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American Splendor #2-3
posted November 15, 2006
 

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Creators: Harvey Pekar and Various
Publishing Information: DC/Vertigo, Comic Book, 32 pages, December 2006-January 2007, $2.99
Ordering Numbers:

I have several friends that would jump across the table and attempt to choke me to death were I to be in their presence as I make the following comparison between Harvey Pekar and Frank Sinatra. They're very different artists, and operated in completely different realms of success. But the way the writer from Cleveland has gotten older reminds me a bit of the singer from Hoboken. Near the end of Sinatra's career, the accomplishments were acknowledge but had little to do with how later performances were enjoyed. Those were consumed by their audience for the sylistic adjustments the singer would make, and the highest-profile albums were bought in part to see how he mixed in duets with various modern singers.

The new American Splendor, a comic that in its DC/Vertigo iteration feels like a laudatory lap around the track than a new and challenging comic book, offers up an experience similar to seeing Sinatra. The best stories in issues #2 and #3 come when the writer plays to his strength of creating narratives by stringing together a series of pedestrian moments: a morning's run of errands, driving over to pick up a child that's staying at another person's house during a heavy snow, even repairing a toilent. The great thing about those comics is that like Pekar's magazine work they give you a snapshot of a live as lived. The artist whose "duet" with Pekar comes across as most interesting in Ty Templeton, who in issue #3 draws the errand comic with a series of insets that frame the moments of problem-solution extremely well. Richard Corben and Rick Geary surprise, while Josh Neufeld and Gary Dumm provide art beneath their best work. Eddie Campbell's contribution in issue #2 is something of a disappointment only because he's freakin' Eddie Campbell, the second most important autobiographical cartoonist after Pekar -- but it's still something you can say you witnesses.

I like the idea that there's an American Splendor out there more than I really feel a need to seek out the comic. In addition, there are a couple of comics shorts where Pekar unpacks concepts rather than experiences -- like how a writer orients himself to an editor, or the idea of regionalism -- that prove so clunky in terms of how they're preented and the language employed in the dialogues that drive them it's kind of astonishing they came from Pekar's pen. Hopefully, future issues will stick to the moments of day to day living.