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 (The Quitter), 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. Gawker has video of Pekar's most controversial appearance on Letterman here.
In 2003, Pekar attracted new readers and critical acclaim with the release of a biopic called, aptly enough, American Splendor. Directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, the biopic starred Paul Giamatti as Pekar, Hope Davis as Pekar's wife, Joyce Brabner, and Pekar and Brabner as themselves, commenting on their lives, their lives-as-a-movie, and, of course, comic books. American Splendor won the Grand Jury Prize for Dramatic Film at that year's Sundance Film Festival, Best Adapted Screenplay from the Writers Guild of America, and a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay at the Academy Awards. Pekar went on to document the experience in American Splendor: Our Movie Year.

Feel free to share your thoughts on Pekar's passing and American Splendor in the comments below.

categories Cinematical