Monday, October 25, 2010

The Strange Death of Harvey Pekar.

c. David Grim (taken 10/23/10)

This past July I was saddened to learn of the death of Harvey Pekar. He was a crucial figure in the development of "art comics"- one of the most dynamic and exciting of all modern-day mediums. Perhaps it's because there are still so few people who know that these works exist outside of the mainsteam of crap that they are exposed to day in/day out, but it's true that so many of the best creators within the field seem down-to-earth and accessible. They aren't (for the most part) getting rich on their efforts. They aren't (generally) celebrities. So they often live lives that fly under the radar.

Harvey Pekar wasn't like that. Hell... he made multiple appearances on David Letterman, even getting into a genuine feud with the talk show host over his corporate sponsors. And a movie was made documenting his life and work. He collaborated with R. Crumb, perhaps the most famous comics artist alive today. Still, he lived a working-class life, and often made that milieu the centerpiece of his art. He told quotidian stories, and employed some intensely talented cartoonists in order to illustrate them.

But what's the deal here? Why am I bringing up this man, months after his unfortunate final demise? It's because of something I read recently on (of all places) the Onion AV pages. Apparently Pekar died as a result of "an accidental overdose of antidepressants". In July the coronor in Cuyahoga County ruled that he died of "natural causes". Now the story has changed, long after the fact. The official record now says that Pekar's death resultyed from an "improper combination of fluoxetine and bupropion, better known as Prozac and Wellbutrin". How does that happen, anyway?

I've got PLENTY of friends currently on a spectrum of maintenance drugs prescribed by their respective psychiatrists (and sometimes on the advice of physician assistants). Unlike the entirety of history up until the last couple decades, chemical solutions to psychological ailments have been well-accepted by the majority of the population. Many even take their efficacy for granted. I'm neither rabidly pro- or anti-pharma. I've known people that have (according to my own best judgment) received noticable benefits by being on a regimen of one antidepressant or another. But I can't help wondering nowadays if no one really knows where we are going with this trend.

Have you ever heard of death by antidepressant overdose?


  1. Antidepressants, most commonly the cyclic antidepressants, are the second leading cause of death from drug overdose in the United States, according to information published in the Prehospital Care Journal of Emergency Medicine

    Read more:

    more info here:

  2. I've seen an article in which "natural causes" *and* an accidental overdose of these two medicines were both cited. I would love to know how much of each he is supposed to have taken, and whether alcohol was involved.