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Our Cancer Year (American Splendor)

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  803 ratings  ·  66 reviews
It was they year of Desert Storm that Harvey Pekar and his wife, Joyce Brabner, discovered Harvey had cancer. Pekar, a man who has made a profession of chronicling the Kafkaesque absurdities of an ordinary life - if any life is ordinary - suddenly found himself incapacitated. But he had a better-than-average chance to beat cancer and he took it - kicking, screaming and com ...more
Paperback, 252 pages
Published October 13th 1994 by Thunder's Mouth Press (first published October 12th 1994)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,292)
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Mark Desrosiers
I want to say that this is a wonderful, inspired memoir, a helpful work of art for anyone who is living with a cancer-diagnosed spouse. But no, Harvey Pekar ain't your typical spouse, Frank Stack is a strangely half-assed illustrator, and this book is just a descent into madness. Oh sure the last THREE PAGES are filled with hope and a waterfall, but on the whole this will fill you with fear and dread.

Right off the bat, I should point out that this is Joyce Brabner's work, not Harvey Pekar's. I
Oct 24, 2014 Andrew rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommended to Andrew by:
Argh. I, like everyone else, loved the American Splendor movie. I've also enjoyed some of the comic series too. But this was pretty painful to sit through. There were too many diversions from the main story that seemed pointless.

The book states that it chronicles the "Kafkaesque absurdities of an ordinary life". This book takes itself too seriously. It thinks its more important than it is; and it derives its importance from being a boring, literal diary of his daily life. It doesn't attempt to
Kurt Brindley

I have been neck-high into the medical establishment since my leukemia diagnosis in November 2009. Consequently, while I do not consider myself an expert of the establishment by any stretch of the imagination, I do believe that I am far too acutely aware of it. But, I guess that is to be expected from someone as critically dependent upon it as I am.
In addition to my practical experiences with hospitals and doctors and examinations and extremely long needles, I have also spen
I am one of those grumps who does not often enjoy the mixture of art and narrative. This volume does nothing to increase my appreciation for the medium. The style of the artwork for this book was difficult to look at. Cross-hatched lines cover faces, for instance, and the dark space felt sloppy though I'm sure it is intended to be symbolic. In any case, graphic novels simply interfere with my ability to access the story. Words are easier for my brain to manage and I don't like the clutter of dra ...more
I thought that this was a great story about everyday people facing difficult obstacles. Using comics as a medium really allowed them to demonstrate the fear and physical pain that Pekar experienced (I guess you would have to see the scenes to know what I am talking about).

I really liked the simplicity of the story, and the way it portrayed the reality of their lives.
I've read a lot of Harvey Pekar's "American Splendor" but I was reluctant to pick up this volume - probably because it's illustrated by my least favorite Splendor artist Frank Stack. Yes, I know he's a great artist, an underground comics legend, but his dark scratchy style is an acquired taste I never acquired. This is the first one I've read that was co-written by Pekar's wife Joyce Brabner and I appreciated her input. I also appreciated not having to spend the whole book in Harvey's head. Harv ...more
Just because R Crumb frequently illustrated American Splendor (i think), i've always lumped them together as being very similar artists. Now that i've finally read exactly 1 example of each guy's work, i can see how wrong that was and i strongly prefer Pekar's work for its chatty narrative voice and for the sense that i'm listening to what went on inside his and his wife's minds. So ... maybe Joyce Brabner's contributions are what make me like "Pekar"? Will i ever attempt to find out by reading ...more
Jim Leckband
Very readable and scary slice of life and death. The graphic novel format really digs into what goes on when somebody procrastinates, discovers, and lives with the whole cancer thing - from the little lump to the life after the chemo and radiation. Harvey and Joyce's characters are very human as they really struggle, but you can see the love between them. The subplots of the Iraq-Kuwait war and the peace congress are there because they really happened and complicated their life, but sometimes th ...more
Mark Plaid
Honestly, I feel kind of bad, I had some problems with Frank Stack's art in this one. The art is extremely sketchy and loose and may be argued as spontaneous but I would say more so rushed. There are some panels that capture the moment quite well and sing with the emotion of the scene. However, these scenes are the exception to mistakes like the same characters looking different from panel to panel in the same scene. There are some scenes also where the expressions on people's faces don't quite ...more
Su Abeille
By far the best Harvey Pekar work I have read so far. Pekar and his wife Joyce, through the use of personal antedotes, perfectly deplict what it's like dealing with someone in the family being sick and how it affects everything you do. These personal details show that maddening thing that happens when you're going through something difficult in life and you have to deal with the everyday bullshit, that it rises to a level of almost unbearable cruelty. When you're going through a rough time in li ...more
Dave Riley
I had a few initial issues taking to Frank Stack's art work but then it grew on me big time. By the finish I thought his graphic style was so apt because the story has to flow like an unreal drama. It can't so easily be anchored in any one of the many events that make up Harvey Pekar's experience of cancer. While there is a self evident chronology the point is that this is montage of pain and suffering which is ultimately fulfilling.

