So Long, American Splendor: Harvey Pekar, 1939-2010

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The Plain Dealer is reporting that Harvey Pekar, their own local comics legend, was found dead this morning.

Pekar became famous for spinning mundane moments from his own ordinary life into his American Splendor comic, which featured hypnotic portraits of his neuroses and curmudgeonliness illustrated by some of comics’ brightest talents. The earliest American Splendors were drawn by Robert Crumb and, over the years, important creators like Alison Bechdel, Drew Friedman and Jim Woodring would draw stories based on Pekar’s life.

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Pekar came to the attention of non-comics readers in the 1980s as a regular guest on the Late Night with David Letterman, where his quirky mode of storytelling made for hilarious segments. Then, in 2003, Paul Giamatti played Pekar in an American Splendor movie, which went on to win prizes from the Sundance Film Festival and the Writers Guild of America.

But, really, it was Pekar’s amazingly detailed yet totally relatable writing that makes his work sing. Whether he was talking about the minor workplace annoyances that drove batty as a mailroom clerk or the ordeal of fighting a would-be terminal disease in Our Cancer Year (which he wrote with wife Joyce Brabner), Pekar took the kinds of everyday triumphs and tragedies that everyone deals with and turned them in sublimely gritty vignettes that became art. Goodbye, Harvey. We’ll miss you.

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