HARVEY PEKAR characterized himself as a flunkie of a hospital file clerk. What he really filed, for decades, were some of the most powerfully autobiographical stories the comics world has ever seen.
Spurred by good friend and fellow jazz enthusiast R. Crumb, Pekar put his compellingly quirky and poignantly honest stories to paper. Comic-book paper. And the artists who graced what became the "American Splendor" comic-book series included a host of top talent -- from Crumb (the first) to Spain Rodriguez to Frank Stack to Joe Sacco, among many others.
Today, all the collaborators in Pekar fandom -- all of us millions who read him with admiration as we received his inspiration -- mourn his passing. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported [Monday] that Pekar was found dead at 1 a.m. by his wife and creative partner, Joyce Brabner.
Cavna's blog includes a number of great tributes to Pekar from other writers and cartoonists, including Neil Gaiman and Ted Rall. Here's the link.From the New York Times obituary:
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 on Monday at his home in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. He was 70. . . .
Mr. Pekar (pronounced PEE-kar), 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, addressing family crises 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 Mr. Pekar on “American Splendor” and “The Quitter,” his memoir. “He was ‘Seinfeld’ before ‘Seinfeld.’ Comics, which had been power fantasies for 12-year-old boys, could now be about anything.” . . .
The cantankerous Mr. Pekar, who published the first 15 issues of “American Splendor” himself, became a regular on “Late Night With David Letterman” for two years in the late 1980s, until he went on a memorable tirade against General Electric, the parent company of NBC, and was dropped for several years from the show’s guest list.
Here's a link to an interview with Pekar on NPR's "Fresh Air."Below is the video clip of Pekar's infamous episode on the David Letterman Show.