DID YOU READ

Getting to know “Harvey Pekar’s Cleveland”

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The comics world lost one of its greatest creators in July 2010 when American Splendor author Harvey Pekar passed away at age 70. Given the veteran writer’s prolific output over the course of his long career, it’s no surprise that one of his last projects is just now hitting shelves — and like so much of Pekar’s work, it’s another labor of love that adds another notable chapter to his legacy.

Co-published by ZIP Comics and Top Shelf Productions, Harvey Pekar’s Cleveland offers a look back at Pekar’s lifelong home, as seen through his eyes and his meticulous research into the Ohio city’s colorful history. Juxtaposing the city’s ups and downs against those of his own life, Pekar created Cleveland as both an ode to his favorite city and a personal exploration of the good times and bad that he and his hometown have weathered.

“I’m coming to appreciate the city more and more every year,” Pekar’s widow, Joyce Brabner, told IFC. “This was a chance to do something larger in the way [Harvey] wanted to do it, and he was pretty excited about it. He was always happy about it. Coming from an immigrant family, he had a real appreciation for where his family ended up and the life they made here.”

Brabner, who collaborated with her husband on many of his books (including the award-winning Our Cancer Year) and was a driving force behind much of his mainstream success in the comics world, said Pekar made a strong case for the city from the very first day they met. At the time of his death, he’d finished the script for Cleveland and had already looked over the first batch of pages from the book’s artist, Joseph Remnant.

“For a minute there, I didn’t know if they were going to want to follow through with it,” Remnant told IFC. “But Joyce really wanted to see this book through, because it’s a love letter to Cleveland and I think she really wanted that part of Harvey to be out in the world. He gets a negative rap sometimes for being a grumpy old man, and this book is more of a positive look at his life in Cleveland and what he wanted to do with the rest of his life – and he was excited about that.”

Remnant had previously collaborated with Pekar on The Pekar Project, an online comic for Smith magazine edited by Jeff Newelt – who also served as the editor for Harvey Pekar’s Cleveland. While Remnant was accustomed to Pekar’s unique approach to scripting comics, he said that the importance of Cleveland to the 70-year-old writer was clear right from the start.

“Normally he would do it like you see in the American Splendor movie – he’d draw little squares and draw himself in, with a speech bubble above him,” explained Remnant. “But for this, he would retype it all up and include a lot of notes about what he would want to see in the box.”

The final product of their efforts is as much a textual journey through Cleveland and Pekar’s life there as it is a visual tour, thanks to Remnant’s illustrations.

“Joseph is such a perfect artist and we were so lucky to get him,” said Brabner. “He saw Cleveland the way Harvey saw it. It wasn’t a foreign country to him.”

Brabner hinted that this won’t be the last of Pekar’s books to be published posthumously, either. Among the projects likely to hit shelves in the future are two books they were working on together, including a book about their marriage.

“Luckily, those were books are like Our Cancer Year, which I steered and helped with,” she said. “The day he died, we were working on a book about our marriage together. This was just a couple hours before he died. We were resting in a really good place and were feeling great about it. The ball had been tossed back to me for more work.”

“I wasn’t able to pick that stuff up until this January,” she continued. “I got out of town for a little while, because Cleveland is pretty gray around that time, and I was eventually able to pick it up and start working on it again.”

This week, Brabner will join Remnant, Newelt, and artist Dean Haspiel (his collaborator on the 2005 graphic novel The Quitter) for a tribute to the author at New York City’s famous bookstore, The Strand. With Harvey Pekar’s Cleveland arrival on shelves this month, the event also serves as a release party of sorts, though Pekar’s presence there will be sorely missed.

“Harvey planned to keep working and working and working, because he couldn’t imagine himself not working,” said Brabner.

“I think Harvey was really talented at writing about what he appreciated, and a lot of that was musicians or bookstore owners or people who were in Cleveland,” added Remnant. “Anybody who really knew Harvey from his comics or anything else, knew how much he really loved Cleveland and how much Cleveland was a part of him.”

Harvey Pekar’s Cleveland is available now from ZIP Comics and Top Shelf Productions.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.