CLEVELAND - Harvey Pekar, whose autobiographical comic book series "American Splendor" portrayed his unglamorous life with bone-dry honesty and wit, was found dead at home early , authorities said. He was 70.
The cause of death was unclear, and an autopsy was planned, officials said. Pekar had prostate cancer, asthma, high blood pressure and depression, said Michael Cannon, a police captain in suburban Cleveland Heights.
Officers were called to Pekar's home by his wife about 1 a.m., Cannon said. His body was found on the floor between a bed and dresser. He had gone to bed around 4:30 p.m. Sunday in good spirits, his wife told police.
Pekar took a radically different track from the superhero-laden comics that had dominated the industry. He instead specialized in the lives of ordinary people, chronicling his life as a file clerk in Cleveland and his relationship with his third wife, Joyce Brabner. His 1994 graphic novel, "Our Cancer Year," detailed his battle with lymphoma.
The dreary cover scene shows him sprawled beside his wife on a snowy curbside with shopping bags on the ground. "Harvey, forget about the groceries, honey. Let's get you inside first," she says.
Pekar never drew himself but depended on collaborations with artists, most notably his friend R. Crumb, who helped illustrate the first issue of the ironically titled "American Splendor," published in 1976. It was made into an acclaimed 2003 film starring Paul Giamatti as Pekar. The most recent "American Splendor" was released in 2008.
"Harvey was one of the most compassionate and empathetic human beings I've ever met," Giamatti said in a statement. "He had a huge brain and an even bigger soul. And he was hilarious. He was a great artist, a true American poet, and there is no one to replace him." Pekar's quirky commentary developed a following, and his insights and humor were often a bit on the dark side.
Lucy Shelton Caswell, curator of the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum at Ohio State University, said it was inaccurate to describe Pekar's work as "cult." "His work was accepted by the mainstream," Caswell said. "It was bought by public libraries and read widely." The cartoon library has all of Pekar's works in its collection, she said.