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Harvey Pekar dead at 70

harvey.jpg

Harvey was a hero of mine, a voice of working people, champion of the quotidian, a pusherke meshuggener and the guy who inspired the century's best cartoonist -- R. Crumb -- to do some of his best work. The entire genre of autobiographical sequential art derived from his tireless, single-minded efforts. I am grateful for his work, and happy for him that his mind is finally at rest.

Cleveland comic-book legend Harvey Pekar dead at age 70 | cleveland.com

Harvey Pekar's life was not an open book. It was an open comic book.

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.

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.

"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.

Unlike the superheroes who ordinarily inhabit the pages of comic books, Pekar could not leap tall buildings in a single bound, nor move faster than a speeding bullet. Yet his comics suggested a different sort of heroism: The working-class, everyman heroics of simply making it through another day, with soul -- if not dignity -- intact.