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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Very NSFW

The Brockmire Premiere Is All Truth

Watch The First Episode of Brockmire Right Now for Free

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At long last, the Brockmire pre-premiere has arrived. Which means you can watch it right now—on IFC.com, at Funny Or Die, on IFC’s Apple TV and mobile apps, on Youtube, on Facebook, on the AMC apps, and right here. So grab some headphones and get watching.

No seriously, get headphones.

Because whether he’s giving a play-by-play or ruminating on the world around him, Jim Brockmire calls it like he sees it. And how he sees it is very NSFW. His take on life is actually quite refreshing, even to the point of being profoundly sage. For proof just look at these pearls of unconventional wisdom from the premiere…

Brockmire On The Internet

“If I need porn I just buy a nudie mag, like my father and his father before him.”

Brockmire On Sex-Ed

“Kids, a strap-on is a belt with d— on it that mommies use to f— daddies.”
Brockmire-Strap-On

Brockmire On The Perfect High

“Somewhere between 10 cups of coffee and very low-grade cocaine.”
Brockmire-Perfect-High

Brockmire On The Tardiness of Spring

“Old man winter’s reaching his hand inside your coat to give that thing one more squeeze.”

Brockmire On Keeping Perspective

“I thought I hit rock bottom in a handicap restroom in Bangkok where a Thai lady-boy snorted crank off my johnson while a sunburnt German watched us on the toilet”
Brockmire-grain-salt

Brockmire On Humanity

“If you want to look directly into the gaping maw of oblivion, don’t look up to the heavens. Just look in the mirror.”
Jules-never-seen

See these nuggets and more in the first episode of Brockmire, and see the whole season beginning April 5 at 10P on IFC.

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Thank Azaria

Best. Characters. Ever.

Our favorite Hank Azaria characters.

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Hank Azaria may well be the most prolific voice and character actor of our time. The work he’s done for The Simpsons alone has earned him a permanent place in the pop culture zeitgeist. And now he’s bringing another character to the mainstream: a washed-up sports announcer named Jim Brockmire, in the aptly titled new series Brockmire.

We’re looking forward to it. So much so that we want to look backward, too, with a short-but-sweet retrospective of some of Azaria’s important characters. Shall we begin?

Half The Recurring Simpsons Characters

He’s Comic Book Guy. He’s Chief Wiggum. He’s Apu. He’s Cletus. He’s Snake. He’s Superintendent Chalmers. He’s the Sea Captain. He’s Kurt “Can I Borrow A Feeling” Van Houten. He’s Professor Frink. He’s Carl. And he’s many more. But most importantly he’s Moe Szyslak, the staple character Azaria has voiced since his very first audition for The Simpsons.

Oh, and He’s Frank Grimes

For all the regular Simpsons characters Azaria has played over the years, his most brilliant performance may have been a one-off: Frank Grimes, the scrappy bootstrapper who worked tirelessly all his life for honest, incremental, and easily-undermined success. Azaria’s portrayal of this character was nuanced, emotional, and simply magical.

Patches O’Houlihan

Dodgeball is a “sport of violence, exclusion and degradation.” as Hank Azaria generously points out in his brief but crucial cameo in Dodgeball. That’s sage wisdom. Try applying his “five D’s” to your life on and off the court and enjoy the results.

Harold Zoid

Of Futurama fame. The crazy uncle of Dr. Zoidberg, Harold Zoid was once a lion (or lobster) of the silver screen until Smell-o-vision forced him into retirement.

Agador

The Birdcage was significant for many reasons, and the comic genius of Hank Azaria’s character “Agador” sits somewhere towards the top of that list. If you haven’t seen this movie, shame on you.

Gargamel

Nobody else could make a live-action Gargamel possible.

Ed Cochran

From Ray Donovan. Great character, great last name [editorial note: the author of this article may be bias].

Kahmunra, The Thinker, Abe Lincoln

All in the Night At The Museum: Battle Of The Smithsonian, a file that let Azaria flex his voice acting and live-action muscles in one fell swoop.

The Blue Raja

Mystery Men has everything, including a fatal case of Smash Mouth. Azaria’s iconic superhero makes the shortlist of redeemable qualities, though.

Dr. Huff

Huff put Azaria in a leading role, and it was good. So good that there is no good gif of it. Internet? More like Inter-not.

Learn more about Hank Azaria’s newest claim to fame right here, and don’t miss the premiere of Brockmire April 5 at 10P on IFC.

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Flame Out

Brockmire and Other Public Implosions

Brockmire Premieres April 5 at 10P on IFC.

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There’s less than a month until the Brockmire premiere, and to say we’re excited would be an insulting understatement. It’s not just that it stars Hank Azaria, who can do no wrong (and yes, that’s including Mystery Men, which is only cringeworthy because of Smash Mouth). It’s that the whole backstory of the titular character, Jim Brockmire, is the stuff of legends. A one-time iconic sportscaster who won the hearts of fans and players alike, he fell from grace after an unfortunate personal event triggered a seriously public meltdown. See for yourself in the NSFW Funny or Die digital short that spawned the IFC series:

See? NSFW and spectacularly catastrophic in a way that could almost be real. Which got us thinking: What are some real-life sports fails that have nothing to do with botched athletics and everything to do with going tragically off script? The internet is a dark and dirty place, friends, but these three examples are pretty special and mostly safe for work…

Disgruntled Sports Reporter

His co-anchor went offsides and he called it like he saw it.

Jim Rome vs Jim “Not Chris” Everett

You just don’t heckle a professional athlete when you’re within striking distance. Common sense.

Carl Lewis’s National Anthem

He killed it! As in murdered. It’s dead.

To see more moments just like these, we recommend spending a day in your pajamas combing through the muckiness of the internet. But to see something that’s Brockmire-level funny without having to clear your browser history, check out the sneak peeks and extras here.

Don’t miss the premiere of Brockmire April 5 at 10P on IFC.

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