This week I’m working on a Harvey Pekar story for the next American Splendor mini-series from Vertigo. It’s a cute piece, and is the sequel to the one I did with him in last year’s Another Day TPB. And I actually appear in the story as a character, which is humorous (and fun to draw).
This story (like many of Harvey’s pieces nowadays) is mostly set in and around his house, and one challenge I’ve come across is drawing Harvey’s abode. Even though I’ve been working with Harvey for almost fifteen years (!), and I’ve met him plenty of times in person, and hung out with him at conventions, book releases, and movie premieres, I’ve never been to his house. So whenever I draw it, I basically just make it up.
Way back, when I did my very first Splendor story, I got Harvey to send me reference photos of one of the other characters in the piece. But as the years went by, I just began winging it, or swiping characters and interiors from previous issues of American Splendor. The only “reference” I use now are some shots of Harvey I cobbled together from the Internet, the work of other artists, or — horrors! — popping in the DVD of the film and using that. And even though I’ve drawn many stories set in his house, I tend to be dissatisfied with what I’ve done before and usually do something different each time. In essence, every time I draw a new A.S. story, Harvey’s pad undergoes an extreme makeover (sans Ty Pennington)! The only consistencies are the books, magazines, and newspapers piled everywhere, and the general air of post-bohemian shabbiness.
So this got me thinking what a great idea it would be for someone to create an American Splendor “bible sheet” — basically a packet of reference photos for artists to use. You know, like what DC might provide if you were drawing a Batman story and needed to get the details of Wayne Mansion and the Batcave just right. All a Splendor bible would need are some up-to-date shots of Harvey, his wife Joyce Brabner, their foster daughter Danielle Batone, and some interior and exterior shots of his house. Their car, would be nice too, as it seems like the make and model change with each artist who tackles it. Now that Vertigo is publishing A.S., this seems like something I could bring up with the editors.
‘Course, what makes drawing American Splendor so much fun, and so liberating for me, is the freedom I’m given to add my own perspective, my interpretation of the “facts” of the story. But I think a little more foundation for my improv would only help in the end.
P.S. I recently updated my exhaustive list of Pekar contributors, which is part of the “And…” section of my website: http://joshcomix.home.mindspring.com/and/pekar_artists/