Indie Comics Pioneer Harvey Pekar Dies

Harvey Pekar, the irascible creator of the autobiographical comic book series American Splendor, has died. He was 70.

According to a report in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Pekar was found dead early Monday morning at his home in Cleveland by his wife, Joyce Brabner.

Pekar began creating comics in the 1970s, launching American Splendor as an annual magazine he published himself. Pekar wrote all the stories in American Splendor, which covered topics as diverse as collecting jazz records to Pekar’s day job as a clerk at a VA hospital to chronicling a long list of pet peeves. The stories were drawn by such comic book luminaries as R. Crumb, Frank Stack and Gary Dumm.

The modest success of American Splendor lead to Pekar appearing a number of times in the 1980s on NBC’s Late Night with David Letterman. Pekar chronicled his appearances and turbulent relationship with Letterman and NBC in the pages of American Splendor.

Pekar was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer in 1990. Pekar and Brabner chronicled the excruciating event in the 1994 graphic novel Our Cancer Year.

In later years, Pekar’s stories were published by Dark Horse Comics and, most recently, DC Comics’ adult imprint Vertigo, where Pekar worked frequently with artist Dean Haspiel.

American Splendor was adapted twice into other media, first as a stage play and then as a feature film in 2003 in which Pekar was played by actor Paul Giamatti.

Pekar remained active as a writer until his death, working on various comics projects. He also was a well-known critic of jazz music and books.

Pekar is survived by Brabner and their foster daughter, Danielle.