American Splendor


American Splendor

Infobox comic book title
title = American Splendor


imagesize =
caption = "American Splendor" #1 (1976). Art by R. Crumb. Written and published by Harvey Pekar.
comic_color =background:#c0c0c0
schedule = Irregular
ongoing = y
publisher = Harvey Pekar
Dark Horse
DC Comics
date = 1976-
issues = 39
main_char_team = Harvey Pekar
Joyce Brabner
past_current_color=background:#ff9275
writers = Harvey Pekar
artists = Robert Crumb
Gary Dumm
Frank Stack
sort = American Splendor

"American Splendor" is a series of autobiographical comic books and graphic novels written by Harvey Pekar and drawn by a variety of artists. The first issue was published in 1976 and the most recent in September 2008, with publication occurring at irregular intervals. Publishers have been, at various times, Harvey Pekar himself, Dark Horse Comics, and DC Comics.Citation | last = Irvine | first = Alex | author-link = Alexander C. Irvine | contribution = American Splendor | editor-last = Dougall | editor-first = Alastair | title = The Vertigo Encyclopedia | pages = 21 | publisher = Dorling Kindersley | place = New York | year = 2008 | ISBN = 0-7566-4122-5 | oclc = 213309015]

Origins

Despite comic books being traditionally the province of fantasy-adventure and other genre stories, Pekar felt that the medium could be put to wider use:

“When I was a little kid, and I was reading these comics in the ’40s, I kind of got sick of them because after a while, they were just formulaic. I figured there was some kind of a flaw that keeps them from getting better than they are, and then when I saw Robert Crumb’s work
 in the early ’60s, when he moved from Philadelphia to Cleveland, and he moved around the corner from me, I thought ‘Man, comics are where it’s at.’” [Heater, Brian. [http://www.nypress.com/19/21/books/ "A Book called Malice," "New York Press" (2006).] Accessed Sept. 24, 2008.]

Pekar's philosophy of the potential of comics is also expressed in his often repeated statement that ‘comics are words and pictures. You can do anything with words and pictures.' [http://www.walruscomix.com/pekarinterview.html Walrus Comix interview with Pekar.] Accessed 10 Aug 2008.] In an interview with Walrus Comix, Pekar described how the idea of producing his own comic book developed. In 1972 when Crumb was visiting him in Cleveland, Pekar showed him his story ideas. Not only did Crumb agree to draw some of them but also offered to show them to other artists to draw. By 1975, Pekar decided to produce and publish his own comic book.

Themes

The stories in "American Splendor" concern the everyday life of Pekar in Cleveland, Ohio. Situations covered include Pekar’s job as a file clerk at a Veteran's Administration hospital and his relations with work colleagues and patients there. There are also stories about Pekar and his relations with friends and family, including his third wife Joyce Brabner and their adopted daughter Danielle. Other stories concern everyday situations such as Pekar’s trouble with his car, money-worries, his health, and his concerns and anxieties in general. Several issues (#14, #13, # [18] ) give accounts of Pekar’s becoming a recurring guest on Late Night with David Letterman, including the 1988 interview segment in which Pekar criticized Letterman for ducking criticism of GE, the parent company of NBC. "American Splendor" sometimes departs from Pekar's own life, with stories about Jazz musicians ( [#23] ), the artists for his comics (# [25] ), and a three-issue miniseries "American Splendor: Unsung Hero" (# [29] - [31] ), which chronicles the Vietnam experience of Pekar's African-American co-worker Robert McNeill.

Artists

As Pekar was not an artist himself, and was incapable of "drawing a straight line,"Fact|date=September 2008 he recruited his friend, underground comics artist Robert Crumb, to help create a comics series. Besides Crumb, other notable "American Splendor" illustrators include Alison Bechdel, Chester Brown, Greg Budgett, David Collier, Gary Dumm, Frank Stack, Drew Friedman, Dean Haspiel, Val Mayerik, Josh Neufeld, Brian Bram, Spain Rodriguez, Joe Sacco, Gerry Shamray, Jim Woodring, Joe Zabel, Ed Piskor, and even writer Alan Moore. More recent issues have employed a new crop of artists, including Ty Templeton, Richard Corben, Hunt Emerson, Eddie Campbell, Gilbert Hernandez, Ho Che Anderson, and Rick Geary.

