American Splendor

1: Analysis of the Book

In “American Splendor,” the source of the movie is a series of comic books authored by Harvey Pekar and illustrated by a series of artists. Pekar is a unique author who practically created his medium, the adult comic book. Now deceased, Pekar created his art form during the ‘70’s and continued through the release of 2004’s American Splendor: Our Movie Year. His creation is unique in its field: a literary comic book for adults. The rise of the graphic novel today can trace its roots to Harvey’s fevered genius. Harvey took his inspiration from his own life, from his love of jazz music, from his Jewish heritage, and from his study of modern writers such as James Joyce. In American Splendor, Harvey chronicles his own “quotidian” (a word he used) life in Cleveland, Ohio. As a file clerk for the VA, Harvey led a “normal” American life. He was a working man with much more to offer than his job or his daily life required. What he had left he put into his art. Harvey’s legacy is the comic books themselves, which are his reflections on his life, and on life in general. We are left with an autobiography of an “everyman” who retained his integrity as a person and as an artist. Pekar’s persona in his comics is that of a depressed underdog whose small triumphs over life’s hassles and issues form the narratives of his “life from off the streets of Cleveland.” The appeal of these stories is that Pekar lets us in on his feelings and thoughts as he goes through his unglamorous life. Of Pekar, Roger Ebert writes, “What we also discover is that Harvey is not entirely a dyspeptic grump, but has sweetness and hope waving desperately from somewhere deep within his despair.”

2: Analysis of the Film

The film was a really good biographical comedy-drama film, considering that it had a very, very small budget of $2,000,000. The movie is also in part of an adaptation of the comics themselves. By having the pictures in those comic squares be of real people rather than drawings,  the adaptation comes alive the moment the credits start to roll. The movie took home 10 awards, which included a Best Screenplay from the Boston Society of Film Critics, a Most Promising Filmmaker from the Chicago Film Critics Association, Best Actress and Best First Film from the National Society of Film Critics, and Best Screenplay – Adapted from the Writers Guild of America.  It also was nominated for 16 awards, which included Best Screenplay – Adapted from the Academy Awards, Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture from the Golden Globe Awards.

3: Analysis of the Adaptation

This film adaptation of Pekar’s comic series, American Splendor, has been called an almost perfect adaptation. One can hear in Roger Ebert’s review a rare, almost reverential tone, “Movies like this seem to come out of nowhere, like free-standing miracles. But “American Splendor” does have a source, and its source is Harvey Pekar himself–his life, and what he has made of it. The guy is the real thing.”  This movie, like its source, the comic books of Harvey Pekar, is unique in its mixing of genres. Harvey appears as himself, the narrator, and is played perfectly by actor, Paul Giamatti. The movie also contains scenes with the actual comic book drawings, segueing back into the fictional movie. Finally, Pekar narrates some of the film in a voice over. The filmmakers, Shari Springer and Robert Pulcini, worked hand in hand with Pekar to create something that is as unique as Pekar’s comics. Unlike many of the adaptations of books we have seen thus far, this adaptation maintains the crucial spirit of the original. Although it is in the film medium, it retains the central characteristics and message of its source, and is enjoyable to watch at the same time.

4: Online Research

This is part of AMC’s Movie Guide. It gives a description of the movie, who it was directed by, who produced it, who the cast were, and a trailer of the movie. It is also part of the Best Comic Book Movies of the ‘00s list at number nine.

This site is an AMC Blog that gives the top 10 comic book movie adaptations out there. The cool thing about this blog is the fact that they do not use movies based on comics that do not have any superheros in these movies. The first line of this blog, “Comic books are the homes of just Batman, Spider-Man, and other men who dress in tights and  is very catchy and hooks the reader very well. Not only does it give you a top ten list of the movies, it also goes into detail by talking about the movies and giving some information about them.

This is actually a movie wiki page, even though it doesn’t have wiki anywhere in its url. It has examples of characters, locations, and a couple of film reviews.

This site lists details of the film, which include the cast, a summary of the movie, movies that might be related to it. He also gives info of the film including the release date, the MPAA Rating, the Genre of the movie, the running time, and its earnings at the box office.

This is a movie review. It gives a very good review of the movie and it also has a couple snipit reviews on two other movies in the article. The interesting thing is that it says it was written and directed by a husband-and-wife team, who are Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini.

5: Critical Argument Paragraph

Web 2.0 applications such as blogs, Facebook and Twitter are all about ordinariness: we use them to record the mundane events of our lives. How would an American Splendor blog (or Facebook page, or Twitter feed) look like? How would it be different than Pekar’s comic book?

An American Splendor Twitter feed would be different from Pekar’s comic book because the feed would be showing what the characters at a certain time would be doing. It’s not the same in the comic book where on one page, it shows the characters doing things like shopping at a Grocery store. Using a twitter feed, you would see what the person was doing at that particular time. Unlike a comic book, you would not see a “then later” to mark a break in between sets. Instead, you would just wait a while and then the poster would post something at a later time. I think that a twitter feed of Pekar going through his day, live, would be fun to follow, however a lot would be lost without the artistic drawings.


4 thoughts on “American Splendor

  1. I agree that a lot would be lost in a Harvey Pekar Twitter feed. The problem is that there is a surprising amount of nuance and subtlety in the comics, whether it be the progression of events or the slight shift in his appearance during Name Story when he describes himself as almost becoming John Smith, that simply can’t be conveyed in 150 characters.

  2. I liked how you highlighted that both Pekar’s comic books and the film mixed genres. Pekar’s comic books, although humor is literally suggested in the name “comic book”, aren’t supposed to be wildly humorous. The film also draws upon a bit of that sparse humor and focuses on the main goal (that it shares with the comic books): to tell a story.

  3. I’m not sure if a Pekar social media page would be able to exist in today’s world. I think part of the reason his comics were so popular was because there had yet to be a medium to comment on the mediocrity of life. I can read about anyone’s mundane life if I choose to do so, some being just as funny as Pekars.

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