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Harvey Lawrence Pekar (born October 8, 1939 in Cleveland, Ohiomarker; ) is an American underground comic book writer best known for his autobiographical American Splendor series. In 2003, the series inspired a critically acclaimed film adaptation of the same name.

American Splendor

Pekar's friendship with Robert Crumb led to the creation of the autobiographical comic book series American Splendor, later adapted as a movie. Crumb and Pekar became friends through their mutual love of jazz records; as a result of his friend's work in underground comics, Pekar says, he started to see the form's possibilities. "Comics could do anything that film could do," he offers. "And I wanted in on it." But it took Pekar some time to decide just what he wanted to do. "I theorized for maybe ten years about doing comics," he says. Pekar laid out some stories with crude stick figures and showed them to Crumb and another artist, Robert Armstrong. Impressed, they both offered to illustrate, and soon Pekar's story "Crazy Ed" appeared in Crumb's The People's Comics, and Crumb became the first artist to illustrate American Splendor. The comic documents daily life in the aging neighborhoods of Pekar's native Cleveland, where Pekar worked throughout his life (even after gaining fame) as a file clerk in a large Veterans Administrationmarker hospital.

American Splendor has been illustrated over the years by some of comics' best talents. Pekar's most well-known and longest-running collaborators include Crumb, Gary Dumm, Greg Budgett, Spain Rodriguez, Joe Zabel, Gerry Shamray, Frank Stack, Mark Zingarelli, and Joe Sacco; while recent years have seen him repeatedly team up with artists like Dean Haspiel and Josh Neufeld. Other notable cartoonists who have worked with Pekar include Jim Woodring, Chester Brown, Alison Bechdel, Gilbert Hernandez, Eddie Campbell, David Collier, Drew Friedman, Ho Che Anderson, Rick Geary, Ed Piskor, Hunt Emerson, Bob Fingerman, and Alex Wald; as well as such unexpected illustrators as Pekar's wife Joyce Brabner and legendary comics writer Alan Moore. Still, Harvey loved collecting, and his interests turned to jazz. Through that obsession, he began writing as a critic in 1959, and among his fellow fans was a young Robert Crumb.

The critically acclaimed film adaptation of American Splendor was released in 2003, directed by Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman. It featured Paul Giamatti as Pekar, as well as appearances by Pekar himself. Columnist Jaime Wolf wrote a laudatory review of the film in Slate, also drawing attention to formal parallels with Woody Allen's Annie Hall and other Allen films. Pekar wrote about the effects of the film in American Splendor: Our Movie Year.

On October 5, 2005, the DC Comics imprint Vertigo released Pekar's autobiographical hardcover The Quitter, with artwork by Dean Haspiel. The book detailed Pekar's early years, and was created in part to reward Haspiel for his role in introducing Pekar to the producers who made the American Splendor movie.

In 2006, Pekar released a four-issue American Splendor miniseries through Vertigo. This was collected in the American Splendor: Another Day paperback. In 2008 Vertigo released a second "season" of American Splendor that was collected in the American Splendor: Another Dollar paperback.


In addition to his autobiographical work on American Splendor, Pekar has done a number of biographies on other people's lives, the first of which, American Splendor: Unsung Hero was released in 2003. Unsung Hero documented the Vietnam War experience of Robert McNeill, one of Pekar's African-American coworkers at Cleveland's VA hospital.

In 2006 Pekar released another biography for Ballantine/Random House, Ego & Hubris: The Michael Malice Story, about the life of Michael Malice, who was the founding editor of

In June 2007 Pekar collaborated with student Heather Roberson and artist Ed Piskor on the book Macedonia, which centers around Roberson's studies in the countrymarker.

January 2008 saw another biographical work from Pekar, Students for a Democratic Society: A Graphic History, released through Hill & Wang.

In March 2009 Pekar released The Beats, a history of the Beats including Kerouac and Ginsberg, illustrated by Ed Piskor. In May 2009 he released Studs Terkel's Working: A Graphic Adaptation.

