Harvey Pekar, the sarcastic and irritable writer who chronicled his life and experiences as a Veterans Affairs Department file clerk in the underground comic book American Splendor, was found dead this morning at age 70.
Pekar’s darkly humorous comic was about as far from standard superhero fare as could be. Besides his misadventures at the Cleveland VA, he wrote about his everyday troubles and anxieties, battles with cancer, family life, and love of jazz. But although his collaborations with artists such as Robert Crumb brought him fame (and several notorious appearances on David Letterman’s show), Pekar had to keep working at the VA to earn his salary and pension until he retired in 2001. As the comics blog The Beat wryly notes, “indie comics was not a cash cow.”
In 2003, actor Paul Giamatti played Pekar in an Oscar-nominated film adaptation of his comic. Videos of Pekar’s verbal duels with Letterman are after the jump.