NPR logo Harvey Pekar & R. Crumb: Jazz And Comics

Harvey Pekar & R. Crumb: Jazz And Comics

Harvey Pekar's new Pekar Project is launching along with an illustrated list of his top ten jazz innovators. courtesy of SMITH Magazine hide caption

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courtesy of SMITH Magazine

Harvey Pekar and R. Crumb became friends through their mutual love of jazz. They're also two big names in the underground comics world: Crumb as an illustrator, Pekar as a writer.

Their unique perspectives on American life play out in small comic panels. Their love for jazz comes in slightly larger formats.

Harvey Pekar is introducing a new comic series, featuring four different artists (Tara Seibel, Rick Parker, Sean Pryor and Joseph Remnant) illustrating his stories. To help launch the webcomic series' promise of extras, Pekar is flexing his muscles as a jazz critic and offering Harvey Pekar's Top Ten Jazz Innovators, illustrated by Tara Siebel and Sean Pryor.

His historically-oriented list is quite broad, his brief comments an interesting read. (Seems he was a blogger before there were blogs!) The illustrations would be suitable for framing too, if only they were larger.

[Ed.: From earlier this year, on NPR's Weekend Edition: Harvey Pekar Makes His Opera Debut (about Pekar's jazz opera libretto)]

R. Crumb has a more direct connection to jazz through his banjo and his band R. Crumb and His Cheap Suit Serenaders. His art work has been used for many album covers of old time jazz and blues musicians.

In the early to mid-1980s, Crumb produced playing-card-styled collections called Heroes of the Blues, Early Jazz Greats and Pioneers of Country Music. The cards themselves are hard to find, but they have recently been combined into a single book with a CD of the music included.

There is something to learn from how these guys integrated jazz into their visual expression: an eye for improvisation; a developed sense of group play; a constant reminder of the past in looking toward the future.

All noble goals we could apply to life as well.