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RIP Harvey Pekar
July 12, 2010 8:43 AM   Subscribe

From off the streets of Cleveland, Harvey Pekar pioneered autobiopgraphical comics in the 70s with his self-published American Splendor. His tales of working as a file clerk lead to greater fame, including appearances on David Letterman and a movie about his life. He worked with many different artists, including his personal friend Robert Crumb. Beyond that, he was an inspiration for so many others. Harvey Pekar passed away last night at the age of 70.
posted by turaho (209 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
RIP Harvey. A unique American character. Thanks for the memories.
posted by fixedgear at 8:45 AM on July 12, 2010


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posted by Legomancer at 8:45 AM on July 12, 2010


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posted by ghharr at 8:46 AM on July 12, 2010


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posted by SmileyChewtrain at 8:47 AM on July 12, 2010


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posted by Karmadillo at 8:48 AM on July 12, 2010


Aw...just. Crap.

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posted by JoanArkham at 8:48 AM on July 12, 2010


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posted by naju at 8:48 AM on July 12, 2010


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posted by Bonzai at 8:48 AM on July 12, 2010


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Really enjoyed that movie.
posted by callmejay at 8:48 AM on July 12, 2010


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posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 8:48 AM on July 12, 2010


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posted by codacorolla at 8:48 AM on July 12, 2010


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But also: Pekar, 70, was found dead shortly before 1 a.m. today by his wife, Joyce Brabner, in their Cleveland Heights home, said Powell Caesar, spokesman for Cuyahoga County Coroner Frank Miller.

Really? The coroner's name is Frank Miller? I smell a conspiracy by Big Comics.
posted by The Bellman at 8:49 AM on July 12, 2010 [11 favorites]


Aw crap.
posted by The Whelk at 8:49 AM on July 12, 2010


Oh hells. This is a bummer. I felt major sympathies with his take on life sometimes. I will miss his art.
posted by barrett caulk at 8:49 AM on July 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


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The Pekar Project is worth linking here too; he was writing great comics until the very end.

(Ouch. This one hurts.)
posted by mediareport at 8:49 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


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posted by wowbobwow at 8:50 AM on July 12, 2010


Really sad. I love a lot of his work (and my favorite Crumb is the Pekar-written stuff), and I've always really admired his overall life strategy- work the day job and make great art in the margins. I was hoping he would have had a much, much longer retirement to spend making comics without having to lose hours to clerking.

Seeing Pekar speak at the U of MN was one of the events that helped nudge me towards making comics of my own.
posted by COBRA! at 8:50 AM on July 12, 2010


As a kid, Pekar was almost as obsessive about comic books as he'd been about jazz. (And literature. And boxing.) All the same, he considered them a "second-rate art form." Then realized something. "They're words and pictures, and you can do anything with words and pictures. There's no limit on what order you put 'em in, or what kind of illustration you use. It's not the fault of comics. I have access to the same choice of words as Shakespeare."
posted by cgc373 at 8:51 AM on July 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


I was just about to make the pithy Frank Miller comment. I knew he was in Cleveland but didn't realize it was Cleveland Heights; I lived there for a few years.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 8:51 AM on July 12, 2010


~ ~ ~
~ ~ ~

(motion blur, not smell lines)
posted by DU at 8:51 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


:(

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posted by zarq at 8:52 AM on July 12, 2010


barrett caulk, I knew someone that had that panel tattoo'd on his forearm.
posted by piratebowling at 8:52 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


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posted by burnmp3s at 8:53 AM on July 12, 2010


Sad for comics, Cleveland and people who like interesting things.

