Comic book author found fame in tales of daily life

Austin American-Statesman - - WORLD & NATION -

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.”

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