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Pittsburgh cartoonist Ed Piskor dead at 41

Ed Piskor
Garret Jones
Cartoonist Ed Piskor died Monday.

Internationally known Pittsburgh-based cartoonist Ed Piskor died Monday, his family announced.

Piskor, 41, was found dead after posting what appeared to be a suicide note on his Facebook page Monday morning.

The lengthy note was partly a response to, and denial of, allegations of sexual misconduct against him aired last week in an article published by Pittsburgh City Paper.

“It is with the most broken heart that I share my big brother, Ed, has passed away today,” his sister, Justine Cleaves, wrote on Facebook Monday. “Please just keep our family in your prayers as this is the hardest thing we’ve ever had to go through.”

Piskor grew up in Munhall and built his reputation drawing for famed comics writer Harvey Pekar on books such as the 2006 graphic novel “Macedonia” and 2009 graphic history “The Beats.” His best-known work was the multi-volume “Hip Hop Family Tree,” a painstakingly researched history of a musical genre he loved. He and fellow Pittsburgh cartoonist Jim Rugg also co-hosted the long-running comics-themed YouTube talk show “Cartoonist Kayfabe.”

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On March 25, a City Paper article repeated allegations by a Philadelphia-based cartoonist who had posted on social media screenshots of text messages sent to her by Piskor in 2020, when she was 17, and which she considered inappropriate and tantamount to “grooming.” The article also included a claim posted by another woman in a since-deleted thread on X, formerly Twitter, that Piskor had engaged in inappropriate behavior.

Piskor was not charged with a crime.

The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust quickly indefinitely postponed an exhibit of Piskor’s “Hip Hop Family Tree” artwork scheduled to open April 6 at Downtown’s 707 Gallery.

Piskor’s Facebook message, posted early Monday, addressed the allegations. Of the text exchange with the young cartoonist, he wrote, “The language and optics look real dumb at best but I promise my innocence.” He also refuted the since-deleted post on X.

“I have no friends in this life any longer,” he wrote. “I’m a disappointment to everybody who liked me. I’m a pariah. News organizations at my door and hassling my elderly parents. It’s too much. Putting our addresses on tv and the internet. How could I ever go back to my small town where everyone knows me?”

When Piskor’s professional cartooning career began in earnest, he was in his early 20s, and still working out of a studio in the basement of his parents’ home, in Munhall.

Other projects included “Wizzywig,” his self-published graphic novel about an infamous 1990s hacker.

The “Hip Hop Family Tree” books, published by comics giant Fantagraphics, brought Piskor international acclaim. “Ed is our biggest breakout star of this decade,” a Fantagraphics associate publisher wrote in 2016.

Though his comics generally took place far from the realm of superheroes, Piskor, who lived in Homestead, also worked for Marvel Comics, in 2018 publishing “X-Men: The Grand Design,” an edition of Marvel’s series reimagining its iconic titles.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call, text or chat with the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988, or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.

Corrected: April 2, 2024 at 2:56 PM EDT
An earlier version of this article incorrectly described the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust's handling of Piskor's planned exhibit as a cancellation.
Bill is a long-time Pittsburgh-based journalist specializing in the arts and the environment. Previous to working at WESA, he spent 21 years at the weekly Pittsburgh City Paper, the last 14 as Arts & Entertainment editor. He is a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and in 30-plus years as a journalist has freelanced for publications including In Pittsburgh, The Nation, E: The Environmental Magazine, American Theatre, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Bill has earned numerous Golden Quill awards from the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania. He lives in the neighborhood of Manchester, and he once milked a goat. Email: