Updated Fri, Jun 22, 2012 12:56 pm
Working with comic book legend Harvey Pekar could be considered the opportunity of a lifetime for a young illustrator, or any illustrator for that matter.
Dayton, Ohio, native Joseph Remnant did just that with Harvey Pekar’s Cleveland, Pekar's recent posthumous book that has received critical acclaim for both its writing and artwork.
Remnant, who started drawing at a young age, studied art at the University of Cincinnati, although he felt somewhat aimless while working on Renaissance-style paintings.
At some point during college, one of Remnant’s brothers introduced him to the film Crumb, a documentary about frequent Pekar collaborator and underground cartoonist, Robert Crumb.
"It had a really strong impact on my psyche. It really altered how I thought about art and what I could do with it," Remnant said. "When I saw the drawings Crumb was doing in that movie, it made sense in a contemporary way how he was using that similar style."
Remnant cites cartoonists Daniel Clowes, Chester Brown and Gregory Gallant (aka "Seth") as influences, but says a lot of his inspiration comes from sources outside the cartooning realm, such as film.
"I’m more influenced by that stuff than comics," he said. "I was a big fan of movies before I was a fan of comics."
Now based in Los Angeles, Remnant has written and published his own comic book series, Blindspot, and is currently working on a graphic novel. He has also been doing freelance work, with several offers coming in since Cleveland was published.
Remnant got the chance to work on Harvey Pekar’s Cleveland after working with the American Splendor author on another project.
"The Pekar Project" consisted of multiple cartoonists illustrating Pekar's short stories and posting them online in the form of a webcomic. Pekar liked Remnant's work and asked him to be a part of the book, which took a year to finish and an additional three months to edit.
Pekar, who died in July 2010 before Remnant had finished his illustrations, had a reputation as being a cranky old man; the perfect caricature of a curmudgeon. He was just the opposite, according to Remnant.
Throughout the book project, Remnant was given "a lot of creative freedom" from Pekar, who he described as "a cool guy."
"I heard from other people that [Harvey] would get in shouting matches, but I had no experience like that at all," he said. "Every time I would send him something he would give me a call back and be happy with it and be excited about the work I was doing."
Harvey Pekar’s Cleveland is currently for sale online and in bookstores. For more information about Joseph Remnant and his work, visit www.josephremnant.com.
Illustrations courtesy of Joseph Remnant