Harvey Pekar
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CLEVELAND (AP) - Harvey Pekar, whose autobiographical comic book series "American Splendor" portrayed his unglamorous life with bone-dry honesty and wit, was found dead at home early Monday, authorities said. He was 70.

The cause of death was unclear, and an autopsy was planned, officials said. Pekar had prostate cancer, asthma, high blood pressure and depression, said Michael Cannon, a police captain in suburban Cleveland Heights.

Officers were called to Pekar's home by his wife about 1 a.m., Cannon said. His body was found on the floor between a bed and dresser. He had gone to bed around 4:30 p.m. Sunday in good spirits, his wife told police.

Pekar took a radically different track from the superhero-laden comics that had dominated the industry. He instead specialized in the lives of ordinary people, chronicling his life as a file clerk in Cleveland and his relationship with his third wife, Joyce Brabner. His 1994 graphic novel, "Our Cancer Year," detailed his battle with lymphoma.

The dreary cover scene shows him sprawled beside his wife on a snowy curbside with shopping bags on the ground. "Harvey, forget about the groceries, honey. Let's get you inside first," she says.

Pekar never drew himself but depended on collaborations with artists, most notably his friend R. Crumb, who helped illustrate the first issue of the ironically titled "American Splendor," published in 1976. It was made into an acclaimed 2003 film starring Paul Giamatti as Pekar. The most recent "American Splendor" was released in 2008.

"Harvey was one of the most compassionate and empathetic human beings I've ever met," Giamatti said in a statement. "He had a huge brain and an even bigger soul. And he was hilarious. He was a great artist, a true American poet, and there is no one to replace him."

Pekar's quirky commentary developed a following, and his insights and humor were often a bit on the dark side.

Lucy Shelton Caswell, curator of the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum at Ohio State University, said it was inaccurate to describe Pekar's work as "cult."

"His work was accepted by the mainstream," Caswell said. "It was bought by public libraries and read widely." The cartoon library has all of Pekar's works in its collection, she said.

"He will be remembered as an innovator who wrote stories about ordinary things that were then illustrated by some of the most notable cartoonists of the late 20th century," Caswell said. "People identified with what he was writing about and the stories that these people were drawing because it was so ordinary."

In 2003, the New York Film Critics Circle honored "American Splendor" as best first film for the directing-writing team of Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini. Part feature and part documentary, and with occasional animated elements, the film's tearing down of the fourth wall - with Giamatti, as Pekar, often appearing alongside the real Pekar - paralleled his comic's realism.

Pekar, himself, introduces the film and the character based on him: "This guy here, he's our man, all grown up and going nowhere. Although he's a pretty scholarly cat, he never got much of a formal education. For the most part, he's lived in ... neighborhoods, held ... jobs and he's now knee-deep into a disastrous second marriage. So if you're the kind of person looking for romance or escapism or some fantasy figure to save the day, guess what? You've got the wrong movie."

Pekar, who was a repeat TV guest of David Letterman, told The Associated Press in a 1997 interview that he was determined to keep writing his "American Splendor" series.

"There's no end in sight for me. I want to continue to do it," Pekar said. "It's a continuing autobiography, a life's work."


Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press
Published in New York Times on Jul. 12, 2010.
Memories & Condolences
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84 entries
July 15, 2020
I love Harvey. The only person to stand toe to toe with Lettrman. Love the comics and the movie.
Allen Hanes
November 6, 2012
eternal flame burns in my soul
lost keys provoke a rebel sneeze;
to remember is the goal;
waiting in line to pay a fine; glad you got
those books in on time; way before they were ever due;
i'll keep workin' avoiding the flu,
never to meet a person like you;
don't squint and squirm from all the hype;
stay peaceful with your mind in flight
Tara Seibel
March 29, 2011
You were one in a million!

Rest in peace.
Patricia H.
August 7, 2010
My sincerest condolences to Mr. Harvey Pekar’s wife, Joyce, their daughter, Danielle, extended family, and friends. I know that, at this time, nothing that may be said or written can ease the hurt, but be comforted in knowing that he is much loved by many the world over.

I did not have the honor of meeting him. The year 2003 was the first I've heard the name uttered! Where the hell have I been? I guess I’ve been some place else, man. Look, take in that which is a graphic novel, follow each art panel, each wavy line, each seemingly ordinary moment to realize that YOU, Mr. Pekar, have achieved more than your average person. YOU have created a world where the ordinary comes to life even in black in white. YOU have inspired many young writers and artists alike to create a voice of their own. Your fans humbly thank you and will miss you terribly. :)
Anna Liza Dela Cruz
August 2, 2010
Harvey, when I join you up there, I hope you have a lot of new comics for me to read.

