Harvey Pekar
Photo Credit: Everett Collection

Harvey Pekar

American Splendor

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About Him

Living… in Cleveland, Ohio. For most of his life, Harvey’s lived in terrible neighborhoods: first with his family, then by himself. The city can be the loneliest place in the world when you've got nobody, and weekends – when Harvey can almost feel a body beside him, the way an amputee feels a phantom limb – are the worst.

Profession… hospital clerk by day, comic book writer by night. People think he embellishes the stories, but it's all true: Harvey bases everything he writes on his own life. It doesn't pay enough, though, so Harvey keeps a regular job working at a hospital. He’s not passionate about it, but that's only because his heart lies completely in his art. 

Interests… old jazz, good books, and making honest art. Getting respect for it, though, is a harder deal when you're doing comics – the first time Harvey went on the David Letterman Show, it became clear pretty fast that he was invited just for laughs. But what the hell did he care? Letterman was an okay guy. Harvey let him take pot shots as long as he got paid and got to plug his comics. 

Relationship Status… fine now that Joyce is around. Harvey's been through hell and back with women, but Joyce's the greatest girl he’s ever met. She might be eccentric and her clinically depressed was rough on both of them, but Joyce loves him whole-heartedly and Harvey feels the same about her.

Challenge… coming to terms with his legacy. Comics may have brought him fame and money, but it's not a perfect life: Every day is still a major struggle. Joyce an’ I fight like crazy, an’ she barely works. The kid’s got A.D.D. and is a real handful [....] With a little luck, I’ll get a window of good health between retirin’ an dyin’.”

Personality… wryly depressive. Harvey never makes too much of a fuss about it though, since he decided early on to put it all into his comics. To stave off desperation and feelings of uselessness, he resigns himself to his humdrum existence. But hey, it's not all bad: he's got Joyce, and he's got his strip.

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