America Has A Little Less Splendor Today

John Hudson at The Atlantic with the round-up. Hudson:

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 1999, James Hynes described him as “thoughtful, articulate and, above all, angry, a rare and precious attribute in his age of yappie nihilism.”

Mel Valentin at Cinematical:

In sad, but not entirely unexpected news, Harvey Pekar, best known for his long-running American Splendor underground/indie comic book series, passed away early this morning at his home in Ohio. Pekar had been suffering from multiple illnesses, including prostrate cancer, asthma, high blood pressure, and depression. He was 70.

Pekar began American Splendor in 1976 to document non-superheroic, everyday life, including his own, in his native hometown, Cleveland, Ohio, often with a caustic, acerbic, self-deprecatory wit. Pekar’s work attracted some of the most-respected and well-known names in underground and mainstream comics, including Robert Crumb, Alison Bechdel, Chester Brown, Greg Budgett, David Collier, Dean Haspiel, Josh Neufeld, Joe Sacco, Eddie Campbell, Gilbert Hernandez, and Ty Templeton. American Splendor’s last issue appeared in 2008.

Outside of underground comics, Pekar was best known for a recurring stint on the David Letterman show in the late 1980s. NBC eventually banned Pekar from appearing on the show due to a combination of Pekar’s open, combative style and repeated criticisms of NBC’s parent company, General Electric.

Popeater:

Pekar’s third wife is writer Joyce Brabner, with whom he collaborated on ‘Our Cancer Year,’ a graphic novel autobiography of his struggle with lymphoma. He lived in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, with Brabner and their foster daughter, Danielle.

Pekar’s ‘American Splendor’ comics, which he began publishing in 1976, chronicle his grousing about work, money and the monotony of life. A wide range of illustrators contributed to its pages, most famously R. Crumb, who first met Pekar in Cleveland in the 1960s and encouraged him to turn the stories he gathered on his travels through the city into comics.

The books gained a cult following, ultimately helping change the way comic books were perceived. They were adapted into the 2003 film ‘American Splendor,’ starring Paul Giamatti as Pekar.

Kevin Fallon at The Atlantic

Kate Ward at Entertainment Weekly:

Following the sad passing of famed writer Harvey Pekar, friends have begun issuing statements mourning the beloved author of the American Splendor series, who passed away at age 70.

Paul Giamatti, who played Pekar in 2003′s American Splendor: “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.”

Jonathan Vankin, an editor at Vertigo who oversaw American Splendor and The Quitter: “I am terribly sad today. Working with Harvey Pekar was one of my first experiences at Vertigo and it’s still one of my best, not only in comics but in my life. Underneath the well-known gruff exterior, Harvey was a deeply compassionate person and of course, a brilliant mind. He created, almost single-handedly, an entirely new kind of comics and his commitment to what he did was absolute and uncompromising. We’ve all suffered a huge loss today, in comics of course, but also in American culture.”

Robert Pulcini, co-director of American Splendor: “Harvey Pekar was one of the few originals I’ve met in my life. He deserves to be remembered as the patron saint of Cleveland.”

Shari Springer Berman, co-director of American Splendor: “I am so sad. There will never be another Harvey Pekar. I hope he is in a place where there is a great jazz soundtrack, lots of good books, and he can make plenty of money.”

SEK at Lawyers, Guns and Money:

Harvey Pekar wasn’t included on the list of people I’m officially allowed to mourn, but that doesn’t mean I won’t mourn his passing anyway. I first came to American Splendor too early—when I started reading Love and Rockets and Cerebus in 1993—and then too late—after the release of the film American Splendor in 2003—so while I understood it, I never truly “got” his appeal. I appreciated his ear for language, but as a teenager thought what it captured unworthy of print, and as a literary scholar had encountered many similarly talented ears and was, therefore, less impressed by it than I should have been. But when I read the news of his passing earlier today, I realized something:

I knew Harvey Pekar.

I didn’t know him know him, but like all of his readers, I knew him as well as you know me. Pekar was a proto-blogger, if you will, because he turned his life into something worthy of public consumption. Our Cancer Year is a grueling read not because all cancer entails struggle, but because the patient stricken with it is someone whose failed dreams, stunted career, and intimate thoughts are familiar to us. We may not have known Harvey Pekar, but we knew “Harvey Pekar,” and unlike artists for whom the distance between characters and self is meticulously kept, in this case it really is just a matter of quotation marks.

Rest in peace, Harvey. Lord knows you deserve some.

Brian Doherty at Reason:

He was a great and original jazz critic, an entertaining movie inspiration and “star,” the smartest and sharpest of David Letterman’s 1980s gang of real-world curiosities, and the prime original creative force and inspiration for one of the most important (though its dominance is sometimes overstated) trends in modern literary comics, the quotidian autobiography.

He was Harvey Pekar, and he died very early this morning at his Cleveland home.

Pekar was one of the few writers of whom I can say I can and do read everything he writes with great pleasure, whether it’s about the music of Sonny Stitt, the writings of I.J. Singer, or his trip to the market to buy bread.

I reviewed Pekar’s graphic biography of libertarian troublemaker Michael Malice at Reason Online.

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