Love,
Joe Garrett
July 24, 2010
Originally posted to, lost and mangled by Facebook on 7-12-10

In a strange way, I knew Harvey Pekar well. I'd been a fan of his reality comix, watched him on the Letterman show, went to the premiere of the movie American Splendor, and devoured his autobiography The Quitter. I even would see him at the Severance Center post office getting his mail.

I say "strange" because I can't recall that we ever spoke. As publisher of the Great Swamp Erie da da Boom, I commissioned him to write a cover piece on Robert Crumb back in 1971. But, arrogant amateur that I was, I gutted his article with my own re-write. I was told he was furious. I paid him but never had the nerve to then approach him and introduce myself.

Last Fall his wife, Joyce, on the urging of a mutual friend, paid the honor of a sweet visit to me as I recuperated in a nursing home. We talked for what seemed hours. It was touching.

He was a uniquely Cleveland curmudgeon, clearly one of ours. No one replaces the major void his passing leaves in our town.

Rest in Peace, Harvey Larry Pekar! You lived a productive life.
Larry Bruner
July 23, 2010
What a wonderful life lived. My deepest sympathy to Joyce and Danielle. Harvey was one of a kind and holds a special place in my soul. May his character live on!!
Laura Boyer
July 22, 2010
All my sympathy to Mr. Pekar's family.

I had a stroke and "Our Cancer Year" helped me get through it.

My thanks to Mr. Pekar.
Kevin Cunningham
July 22, 2010
RIP Mr. Pekar. You were a mensch and the epitome of the working class intellectual.
Frank Clover
July 22, 2010
so sorry about Harvey
Jane Cunningham
July 21, 2010
I never had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Pekar, but his work got me through some tough emotional times. I often show my students the film version of _American Splendor_, and they always love it.
- Rodney Hill, PhD, Atlanta GA
Rodney Hill
July 21, 2010
thank you for being Little/Big Man on the planet - jazz/comics/books/stories, your life, your ear, your views etc. how many lives you have touched. love and peace to you and your family.
c ss
July 21, 2010
I didn't know Harvey well but when he visited Chicago he often stayed with two of my friends and sometimes we all got together. It was great to have a conversation with him, on almost any kind of topic. I'd always learn something new from his encyclopedic mind. I'm sorry he had to leave us so soon. The world would be a better place if there were more Harveys around, but he was an original.

