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Legendary underground comics writer Harvey Pekar was found dead early this morning by his wife Joyce Brabner in their Cleveland Heights, Ohio, home, The Plain Dealer reports. He was 70.
Pekar, best known for his American Splendor series of autobiographical comics that inspired the acclaimed 2003 film of the same name, had been suffering from prostate cancer, asthma, high blood pressure and depression. He was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer in 1990, which inspired him to collaborate with Brabner and Frank Stack on Our Cancer Year.
A spokesman for the Cuyahoga County coroner said an autopsy will be performed to determine the cause of death.
The curmudgeonly writer, who began publishing his American Splendor comics in 1976, most recently had been working on The Pekar Project webcomic series for Smith magazine.
Born on Oct. 8, 1939, in Cleveland to Saul and Dora Pekar, Polish immigrants who owned a small grocery store, Pekar dropped out of college and joined the Navy, only to return to his hometown. There he worked at a string of menial jobs until settling in as a file clerk for the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Cleveland, where he remained until his retirement in 2001.
In recent years Pekar released two new American Splendor series through DC’s Vertigo imprint, as well the autobiographical hardcover The Quitter. In 2009, he released The Beats, a history of the Beat movement, and Studs Terkel’s Working: A Graphic Adaptation.
Pekar is survived by his third wife Joyce Brabner and their foster daughter Danielle.
Update: Vertigo Editor Jonathan Vankin, who worked with Pekar and Dean Haspiel on The Quitter, has released a statement: “I am terribly sad today. Working with Harvey Pekar was one of my first experiences at Vertigo and it’s still one of my best, not only in comics but in my life. Underneath the well-known gruff exterior, Harvey was a deeply compassionate person and of course, a brilliant mind. He created, almost singlehandedly, an entirely new kind of comics and his commitment to what he did was absolute and uncompromising. We’ve all suffered a huge loss today, in comics of course, but also in American culture.”