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posted by chesty_a_arthur at 8:53 AM on July 12, 2010 [6 favorites]


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posted by leetheflea at 8:53 AM on July 12, 2010


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posted by contessa at 8:54 AM on July 12, 2010


I got to meet him once at a con...I was terrified, but he was really very nice and seemed totally mystified as to why a 19 year old girl with purple hair would want to meet him.
posted by JoanArkham at 8:54 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


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posted by Jon_Evil at 8:55 AM on July 12, 2010


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posted by badger_flammable at 8:55 AM on July 12, 2010


Awww. :(

I had no exposure to Pekar until my friend and I rented the movie version of American Splendor on a whim. It's a great movie, I highly recommend it.
posted by PercussivePaul at 8:55 AM on July 12, 2010


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posted by baxter_ilion at 8:56 AM on July 12, 2010


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(ain't it just like that for Cleveland, too - losing mad cash-cow pride-inducing if still completely vapid public figure and then a few days later losing someone of depth and substance. life on the lake isn't always easy...)
posted by fingers_of_fire at 8:56 AM on July 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Earlier this year a bunch of cartoonist and comics types did a big art thing for Harvey's 70th. The Harvey Head Project.

disclaimer, Me and several friends are in there
posted by The Whelk at 8:57 AM on July 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


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RIP, Harvey. You'll be missed.
posted by jonmc at 8:57 AM on July 12, 2010


Well that sucks.
posted by penduluum at 8:57 AM on July 12, 2010


I tried to commission R. Crumb to make a dot for me, but I didn't have enough time.

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posted by jonp72 at 8:57 AM on July 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


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posted by Halloween Jack at 8:58 AM on July 12, 2010


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posted by doctor_negative at 8:58 AM on July 12, 2010


I told my co-workers, all life-long Clevelanders, and they just said "Who?".

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posted by sciurus at 8:59 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


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posted by shakespeherian at 8:59 AM on July 12, 2010


Here's the interview with Letterman where they had a falling out on air. Letterman is more of a cynic now and it might've gone better now. I was always fascinated by Pekar's split life of being semi-famous but being constrained to work a shit job. RIP.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:59 AM on July 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


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posted by mattybonez at 8:59 AM on July 12, 2010


I used to work on Coventry Road in Cleveland Heights and I would always get a kick out of seeing Harvey occasionally walking down the street. My favorite memory of him is when the documentary Crumb came out and Harvey said a few words before the Cleveland premiere at the Cedar Lee Theater. He stood up in front of the crowd and said something along the lines of "Crumb's an idiot. He keeps saying he doesn't want to sell out but he should just do it already. Anyways, I'm always glad when he draws my comic because then people buy it. Okay, let's watch this movie." As cranky as it sounds, you could tell he was saying it with a lot of affection.
posted by turaho at 9:00 AM on July 12, 2010 [8 favorites]


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posted by davebush at 9:01 AM on July 12, 2010


The Whelk, your project is the "inspiration" link in the post.
posted by cgc373 at 9:01 AM on July 12, 2010


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posted by $0up at 9:02 AM on July 12, 2010


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posted by Hey Dean Yeager! at 9:05 AM on July 12, 2010


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posted by Mister_A at 9:07 AM on July 12, 2010


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posted by Thorzdad at 9:07 AM on July 12, 2010


fuck.

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posted by brevator at 9:07 AM on July 12, 2010


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posted by tuck_nroll at 9:07 AM on July 12, 2010


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I was all excited about a Pekar post until I hit the last line. This is the first time a Mefi obit has really hit me.
posted by The Man from Lardfork at 9:08 AM on July 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Ouch. There's always been something sort of timeless about Pekar. I imagined that he would always be 40 years old.

The Cleveland episode of Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations is one of the best, in no small part due to Mr. Pekar's rather incongruous segment.
posted by muddgirl at 9:11 AM on July 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Crap. Back in the mid-1980's (my most intense comic book geek period), he was one of the folks that made comics exciting and fun.

I met him at a San Diego Con back in 1985 or 1987. He signed the first American Splendor collection for me, and then thrust a bunch of bunch of stuff in my hands like flyers and photocopied reviews of the book and said: "Here, my publisher gives me all this crap, I'm supposed to give it away I guess, take it, take it!"

A friend of mine met him at the same convention, and Harvey had a bunch of bread or something he had grabbed from some industry event and he kept trying to give it away to the fans. My friend remarked it was like something out of a Harvey Pekar comic, then he had some weird recursive moment there and realized it was like a Pekar comic because it was some little random, mildly amusing event from Harvey's life.
posted by marxchivist at 9:11 AM on July 12, 2010 [7 favorites]


I met Harvey Pekar very briefly at the Small Press Expo about 3 or 4 years ago. It was actually before the show, the hotel served a continental breakfast for anyone who actually managed to get there early before setup. I lived in the area at the time and nervous as i was got there early so, why the hell not, free bagels. I didn't even have a book yet- I was one of the 'zine kids with his stacks of xeroxed books hoping to get $2 or $3 a copy for em.

