Remembering 'American Splendor' writer Harvey Pekar

The World
Comic book writer Harvey Pekar, best known for his series "American Splendor," died yesterday at the age of 70. According to reports, Pekar's wife, Joyce Brabner, discovered Pekar's body in their home in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. Pekar became an unofficial poster boy for the city of Cleveland with his "Everyman" comic tales, mostly consisting of living a mundane, unglamorous life. Josh Neufeld illustrated Pekar's writings for 15 years and said the legendary writer's work was about "giving a voice to the ordinary person and the ordinary life. Nothing was easy for [Pekar] and a lot of people can relate to that." Neufeld said Pekar "portrayed himself as he really was ? with unflinching honesty and 'unsentimentality.'" The Takeaway visited Pekar back in 2007 and he wrote a comic strip about the experience. John Hockenberry remembers Pekar: Harvey Pekar was a genius. His grumpy and negative commentaries on the environs of Cleveland, Ohio became the comic book series, ?American Splendor.? Pekar's comic book stories and his many fabulous illustrators' images of surviving amidst the ruins of America's Rust Belt are unforgettable. They seem real. Like the best scenes in a documentary, they stay with you and merge in memory. My memories of Harvey when I met him in 2007, his performance in the movie of his life, and his comic images are all one. Pekar had the genius to see that opening a window on himself would also deliver a view of a nation in the throes of change. Pekar's greatest insight, in my view, was in understanding how the ugly, frustrating powerlessness of being on the fringe in America would eventually be seen as beauty. "American Splendor" was always an ironic title, it seemed to me. This morning, thinking about Harvey, now gone, it occurs to me that Pekar gave us a truly American splendor.