Analyze the Book
1. The American Splendor comics were written in direct contrast to the typical superhero comic books in the era of its conception. Harvey Pekar coopted the underground comic movement in making a comic book story about ‘adult’ things. Adult in the sense that there was thought provoking material that was difficult and emotional in a realistic way, contrary to how story book the typical super hero comic book plays out. Whether or not it was completely intentional American Splendor gives an honest and thorough commentary on working class neglected Americans in the rust belt region — As seen through the eyes of an obsessive compulsive writer. The art style compliments the gritty detail and ugly realities that Pekar covers in the comic. There is charm to be found in a cynics struggle for small victories in life and that might be a major attraction to the work.
Analyze the Movie
2.This film intentionally avoids being placed in a genre. While on the one hand it is a drama starring Paul Giomatti, on the other its a documentary and then an artistic coupling of the two. The actual Pekar as seen in the interviews is just as charaicatureesque as you would imagine if not more. Giomatti almost fails to exaggerate the type of character Pekar is. When parts of the film seem exaggerated or dramatized, the directors cut to real life interviews to reinforce the nature of the man in the biopic. The film plays out like a biography film but the whole thing has an arc, artfully crafted by the directors. There is a narrative seated in the life of Pekar on its own about a cynical man who very slowly and awkwardly warms up to certain parts of the world — like embracing optimism to overcome cancer, adopting his daughter and retiring with a group of co-workers/friends/family.
Analyze the Adaptation
3. From an adaptational point of view does well to keep the spirit of the rust belt brand of depression alive(?) in the film. The employment of actual footage of cleavland keeps, for the most part, the film from feeling too much like a glamourized version of the story. The use of actual comic book framing and artwork was done sparringly limiting the chaos of genre jumping but keeping the film tied together with the comic but keeping the film version its own thing. With the film being part documentary, the arc of the story was a little more optimistic in theme then the actual American Splendor. The directors use snippets of interviews and cover sections of Pekars life that piece together the story.
Online Research on the film
Roger Ebert seems just very attached to the story of Pekar’s life and the people in it. The movie does a great job telling his story in an original way so he loved the movie.
The writer really feels like the film was meant for him and points out that this is sort of the appeal of the comics American Splendor since it was about an every man who was an artist on the inside.
‘Harvey Pekar didnt do happy but he did funny and truth and so does this movie — beautifully’ This last line really resonated with me on how I felt about this movie. The truth of the movie wasn’t muddied by hacky feel good scenes but it was still successful in being charming in its own right. The movie ends in Pekars actual retirement party, a sort of misreble looking setting but some genuine touching interactions between the feel like friends and family of Pekar. The post modern approach to telling the story allowed for this.
5. The Film definitely paints a different picture than the comics themselves do. In a way there is reason to cry sellout since the story ends up softening up the perception of Harvey to a family man, mildly successful and happy guy. As much as Pekar fights the smiles in his interviews and real life footage the documentary is edited in such a way that the joy shines through. This really couldn’t be said for the comic that was heavy handed with the cynical and bleak outlook. The comic has redeeming qualities but it wasn’t a feel good read, and I can’t help but to get the feeling the Harvey Pekar was doing alright by the end of this film.