Tuesday, September 23, 2008

American Splendor: Another Day

If I haven't said it before here on Village Grouchy, I'm a huge fan of Harvey Pekar's work. To be brutally honest, it was watching the film version of American Splendor that really got me into reading and thinking about comics seriously (though, of course, I had read Maus, Watchmen, and Understanding Comics a long time ago).

Pekar's latest collection, Another Day (collected from four 2006 DC issues) shows Pekar up to his usual antics: reminiscing, observing, plunging the toilet. We get regular appearances, too, from his wife Joyce Brabner and adopted daughter Danielle. Just as comforting, perhaps, are the regular appearances of some of Pekar's familiar stable of artists, especially the team of Greg Budgett and Gary Dumm and old hands Josh Neufeld and Dean Haspiel. Missing, however, are some other old favorites: Gerry Shamray, Val Mayerik, and (of course) Crumb. It is interesting, of course, to see Gilbert Hernandez draw Pekar, and Eddie Campbell, as well. One wonders if the success of the Pekar film has allowed him to expand the range of his artists.

Occasionally, in Another Day, the artists' styles come very close to either parody or a style that intentionally partakes of the "humor comics" mode (I'm thinking of Hunt Emerson's art in "Through the Generations" and "Uncapped"; also Bob Fingerman's "World Cup," where the first image of Pekar makes him look like a gnarled little leprechaun). Now, I haven't read every back issue of Pekar's comic, but this seems new to me. Not unwelcome, I think, but new (to me at least), and it gives a different feel to these stories, the first of which is actually structured to set up a kind of visual punch line in the final panel: "autobiographical" it may well be, but Pekar clearly recognizes that this story doesn't really work by being autobiographical: Pekar's personality is not at the center of the story. In the end it makes me think of other moments in Pekar's work where he steps out of the autobiographical mode entirely, such as his odd parody of/homage to Maus (I can dig up the reference, if readers out there want it).

More on Pekar and his artists to come from me in the future, I think.

1 comment:

Mike Rhode said...

I'm afraid I'm tooting my own horn, but I put together a book of interviews with Harvey that's out now - look for Harvey Pekar: Conversations. It's 25 years of people talking to him.