It’s a sad day for comix fans – legendary (and legendarily cranky) comic book writer and personality Harvey Pekar has passed away at the age of 70. Mixing the mundane and the existential, Pekar’s American Splendor autobiographically documented the life of a Cleveland file clerk in all his dank, misanthropic glory. Although an autopsy has yet to be performed, Pekar had a well-known battle with lymphoma in the early 1990′s, as documented in his award-winning book American Splendor: Our Cancer Year, co-written with his wife Joyce Brabner. According to reports, Brabner found Pekar shortly before 1AM in their Cleveland home.
Most people’s familiartiy with Pekar can be traced to the 2003 quasi-documentary American Splendor, co-starring Paul Giamatti and Hope Davis as Pekar and Brabner.
As for me, I was lucky. From the ages of 11 to 13, I was the only employee of the only comic book shop in my small, Oregon hometown. Jolly’s Cards and Comics was a family-owned affair, and could probably have done without a nerdy 7th grader hanging out every day after school. But I worked there, part-time, under the table, form 1984 to 1986 and I still remember the day I opened the latest box to stock the shelves – and saw this in my grubby little hands:
A comic book about a schlubby guy who can’t wash dishes? I thought this was hilarious! And I was hooked. Through Harvey Pekar’s work I was exposed to Robert Crumb, Art Spiegelman and the whole history of independent, autobiographical comics (or comix, as these underground issues were known.) R.I.P buddy. I’ll miss you, but not as much as 12-year old me. He’s called in sick to 7th grade today. He’s got some comics to read.