July 12th, 2010
12:46 PM ET

Comic book writer Harvey Pekar dies at 70

Comic book writer Harvey Pekar, the subject of the 2003 film "American Splendor," has died.  He was 70 years old.

Cuyahoga County Coroner's spokesman Powell Ceasar says Pekar was found in his Cleveland Heights home by his wife shortly before 1 am on Monday.

His cause of death of has not been determined.

Update, 1:47 p.m.: Cleveland Heights Police Capt. Michael Cannon said that Pekar's wife called the police. He said Pekar "was found motionless on the floor next to his bed."

Cannon said that Pekar's wife told police that he had gone to sleep in good spirits at 4:40 p.m. Sunday and that she had told police that Pekar was under the care of his doctor for prostate cancer. Cannon said that there was "nothing suspicious" at the scene.

Cuyahoga County Coroner's spokesman, Powell Ceasar, said that a "full toxicology screening" would be done which would show if Pekar had cancer or a bad heart.

He said "A full autopsy will be released as soon as possible," adding that a full report can sometimes take "weeks."

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Filed under: Books • Celebrities

soundoff (61 Responses)
  1. RawShock

    Harvey had a warmth and a kindness to him behind the being a curmudgeon. He really cared, and it made for some of the best pieces of writing I've ever read. His loss is certainly a sad one but I'm glad he's left behind some of the best writing comics has seen. My condolences to his family, and all those that felt a part of the warmth and humor to Harvey through his writing.

    -Kevin K.

    July 14, 2010 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
  2. natedog

    Thanks for the laughs and the awkward moments as well. You will be missed.

    July 12, 2010 at 9:20 pm | Report abuse |
  3. numbnut

    Keep on Truckin', dude.

    July 12, 2010 at 9:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • numbnut

      Sorry, wrong artist. My bad. But, really...keep on truckin' anyway. You were cool.

      July 12, 2010 at 9:13 pm | Report abuse |
  4. bobroberts

    I just started reading Harvey Pekar's work in the past six months. I am usually not attracted to illustrated comics because in my past experience, so much more emotion can be conveyed through words. I started reading "American Splendor" almost accidentally.

    However, in Pekar's work I was not only wrong but taken aback and delighted. Some of his comic strips in "American Splendor" convey so much humanity especially with the right illustrator. They really illustrate those quiet moments when you think to yourself about your own life. His perception was great and he could have been a great comedian if he had a more outgoing personality.

    I rented the movie to watch tonight. hope it does his books justice.

    July 12, 2010 at 8:50 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Clayton

    I was saddened to hear about Mr. Pekar's passing today. I have read his stuff for several years now and hearing upon his death was saddened by the news. He left a heck of a mark on the world and hope to only do the same with my life. I like to think he is standing at the gates of heaven right now complaining the line is too long and that the food prices at the concession stands are to high. A real loss to Cleveland and the world. My thoughts are with his wife and daughter. R.I.P. Harvey Pekar. You will always be my favorite curmudgeon (my own father a close second)...thanks for everything.

    July 12, 2010 at 7:16 pm | Report abuse |
  6. ex-Clevelander II

    When I got home from work today, my wife said " a friend of Yours–Harvey Pekar–died." I haven't seen Harvey face-to-face in at least 32 years, and yet I was filled with sadness. Sarcastic and ornery, yet with a heart of gold. I met Harvey shortly after I started work at the Wade Park VA. Harvey, with his cart full of medical records, would make the rounds of the hospital delivering charts and hawking the LPs that he had stashed under the medical records. Harvey was addicted to jazz, and to maintain and grow his collection of albums (which numbered in the thousands), he required an influx of cash beyond that provided by his salary. In those days, before the advent of American Splendor, Harvey would come around the hospital with his hand-drawn comics, essentially stick figures, and witty dialog. Harvey wrote about what he saw: in the VA, in the Coventry neighborhood, and wherever else life took him. His ability to see the humor and the dignity in the mundane stuff of everyday life was a sheer delight.

    I saw the movie and was saddened when I heard him speak at the end. His voice was harsher, more gravely than I remember it, perhaps a result of his cancer.

    We'll all miss you Harvey. As an ex-Clevelander who still gets asked about what it was like to grow up in a place where the Cuyahoga River could catch on fire, I can reply "not bad; I knew Harvey Pekar."

    July 12, 2010 at 6:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cartoon Dude

      Elequently put...I couldn't have said it any better. I have been a fan of his for several years and reread his books quite frequently. I also grew up near Cleveland and have been living in the south for several years and often find comfort in reading his comics when I'm homesick because it mentioned places I know and have been. Thanks for posting your sincere thoughts.

      July 12, 2010 at 7:10 pm | Report abuse |
  7. tcaros

    At least he doesn't have to hear someone looking for him saying "where's that peck-er at?"

