Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Harvey Pekar, comic book icon, dead at 70

Harvey Pekar was born in Cleveland (1939) and died in Cleveland (yesterday-Monday) and he became a comic book icon by turning his life experience - as a music critic and 40 years as a file clerk in a Veterans Administration hospital into a graphic series he called American Splendor. If you never read any of his work, you may have seen the movie version of his story - American Splendor - with Paul Giamatti playing him. Pekar was not an artist so his friend and also comic book great R. Crumb did the illustrations for the early issues of American Splendor. Other artists took over later.

In the 1980s there were a number of theatrical versions of American Splendor, one starring Dan Castellaneta (the voice of "Homer"). For Harvey Pekar everyday life in America was the meat of his art. In addition to American Splendor he also created Students for a Democratic Society: A Graphic History (2008), The Beats (2009) and with his wife, Joyce Brabner, Our Cancer Year (1994) about his struggle with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.He also had an on again off again relationship with David Letterman (on NBC) when he heavily criticized NBC-owner General Electric.

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