RIP Harvey Pekar

"It makes you feel good to know that there's other people afflicted like you."

There weren't many made like Harvey Pekar.

My first experience with anything Pekar was when I traveled to the back of Keith's Comics and thumbed through the pages of "American Splendor". There was something to be said about a guy who so willingly let people into his life. Pekar knew he wasn't the only one who life threw the massive curveballs to.

Sadly, that man passed away today at the age of 70. He was found by his wife, Joyce Brabner in their Cleveland home. Pekar had been suffering of prostate cancer, asthma, and high blood pressure.

While most wanted to escape their lives with superheroes, Pekar's comic pages were filled with the pains of the every day. His relationship with R. Crumb was something of a inspiration to him. The two who met working at American Greetings in Cleveland shared the love of jazz and an understanding for one another. As Crumb's work started to take off, Pekar decided to make his own comics. Back in 1994, Crumb said this of his old friend, "He's the soul of Cleveland. He's passionate and articulate. He's grim. He's Jewish. I appreciate the way he embraces all that darkness." Pekar's first strip was illustrated by Crumb in 1972. When Pekar's first full books came out, Crumb illustrated for those as well. Pekar started to publish his stuff annually in 1976.

Pekar always felt as if his work was underappreciated, but this was far from the case. In 1987, he won the American Book Award for first anthology of "American Splendor". He was also a regular guest on The Late Show with David Letterman for awhile, before the two had a falling out. Back in 1990, Pekar wrote "Our Cancer Year" with Brabner after he was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer. Pekar was brought to the masses with the film adaptation of "American Splendor" with Paul Giamatti taking on the role everyday man.

While Pekar may not have always had the brightest of outlooks, he certainly got one thing right, "Ordinary life is pretty complex stuff." He will be missed.

Extra Tidbit: Pekar on the material of everyday life, "a series of day-after-day activities that have more influence on a person than any spectacular or traumatic events. It's the 99 percent of life that nobody ever writes about."
Source: Cleveland.com



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