Harvey Pekar in one of his outspoken appearances on David Letterman's show
Harvey Pekar, the creator of the acclaimed autobiographical comic-book series American Splendor and the subject of the 2003 film of the same name his work inspired, was found dead by his wife, Joyce Brabner, early this morning in their Cleveland, Ohio home. He was 70 years of age. An autopsy will be conducted to determine the exact cause of death. Pekar and Brabner wrote the book-length comic Our Cancer Year after Pekar was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer in 1990 and consequently underwent an exhausting treatment for the disease.
In addition to his renowned comic book series, Pekar was also a jazz music and book critic, as well as an author of short stories. Pekar won wide exposure in the 1980's for his numerous guest spots on the Late NIght with David Letterman show on NBC, during which he constantly stirred up controversy for speaking his mind and often verbally denouncing the GE corporation, who owned the network Letterman was on. Eventually he was banned (temporarily) from the show. The above Letterman show clip contains some classic Pekar moments with the no-holds-barred Pekar speaking his mind.
But it is for American Splendor that Pekar will be always best remembered. In the brutally honest, autobiographical comic-book series, he portrayed himself, in his mundane everyday trials and tribulations, as a neurotic, anxiety-ridden, obsessive compulsive, far from glamorous, file clerk "from Off the Streets of Cleveland," as the comic's subtitle stated. In real life Pekar worked as a file clerk in the Veteran's Administration Hospital in Cleveland, where he found more than a little inspiration for his work, and continued working there up until his retirement in 2001.
In the recommended Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman directed film adaptation of American Splendor, Pekar was played by the perfectly cast Paul Giamatti. Pekar also appeared in the movie as himself. The film showed many aspects of Pekar's life, including the aforementioned controversial Letterman appearances and his relationship with friend, inspiration, & collaborator R. Crumb, who he first met in 1962. R. Crumb would later contribute to Pekar's publications.
As Pekar so famously once said about the wit and insights contained in the pages of American Splendor: "The humor of everyday life is way funnier than what the comedians do on TV. It's the stuff that happens right in front of your face when there's no routine and everything is unexpected. That's what I want to write about." Rest in peace, Harvey Pekar.