Harvey Pekar 1939-2010

I was shocked and saddened today to find out that celebrated author and underground comic creator Harvey Pekar had died, seemingly unexpectedly, at the age of seventy. I first came to his work via a film based on his life, the wonderful American Splendor which takes its title from his autobiographical comics of the same name and from there I was soon sucked into his marvellous world of self deprecating autobiographical comics and passionate non-fiction graphic novels.

My favourite Pekar story also happens to be one of the first I read. The November 2006 issue of American Splendor opens with a tale called, “What happened to your parents?” In it, the curmudgeonly Clevelander charts the relationship he had with his parents from the point at which he left the family home; a story of family, love, death, guilt and cultural, bodily and mental decay – some of the hallmarks of his work. Depressing, yes, but never mawkish or self indulgent and, despite writing on such a deeply personal topic, Pekar’s gift for illuminating the human condition shines through.

The next issue opens with the tale of one man’s triumph over a blocked toilet – and I think that’s why Pekar was my hero.

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