Friday, October 07, 2005

American Splendor

Harvey PekarBeen watching American Splendor recently & I highly recommend it.

I'd never heard of Harvey Pekar, pretty much a Cleveland nobody who in his youth was a prize fighter, then went on to hold down a number of nowhere jobs.

But he was (is) well read & had an interest in jazz records & comics. And those two interests brought him into friendship with the seriously weird underground cartoonist, Robert Crumb.

After a while, Harvey figured that he'd like to start his own comic book series, about himself, and being no artist at all, could muster a series of stick figures only to illustrate the balloon dialogue he wrote. His mate Crumb, liked what he read & offered to illustrate the cartoons for him. The outcome was a success & gained a following.

In the comics, Pekar is depicted by several different artists, each of whom have their own vision of what he looks like. The storylines focus on everyday episodes from his life, people he knows & things they said, and they're surprisingly poignant & funny.

The movie is in an unusual format, the real Pekar narrates his own story & is seen throughout. He is also portrayed by the gifted Paul Giamatti, who doesn't look especially like him (Pekar notes this drily on more than one occasion). We also see many of the artists' depictions of the guy, which mostly look nothing like Pekar nor Giamatti either.

I found the whole thing fascinating & will more than likely be found sometime soon, in one of the local comic shops poring over some of his work.

Check it out!