Publication History

Pekar produced seventeen issues of "American Splendor" from 1976 to 1993, which, except for the last few issues, he also self-published and self-distributed. By keeping back issues in print and available (contrary to the industry practice of the time), Pekar continued to receive income on previously-completed work, although at the time some of them were published, according to his "Comics Journal" interview, he was losing thousands of dollars per year on the books.Fact|date=September 2008 Starting in 1994, additional "American Splendor" were published by Dark Horse Comics, although these issues are not numbered. They include the two-issue "American Splendor: Windfall" and several themed issues such as "American Splendor: Transatlantic Comics" and "American Splendor: On the Job". In September 2006, a four-issue "American Splendor" mini-series was published by the DC Comics imprint Vertigo. A second four-issue miniseries was published by DC in 2008.
List of "American Splendor" issues:

Graphic Novels and Reprint Anthologies

Many stories from "American Splendor" have been collected into reprint anthologies from various publishers, their material not (for the most part) overlapping. In addition, Pekar has written two larger works which carry the "American Splendor" label, "Our Movie Year" (Ballantine Books, 2004), a collection of comics written about or at the time of the "American Splendor" film, and "Ego & Hubris: The Michael Malice Story" (Ballantine, 2006). Pekar has also written two graphic novels which are not officially labeled "American Splendor" but which should arguably be considered part of it: "Our Cancer Year" (Four Walls Eight Windows, 1994), co-written with Pekar's wife Joyce Brabner and illustrated by Frank Stack, covering the year when Pekar was diagnosed with cancer; and "The Quitter" (DC Comics, 2005), illustrated by Dean Haspiel, which deals with Pekar’s youth.

* "More American Splendor" (Doubleday, 1987) ISBN 0-385-24073-2
* "The New American Splendor Anthology" (Four Walls Eight Windows, 1991) ISBN 0-941423-64-6
* "Our Cancer Year", with Joyce Brabner and Frank Stack (Four Walls Eight Windows, 1994) ISBN 1-56858-011-8
* "American Splendor Presents: Bob & Harv's Comics", with R. Crumb (Four Walls Eight Windows, 1996) ISBN 1-56858-101-7
* "American Splendor: The Life and Times of Harvey Pekar" (Ballantine Books, 2003) ISBN 0-345-46830-9
* "American Splendor: Unsung Hero", with David Collier (Dark Horse, 2003) ISBN 1-59307-040-3
* "American Splendor: Our Movie Year" (Ballantine Books, 2004) ISBN 0-345-47937-8
* "Best of American Splendor" (Ballantine Books, 2005) ISBN 0-345-47938-6
* "The Quitter", with Dean Haspiel (DC/Vertigo, 2005) ISBN 1-4012-0399-X
* "Ego & Hubris: The Michael Malice Story", with Gary Dumm (Ballantine Books, 2006) ISBN 0-345-47939-4
* "American Splendor: Another Day" (DC/Vertigo, 2007) ISBN 978-1-4012-1235-3

Adaptations

Film

In 2003 a movie adaptation featuring Paul Giamatti playing Pekar (as well as appearances by Pekar himself) and Hope Davis as his wife was released to critical acclaim and first honors at the Sundance Film Festival in addition to the Writers Guild of America Award for best adapted screenplay. It was written and directed by documentarists Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini. It was filmed entirely on location in Cleveland and Lakewood in Ohio. It was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay at the 2003 Academy Awards (it lost to "").

tage

Theatrical productions based on "American Splendor" have been mounted over the years. The first of these was produced by The Independent Eye in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1985, adapted and directed by Conrad Bishop. The second, produced in 1987 at Washington, DC's Arena Stage, was adapted by Lloyd Rose and directed by James C. Nicola. The third, which is represented in fictionalized form in the "American Splendor" movie, ran from September 1990 through September 1991 at Hollywood's Theatre/Theater in Los Angeles, California; it was adapted and directed by Vince Waldron, and starred Dan Castellaneta as Harvey.

References in popular culture

* Drew Carey's character on the sitcom, "The Drew Carey Show" is often seen reading "American Splendor".Fact|date=February 2007

Notes

External links

* [http://joshcomix.home.mindspring.com/and/pekar_artists/ Harvey Pekar's Artists] — Exhaustive list of artists having drawn Pekar's stories.
* [http://blogzarro.com/?p=155 Review of "American Splendor: Another Day"]
* [http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6393736 Some radio interviews with Pekar]
* [http://www.landmarktheatres.com/mn/americansplendor.html An article about issue #7]


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