JT Wald­man is the author ofNot the Israel My Par­ents Promised Me and Megillat Esther. Vis­it his offi­cial web­sitehere. He will be be blog­ging here all week for Jew­ish Book Coun­cil andMyJew­ish­Learn­ing.

I met Har­vey Pekar in 2005. On a whim, I gave him a copy of my book, and he real­ly liked it. A series of awk­ward inter­ac­tions at com­ic book sign­ings led to a small col­lab­o­ra­tion for the fore­word of a book aboutthe his­to­ry of Jews and comics. A few months lat­er he asked me to work on an entire book with him about the his­to­ry of Jews andIsrael.

In 2008, we began what is now known as Not The Israel My Par­ents Promised Me, a graph­ic nov­el pub­lished by Hill & Wang andavail­able here. The graph­ic mem­oir inter­weaves his grad­ual dis­af­fec­tion with the mod­ern state of Israel with a com­pre­hen­sive visu­al his­to­ry from Bib­li­cal times to the present. Told over the course of a sin­gle day in his home­town, the book fol­lows Pekar and myself as we wres­tle with the mytholo­gies and real­i­ties sur­round­ing the Jew­ish homeland.

Pro­duc­ing this book was a bit­ter­sweet project for me. When Har­vey passed away two years ago, I went from being ahevru­ta to chevra kadisha. For the bet­ter part of four years I was one of a hand­ful of artists work­ing with Har­vey on var­i­ous projects. How­ev­er, I sus­pect that the Juda­ic focus of our rela­tion­ship was quite unique. I like to think he didn’t call every­oneboy­chik.

Although Har­vey cul­ti­vat­ed a cur­mud­geon char­ac­ter on screen and in print, the man him­self was quite kind and sur­pris­ing­ly encour­ag­ing. Har­vey expressed com­plete faith in my cre­ative vision and was always telling me to do my thing.”

I got a kick out of Harvey’s sense of tim­ing. He would call me at the most inop­por­tune moments. First thing Mon­day morn­ing as I sat down to my desk job. Sat­ur­day night while I was at a pub with friends, or my favorite, 8:30 AM on Thanks­giv­ing morning.

Har­vey had his own way of doing things. He didn’t use the com­put­er. No email, just phone calls and pho­to­copies of his hand writ­ten scripts. Decod­ing his prose, divid­ing it into digestible chunks, and offer­ing my spin was part of the fun of work­ing with Har­vey. Even now, when I recall all those con­ver­sa­tions about Judaism and its peo­ple, and talk­ing about base­ball, Har­vey con­tin­ues to make me smile.

How­ev­er, fin­ish­ing the book with­out Har­vey over the last two years was heavy. I wish I could say it was fun. But I missed my col­lab­o­ra­tor and friend and I was draw­ing him every­day, so it was a par­tic­u­lar­ly bizarre process of mourn­ing and cre­ativ­i­ty. Which I guess is odd­ly appro­pri­ate for a graph­ic nov­el about Israel. 

My Pekar years were full of crazy amounts of joy and sad­ness and taught me a lot about the type of per­son and artist that I am. I was lucky to be in the graces of a comix leg­end and be giv­en the oppor­tu­ni­ty to be myselfand rep­re­sent anoth­er per­son through comix. I trust that Har­vey would be proud of the way the book turned out.

Read more about JT Wald­man here.