To Joyce and Danielle, all my sympathy.
Nancy Walker
July 21, 2010
Sail on, Harvey. Sail on.
Michael Trend
July 20, 2010
I had just watched the episode of Anthony Bourdains show on the Travel Channel the other day. Mr. Pekars commentary made that episode of the show the best ever. He will be missed by all, even those who did not know him personally, but appreciated his humor and viewpoint.
Zachery Hopson
July 20, 2010
I loved the movie American Splendor,I could really relate to it.It will always be one of my favorites.Harvey,you will be missed.
Matthew Honhorst
July 20, 2010
I am at a loss. So many people will never amount to anything in life. Pekar was not one of them. His legacy will live in American history forever.
Karl-Peter Jorgensen
July 20, 2010
I want to send my prayers to Joyce and Danielle for the loss you are going thru. I first met Joyce and Harvey at the CHts. Library when you came on one of your many visits. Even tho' I am no longer working there you have never been forgotten. Cant wait to see you again.
Susan Besselman
July 20, 2010
Harvey, one were unque and entertaining. I will PRAY for your FAMILY and FRIENDS.
Larry Luper
July 19, 2010
May God bless you and your family in this time of sorrow.
Sophia Wilkerson
July 19, 2010
Robin Worthington
July 18, 2010
Was thinking of looking you and Joyce up last Sunday night while wandering the net..got side tracked and didn't. Next day while driving and listening to NPR heard them speaking of you in past tense...and immediately felt the loss of a good human being. Felt for the pain Joyce and your daughter must be feeling. My heart goes out to them knowing the open wound a loss like this causes. Blessings to you Harvey on your new journey and wishes for the comfort and love of friends and family for Joyce and Danielle. My candle is lit for you all. Kassandra
Sandra Coster
July 17, 2010
My sincerest condolences to Harvey's wife, family and friends. His story and memory will continue to live on for generations, and he will truly be missed.
Jonathan Walters
July 17, 2010
Sincere condolences to all of Harvey's friends and Family-
Joe Scianna
July 17, 2010
I got turned on to Harvey in a lecture on 'The Quiter'. Being born in Cleveland, I was proud of his work. Now Cleveland is proud to call him 'son'. Nice work Harvey.
william marx
July 16, 2010
I will miss Harvey. He was a great friend. co-worker, and mentor. He was instrumental in getting my low-budget film career going, in introducing me to many influential people, as well as making my career at the VA hospital great. He was a great asset to his fans, the VA, and Cleveland. It is sad to see him go-he left a lot of great storytelling as a legacy that would remain forever in our hearts and minds. He also got my "Genuine Nerd" persona going and thriving. There will never be another Harvey Pekar. Toby Radloff, "Genuine Nerd"
Toby Radloff
July 16, 2010
My condolences to Harvey's family. May the "God of all comfort" be with you.
July 16, 2010
An average everyman who stood out...RIP...
Thomas Mendyka
July 16, 2010
My father,WILLIAM P GILMORE was a friend of Harvey and often spoke of him to me.He loved to show his movie,American Splendor to anyone who would watch with him. My father passed away Nov 16th,2010 here in San Diego and was interred in
Cleveland the next week. He would have wanted to offer condolences to the Pekar family and he would have attended the memorial service had he been able to. They will meet again in Heaven!!!
gregory gilmore
July 15, 2010
Harvey, was a quiet man going down the halls of the V.A., pushing his cart of patient records with his comic books in his back pocket.
He will truly be remembered
Terri Shepherd
July 15, 2010
i remember harvey from our old neighborhood and bookstore ( yes , coventry , 1973 - 4 ish ) - he was actually a really nice guy , sweet to the street kids ( that is , myself... ) and a ' fixture ' to the neighborhood . all kinds of love to his family!!
bret foley
July 15, 2010
God bless you Harvey. I am so depressed to hear this sad news. My thoughts and prayers and deepest sympathies to your dear wife and daughter.
Alan Lauer
July 15, 2010
these flowers were blooming on the day Harvey passed on...
T'alice Wig
July 14, 2010
The low key Harvey
Down to earth Mr Pekar . We serviced his car for years , never knew the power he had , t'll one of our customers / Friends saw Him leaving our business & told us who He was . The car must be ready for pick up before His Daughter got out of school .He had a special spot for Her.We will miss your presence on earth with us . Our most sincere condolences to His wife , Daughter & His entire Family , May He rest in peace
sahlani Bros
July 14, 2010
I will miss you Harvey. A more honest, generous person cannot be found
Laura Peskin
July 14, 2010
A Cleveland Icon has passed away.
No on will ever be able to take his place. I am glad to have met him down Coventry Rd.
Sandra Goldyn
July 14, 2010
The moment I saw a copy of American Splendor for the first time, I knew I had come across something special. Not only did I come to feel I knew the guy over the years, but I even came to think I knew his wife ever-patient Joyce who put up with his poor dishwashing skills. I chuckled over the silly things Toby would say and even began recognizing the co-workers he would share an elevator with or sit next to on the bus.

I come from the blue-collar city of Baltimore, which is fortunate to have a few cultural icons like John Waters and David Simon. But I always felt a little jealous of Cleveland, which could claim Harvey Pekar.

It will be a more dismal world without Harvey Pekar in it.
Dave Sturm
July 14, 2010
I met Harvey when I was a cashier at Cosmic Comics. He came in with a box of his American Splendor for my boss Tony to sell. It was a hot day and he said what he really wanted was a strawberry ice cream cone and he was going to stop and get one on the way home. I can still see him standing there talking about it with this rapturous look on his face. I liked him immediately. God Bless you Harvey and thank you for sharing your gift with us. My deepest sympathy to Joyce and Danielle. I know he will be greatly missed. Angela
Angela Braun
July 14, 2010
As a fan of Harvey Pekars work, I am sending my sincerest condolences to Joyce and Danielle. It is difficult to lose one so dear suddenly. He was well loved by so many. He had a gift to make the average guy feel so important. Harvey was a compassionate loving human being. We will all miss his great spirit. To his loving family, know that you made such a difference in his life. He will truly be missed by all.
Mary Foster
July 14, 2010
Condolences to Harvey's family and loved ones. May the "God of all comfort" be with you.
July 14, 2010
Harvey, you delivered my mail and charts to me in the pulmonary section for many years in Cleveland at the VA hospital where i was chief of the pulmonary section. With wit and pleasantness, you always added to my day, without fail. As you go into this phase of our brief experience on this world, i hope youi have the pleasure of adding to soften the common burden all we humans must bear. Ed Chester, M.D.
Edward Chester, M.D.
July 13, 2010
I met Harvey under very different circumstances. It wasn't because of work, or jazz, or comics. It was because of his and Joyce's love for their daughter. The day the lightbulb turned on for Harvey, he made a room roar with applause. God bless your family.
Keith
July 13, 2010
Harvey Pekar made the world a better place and I truly hope he knew that somehow. He is also one of the many things that makes me proud to be from Cleveland. Like most people who knew his work, I feel like I knew him as well. Wishing his family strength and peace.
Elizabeth Blum
July 13, 2010
Thanks for touching so many lives, Harvey. You are one of the best things to come from Cleveland. One that we are all very proud of. My deepest sympathy to your family and friends.
Todd
July 13, 2010
Harvey, tahnks for all the hours of entertainment you provided. You will be missed
Joyce and Danielle my deepest sympathy is with you.

