Stand-up comedian and former Yeshiva student Danny Lobell of Los Angeles has just released an autobiographical comic book, “Fair Enough,” which includes the story of his friendship with Harvey Pekar of “American Splendor” fame.
“That friendship changed my life,” Lobell told the Journal.
Growing up in New York, Lobell’s career plan was to emulate two giants of the comic book industry: Stan Lee of Marvel Comics and Pekar.
Knowing his obsession with all things Pekar, Lobell’s grandmother insisted when he was 20 that he watch “American Splendor,” Pekar’s landmark autobiographical film. “I was mesmerized by the fact that Harvey Pekar was an ordinary guy with no connections and limited resources, but he was able to pursue his dreams, create his own art … find a fan base from it,” Lobell said.
Lobell was so taken by Pekar’s story that he called him at his home in Cleveland. “I was stunned when Pekar answered his own phone,” Lobell said.
That initial call was “just to tell him how much I loved his movie and how inspiring I found him to be,” Lobell said.
Twelve months later, the pair met for the first and only time. “I interviewed him for my college paper, the Baruch [College] paper, The Ticker,” Lobell said.
The two maintained a telephone friendship until Pekar’s death in 2010.
“Harvey Pekar was an ordinary guy with no connections and limited resources, but he was able to pursue his dreams.” — Danny Lobell
An avid artist, Lobell, 34, said he was repeatedly kicked out of class throughout his school years “because I was doodling or drawing or daydreaming.” He photocopied his drawings and sold them to his fellow students.
He recalled an incident in the fourth grade when his teacher, Mrs. Snyder, sent him to the principal’s office for drawing a picture of her.
“The principal looked at it and said, ‘Hmm, that kind of looks like her,’ ” Lobell recalled. After class, the principal called Mrs. Snyder in to see the drawing. She then asked Lobell if she could have the picture. “I said yes,” Lobell said. “But I wanted to tell her, ‘Maybe you shouldn’t have kicked me out if you wanted to take my drawing home.’ ”
Lobell continued to spend more time drawing than studying until he was eventually kicked out of yeshiva in the ninth grade, presumably for poor grades.
“Because that was so unusual, other schools must have thought a cover-up was going on,” Lobell said. “I must have done something egregious to deserve this treatment. None of the yeshivas wanted me.”
He eventually landed at the now-defunct Torah Academy of Suffolk County, a school that Lobell called “a sham. Parents were bamboozled. No proper education was going on there. It was more a baby-sitting service.”
An Orthodox Jew, Lobell withdrew and enrolled in public school for the first time.
Despite his wayward yeshiva years, Lobell stayed on good terms with his rabbis. “Throughout the years, I was kicked out of so many classes and sent to the same principal, Rabbi Glass [at the Hebrew Academy of Long Beach, N.Y.], that he and I became friends. Twenty years later, he came to my wedding. How do you like that?”
With his second comic book due out in June, life is looking good for Lobell.
“I hope this is not the peak,” he said, “though it is pretty good.”
“Fair Enough” is available online through fairenoughcomic.com.