'American Splendor' film was based on his life

Harvey Pekar, whose autobiographical comic book series “American Splendor” portrayed his unglamourous life with bone-dry honesty and wit, was found dead July 12 at his home in Cleveland. He was 70.

Pekar had suffered from prostate cancer, asthma, high blood pressure and depression.

The 2003 film chronicling his life, “American Splendor,” was Oscar-nommed for adapted screenplay and won the best picture and screenplay awards from the Los Angeles Film Critics and best first film from the New York Film Critics. Paul Giamatti played Pekar in the film.

“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.”

Finding a place in the market wasn’t always easy for Pekar, whose work often was lumped in with superhero comics by general audiences and largely ignored by comicbook fans who preferred superheroes and fantasy. Pekar published “American Splendor” himself at a loss and never expected to make money on the venture, especially after a series of well-known appearances on “Late Night With David Letterman” in the 1980s had no real effect on his sales. It took the “American Splendor” movie to change that.

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.

Pekar was born to Polish immigrant parents and lived in Cleveland all his life, working as file clerk for a hospital for several decades. Pekar and Brabner became guardians of a daughter whom they raised.

“I try and talk about my faults and hope that others will identify with what I write. I mean, what’s the point of writing self-aggrandizing autobiography? To me, there is none,” he told Variety’s Bags and Boards blog in 2005.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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