    July 12, 2010 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cartoon Dude

      Or "Pees on Cars"....as he once said in one of his many toons.

      July 12, 2010 at 7:18 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Tom H

    I had the great pleasure of being acquainted with Harvey and his wife Joyce when I was living in Cleveland Hts. – I will miss Harvey and his work. His voice and insights were unique, certainly in the world of comics, but also in life. RIP, my friend.

    Tom H, Chicago

    July 12, 2010 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
  9. NickB5

    Sorry to see you go Harvey, I loved your comic books. Rest in peace man.

    July 12, 2010 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Kevin Barbieux

    Rest Harvey. Rest in peace. (I know which dvd I'll be watching again tonight)

    July 12, 2010 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Ex-Clevelander

    I met Harvey when he was working at the VA , I think. He worked (not closely) with my brother. I was just a little kid at the time. Cantankerous, yeah, and I didn't get his comic books at the time. He was remarkably not-cranky to me. Sympathies to Joyce & Danielle – Harvey was a one-of-a-kind, honestly good guys.

    July 12, 2010 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Sherri

    How sad!! It was a great book, a great movie, and he will be missed. I am so sorry!!

    July 12, 2010 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Cassandra

    He was a champion for the working-class, the under-served, and the generally ignored. He used art to the full extent of its potential; to enlighten and educate his audience, and record the experience of the common man like no other. Harvey, this Clevelander will miss you sorely.

    July 12, 2010 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Levi

    Thanks Harvey! You did good.

    July 12, 2010 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Derrick

    Dan W...you mean that GREAT film AMERICAN SPLENDOR that won numerous awards and was nominated for
    a sreenwriting Oscar.

    July 12, 2010 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Truth Hurts

      I guess we can't all be like DanW and have the itch to go see what movies are on Lifetime tonight.

      July 12, 2010 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
  16. jacob

    going to watch american splendor now.

    July 12, 2010 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
  17. lorij

    Thank you for your candor and wit.

    July 12, 2010 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
  18. Galoux

    Just stumbled across a panel from one his works earlier today. I think he shall be remembered. Rest in peace, Mr. Pekar.

    July 12, 2010 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
  19. R.K. (Israel)

    Thank you, Harvey. It was quite a ride.

    July 12, 2010 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
  20. C. David

    You took the monotony of life, and showed the world that ordinary can be extraordinary. You will be missed sage of the north, thank you for giving us just a glimpse into your life.

    July 12, 2010 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
  21. DanW

    I saw the movie based on this guys life. One of the worst movies I've ever seen.

    July 12, 2010 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lando

      LOL. Whatever, dude. They can't all be "Meet the Spartans"

      July 12, 2010 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • loved AmericanSplendor

      I thought for the type of movie that it was, (a movie about a comic book writer), that movie was GREAT

      July 12, 2010 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tim

      "American Splendor" was the movie and you are an idiot. That was a clever, different and great movie. Loved it.

      July 12, 2010 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cartoon Dude

      Whatever man....you need to put down the pipe and watch is sober.....you're nuts! I loved it!!

      July 12, 2010 at 7:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • lalo

      Really? Stick to Adam Sandler, sounds like its more your speed

      July 12, 2010 at 8:05 pm | Report abuse |
  22. The Beatnik Man

    Harvey –
    Warrior for the Oppressed
    Prophet for the Disaffected
    Exposer of the Ludicrous
    Melter of the Hate

    He will live on, better higher places!

    July 12, 2010 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
  23. Sugiebear

    Harvey vs. Letterman in the late 80s were a couple of the best moments on Dave's show.

    July 12, 2010 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
  24. drifter73

    The very first episode of David Letterman I ever watched had Harvey Pekar as a guest. He stuck it to Letterman and made the show that night. One of kind guy. Rest in peace

    July 12, 2010 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nyarlathotep

      Heartily seconded! Harvey Pekar was probably the best guest Letterman ever had, mostly because Letterman thought he'd gotten a second Larry "Bud" Melman to mock, but Harvey proved to be something Dave could never tame. Watching Letterman splutter in impotent rage as Harvey calls him on his BS was definitely one of the greatest moments in American television. Just wish all talk show guests has as much fire ...

      July 12, 2010 at 6:11 pm | Report abuse |
  25. good stuff

    i loved this guys stuff

    July 12, 2010 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
  26. fishfry001

    Sorry to hear the news, but what is preposterous to me is that on July 7th, Terry Anderson, a black talk radio host active in his community and staunchly opposed to Illegal Immigration, died in Los Angeles. You won't find a word about him on the CNN web site. Really amazing... Is that strange or typical of them? I think it's an example that shows CNN prefers an open borders policy. Serious FAIL.

    July 12, 2010 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • cnntrolls

      harvey pekar was sorta more famous than the guy youre crying about.

