwise getting from his peers, with whom he didn't fit in. He also had a habit of quitting when situations got hard, feeling he had to either master a situation or remove himself from it. These two faults resulted in years of troubled frustration, continuing into adulthood. I won't reveal the emotional denouement. We all know, though, that writing jazz criticism and American Splendor became ways for Pekar to successfully express himself. The Quitter is a fitting bookend to Pekar's writing career.

Haspiel does heavy lifting in this dense, time and place-specific work. His bold, graphic B&W cartoony style is hard to pin down and describe; I see Harvey Kurtzman in it, John Romita Sr., Mazuchelli and Darwyn Cooke. It's a pleasing style with supple brushwork and expressive body language.
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