"American Splendor" Writer Dead of Cancer

Harvey Pekar's work captured the desperately mundane, and drew comparisons to Chekhov

By Greg Wilson
|  Monday, Jul 12, 2010  |  Updated 2:00 PM EDT
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In Memoriam

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NEW YORK - AUGUST 12: (U.S. TABS AND HOLLYWOOD REPORTER OUT) Comic book writer Harvey Pekar and actor Paul Giamatti attend the "American Splendor" film premiere at the Chelsea West Theater August 12, 2003 in New York City. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Getty Images)

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Harvey Pekar, the Cleveland cartoon writer whose "American Splendor" inspired a film of the same name, died early Monday.

Pekar, who had battled cancer, was found dead just before 1 am by his wife, Joyce Brabner, in their Cleveland Heights home, Cleveland.com reported.

Powell Caesar, spokesman for Cuyahoga County Coroner Frank Miller, told Cleveland.com. Cleveland Heights police Capt. Michael Cannon says Pekar had been suffering from prostate cancer, asthma, high blood pressure and depression. An autopsy will be conducted to determine the cause of death.

Pekar was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer in 1990 and underwent grueling treatment. Police officials said he had been suffering from prostate cancer and depression at the time of his death.

Pekar, who was played by Paul Giamatti in the movie about his life, was 70. His "American Splendor" comics, which he began publishing in 1976, chronicle his grousing about work, money and the monotony of life. A wide range of illustrators contributed to its pages, most famously cult cartoonist R. Crumb, who met Pekar in Cleveland in 1962 when he worked for American Greetings.

Pekar was a file clerk and part time jazz critic when he started the series, which portrayed working class folks making it through life's indignities with anger and wit. Although he kept his job at a Cleveland hospital until 2001, he was a frequent guest on "Late Night with David Letterman," and his work drew serious comparisons to Chekhov and Dostoevski.

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