If you don’t know about Harvey Pekar or his comic book series, American Splendor (they named the movie after it), he was a mostly regular guy with a regular job as a file clerk in a hospital in Cleveland. He saw comic books with super-heroes in tights as formulaic and divorced from regular life. He saw that a super-hero saving the planet with super-powers from aliens was less dramatic than an ordinary person having to solve ordinary problems in day-to-day life. The super-hero drama existed only in fiction. Since we don’t have super-powers, what can we learn from them? They only entertain us.
Pekar began writing comics with ordinary stories from his ordinary life. He wrote with an honest, genuine voice from the gut. He was friends with underground comic strip artist Robert Crumb, also subversive and innovative, whom he showed his early work.
R. Crumb: You’ve turned yourself into a comic hero.
H. Pekar: Sort of, but there’s no idealized shit. There’s no phony bullshit. This is the real thing, man. You know, ordinary life is pretty complex stuff.
These words, that ordinary life is pretty complex, runs through my head all the time. I find it comforting in difficult times and helps me dismiss over-dramatized works that don’t help, which many mainstream works — movies, tv shows, books, the works — seem to do.
Well, I like that they entertain, but the life lessons I can learn from them seem limited.
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