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Breaking: Harvey Pekar passes away [Updated]

Harvey Pekar

Harvey Pekar

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.”

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8 Comments

This is very sad news. I just saw him recently at Ball State University and really enjoyed his talk. A huge loss to the industry.

It seems like only yesterday I was reading the Vertigo books. Bless them for publishing that recent series….

The JRB mourns the passing of Harvey Pekar. Our just released second issue contains one of his characteristically witty musings on Jewish identity. He stopped by the office just the other day to pick up his author’s copy. We’ll miss him. Link: http://www.jewishreviewofbooks.com/publications/detail/gut-shabbes

This WOULD have to happen on the weeks Dirk Deppey decided to take some time off. If there were ever an Indy self-publisher worthy of an essay-length obituary, Pekar would be at the top of the list. Even though I wasn’t a fan of some of his stories, I still admire the man’s perseverance to continue into a field no one else was thinking of.

Someday, I hope to be as lucky to partner up with someone willing to illustrate my story ideas.

I am seriously a bit heartbroken over this today. I kinda thought he’d be there forever, being all cranky and awesome.

I just finished my tribute to American Splendor with a look at a British strip that I think Pekar would’ve liked.
http://sundaycomicsdebt.blogspot.com/2010/07/posy-simmonds.html

Great guy. He steered by his own lights and what a writer. Harvey showed that everyday people are special. RIP Harvey and condolences to your family.

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