So anyway I'm just sitting having my bagel and I hear "anyone sitting here?" I don't even think i look up, I just say "oh, sure, go ahead" in that alright finish bagel quickly to avoid having extended conversation with strange old man who just sat down though process. He starts asking me what I think of the show, I say "this is actually my first one." "Huh, yeah haven't been to this one either but it's really good to see all these young kids out here." So we talk for a few minutes about the comics, I tell him how I'm trying to do some stuff with political cartoons, I'm blogging, I think it's a good way for promo, etc. And all the while I'm like finish the bagel hmm maybe he's like in charge of something he's got a VIP badge on and oh Jesus fuck you're Harvey Pekar aren't you.

His handler is coming by so he gets up while saying "well, it sounds like you know what you're doing" which is, I believe, not even anything my parents ever told me. Eight hours later, it's the end of the show and I see him cleaning up at the table they gave him to sign his books and following him is the same handler, holding a stack of books, zines, handouts, whatever. Comical in size, like, Dagwood sandwich comical, six feet of stuff. Every person in the entire Expo gave him a free copy of their book. I would have but I had butter from the bagel on my fingers and didn't want to ruin one of my 25-cent xeroxes.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:13 AM on July 12, 2010 [24 favorites]


I was always fascinated by Pekar's split life of being semi-famous but being constrained to work a shit job.

American Splendor comix really affected me (and infected me) with this idea- even if you had to work and art failed to be your main identity when accounting for the hours of your day, your voice could be just as radical and sophisticated. The art might have to be elliptical, but there was no reason to set it aside or dismiss the desire to keep striving. A real pioneer of DIY, and brilliant just for disentangling the bohemian outlook from youthful exuberance and major metropolitan geography.
posted by bendybendy at 9:13 AM on July 12, 2010 [9 favorites]


This is really sad news. It seemed like his work was finally getting the attention it deserved.
posted by drezdn at 9:14 AM on July 12, 2010


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posted by Tesseractive at 9:15 AM on July 12, 2010


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posted by joedan at 9:17 AM on July 12, 2010


This is very sad.
posted by pinky at 9:17 AM on July 12, 2010


. x a million

I know his wife (and by extension, his daughter) from the wide world of Cleveland knitting. Joyce would drag Harvey along to all kinds of stuff here in town, including a big craft show I organize. It was always kind of funny to spot him at the event, checking out all the handmade stuff, always several feet behind Joyce, sporting his parka. He will be very, very missed. He's the sort of person who makes Cleveland what it is -- a great place to live, with an innate ability for self-mockery tempered with love.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 9:18 AM on July 12, 2010 [9 favorites]


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posted by roll truck roll at 9:22 AM on July 12, 2010


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posted by freecellwizard at 9:23 AM on July 12, 2010


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posted by gudrun at 9:23 AM on July 12, 2010


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posted by psylosyren at 9:23 AM on July 12, 2010


Wow, did not realize this was going to be an obituary until the last line :/

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posted by Put the kettle on at 9:25 AM on July 12, 2010


He was as much a documentarian as an author of cartoons; it was something that he and Crumb had in common, but Crumb's work didn't have the same fascinating with everyday misfits that Pekar did. His comics were sort of like the Death of a Salesman of comics -- they presented the idea that anybody could be the star of a comic. But while Miller's play suggested anybody could star in a tragedy, if they were tragic enough, Pekar didn't bother with that sort of convention. Anybody could be in his comics as long as they were interesting enough, as long as they affected him, as long as they were memorable.

We should all aspire to be characters in American Splendor.

RIP.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:26 AM on July 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Man from Lardfork took the words right out my mouth.
posted by bonobothegreat at 9:26 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


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posted by HeroZero at 9:30 AM on July 12, 2010


Wow, man.

