by Ellen Gillingham
American Splendor is a series of autobiographical comic books by the underground legend, Harvey Pekar. Themes in the book are about everyday mundane life and range from relationships with work colleagues to everyday concerns and anxieties. The comic books tell life as it is happening. The different stories show the chaos in the universe with detailed cartoons, attention to dialect, and a disorienting style. Essentially, Pekar communicates the universal theme that even the most seemingly monotonous lives can be filled with poignancy and heroic struggle.
American Splendor, a movie directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, based on adapting the graphic series by Harvey Pekar and documenting the real Harvey Pekar’s life. The film uses animation, documentary footage, music, setting, and narrative to create a hybrid documentary-comic-realistic film. Characters that are funny along with representations of a working-class life create the universal theme of the humanity of every-day life. Another theme in the film deals with the blurred line between fiction and reality. This is done in part by using three different versions of Pekar. There is one portrayed by Paul Giamatti, the real Pekar, and a stop motion animated Harvey. These characters and their interchangeability show how fiction and reality rely on each other.
American Splendor is considered a good adaptation of Pekar’s offbeat comic series. The construction of the film make it faithful to the comic books. The way panels relate to other panels on the page is captured in the film by breaking up the frame with competing boxes. The use of Multiple Pekars creates distinct sometimes-conflicting representations of him, but this captures the postmodern aspects of the comics. The main challenge in this adaptation is that it would be hard to make a film only about the content of his comic books. However, American Splendor overcomes this obstacle by adding more in depth looks into Harvey’s life and struggles.
This blog analysis Harvey’s wife and her view of Harvey. It also includes different artists’ rendering of Pekar.
This article’s value lies in its favorable description of plot, genera, and filmic details.
This article is about how American Splendor uses a linear narrative and shows the documentarian’s experience.
This source is an article by Jason Sperb entitled “Removing the Experience: Simulacrum as An Autobiographical Act in American Splendor.” Its value lies in providing an in-depth analysis of American Splendor. Sperb carefully examines the plot, narrative, and genera. He makes an interesting case that understanding American Splendor as a film of simulacrum and postmodernity in unavoidable because it is not simply an autobiography.
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 his comic book?
An American Splendor blog would be similar to a Facebook page, but the text and images would be reversed. Pekar writes the text for his comic books, develops the ideas, and has other people illustrate. Facebook is primarily an image network, people post pictures and other people add their caption suggestions or comments. For instance, Pekar would want to write about his experience in line behind an old Jewish woman. In this case, he would post on Facebook and his friends would submit images. Additionally, “likes” on Facebook would be similar to Pekar’s fans. Overall, web 2.0 applications such as Facebook are similar to Pekar’s comic books because they record the mundane events of live and focus on ordinariness.