05 February 2014

Review: The New American Splendor Anthology by Harvey Pekar

Comic trade paperback, n.pag.
Published 1991 (content: 1974-91)

Borrowed from the library
Read January 2014
The New American Splendor Anthology
by Harvey Pekar
art by Robert Armstrong, Alison Bechdel, Chester Brown, Kevin Brown, Gregory Budgett, R. Crumb, Gary Dumm with Laura Darnell Dumm, William Fogg, Drew Friedman, Rebecca Huntington, Bill Knapp, Paul Mavrides, Val Mayerik, Alan Moore, Willy Murphy, Spain Rodriguez, Gerry Shamray, Carole Sobocinksi, Frank Stack, J. R. Stats, Colin Upton, Ed Wesolowski, Jim Woodring, Joe Zabel, and Mark Zingarelli

The short story, I think, is Pekar's element-- aside from The Quitter, his long-form work has failed to interest me as much his shorts. The New American Splendor Anthology collects a wide range of his material, from his earliest comics work to his then-latest, though mostly it collects issues of American Splendor that came out after More American Splendor, I think. There's perhaps some stuff here that's not great, but that's okay, 'cause it's always over with right away, and Pekar is spinning you a new yarn in his distinctive voice: buying food at West Side Market, going to comic book signings (including a cameo by Ed Brubaker!), being obsessive about losing something or forgetting something, picking his wife up from the airport, or driving from Washington, D.C., to Cleveland overnight. I empathize with his small obsessions that he tries to clamp under control, and his occasional irrational inflexibility.

This collection also includes writeups of many of Pekar's appearances on Letterman's Late Night. I don't think Pekar is as clever as he thinks he is, but I think he knows that. (I love the one where he tries to get free stuff off the Late Night producer and ends up with a couple crackers.)

Alison Bechdel and Alan Moore draw stories in this one. Seriously: Alan Moore! For some reason Bechdel is one of five artists whose name is left off the cover, and distressingly, there is no credit to the artists on the title page, just Pekar. (Also no good publication data.) By this point, Pekar has gotten good as selecting artists who work well with his style of writing: I imagine that drawing normalcy is more difficult than it looks, and these guys do a great job on the whole, especially Joe Zabel & Gary Dumm and Bill Knapp.

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