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I got a stack of American Splendors once and was fascinated by the everyday magic of them. Thanks Mr. Pekar.
posted by djrock3k at 9:32 AM on July 12, 2010


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posted by m0nm0n at 9:32 AM on July 12, 2010


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posted by white_devil at 9:33 AM on July 12, 2010


Darn.

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posted by octothorpe at 9:34 AM on July 12, 2010


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posted by ursus_comiter at 9:37 AM on July 12, 2010


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posted by brundlefly at 9:37 AM on July 12, 2010


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posted by tommasz at 9:39 AM on July 12, 2010


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posted by fungible at 9:39 AM on July 12, 2010


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Thanks for giving me more to dream about than masks and capes.
posted by Smart Dalek at 9:42 AM on July 12, 2010


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posted by MegoSteve at 9:45 AM on July 12, 2010


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posted by kenko at 9:45 AM on July 12, 2010


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posted by valkyryn at 9:47 AM on July 12, 2010


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posted by HumanComplex at 9:47 AM on July 12, 2010


A genius writer. A master of the comic book form. American Splendor blew my mind back in the 1980s ("You can make comics like THIS?") and continues to blow my mind. Thanks, Harvey. You will be missed.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 9:48 AM on July 12, 2010


I was hoping this would be one of those posts that reads like an obituary until the last line, when you realize it's just an update about the person's life or a link to some of his or her collected works. And then everybody would go "Whew, you scared me a bit there!" and then we'd all talk about how great it is that the person is still around and doing great work.

Ah, well.

Harvey, you will be missed.
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:48 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, jeez, that's sad.

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posted by dbiedny at 9:50 AM on July 12, 2010


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posted by EatTheWeak at 9:50 AM on July 12, 2010


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posted by fizzix at 9:50 AM on July 12, 2010


Bummer.

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posted by Fizz at 9:53 AM on July 12, 2010


I had the opportunity to talk to Harvey on the phone a couple-few times in the course of writing about comics a few years ago. He was great to talk to, a little tough to do a qick time-constrained interview with, but if I had the time to just talk, it was fantastic. He really loved to talk on the phone, just as he shows himself doing in the comics. I actually often reflect on those conversations, which he would invariably end by emphasizing that he was available to talk any time, any time.

Too late now, I guess. Goodbye Harvey, thanks so much for everything. I bet this would make you totally uncomfortable, but, man, you are a goddamn hero.

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posted by mwhybark at 9:54 AM on July 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


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posted by Athanasius at 9:55 AM on July 12, 2010


Goodnight, beloved crank!

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posted by Scoo at 9:56 AM on July 12, 2010


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posted by Iridic at 9:56 AM on July 12, 2010


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posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 9:56 AM on July 12, 2010


"When you're dead, it robs life of many pleasures." -- from his No Reservations appearance.
posted by machaus at 9:57 AM on July 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


> Crap. Back in the mid-1980's (my most intense comic book geek period), he was one of the folks that made comics exciting and fun.

This.
Yes.
I feel gutpunched.
Shit.
posted by ardgedee at 9:57 AM on July 12, 2010


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posted by bonsai forest at 9:57 AM on July 12, 2010


These Premises Are Alarmed: I knew he was in Cleveland but didn't realize it was Cleveland Heights; I lived there for a few years.

He and Joyce Brabner lived in a modest house halfway between the Coventry and Cedar-Lee neighborhoods.

In describing the East Side/West Side divide to those that never lived or spend much time in Cleveland, I usually describe it as:

East Side: Harvey Pekar
West Side: Drew Carey
posted by elmwood at 9:58 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


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posted by box at 10:02 AM on July 12, 2010


Crap. This sucks. One thing I really liked about the film was Pekar's role in it. Love Paul Giamatti, but Pekar himself gave the whole enterprise authenticity. Pekar was the genuine article, the real deal. An inspiration, definitely. Sometimes nothing more than an inspiration to get up each day and put one foot in front of the other. Harvey Pekar seemed to have the "courage to be." I'm sorry he's gone.
posted by apis mellifera at 10:04 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


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posted by Navelgazer at 10:04 AM on July 12, 2010


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posted by Madamina at 10:09 AM on July 12, 2010



No, no, no, no. Dammit.

