Five Things You Need to Know About Late American Splendor Great Harvey Pekar

Remembering the American Splendor comic great, found dead at 70

By Joal Ryan Jul 12, 2010 6:15 PMTags

If the name Harvey Pekar doesn't register—and by rights it should—his signature, film-inspiring work probably does.

Here are five things you need to know about the American Splendor comic great, found dead early today at the age of 70:

He Was His Own Hero: Pekar's American Splendor, produced sporadically beginning in 1976, told the story of, well, Pekar, hospital file clerk by day, comic-drawing, jazz-loving misanthrope by all other hours.

He Had the Write Stuff (and Only the Write Stuff): Pekar didn't draw American Splendor. He scripted the autobiographical tales; various artist friends supplied the illustrations. 

He Sparred with David Letterman: The underground icon found a mainstream audience, in part, through a series of testy appearances in the 1980s and early 1990s on Letterman's old Late Night show. Pekar even got himself banned, although he was eventually invited back.

He Went Hollywood: OK, not really. But he did have a red-carpet year in 2003-04 when American Splendor, the acclaimed biopic about him and his comic, killed at Sundance and Cannes, and earned an Oscar nomination for screenwriting. Paul Giamatti played Pekar, as did Pekar—the man himself narrated.

He Was No LeBron James:  Pekar was a Cleveland guy all the way. He was born there in 1939. He worked his clerk job there for nearly 40 years, retiring in 2001. Said to be suffering from a host of ailments, including prostate cancer, he died in his area home there. 

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