Tag Archive: RIP

RIP Harvey Pekar - 1939-2010

RIP 1939-2010

“…In the long run, we’re all dead anyway.”

– Harvey Pekar, The Quitter, 2005

Harvey Pekar, the genius author behind American Splendor has died. He was 70 years old.

Pekar began his chronicle of everyday life in 1976 while he was working as a file clerk at Cleveland’s Veterans Hospital. American Splendor was an unflinching look at Pekar’s mundane and seemingly pointless interactions between himself and co-workers and hospital patients. As it evolved, American Splendor became an ongoing biography of Harvey’s life, his trials, foibles, worries and anxieties, eventually expanding to include his relationships with his wife Joyce Brabner and his adopted daughter Danielle. Harvey never pulled any punches, most notably when writing about his fight against lymphoma in ‘Our Cancer Year’, published in 1994. He would go on to write about jazz, the artists with whom he collaborated, the making of the movie American Splendor staring Paul Giamatti, and the wartime experiences of his friend and coworker Robert McNeill in Vietnam.

Pekar worked with some of the greatest comic artists of this century to produce American Splendor including: R. Crumb, Gary Dumm, Greg Budgett, Spain Rodriguez, Joe Zabel, Gerry Shamray, Frank Stack, Mark Zingarelli, and Joe Sacco. More recently Harvey teamed up with artists Dean Haspiel and Josh Neufeld and cartoonists Jim Woodring, Chester Brown, Alison Bechdel, Gilbert Hernandez, Eddie Campbell, David Collier, Drew Friedman, Ho Che Anderson, Rick Geary, Ed Piskor, Hunt Emerson, Bob Fingerman, Alex Wald and even legendary comics writer Alan Moore.

It was R. Crumb who first started working with Pekar on what would become American Splendor after they met in 1962. It was Harvey’s contention that comic books could be used to tell more than formulaic fantasy stories, that they could be something more:

When I was a little kid, and I was reading these comics in the ’40s, I kind of got sick of them because after a while, they were just formulaic. I figured there was some kind of a flaw that keeps them from getting better than they are, and then when I saw Robert Crumb’s work in the early ’60s, when he moved from Philadelphia to Cleveland, and he moved around the corner from me, I thought ‘Man, comics are where it’s at’.

Always irascible and opinionated, Pekar appeared multiple times as a guest on Late Night with David Letterman during the 1980’s until he was banned for wearing a t-shirt declaring himself to be “On Strike Against NBC”, railing against NBC’s parent company GE and accusing Letterman himself of being a corporate shill. According to Harvey:

[W]ith Letterman … you either lay down and let him insult you or you do something about it. Most people keep their mouth shut and let him dump on them. I don’t wanna do that.

Goodbye Harvey, you were authentic, original and thought provoking. We were all much better for having know you. You shall be missed.

Frank Frazetta - 1928 - 2010

RIP: 1928 - 2010

Noted fantasy artist Frank Frazetta passed away today in Florida. He was 82 and still painting.

Frazetta will probably be best remembered for his artwork for the Conan the Barbarian novels, although he also created iconic covers for both Tarzan and the John Carter of Mars series. He never read any of Rice Burroughs novels, saying instead:

“I didn’t read any of it… I drew him my way. It was really rugged. And it caught on. I didn’t care about what people thought. People who bought the books never complained about it. They probably didn’t read them.”

Frazetta worked in multiple fields, creating art for comic books (Shining Knight), daily comic strips (Lil’ Abner, Flash Gordon), movie posters (What’s New Pussycat, The Gauntlet), album covers and even an animated movie, Fire and Ice, released in 1983.

Conan the Conqueror - Frank FrazettaWorking commercially mainly in oils, Frazetta also painted in watercolour, pen and ink or simply sketched with pencils. His cover art for Edgar Rice Burrough’s “Escape on Venus” sold at auction for $251,000 in 2008. His work reached the $1 million mark in 2009 when his painting “Conan the Conqueror” sold to a private collector in 2009.