David Richardson
David Richardson
July 13, 2010
Harvey, Cleveland is a better place because you were here.
Hollis Geary
July 13, 2010
Thanks, Harvey. You were splendid, indeed. You were the type of guy that would receive a call from a stranger on your publicly listed phone and then proceed to take said stranger to the local library where we sat and chatted about life and spirituality and politics and me and your upcoming comics. You were my friend for the day when I found myself in Cleveland with nothing to do. I love you for that.
Delissa Payne
July 13, 2010
Some things make one's work more bearable.Being Harvey's Fedex man,and just talking with him did it for me.It was a privilege to meet him,and my deepest sympathy lies with Joyce and Danielle.Our hearts are with you in this dark hour.
Bill Shipman
July 13, 2010
My deepest condolences to the Pekar family. Harvey took an ordinary life and, with his brilliant mind, made us empathize, sympathize and CARE. Bless you, Harvey, for being the person you were.
Georgetta Busler
July 13, 2010
As the days and weeks pass, and as you return to life's routine, may you continue to feel comforted by the love and support of family and friends.
edithe gross
July 13, 2010
Such sad news. Condolences to the family. Reading Harvey feels like knowing him, so I feel like I have lost him too. I feel fortunate to have met him and spoken with him last winter at Lakeland. May your memories keep him with you always.
Sue Polster
July 13, 2010
Although my wife and I never met Harvey, we loved his writing. We started reading American Splendor during college, as we learned what comics could do and be. He was a formative influence on our reading and comprehension of media, a true original. He made the world a better place for those who read his work.

Our thoughts are with Joyce and Danielle. Our condolences; the world has lost a true original, but his work will live on forever.
Eric and Charlotte
July 13, 2010
God makes it clear that he did not intend for humans to die. God created the first pair of humans Adam and Eve, placed them in a earthly paradise called Eden, instructed them to have children and extend their Paradise earth wide. They would only die if they disobeyed God.-Genesis 1:28; 2:15-17
Your Neighbor,
Jalen
Jalen
July 13, 2010
My condolences to Mr. Pekar's wife and family. I had never heard of Harvey before watching American Splendor, the movie. I became a big fan and just loved his take on life. The man had one of the biggest hearts ever in spite of being, to me, the epitome of a curmudgeon. Straight to Heaven with no need to pass go. God Bless.
Madge P. Morgan
July 13, 2010
We have lost a beautiful mind.
J.M. Simpson
July 13, 2010
Our deepest condolences are with your familey.May your family find a measure of comfort from this scripture.(2cor.1:3,4) Atlanta Ga.
July 13, 2010
I would like to express my condolences to the family of Harvey Pekar. God cares about what you are experiencing. Anxiety can rush in when we lose a loved one. That is why Philip 4:6,7, God says, "Do not be anxious over anything,but in everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving let your petitions be made known to God; and the peace of God that excels all thought will guard your hearts and your mental powers by means of Christ Jesus".
Henrietta Williams
July 13, 2010
My thoughts are with Joyce and Danielle during this time. I am a fan of Harvey's work. I think there is no one else who so poetically captured the ordinary life of a real American.
Surene Henderson
July 13, 2010
I was a longtime fan of Harvey's work & was lucky enough to spend a day with him in 1987 when I interviewed him for the Erie Times-News. His work is inspiring to me as it has been to many people. Condolences to his family & friends.--M.V. Moorhead, Phoenix AZ
July 12, 2010
Thanks to Ray Probst of Staunton, IL. for turning me on to Harvey. Both were one of a kind and are missed.
Jeff Babb
Jeff Babb
July 12, 2010
Goodbye to a very unique, creative, original, American treasure. His "everyman's" observations brought a status to so many unsung heros in life. Thank you, for doing so in such an entertaining way. Rest well, and may the memories you leave your loved ones give them comfort.
ginger smith
July 12, 2010
harvey was one tough cookie and a hoot. my prayers are with the Pekar family. billy eschner, newfairfield,ct
July 12, 2010
To the family of Harvey Pekar,
I'm so sorry for your loss. Harvey was an American treasure and I loved reading his books, often late at night at the end of a long day. Harvey's work was truly unique and he leaves behind a wonderful legacy for us all.
Jana Finder
July 12, 2010
Sorry to learn of the death of Harvey. Worked with him at the Cleveland VA Medical Center. A very dedicated employee who we knew was able to find those medical records no one else could. An expert writer and artist and just a great guy. He will be missed. God bless the entire family.
Pat Averett
July 12, 2010
Dearest Joyce and Danielle,
My love an thoughts are with you both. Harvey was an irreplaceable human whom we all shall miss greatly.
Sincerely,
Lori Cahan-Simon
July 12, 2010
May God's promise at Revelation 21:4 bring you much comfort.
scott
July 12, 2010
To the the family of Harvey Pekar - May God give you peace and comfort through his word and the Lord Jesus Christ during this time of sorrow, I know that Harvey will be missed by many.
R Golay
July 12, 2010
I discovered American Splendor in about 1987 and I think it changed my life in some small way - no-one else could get a story out of a pair of shoes found in a thrift store and make it mean so much. I wrote him a fan letter and am still impressed that he took the trouble to reply at some length. Absolutely one of a kind. The world is a poorer place for his passing and I am upset by this. Best wishes to his family and loved ones.
Lawrence Burton
July 12, 2010
Sad news. I first became aware of Harvey Pekar from his bitter, uncomfortable appearances on Late Night with David Letterman. Then I found a book-length compilaton of American Splendor issues at the public library that I'd check out over and over again throughout my high school years. Formative.
Chuck
July 12, 2010
To all the Pekar family my wife and I extend our deepest sympathies on the loss of Harvey. I will never forget going to the Collectors Warehouse every month looking for the newest issue of American Splendor. May God Bless. Liz and Bob Wood, Irvine, CA
July 12, 2010
My deepest sympathy to the Pekar family. Those we love left us with gifts in the form of memories that no one can take away. They gave us wisdom that we can still recall, companionship when we were alone, comfort when we needed it, and memories of their smiles and laughter will live on forever in our hearts. Because these are gifts of loves for ours to keep.