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posted by palmcorder_yajna at 10:12 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Aw.
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posted by benzenedream at 10:13 AM on July 12, 2010


This really hit me hard. RIP, Harvey.
posted by lucysparrow at 10:13 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


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posted by shmegegge at 10:14 AM on July 12, 2010


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posted by Obscure Reference at 10:16 AM on July 12, 2010




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posted by VanishingPoint at 10:16 AM on July 12, 2010


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posted by Edgewise at 10:18 AM on July 12, 2010


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posted by mosk at 10:18 AM on July 12, 2010


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Thank you Harvey, for single-handedly renewing my interest in comics. I bought the first American Splendor anthology after seeing the Cleveland episode of No Reservations a few years back. I barely set it down between when I started and finished it.
posted by rollbiz at 10:19 AM on July 12, 2010


As a native Northeast Ohioan, I feel like an idiot for never having heard of Pekar before.
posted by slogger at 10:20 AM on July 12, 2010


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posted by Lynsey at 10:20 AM on July 12, 2010


Fuck! I loved him.
Rest in peace, Harvey Pekar.
posted by 8dot3 at 10:21 AM on July 12, 2010


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posted by sswiller at 10:21 AM on July 12, 2010


I met him once when we both brought our cats to the vet's. One minute I was reading a comic of his posted up on the bulletin board at the vet's office, next minute I turned around and there he was.
posted by amro at 10:23 AM on July 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


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posted by Sys Rq at 10:23 AM on July 12, 2010


oooooh piss. I wasn't really expecting this

there goes my Monday.
posted by edgeways at 10:31 AM on July 12, 2010


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posted by msconduct at 10:32 AM on July 12, 2010


Well, goddammit.

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posted by Ouisch at 10:36 AM on July 12, 2010


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posted by Pecinpah at 10:42 AM on July 12, 2010


Sorry to see you go, Harvey.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:44 AM on July 12, 2010


Page 1, panel 1: A single . filling the page. It looks a little miserable.
posted by Artw at 10:46 AM on July 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


American Splendor was fantastic. What a life. RIP Harvey, and my condolences to Joyce and Danielle.

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posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:51 AM on July 12, 2010


The Man from Lardfork: ".

I was all excited about a Pekar post until I hit the last line. This is the first time a Mefi obit has really hit me.
"

Man, seriously. "Oh neat a post on Harvey Pekar I like ....aw."

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posted by graventy at 10:57 AM on July 12, 2010


He was an important artist who actually outshines 90% of American artists, simply because of his intensity and integrity. He had no conceit. There is no greater praise, imho.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 10:58 AM on July 12, 2010


Ahhh, our man. I was saddened to read this news.

But it never ends until then it does, eh? I hope he's finally, truly, endlessy happy. Condolences to his wife and kid.

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posted by not_on_display at 10:59 AM on July 12, 2010


I almost wish he was a little less influential, TBH, what with the black and white indie comic scene now being 90% autobiographical or semi-autobiographical loner depressives complaining about things. Still, he was good at it, and you can't blame a man for his imitators.
posted by Artw at 11:01 AM on July 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


Well he's dead now and there's fuck all we can do about it. Everyone's gonna die. Buh bye, thanks for the comics.
posted by Meatbomb at 11:04 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thanks for everything Harvey.

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posted by Sailormom at 11:05 AM on July 12, 2010


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posted by papafrita at 11:07 AM on July 12, 2010


That's a nice obit.
posted by warbaby at 11:09 AM on July 12, 2010


I have been a fan since the Crumb - Pekar American Splendor #1 first hit the comic book stores. Pekar's comic was well named--he was an American original. Although not unexpected, what with two bouts of cancer and age and mortality themes in his art and life this past decade, this is still sad news. I will miss him.
posted by y2karl at 11:10 AM on July 12, 2010


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posted by methinks at 11:11 AM on July 12, 2010


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posted by davelog at 11:16 AM on July 12, 2010


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posted by fings at 11:19 AM on July 12, 2010


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posted by exlotuseater at 11:24 AM on July 12, 2010


Oh my god...like with many Cleveland Heights families, the life of his family has been intersecting with the life of mine for decades. My thoughts are with his wife and daughter.
posted by emilyd22222 at 11:25 AM on July 12, 2010


I could be a way-worse person than I am... I realize that I'm pretty flawed, but you know - I haven't killed anybody yet.

