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Harvey Pekar To Be Honored With a Park

The beloved writer's dour visage decorates the storefront of Mac's Backs in Cleveland Heights

by David C. Barnett

A famous Cleveland writer with a sometimes dour disposition, but a love for his city, is being honored, this weekend.  The late Harvey Pekar won international acclaim for a series graphic novels about his east side neighborhood.  And now,  that community is paying tribute to him.

Pekar gained fame as a comic book writer who had no use for superheroes.  When I spoke to him in 2008, he said his American Splendor comics spun stories about ordinary people living their daily lives.

"When I decided I wanted to write," he recalled, "I wanted to write about something I knew about, and what's nice about it is that people can identify with that stuff, because all that stuff's happening to them." 

Pekar helped bring respect to the comics by being a pioneer in the graphic novel form, says Suzanne DeGaetano, manager of Mac's Backs bookstore in Cleveland Heights.   And now, a community gathering spot called Pekar Park is being dedicated a few steps from DeGaetano's store to honor the writer in the place that he helped make famous.

"He hung out here," she says.  "The whole neighborhood really was the setting for a number of stories in American Splendor."

The dedication ceremonies will include some of the things Harvey Pekar loved most in life --- a jazz group, a comic book festival, and a collection of friends with their own anecdotes about the guy who was known for telling tales about regular folks. 

David C. Barnett was a senior arts & culture reporter for Ideastream Public Media. He retired in October 2022.