In later life, Frazetta was plagued by health challenges, a thyroid problem and a series of strokes diminished his manual dexterity, making it difficult to paint. Undaunted, Frazetta switched to his left hand, and continued painting until his death.

I’ve never read any of the Conan books, or Tarzan for that matter, but when I think of those characters, the image in my mind’s eye is invariably one painted by Frank Frazetta. You couldn’t spend the amount of time that I did in the Fantasy section of the local book store and not be influenced by his work. I was always fascinated by his use of light and shadow. It lent a heaviness to his work that suited what I knew of those characters, they were dangerous, unpredictable and raw and his images captured that perfectly.

I also have to admit to wondering how the heck those little metal bikini’s stayed on those busty women.

Frank Frazetta influenced so many modern day fantasy artists including Boris Vallejo and Yusuke Nakano, the lead artist for Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda video game series . The field may not be as thriving as it is today if it weren’t for him.

He will be missed.

Vampirella - Frank FrazettaWhat's New Pussycat - Frank FrazettaThe Brain - Frank FrazettaJohn  Carter of MarsTarzan - Frank FrazettaGollum - Frank Frazetta

Via: Associated Press

John Schoenherr - 1953-2010

RIP: 1953-2010

The man once described by Frank Herbert as being “the only man who has ever visited Dune”, John Schoenherr, passed away last Thursday. He was 74.

Schoenherr is best know for his two anthologies of illustrations depicting life on the spice planet, “Dune World” and “The Prophet of Dune”. Both were published by Analog Magazine back in 1963 and 1965. His drawings from the ’65 collection earned him a Hugo Award for Best New Artist.  Over the course of 20 years, beginning in 1950, Schoenherr created hundreds of images to populate the visual library of the fantastical realm that is Science Fiction, including the covers for the Dune series.

As well as working on Dune, Schoenherr also worked with Anne McCaffrey on “Weyr Search”, the first Pern story and placed his visual stamp on not one but two of the most popular science fiction series created in the last 50 years.

After 1970, Schoenherr returned to the world of Dune only once, creating new art for The Illustrated Dune. He continued to be an award  illustrator of children’s books, he won the Caldecott medal for his work on Jane Yolen’s Owl Moon in 1988, and wildlife artist.

John Schoenherr - DuneI remember buying Dune when I was twelve before heading off to summer camp. I needed something to read, but didn’t want to spend too much money on a book that would get wet and sandy, so I headed off to the local used book store. At the time, I wanted to impress the boys so I decided to buy something as un-girly as possible (my grasp of what impressed boys at the time was a little tenuous),. This lead me to to purchase some hard SF, my first foray into the genre, so we’d have something to talk about. I remember picking up a beat up copy of Dune and being entranced by the illustration on the cover. What was this world? What was going on? Was that a mountain or… something else? That painting opened up a whole new world for me, one that I’ve enjoyed immensely over the years. I’m tremendously grateful to John Schoenherr for opening the door on that new world for me because it was his image that first drew me in.

Who says you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover?

Other illustrations by John Schoenherr

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen, illustrate by John Schoenherr, 1987 Ursa Major, 1981
Weyr Search by Anne McCaffrey, 1967 Leto - Analog Magazine, Dune World

Alex Chilton – 1950-2010

Alex Chilton - 1959-2010 RIP

RIP - 1959-2010

Alex Chilton, lead singer for the Box Tops and singer/ guitarist for Big Star died today in New Orleans just hours before his band was to perform at SXSW.  He was 59. Cause of death was an apparent heart attack.

Alex Chilton influence can most notably be heard in REM and The Replacement (who wrote a tune called Alex Chilton, featured on their Pleased to Meet Me album), but touched such varied artists such as Wilco, Garbage, Jeff Buckley, all of whom covered his work.

Read Rolling Stones obituary here.

I’ll remember Alex Chilton best for ‘The Letter’, the smash hit he recorded with The Box Tops; he was only 16 at the time, although you’d never know it.  The Letter was the first song that I learned on the guitar that I could sing to on the radio.  I loved playing the bridge especially and would try to imitate his whiskey and cigarettes voice when I sang along.

Goodbye Alex.  You’ll be missed.