An epitaph of sorts--if not words to live by--from himself via the New York Daily News in another nice obituary.
posted by y2karl at 11:30 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Memories of Harvey Pekar from the subject of one of his last books, which hopefully will still be published (it's already completed).
posted by Gnatcho at 11:31 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


his short piece "Hypothetical Quandary" is one of the best bits of comix storytelling i have ever read - i still regularly revisit the scene of "ah, fresh bread!" to refresh & renew myself

thanks, Harvey - you did good

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posted by jammy at 11:37 AM on July 12, 2010


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posted by mikelieman at 11:41 AM on July 12, 2010


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posted by echolalia67 at 11:49 AM on July 12, 2010


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posted by troubles at 11:54 AM on July 12, 2010


I don't like this one bit. Usually when famous/semi-famous people I admire die, I'm okay with it if they're above the age of 70. Not Pekar, though. I'm not okay with this.
posted by item at 11:56 AM on July 12, 2010


Dammit. I talked to him a few times at cons and he was always so generous with his time. He was one of those few voices that made me proud to be American.

You will be missed, Harvey.

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posted by lumpenprole at 12:06 PM on July 12, 2010


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posted by keever at 12:09 PM on July 12, 2010


Douglas Rushkoff just started working on a new comic with Pekar. He says he will finish it.
posted by homunculus at 12:11 PM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I went to see the movie at a really low moment, and ended up thinking about this line for weeks afterward:

But hey, man. Every day's a brand new deal, right? Just keep on workin' and sump'n's bound ta turn up.

For some reason - maybe just his tone in the voice-over, pummeled but still able to muster some bravery and humor - it helped a lot. I slogged it out, and better things did eventually turn up.

Thanks, Harvey.
posted by ryanshepard at 12:14 PM on July 12, 2010 [8 favorites]


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posted by runtina at 12:15 PM on July 12, 2010


Sad news. I love reading his mundane, meandering stories. He's been a big inspiration.
posted by JBennett at 12:18 PM on July 12, 2010


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posted by goodglovin77 at 12:20 PM on July 12, 2010


I feel like next someone's going to tell me that Tommy's, the West Side Market, and the Cleveland Orchestra are all dunzo.
posted by emilyd22222 at 12:22 PM on July 12, 2010


Thank you, Harvey, indeed. Godspeed.
posted by sadiehawkinstein at 12:24 PM on July 12, 2010


I first discovered his work in a time of my life, exactly when i needed it the most.
Ordinary life is pretty complex stuff.


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posted by Widepath at 12:27 PM on July 12, 2010


I think one definition of genius involves finding grace and faith in the most drabby unheralded uncelebrated everyday moments and America Splendorr pulled off that amazing alchemy, over and over and over again. His art and work made me question my view of what life was, and try and be more hopeful.

This is huge loss. Harvey Pekar was a fucking giant.

RIP.
posted by Skygazer at 12:30 PM on July 12, 2010


fuck
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posted by angrycat at 12:33 PM on July 12, 2010


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posted by antihostile at 12:35 PM on July 12, 2010


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posted by V4V at 12:37 PM on July 12, 2010


Mark Evanier who has a long history of writing obits for comic book artists on his blog has this to say.
posted by Bonzai at 12:46 PM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


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Very sad to lose such a great talent. I met both him, his wife, and R. Crumb years ago. I was, of course, in fanboy heaven.
posted by Outlawyr at 12:56 PM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


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posted by kimota at 12:59 PM on July 12, 2010


> I have been a fan since the Crumb - Pekar American Splendor #1 first hit the comic book stores.

You're one up on me—I only found out about him when #2 was on the stands; I was never able to get a copy of #1. I met the man once, briefly; he was appropriately grumpy and slightly out of it (this was in NYC). He was a great American creator; I'll miss him, and I was hit hard by this news.

