Everyman comics hero Harvey Pekar dies at age 70

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Harvey Pekar
Harvey Pekar (AP)

Harvey Pekar, who revolutionized the comic book medium by focusing on the lives of ordinary people like himself rather than spandex-clad superheroes, has died at the age of 70.

“He will be remembered as an innovator who wrote stories about ordinary things that were then illustrated by some of the most notable cartoonists of the late 20th century,” said Lucy Shelton Caswell, curator of the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum at Ohio State University, in an obituary from The Associated Press. “People identified with what was writing about and the stories that these people were drawing because it was so ordinary.”

Pekar wrote and featured in the underground comic American Splendor, which was drawn by a variety of artists and was adapted as a critically acclaimed film in 2003. It showed that the medium of comic books could be put to a wider use than genres like fantasy, science fiction and horror.

The cause of his death is not yet known. Pekar has battled several ailments, including cancer, the subject of his 1994 graphic novel Our Cancer Year.

In 2003, the New York Film Critics Circle honored “American Splendor” as best first film for the directing-writing team of Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini. Part feature and part documentary, with animated elements added, the film starred Giamatti as the disgruntled Pekar.

Pekar, who was a repeat TV guest of David Letterman, told The Associated Press in a 1997 interview that he was determined to keep writing his “American Splendor” series.

“There’s no end in sight for me. I want to continue to do it,” Pekar said. “It’s a continuing autobiography, a life’s work.”


Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press

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