Thursday, February 19, 2009

HARVEY PEKAR'S "AMERICAN SPLENDOR"


Harvey Pekar's excellent comic book 'American Splendor" was responsible for getting me out of superhero comics when I was a teenager and into the more experimental comics that were out there, waiting for me to devour them. This comic book also turned me on to a lot of great books and authors that I never would have thought about reading otherwise such as Fyodor Dostoevsky, James Joyce's "Ulysses" and Eugene Zamiatin's incredible dystopian novel "We".

"American Splendor" is an autobiographical comic book about the life of Harvey Pekar. The first issue was published in 1976. Harvey writes about the mundane, day to day activities of life, but treats them with drama and makes them significant. He has an uncanny talent for unearthing the unseen beauty of day to day existence. Pekar is well founded in realism(psychological and physical). His stories can be a sort of an elaborate stream of consciousness monologue about his innermost thoughts or something so simple as walking to the store to buy a loaf of bread. You walk away from his work with a greater appreciation for life and with your eyes open to things in your own life that you've never really paid attention to before. He does not idealize himself or any of his characters. All of these stories and characters come from his real life. Harvey only writes the stories. He gives his artists photos and rough thumbnails of how he wants the images to flow.

Harvey Pekar got into comics when he started hanging out in the 1960's with underground comics artist Robert Crumb, who would illustrate many of his stories. He has survived numerous bouts with David Letterman on TV, cancer, and even having an excellent, surprisingly faithful movie made about his life and comics. I will review this movie soon. I just have to watch it again to refresh my memory of it. He is still writing "American Splendor". Currently it is being published by Vertigo, a DC Comics imprint.

His comics, especially his earlier ones, can be hard to find at times. Many of them had small pressings. The best place to start would be any of the numerous paperback collections that are out there.


3 comments:

Kny said...

I love Harvey. A very eccentric fellow... in a good way.

David Abstract said...

This looks like another comics creator I'll be shuffling off to my dealer for a hit of - not many people know, comic books are 3 times more addictive than cocaine.

Steve Smith said...

Yes, Harvey can be a bit quirky in a good way, and he is an incredible writer. Have you seen his David Letterman appearances KNY?

David...yes comics are extremly addictive. You should check Harvey's stuff out, definitly.