Hi, I’m Gene Bergmann
and I have a Shep-story
to tell in the form of a
non-fiction “graphic novel.”
A graphic novel is an extended story, usually in several installments, using not only words, as in a novel, but images. Many people think that graphic novels are just long comic books with super heroes. Wrong. That type is just the poisonous junk food of the genre.
The best-known (but far from the first) of the quality graphic novels is Art Spiegelman’s Maus. My little true story, Excelsior! is maybe more akin to Harvey Pekar’s American Splendor comics gathered into books. I recommend the film by that name, which depicts Harvey as himself, and a fictional version of him played by Paul Giamatti. Spiegelman’s Maus and Pekar’s American Splendor are great–I’m not comparing my effort to them.
I’ve scanned in my one-and-only copy of the three-volume set I created in 2005, and I present it here in three installments. The original, in folded form, is about 10 1/2″ X 6.” The little images here may be too small for reading all the words.
For those interested in getting all the words, I recommend the following. Right-click on the image and copy it. Then paste it into a blank Word document. Click on that image to select it. Enlarge the image by holding down the shift key (to retain proportions) and drag out by one of the corner handles. Basically filling the vertical height of the letter-size page makes it about the full-size of my original.
I’ve also added “footnotes” for some of the smallest type. YIKES! IT’S MUCH MORE THAN I THOUGHT. THE FOOTNOTES WILL OVERWHELM THE GRAPHICS!!!
The opening single image of each installment is the cover. The wide, combined images are the double-spread open pages. The final single image is the back.
A true Story based on the unflagging efforts of a certain Eugene B. Bergmann to promote the work of humorist Jean Shepherd and the only book written about him.
[Red type] He was a great American improvisational radio humorist. (I coulda jammed in a lot more adjectives about him, but I’ll save ’em for later.) I wrote the only book about Shepherd and now I’m doing everything I can to spread the word. (His words, and my words about him.)
For two reasons. ONE, he was a genius–did a lot of great stuff and he’s underappreciated. I want him to be understood for the marvelous creator he was. Millions of people only know his movie A CHRISTMAS STORY about a kid who wants a BB gun and nearly shoots his eye out. TWO, although I didn’t spend about five years of my life expecting to make dough on this, I’d really like to put the odd meal on the family table. (Don’t worry, this whole tale won’t be a crummy commercial.)
I’m here in the Big Apple of the comic book convention because HARVEY PEKAR author of those downbeat but cleverly perceptive stories called “American Splendor” is appearing to sign his books. I’m told he’s a Jean Shepherd fan. Pekar and Shepherd both have an acute ear and eye for the offbeat minutiae of everyday life so I’m hoping I can get Pekar interested in writing a comic book story about him. (Maybe he’d even do a story about Shep, himself, and ME! They made a really good Hollywood movie about Pekar and his stuff SO WHY NOT?)
Wow! This place is jam-packed with thousands of people and tens of thousands of comics and tie-in merchandise. Each booth must have ten thousand comics!
Pekar’s smart–he’s far from the madding crowd. (He certainly doesn’t belong with this fantasy-mania crowd.) His fans’ll find him.
I’ll give him the famous ol’ Jean Shepherd salute.
I know Pekar is a jazz nut and writes about jazz…
Did you know Shep’s style of talk was based on jazz improvisation?
Did you know that Shep–*was a major figure in the ’50s New York jazz scene? *emceed important jazz concerts? *improvised a jazz recording with Charles Mingus? *wrote a column on jazz?
So I give it to him, inscribed at his request “To Harvey.” I buy his latest book off the table and he inscribes it “To Gene.” I say I don’t want to hog his time, so I’ll be back a little later.
I came back a bit later and there was a woman with him.
Hey! Here’s the author of the Shepherd book!
Ah, Harvey’s wife. She was in the movie too.
Hi, I’m not “Mrs. Pekar” I’m Joyce Brabner. I asked her if she was also a Jean Shepherd fan and she handed me the earphones of her iPod. Shepherd’s theme song! She’s a listener! Music to my ears!!!
Only later did I discover that several years ago she’d published an article on the internet about Shepherd’s hoax-book, I, Libertine.
So Joyce and I sat and talked while Harvey sold a few more books and watched.
I told her about some previously unknown tapes of Shepherd’s earliest New York programs we thought might never be found. Now get this. Sometime during those early days of Shepherd’s most innovative work, a former sweetheart of Jean’s–named Jeanne! had married an Oscar-winning movie director to whom Shepherd had given these tapes. (Are you still with me?) When Jeanne’s husband died thirty hears ago, she gave the tapes. along with her husband’s archives to Kent State.
(I learned all this when I recently interviewed Jeanne, who lives in a penthouse on Washington Square and who has gone on to become a leading authority on Bram Stoker and vampires–in case you were curious.)
I love these kinds of projects. I’m going to help you!
Joyce and Harvey live near Kent State, and she has contacts there. She gave me loads of great instructions on how to go about finding out about the tapes and getting ahold of them.
Wow! You guys have been talking for an hour!
Do Jeanne’s Jean tapes still exist!? Does Kent State have them!? Can Joyce get at them!? Find out in the next issue of EXCELSIOR COMICS, you fatheads!
(For making sure we are all centered) ———->
eb 2005 c. (with an editorial assist from Raymond B. Anderson)
At this size my linework
gets real heavy, but I think
it makes me look kinda cool.