Thanks for everything, Harvey.
posted by languagehat at 1:34 PM on July 12, 2010


Used to bump into Harvey once in a while when he was merely "famous in the neighborhood" and we both lived on Hampshire Road. He never really looked quite like any of those characterizations in the books, but in the aggregate I suppose they captured his mien.

RIP, Harvey, you'll be missed. And how many people can say they founded a literary genre?

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posted by Herodios at 1:41 PM on July 12, 2010


PS: There appears to be some minor vandalism on his Wikipedia page.
posted by Herodios at 1:41 PM on July 12, 2010


thank you for your work

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posted by paradise at 1:53 PM on July 12, 2010


So it's the late afternoon and I've been reflecting on the man's comics and I thinking life is fragile and fleeting. It's a waste not to savor even the harsh and mundane facts of it because one day, the fabric that supports those facts will have to fall away.
posted by bonobothegreat at 1:57 PM on July 12, 2010


Tuli Kupferberg passed away today, too. Oh, The Fugs!
posted by psylosyren at 2:01 PM on July 12, 2010


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posted by Joey Michaels at 2:29 PM on July 12, 2010


A true American original has left us.
posted by longsleeves at 2:33 PM on July 12, 2010


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posted by feelinglistless at 2:35 PM on July 12, 2010


Dang. He was so fantastic at listening, then describing what he heard, how he heard it. That's quite a skill.
posted by Greg Nog at 2:38 PM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Meanwhile...
fantagraphics is armed and dangerous
posted by Artw at 2:38 PM on July 12, 2010


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posted by Tawny Owl at 2:45 PM on July 12, 2010


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posted by ratita at 2:48 PM on July 12, 2010


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posted by heurtebise at 3:00 PM on July 12, 2010


Micheal Malice: R.I.P HARVEY PEKAR

disclaimer, malice is a friend. Harvey was like a mentor to him. I thought this was very touching
posted by The Whelk at 3:14 PM on July 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Emily: Do any human beings ever realise life while they live it?--every, every minute?

Stage Manager: No. The saints and poets, maybe--they do some.


We'll miss you Harvey.
posted by Alison at 3:23 PM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


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posted by nevafeva at 3:36 PM on July 12, 2010


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posted by pahool at 3:40 PM on July 12, 2010


Incredibly sad. The Harvey Pekar Name Story is one of my favourite things (although that page only has the last half of the comic).
posted by dng at 3:42 PM on July 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


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Discovering his AMERICAN SPLENDOR at a head shop/record store when I was 15 was one of those "turning point" moments in my life... comic books could be about NOTHING... and MEAN SOMETHING. Thanks, Harvey. R.I.P.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 5:01 PM on July 12, 2010


Fuck you, cancer. Fuck your fucking fucked-up shitfucking worthless piece of fucking shit existence. Fuck you.



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posted by Wuggie Norple at 5:20 PM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


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posted by dlugoczaj at 5:48 PM on July 12, 2010


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posted by beardlace at 6:11 PM on July 12, 2010


I saw this this morning and thought "jeez he was 70? And been saying for awhile that he probly wouldn't be around for much longer so I guess it's OK."

But it's not.


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posted by hap_hazard at 6:13 PM on July 12, 2010


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posted by ltracey at 6:20 PM on July 12, 2010


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posted by elr at 6:24 PM on July 12, 2010


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posted by MrBadExample at 6:26 PM on July 12, 2010


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posted by limeonaire at 6:41 PM on July 12, 2010


My uncle, Joseph Witek, was just interviewed by CNN and the WSJ about Pekar.
posted by emilyd22222 at 7:15 PM on July 12, 2010


I was at Case Western when American Splendor came out. I kept hanging around Coventry, hoping I would see the dude. (That, and it's the only place to hang out in a five-mile radius.) I never did, and graduated with a dream unfulfilled.
posted by spamguy at 8:02 PM on July 12, 2010


. (Sorry. Crying here.)
posted by SPrintF at 8:08 PM on July 12, 2010


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posted by spinifex23 at 8:46 PM on July 12, 2010


From off the streets of Cleveland goes...

