American Splendid

The first time I read of Harvey Pekar was in the glossy pages of “Heavy Metal” magazine, a series of columns by Bhob Stewart detailing the history of underground comics. Pekar had come to some cult prominence with his aggressively non-comic book comics that featured his wry bleak view on life, a sort of Cleveland Woody Allen. He didn’t draw at all but he had pals like Robert Crumb who could expertly translate Pekar into a proper caricature of his character. The first time I saw Harvey Pekar was on Late Night with David Letterman back in 1986, when his show was the most ferociously original new comedy show since SNL or SCTV. His staff also read “Fangoria” and would pull in guests like Tom Savini, John Waters and Fred Blassie. Pekar was the perfect foil, an awkward funny curmudgeon that Letterman would try to one-up in sarcasm. As if Pekar didn’t see right through the host’s television artifice. Their tension appearances led to the infamous one in 1987 that even Letterman wouldn’t allow to be seen in the excellent film of Pekar’s strange life, AMERICAN SPLENDOR (2003).Well, we have that amazing footage, which features Pekar coming out in a shirt advertising his strike against NBC and GE for their collusion in anti-trust and nuclear reactor leaks. I never forgot this moment and we’ll never forget Harvey Pekar, certainly one of the great American satirists and commentators.

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6 Responses to “American Splendid”

  1. For me, the movie of AMERICAN SPLENDOR (which led me to the books) is one of the best pictures of the last decade.

    • christian Says:

      I was going to watch it again last week….Definitely one of the best of the 2000’s. And the DVD has a good commentary and deleted scenes.

  2. Yeah, that was a pretty great film and fitting tribute to Pekar. Paul Giamatti really did a wonderful job portraying him.

    Damn, this really sucks.

  3. Frank B Says:

    A very cool dude. Read his comics, they’re great.

    Maybe I’m too literal-minded, but it bugged me that Giamatti talked in that hoarse voice throughout the film. As this clip proves, he only spoke that way when he was suffering from a throat ailment.

    • christian Says:

      I don’t think he talked that way after he was better. It’s pretty damn close to Harvey’s scratchy voice.

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