Remembering 'American Splendor' Author Harvey Pekar

The irascible comic book innovator died in his Cleveland home Monday

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Acclaimed comic-book author Harvey Pekar died Monday at the age of 70. He's best known for his autobiographical comic series American Splendor, which was made into a 2003 film starring Paul Giamatti. In 1988, James Hynes described him as "thoughtful, articulate and, above all, angry, a rare and precious attribute in his age of yappie nihilism." Here's how he's being remembered across the web:

  • How He Got Started Dave Itzkoff at The New York Times explains: "Mr. Pekar was best known for his on-again, off-again comics series 'American Splendor,' whose title deliberately contrasted with the everyday people it documented (often the author himself). A wide range of illustrators contributed to its pages, most famously R. Crumb, who first met Mr. Pekar in Cleveland in the 1960s and encouraged him to turn the stories he gathered on his travels through the city into comics."
  • A Comic Innovator, writes Carolyn Kellogg at The Los Angeles Times: "In the evolving world of graphic novels, Harvey Pekar's 'American Splendor' was a regular reminder that comics could be adult. Pekar's world -- working class, day-to-day -- was almost the antithesis of superhero comics. Unlike other adult comics that were written and illustrated by the same team, like the Hernandez brothers' 'Love and Rockets,' Pekar's series didn't have a visual identity. His use of different artists from issue to issue meant that the only through-line was his story, and that always hinged on Pekar's character: obsessive-compulsive, jazz-loving, curmudgeonly."
  • A 'True American Poet,' says Paul Giamatti to Entertainment Weekly: "Harvey was one of the most compassionate and empathetic human beings I've ever met. He had a huge brain and an even bigger soul. And he was hilarious. He was a great artist, a true American poet, and there is no one to replace him."
  • A Brilliant Mind, writes Joanna Connors at The Plain Dealer: "'American Splendor' carried the subtitle, 'From Off the Streets of Cleveland,' and just like Superman, the other comic book hero born in Cleveland, Pekar wore something of a disguise. He never stepped into a phone booth to change, but underneath his persona of aggravated, disaffected file clerk, he was an erudite book and jazz critic, and a writer of short stories that many observers compared to Chekhov, despite their comic-book form."
  • A Different Kind of Comic Book Writer On WHYY's Fresh Air with Terry Gross, Pekar described his vision for a more working-class comic book: ""I wanted to expand them beyond superheroes and talking animals. I knew that was going to take a long time, but I just started, you know, writing autobiography and -- about, you know, my quotidian life."
  • Remember His Letterman Appearance? "[Pekar] was also able to claim one of television's most uncomfortable moments when he badgered David Letterman about then-NBC owner General Electric's corporate malfeasance," writes Alex Balk at The Awl.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.