RIP, Harvey Pekar (1939-2010)

Senior Editor
07.12.10 8 Comments

Jeez, rough week for Cleveland.  First they lose Lebron James, and now Harvey Pekar. It’s almost as if that fine city is on the decline. I’m sad to admit that I’ve never read the comics that made him famous, but the movie about him, American Splendor, is a classic that never gets talked about enough.  It’s so good it almost makes me forgive Judah Friedlander for his stupid godd*mned hats.

Pekar, 70, was found dead shortly before 1 a.m. today by his wife, Joyce Brabner, in their Cleveland Heights home, said Powell Caesar, spokesman for Cuyahoga County Coroner Frank Miller. An autopsy will be conducted to determine the cause of death. Pekar and his wife, Joyce Brabner, wrote “Our Cancer Year,” a book-length comic, after Pekar was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer in 1990 and underwent a grueling treatment.
Pekar chronicled his life and times in the acclaimed autobiographical comic-book series, “American Splendor,” portraying himself as a rumpled, depressed, obsessive-compulsive “flunky file clerk” engaged in a constant battle with loneliness and anxiety.
“American Splendor” carried the subtitle, “From Off the Streets of Cleveland,” and just like Superman, the other comic book hero born in Cleveland, Pekar wore something of a disguise. He never stepped into a phone booth to change, but underneath his persona of aggravated, disaffected file clerk, he was an erudite book and jazz critic, and a writer of short stories that many observers compared to Chekhov, despite their comic-book form.
“American Splendor” had its roots in Pekar’s friendship with R. Crumb, the seminal underground comic-book artist, whom he met in 1962 when Crumb was working for American Greetings in Cleveland. At the time, Crumb was just beginning to explore the possibilities of comics, which would later lead to such groundbreaking work as “Mr. Natural” and “Fritz the Cat.”
When Pekar, inspired by Crumb’s work, wrote his nascent strip in 1972, Crumb illustrated it. Crumb also contributed to Pekar’s first full-fledged books, which Pekar started publishing annually in 1976. [Cleveland Plain-Dealer]

If you haven’t noticed, death is kind of an assh*le lately.  You steal Harvey Pekar and Dennis Hopper, yet Seltzer and Friedberg walk around healthy as horses? You can be a real d*ck sometimes. A few classic Pekar videos after the jump.

Harvey Pekar meets Anthony Bourdain

Pekar’s last appearance on Letterman

Another Letterman appearance

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