Harvey Pekar Dies At 70

On July 12, 2010, Harvey Pekar, creator and writer of the autobiographical comic book American Splendor, was found dead at his home in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.  While the world may never have fully appreciated the richness of his talent, to those in the know, Pekar was one of the great American storytellers. His work focused on delivering honest and simple treatments of his everyday experiences. They seemed to be the stories that amused and puzzled him and almost always yielded provocative and touching results. Veering from typical story structure, was his forte. There were no endings only stopping points in hanging conversations. His famous appearances on David Letterman in the eighties and his subsequent comics about those appearances revealed the true artist beneath the quirkiness and angst, a man with class and integrity. Harvey Pekar will be sorely missed for his singularly beautiful voice, fierce commitment to independence and his continuing search for truth.

He wrote and self published 17 issues of American Splendor from 1976 to 1993, with subsequent issues published by Dark Horse Comics and Vertigo.  The stories covered the events of his every day life in Cleveland and were illustrated by numerous artists including Robert Crumb, Alison Bechdel, Spain Rodriguez, and Val Mayerik.  In 1994 Four Walls Eight Windows published Our Cancer Year, and in 2005 Vertigo published The Quitter written by Pekar and illustrated by Dean Haspiel, which told the story of his early years growing up in Cleveland.  American Splendor received an American Book Award in 1987, and Our Cancer Year received a Harvey Award for Best Graphic Album of Original Work in 1995.

A film adaptation of American Splendor was released in 2003 with actor Paul Giamatti playing the role of Pekar.

He has also written Ego and Hubris: The Michael Malice Story (Ballantine/Random House, 2006), Students for A Democratic Society: A Graphic History (Hill & Wang, 2008), The Beats (2009), and Studs Terkel’s Working: A Graphic Adaptation (2009).

He worked as a file clerk in a Cleveland VA hospital and was also a prolific jazz critic.  He is survived by his wife, writer Joyce Babner, and their daughter Danielle.