God is for us a refuge and strength, a help that is readily to be found during distresses.
Mines
July 12, 2010
Harvey...I called you via the white pages years ago...we spoke for hours and and started talking on the phone alot...usually about old russian books...we spoke for years...my old friend, your knowledge of good writers, painters and of course jazz would drown any professional critic in the world...I will miss you my friend and thank you for your concern via my life as well over those years...you were a good friend...my honest condolences to Joyce and your adopted daughter, Jeff the mailman, Vermont
jeff weigand
July 12, 2010
Harvey's story "American Splendor" seemed to touch a chord in many people, including myself. I can really relate to the bittersweetness of it. May I offer my sincere condolences to Mr. Pekars' family and friends. I hope the good memories of Harvey will comfort you...
t w
July 12, 2010
Losing our dear Pekar is very sad.

Time to shed a tear;
Time to wish him near;
Twas such a blessing while here;
Handy replacements, not so dear;

A'men
Our cute little Pekar; cici repose.
Scott Klark Kenton
July 12, 2010
Harvey, you were great-have a lot of your books. You certainly knew how to tell a story. See you later in the great apartment in the sky.....
Michael Hardesty
July 12, 2010
May God bless your family now and alway's. Vicki L.
vicki lyons
July 12, 2010
You were a great inspiration to me and I was fortunate to have been a part of the American Splendor showing when i was employed at the Grandview Theatre in Columbus, Ohio. A couple years later, i coincidentally ran into Toby Radloff at the Ohio State Fair and told him the same thing. Thanks for the memories!
Franklin Dennison
July 12, 2010
The underdogs have lost a true friend! We will remember you always Harvey.
Larry Feher
Larry Feher
July 12, 2010
Liz
July 12, 2010
Your life was an inspiration and you will be greatly missed Harvey
Gina
July 12, 2010
I AM SO VERY SORRY TO HERE ABOUT THE DEATH IN YOUR FAMILY YOUR FAMILY IS IN MY PRAYERS AT THIS TIME OFD NEED
AAROON O'DWYER
July 12, 2010
Harvey brought a new level of realism to comic books. Over the years, I've spent many nights reading and re-reading American Splendor. Sleep well, you deserve your rest.
Greg Peters
July 12, 2010
Cynthia Aaron
July 12, 2010
have great travels you awesome man
and thanks
danielle muad'dib
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