Comic book author found fame in tales of daily life
Harvey Pekar, whose autobiographical comic book “American Splendor” attracted a cult following for its unvarnished stories of a depressed, aggrieved Everyman negotiating daily life in Cleveland and became the basis for a critically acclaimed 2003 film, died Monday at his home in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. He was 70.
A spokesman for the Cuyahoga County coroner’s office said that no cause of death had been determined. Pekar had suffered from prostate cancer, asthma, high blood pressure and depression, The Associated Press reported.
Pekar, who toiled for nearly 40 years as a file clerk in a Veterans Administration hospital, applied the brutally frank autobiographical style of Henry Miller to the comic book format, creating a distinctive series of dispatches from an all-too-ordinary life. His alter ego, introduced in 1976, trudged on from episode to episode, quarreling with co-workers, dealing with car problems and fretting over money matters and health problems.
“Harvey was like the original blogger, before there was an Internet,” said Dean Haspiel, an artist who worked with Pekar on “American Splendor” and “The Quitter,” his memoir. “Comics, which had been power fantasies for 12-year-old boys, could now be about anything.”
Pekar enlisted top comic book artists to do the illustrations, notably R. Crumb, who had encouraged him to publish and contributed illustrations for the first issues of “American Splendor.”
“There was a tremendous amount of things you could do in comics that you couldn’t do in other art forms — but no one was doing it,” Pekar told Interview magazine in 2009. “I figured if I’d make a try at it, I’d at least be a footnote in history.”