Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Fair Trade: American Splendor: Another Day
Most comic book fans in this country choose to read about the advetures of their favorite heroes overcoming great peril to defeat their foes and save the day. But what about overcoming the peril of a clogged toilet? Or defeating a kid you are friends with and nearly putting him in the hospital? Or going toe to toe with the menace of inane airline regulations? Welcome to American Splendor.
Written by Harvey Pekar and drawn by... well, lots of people, this trade paperback collects the first four issues making up "season one" of American Splendor as published by DC through the Vertigo imprint. Each issue collected herein contains several shorts and features (some running a mere two pages, others ten or more), each illustrated by a different artist. All are in black and white, expect some special "bonus material" at the end reprinted from Playboy, but beyond that it is hard to put a particular theme or tone to the volume, other than the stories tend to be somewhat contemporary in their setting. And, of course, the fact that all of them are true.
Since this is a collection of shorts and not a running narrative, it makes for quick and easy reading. Most of the stories are humorous, in the wry way that Pekar's often dour outlook on life typically is, but there is some seriousness in there as well. One story, illustrated by Dean Haspiel, is entitled "The Battle Of The Vacant Lot," and brought a tear to my eye... while at the same time making he pretty angry with Pekar. So it's not all goofball stuff here, but the raw and sometimes ugly truth about the human condition for which this series is known. When Harvey is able to fix his toilet despite his complete lack of mechanical skill, we empathize with him -- who hasn't been in such a situation? But the skill comes from Pekar and his collection of artists in taking such familiar events and transforming them into appealing comics.
One thing about American Splendor is that if you have read any of it, you know what to expect when you read more of it, generally speaking. So if you don't like Pekar's work, this volume is not going to change your mind. But if you enjoy this kind of material, or want to try something off the beaten path that you can still find easily enough at your LCS (it is Vertigo, remember!), then definitely take a look at the new American Splendor.