Other media

In the late 1980s, Pekar's comic book success led to eight guest appearances on Late Night with David Letterman. His confrontational style and overt on-air criticism of General Electric (which owned NBC) led to the show banning him as a guest until the early 1990s.

Pekar is a prolific freelance jazz and book critic. As a jazz critic he typically focused on significant figures from jazz's golden age but has also championed such out-of-mainstream artists as Birth, Scott Fields, Fred Frith, and Joe Maneri. He has also won awards for his essays which were broadcast on public radio. In August 2007, Pekar was featured on the Cleveland episode of Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations with host Anthony Bourdain.

Pekar was also given the honor of being the first guest editor for the The Best American Comics 2006 collection published by Houghton Mifflin, the first comics publication in the "Best American series" series.

While American Splendor theater adaptations have occurred before, in 2009 Pekar made his theatrical debut with Leave Me Alone!, a jazz opera for which Pekar wrote the libretto. Leave Me Alone! featured music by Dan Plonsey and premiered at Oberlin Collegemarker on January 31, 2009.

Pekar has recently started up a webcomic with Smith Magazine online called The Pekar Project .

Personal life

He was married from 1960 to 1972 to Karen Delaney (his first wife), a writer and educator, who currently lives in Chicago. She was the (uncredited) photographer who took many of the pictures of Pekar that appeared in "The Quitter."

Pekar's third wife is writer Joyce Brabner, with whom he collaborated on Our Cancer Year, a graphic novel autobiography of his struggle with lymphoma. He lives in Cleveland Heightsmarker, Ohio with Brabner and their foster daughter, Danielle.



  • American Splendor: The Life and Times of Harvey Pekar (Doubleday, 1986)
  • More American Splendor (Doubleday, 1987) ISBN 0-385-24073-2
  • The New American Splendor Anthology (Four Walls Eight Windows, 1991) ISBN 0-941423-64-6
  • Our Cancer Year, with Joyce Brabner and Frank Stack (Four Walls Eight Windows, 1994) ISBN 1-56858-011-8
  • American Splendor Presents: Bob & Harv's Comics, with R. Crumb (Four Walls Eight Windows, 1996) ISBN 1-56858-101-7
  • American Splendor: Unsung Hero, with David Collier (Dark Horse, 2003) ISBN 1-59307-040-3
  • American Splendor: Our Movie Year (Ballantine Books, 2004) ISBN 0-345-47937-8
  • Best of American Splendor (Ballantine Books, 2005) ISBN 0-345-47938-6
  • The Quitter, with Dean Haspiel (DC/Vertigo, 2005) ISBN 1-4012-0399-X
  • Ego & Hubris: The Michael Malice Story, with Gary Dumm (Ballantine Books, 2006) ISBN 0-345-47939-4
  • Macedonia, with Heather Roberson and Ed Piskor (Ballantine Books, 2006) ISBN 0-3454-9899-2
  • American Splendor: Another Day (DC/Vertigo, 2007) ISBN 978-1-4012-1235-3
  • Students for a Democratic Society: A Graphic History (Hill and Wang, 2008) ISBN 978-0809095391
  • American Splendor: Another Dollar (2009) ISBN 978-1-4012-2173-7
  • The Beats (2009) ISBN 978-0-2856-3858-7
  • Studs Terkel's Working: A Graphic Adaptation (2009) ISBN 978-1-59558-321-5


  1. IMDB Movie Page Retrieved December 28, 2008
  2. Slate "Harvey, Meet Woody: American Splendor vs. Annie Hall" about Harvey Pekar and Woody Allen; by Jaime Wolf September 24, 2003. Retrieved December 28, 2008
  3. Overheard in New York | The Voice of the City
  4. Macedonia - Yahoo! Shopping
  5. Sequart Research & Literacy Organization COLUMNS > High-Low #15: Pekar, Piskor and a Preview of MACEDONIA
  6. "Novel Graphics looks at Hoover, Beats, Genetics" San Diego Comicon International v2, July 13, 2006. Retrieved July 10, 2008.
  7. Leave Me Alone - About the Opera

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