The poignant writing, the dense personable chit chats, the angs
I got this book two years ago at the Brooklyn Book Fair, in downtown Brooklyn. I'm not sure why it took me so long to pick it up off the shelf and read it. I think I've been a little hesitant because I've never thought Harvey Pekar's autobiographical style lends itself well to longer pieces. However, after reading The Quitter and Ego and Hubris (though that last title isn't autobiographical but biographical) I've come to see that his storytelling skills are well adapted to novel-length stories. ...more
Paul Schulzetenberg
Our Cancer Year is written by the American everyman comic artist, Harvey Pekar, and Joyce Brabner, his wife. He’s the author of American Splendor, an ascerbic, tell-it-like-it-is series of comics that chronicle the life of the lower middle class.

Our Cancer Year picks up right from the American Splendor series, and in fact, feels like it could be an entry in the series, except that Brabner plays a major authorial and narrative role in the comic. The same Pekar bluntness is there, but with a healt
Bernadette Herrera
Dealing with cancer firsthand is not only a challenge but also a unique experience for everyone. Medicine is far more advanced since the release of the book, making treatments or reactions seem dated. But the authors' unique predispositions both as respected writers during Bush's Desert Storm places a more interesting twist, such as Joyce's relationship with Palestinian refugees. The book is an appropriate marriage between the two authors'—also husband & wife—writing style & genre.
Justine Morrow
I thought this was a powerful, moving story about some serious topics that almost everyone can relate to. The art was, at times, a little messy, but for the most part was perfect in relating the plot and feelings of each character. I look forward to reading more of Pekar and Brabners work.
This book's illustration style is rough, almost sloppy--but that's appropriate for the story's content and tone. Harvey's frequent insistence that he is paralyzed, having a stroke or the victim of torture at the hands of his wife provides an odd sort of comic relief. Our Cancer Year is difficult (you're an idiot if you think a book about cancer will be a light, uplifting experience), but ultimately life-affirming.

Despite Harvey's frequent wishes for death in the midst of terrible agony, his reci
I really enjoyed this book. It is a brutally honest portrayal of what life was like while battling cancer. I originally chose this book because my husband is battling the same cancer. I'm not a big fan of reading about cancer stories. I've come to realize that the majority of people complain about having cancer more than they discuss the real effects it has on everyone involved. There are others who sugarcoat cancer into this awe-inspiring experience and never go into the reality of what they ac ...more
Yair Bezalel
Joyce Brabner and Harvey Pekar (with artist Tom Stack's surrealistically wonderful art) have made one of the most touching and affecting works I've read in years, maybe ever. And this is something as Pekar's work is naturally that anyway, but here it goes beyond that. Going through this story I felt I was a member of their household and witness to their moment in history. Told in sparse unadorned dialogue the story cuts through all the unnecessaries of alternative comics and creates something wi ...more
Our cancer Year has many layers. It's a memoir of how Pekar's sickness affected both him and his wife Joyce Brabner. It's also a great log of his move from his tiny apartment to a new house, and Joyce's travels all around the world with her activism. I got this for my father, who was going through similar treatment for a similar cancer; to show him that even 20 years ago, even though Harvey's cancer was more advanced, he made it through treatments much harder than my father had to endure and he ...more
Bought this from Joyce Brabner herself at PIX 2015 (Pittsburgh Indy Comix Expo). It's powerful -- very well done.
Knut Sigurd
Ikkje forelska i stilen til Stack, men det ser eg at eg ikkje er aleine om.
Sarah T.
This was my first exposure to the works of Harvey Pekar (other than the movie "American Splendor") and it was everything I had expected it to be. Brutally honest with love and pain equally.