      July 12, 2010 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • fishfry001

      Maybe cnntrolls, but the guy I'm crying about was a lot more important to something that actually matters, like life and our livelihood as American citizens, not that entertainment doesn't have value – of course it does.

      July 12, 2010 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • MRod

      Firstly RIP Harvey....

      Secondly – fishfy – in your world, your man the announcer was relevant. To the folks reading this article and lamenting the loss of Harvey – he was relevant to their world. Maybe you should read some of his work and get an idea of how his words mattered and whether they moved people in a way that mattered to this tiny little planet called Earth. There are many ways to move people but basically saying that someone of worth in their life does not matter as a whole because in your life you did not know of his work is a little arrogant and makes me not want to look up who your Terry Anderson fellow actually is and how HE effected the world of OTHERS... Just saying.

      July 12, 2010 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • lol

      fishfry001, maybe this is a little odd to you... but this is called the MARQUEE BLOG.

      July 12, 2010 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • MRod

      Actually, I should have said – complain to CNN for their lack of coverage for your Terry Anderson fellow. Do not give grief to people who are lamenting the loss of a person that mattered to them. I think your comments have nothing to do with the actual article other than to gripe about CNN....

      July 12, 2010 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Heath

      fishfry001, I completely disagree about who was "more important" and whether Pekar's work "actually mattered" (your words), but it's irrelevant anyway. Harvey Pekar was internationally known for his film/writing work and he obviously touched a lot of people through it, as you can see from the comments. Anyway, this article is about him, not Terry Anderson, so how about just letting Harvey's fans read and talk about his death without trying to make it about something else. Especially if that something else is politics.

      July 12, 2010 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • diane

      so not relevant.

      July 12, 2010 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Arthur Fiedler

      Typical nog, always complaining

      July 12, 2010 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • GaryB

      I don't think the lack of coverage in regards to Anderson's death was particularly anti-conservative. After all, I don't recall FoxNews.com covering his death. From an entertainment perspective, he really didn't have much of a national media presence (and this is the entertainment section) outside of L.A. Yes, we was popular on some national websites, but those are primarily partisan sites that tend to only represent a subset of the GOP. To be honest, if not for the movie and the brouhaha he once caused on Letterman, Pekar probably wouldn't have garnered an article either.

      July 12, 2010 at 8:04 pm | Report abuse |
  27. Dave

    I bet being dead really ticks him off. It's so inconvenient, and everybody makes such a fuss, and the lines to get into the cemetery are so long. And there's so much paperwork, and have you seen what funerals cost nowadays? Man, maybe there's a funeral director who could make a deal, y'know, trade a few jazz records or somethin' for a discount. And having to die when it's so hot outside? What the hell, man, that's a lousy deal!

    Sorry, just thought that might be the kind of eulogy Harvey might like. I'm gonna miss that lovable, cantankerous ol' crank. Nobody could make the mundane fascinating like Harvey could. He had a gift, and he's gonna be missed.

    July 12, 2010 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • javajoe

      Good one, Dave.

      Harvey saw something, others were missing. He pointed the culture in a direction not yet tapped.
      He'll be remembered. Damn, Harvey ya ol' grouch.

      July 12, 2010 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Erica

      Perfect, Dave! Thanks!

      You'll be missed, Harvey!

      July 12, 2010 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • D. Reka

      pitch perfect!

      I also just read his interview in Juxtapoz before hearing this news... If there is an afterlife, I'm sure he's complaining about it right now. RIP Harvey.

      July 12, 2010 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      I had the pleasure to meet Harvey Pekar once, I got the distinct impression he immediatly did not like me. Perfect.

      July 12, 2010 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
  28. Matt

    RIP Mr. Pekar, I'm glad you were able to live w/ recognition to the humor you brought to the ordinary lives of us.

    July 12, 2010 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
  29. Jon

    Harvey – i just read your interview in Juxtapose before i read this – you were such an inspiration to me!
    So sad....

    July 12, 2010 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
  30. Jason Kim

    I don't know who you are, but RIP man.

    July 12, 2010 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
  31. Colin

    RIP Harvey... the world is a better place for having had you in it.

    July 12, 2010 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
  32. Molly

    Harvey took a little color out of the world when he left. RIP splendid fellow, you'll be missed.

    July 12, 2010 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
  33. Ian

    Sad day. Bad week for Cleveland in general.

    July 12, 2010 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
  34. Ben

    A true original. RIP, Harvey...

    July 12, 2010 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
  35. Stephen

    Amen rob, Amen...

    July 12, 2010 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
  36. rob bennett

    rest in peace Harvey..... you left a hell of a mark on the world...

    we will miss your blatant honesty and cynicism ...

    thanks for all the years ....all the comics... and all the life lessons

    July 12, 2010 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |

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