"Ordinary life is pretty complex stuff."
So said American Splendor author Harvey Pekar, who would have turned 75 on October 8. Known nearly as well for his curmudgeonly attitude and his love of jazz as his writing, the Cleveland native endeared himself to critics and comic aficionados alike with his work likened to that of Chekov.
Beyond being immortalized in his own autobiographical work, Pekar was portrayed on screen as well as stage. Further, as a library lover and treasured local personality, the author was posthumously honored with his own bronzed likeness at the Cleveland Heights Public Library and appeared on a library card at the Cleveland Public Library.
Spend some time with Harvey by checking out one of the works below, and maybe you'll too find that "it makes you feel good to know that there's other people afflicted like you."
Best of American Splendor collects the American Splendor books from the 1990s to the early 2000s. If this is the first you've heard of Pekar, this may well be the best place to start.
In 1990, Pekar received a diagnosis of lymphoma and would battle cancer twice more before passing in 2010. Our Cancer Year, co-authored by his wife, Joyce Brabner, documents the stress, suffering and love during this trying time.
In the posthumously published Not the Israel My Parents Promised Me, Pekar grapples with his feelings about the state of Israel while ambling about Cleveland with his collaborator J.T. Waldman. Included is an epilogue about his passing and funeral.
This graphic novel adapts Studs Terkel's Working—a masterful work of oral history—and features a large roster of artists including Gary Dumm, Terry LaBan, Bob Hall and Sharon Rudahl.
The film American Splendor, winner of the Sundance Grand Jury Award, details the ups and downs of Pekar's everyday life and the creation of the titular comic. Paul Giamatti is superb as the irascible author, though Pekar himself appears in the film, too.
For more on Pekar, including biographical information, news articles, and audio files, please visit Biography in Context.