Legendary underground comics writer Harvey Pekar passed away in 2010, but before his death, he wrote two comics about a subject he was deeply passionate about: working-class musicians whose impact on modern music has been under-recognized. These comics were written for the Music Maker Relief Foundation, a non-profit organization that helps pioneers of Southern music gain recognition and support for their everyday needs. They finally see publication in Z2 Comics’ Tales of the Music Makers, a graphic novel celebrating the foundation’s 25th anniversary with short biographical comics, an extensive collection of black-and-white photography, and an accompanying soundtrack.
“I got a call from Harvey in 1998 because he was writing a story in the Cleveland Plain Dealer about a tour we were on with Music Maker artists called the Winston Blues Revival,” says Music Maker founder Tim Duffy. “The interview went great, and when the tour hit Cleveland I got to meet Harvey. We hung out and went to the Cleveland Art Museum and became good friends. Soon after, I asked him if he would write a comic for Music Maker since I had long been a fan. Harvey was a huge music head and loved Music Maker’s mission and would often clue me in on obscure musicians that he knew.”
“His basement was full of tens of thousands of records and CDs—he loved music,” says Duffy. “Harvey was a huge fan of the underdog and the working class, so creating the comics for Music Maker made a perfect sense to him. In a single page Harvey could capture the essence and complexity of these musician’s lives and he understood them because he loved the working class and was working class himself. To me, Harvey was the absolute greatest of underground comic storytellers of his generation. For his last comics to be about Music Maker artists Preston Fulp and Willa Mae Buckner still blows my mind to this day.”
The A.V. Club has an exclusive first look at Pekar’s comic about Preston Fulp, drawn by Gary Dumm, who writes and draws the majority of the stories in Tales Of The Music Makers. This comic spotlights how well Pekar and Dumm condense Fulp’s life in just a few panels, particularly in the panel showing Fulp playing for segregated dances. The creators pack in a lot of information about how the different audiences react to Fulp’s music, and there’s a vitality to the images of Fulp playing guitar as a young man that contrasts with the more subdued visuals of Fulp growing tobacco later in life. Readers can learn more about these influential musicians by picking up Tales Of The Music Makers on February 12, and all profits go back to the foundation to the help them continue supporting and uplifting these artists.