Harvey Pekar.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 9:57 PM on July 12, 2010


Well, there's a reliable disappointment.

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posted by Life at Boulton Wynfevers at 3:45 AM on July 13, 2010


Aw man.

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posted by IvoShandor at 3:59 AM on July 13, 2010


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posted by Kinbote at 5:08 AM on July 13, 2010


Fuck. I loved American Splendor (being British, it feels weird to type Splendor rather than Splendour).

A few years ago the adaptation of American Splendor was at the Edinburgh Film Festival. So I'm sat at a table outside a nice pub just off Lothian Road, in the August sun, interviewing Paul Giamatti about what it's like playing someone like Harvey Pekar and we're talking about the weirdness of portraying not just someone who's still alive, but someone who has made the wonderful minutae of his life into his artistic work, and not just that, but dealing with that person being around, and involved in, the filming itself. At which point Pekar himself rocks up, and gives me a flinty look.

"So. Doin' an interview, are ya?" he asks.
"Yeah," I say. I'm a bit flustered. Now I have to deal with On-Screen Pekar and Real Pekar.
"You don't wanna talk to him," says Pekar, gesturing with his thumb to Giamatti, dismissively. "He's just some actor schlub. Never even lived in Cleveland. Don't know anything. You wanna talk to me."
I'm not sure how to play this. Obviously, I'm there to interview Giamatti and don't want to piss him off. But neither do I want to insult Pekar himself, by suggesting that I want to talk to the fake him, and not the real him. Thankfully, though, Giamatti saves my arse. Before I've even noticed, he has slipped into character as Harvey, and begins arguing with Harvey as to who would be the better interviewee, each of them trying to out-grouch the other.

It was obviously fake on Giamatti's part, though his instantaneous transformation, physical as much as anything, was astonishing; Pekar, on the other hand, was so deadpan and sarcastic that at first it was impossible to tell whether he was genuinely affronted or just taking the piss. It was brilliant.

So yeah: RIP, Harvey.
posted by Len at 9:02 AM on July 13, 2010 [20 favorites]


if you have a jones to hear that voice today, this Bat Segundo podcast from 2006 is pleasingly intimate.
posted by Hammond Rye at 10:13 AM on July 13, 2010


Gary Groth has posted his Harvey Pekar interview reprinted from The Comics Journal #162, October 1993
posted by Hammond Rye at 10:21 AM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


> The Cleveland episode of Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations is one of the best, in no small part due to Mr. Pekar's rather incongruous segment.

Bourdain posted a heartfelt tribute to Pekar on his blog this morning.
posted by ardgedee at 10:27 AM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


oh goddam it to hell. I just read "Quitter" last night, and was thinking how I need to dig up my old issues of American Splendor.

What a sweet, grumpy man.
posted by the bricabrac man at 12:00 PM on July 13, 2010


Anthony Bourdain remembers Harvey Pekar
posted by Artw at 6:32 PM on July 13, 2010


Tom Spurgeon’s amazingly comprehensive obituary.
posted by kipmanley at 9:40 PM on July 13, 2010


For next to no reason, I picked "American splendor" (the movie) from a discard bin at the local video store for my first DVD purchase. I loved the music in it, particularly Coltrane's "Favorite things," and got interested in Pekar's work.

So sorry I never wrote and told him so.
posted by goofyfoot at 11:16 PM on July 13, 2010


OK, I'm just going to go cry for a bit, again.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 3:56 AM on July 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've met Harvey several times, having used to work at the Funny Times comic newspaper (a fucking awesome newspaper full of comics and cartoons), and he was awesome. He was also a big anti-Zionist Jew and a sweetheart. Like I said, the world should work on removing assholes, not awesome people.

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posted by By The Grace of God at 1:13 AM on July 15, 2010


I just remembered I interviewed him on his porch, I will have to find that somewhere.
posted by By The Grace of God at 1:14 AM on July 15, 2010


Zounds. Different sort of surprise for me, as I just caught the news on the CBC and headed over to MeFi thinking "there must be a post on this... NO??". Page after page of archives. Finally a search, and here this is. So: happy to see the post, though decidedly unhappy for the reason for it.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:55 AM on July 23, 2010


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