Like other reviewers I found the art more than a bit rough, but artistically speaking, I can see why they chose to go this route. Cancer fucks up your whole universe, the treatments just as much as the disease itself. The distortion seemed pretty appropriate and after a while I didn't notice it so much.

I enj
Nicholas Gourlay
May 08, 2009 Nicholas Gourlay rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Cancer Survivors and Emo(s).
After reading numerous reviews and recommendations on this one I was somewhat disappointed. The artwork was mostly scratches and sometimes even hard to tell one character from the other but then when I would get mad, Stack would draw a very emotional scene. That is how this whole GN read to me .... nothing, nothing, then emotional scene. I did get a feel on the desperation of Harvey and Joyce but not enough to make me weep, which is what I was expecting.

Don't get me wrong, it's a good strong G
I am not a member of the "It's a graphic novel not a comic book" club. That being said, this is a graphic novel worth reading. Harvey and Joyce chronicle their ordeals in and out of cancer catastrophes and real life events in such a way that render the text and the images as two distinct tales. There isn't anything that makes cancer easier in the grand scope of things. The authors don't mask the ugly or the beautiful. They show life as it is, and their honesty it what is so remarkable.
Tim Timberly
I've been obsessed with cancer lately. This book provided an unglamorous view of the disease.
Gritty portrayal of endurance through stress and pain. Looked up this morning to find out what Harvey Pekar was doing lately and was saddened to discover he died about 3 years ago from an accidental overdose. Interesting to go from reading Conan graphic novels full of dexterity and strength and cunning to the other side of the injured hypersensitive spectrum. Reading about Ian Curtis' days with Joy Division is a similar experience. Examine your wounds.
Monica Lieser
I can appreciate the vulnerability of telling one's own story, yet the intensity of the scratchy artwork and the hard tone of most of the dialogue was off-putting. My review is likely unfair for all those who appreciate the art form of graphic novels, so please take it with a grain of salt. Thank you to Harvey and Joyce for sharing your story - witnessing others is valuable even if uncomfortable.
Very realistic, story in graphic form of Harvey Pekar's battle with cancer and other events in the life of he and his wife, Joyce Brabner. Brings you back to the era of the early 1990's, with a back drop of the 1st Iraq war. The art work is well done, giving the reader a sense of emotions and trauma. It also brings back memories of life in Cleveland since it includes many interesting landmarks such as Tommy's restaurant and Chagrin Falls.
I love Harvey Pekar and have been a longtime fan of American Splendor, but for some reason Our Cancer Year didn't quite live up to what I had expected. Like many other reviewers, I am not a fan of Stack's illustrations - in general I prefer more defined panels and tighter drawings but I found some bits so sketchy (especially in the beginning with Joyce's peace conference friends) that it was difficult to tell which character was speaking.
Aug 10, 2011 Tim rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: comic
Probably the most substantial work I have read by Pekar, as ever deeply personal and honest. Deals not only with Pekar's illness, and how it effected his relationship with his wife, but also delves into the Gulf war and the recursions for Joyce and friends she had made through her work.
The art had an erratic simplicity and gave the work a feeling of uncertainty and of being ungrounded.

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Harvey Lawrence Pekar was an American underground comic book writer best known for his autobiographical American Splendor series.

In 2003, the series inspired a critically acclaimed film adaptation of the same name.

More about Harvey Pekar...

Other Books in the Series

American Splendor (1 - 10 of 11 books)
  • American Splendor: The Life and Times of Harvey Pekar
  • More American Splendor
  • The New American Splendor Anthology: From Off the Streets of Cleveland
  • American Splendor Presents: Bob and Harv's Comics
  • American Splendor Unsung Hero: The Story of Robert McNeill
  • Best Of American Splendor
  • American Splendor: Another Day
  • American Splendor: Another Dollar
  • American Splendor (American Splendor, No. 15)
  • American Splendor #16
American Splendor: The Life and Times of Harvey Pekar The Best American Comics 2006 The Quitter Best Of American Splendor Harvey Pekar's Cleveland

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