Tributes to comic writer Harvey Pekar set for Ohio

CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio - The late comic book writer Harvey Pekar of the "American Splendor" series is being honored by two northeast Ohio libraries, with a sculpture featuring the writer at one library and a drawing featuring him imprinted on the other library's cards.

The bronze sculpture featuring a statue of Pekar appearing to be walking out of a comic book panel that is mounted on atop a wooden desk was unveiled Sunday at the main branch of the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library System in suburban Cleveland where Pekar did much of his research. The Cleveland Public Library, where Pekar also spent time, plans to honor him by offering its new cards imprinted with a drawing that features him and the library starting on Monday.

Pekar, who died at the age of 70 at his Cleveland Heights home in 2010, wrote comic books and graphic novels that portrayed the lives of ordinary people. His work also chronicled his life as a file clerk in Cleveland and even included his struggle with cancer.

Pekar was a repeat TV guest of David Letterman and his "American Splendor" was made into a film starring Paul Giammati.

Pekar's widow, Joyce Brabner, who worked to raise the $25,000 needed to finance the sculpture at the library in Cleveland Heights attended the ceremony Sunday. Artist J.T. Waldman also was there. He illustrated the last Pekar graphic novel, "Not the Israel My Parents Promised Me" that was finished after Pekar's death.

"It's not really about a statue of Harvey, it's about the work he did," Brabner said in a telephone interview Sunday. "It's about comics as art and literature because Cleveland is a comics town."

The desk on which the sculpture is mounted contains paper and pencils which library patrons can use to write and draw comics, library spokeswoman Cheryl Banks said.

The library in Cleveland Heights also installed a plaque Sunday recognizing the branch as a Literary Landmark for its connection to Pekar. The landmark designation was made by the American Library Association's United For Libraries division.

Pekar spent a lot of time at the Cleveland Heights library doing research for his work and is deeply missed by the staff who worked closely with him.

"Now we know that every day people will come here and will be able to learn about him and his work, library Director Nancy Levin said.

Pekar also was a loyal patron of the Cleveland Public Library and presented programs there. The new library card imprinted with his image honors him and his work, library spokeswoman Cathy Poilpre said.

The illustration of Pekar and the library's downtown branch that was purchased for use on the library cards was done by Joseph Remnant for the book "Harvey Pekar's Cleveland."

"He loved and depicted Cleveland in very touching ways in his books and really believed that libraries were important to the quality of life in this city," Poilpre said.

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