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Deliberately Creepy, Now Dead

comic american splendor

Several years ago, our house-hunting hit a weird snag. We found a stately home in a beautiful neighborhood, but I wanted nothing to do with it. I couldn’t get past the evidence that the man who lived there (solo? in such a large house?) was…kind of creepy. I never saw the guy, and I can’t even recall specifically what it was that made me so uneasy, but there it was. I don’t consider myself especially superstitious, but I guess I sort of figured that a weird spirit would be haunting our home.1

I thought about this episode as I was reading the just-published obit of Harvey Pekar of American Splendor “fame.” Pekar turned his drab life as a file clerk into a mid-size franchise, creating the American Splendor comic, a series of other graphic works (which he didn’t illustrate), and a movie based on the comic based on the life — starring the only-slightly-less creepy Paul Giamatti (whose role as John Adams in the HBO series was enough to make me pine for a small screen, black-and-white TV; was Adams really that dour and unattractive?). Even as a life-long comic book aficionado, I strode briskly past the too-real section of the local comics store, making a special effort to avoid Pekar’s unsettling slice of life.

But, as the obit points out, Pekar was in a sense a proto-blogger, capturing something about both his own experience and a broader, sad reality for so many people. That Pekar was able to mine this territory for hard-earned pathos, and to do so with such honesty for so long, was no small accomplishment. His quirky, deliberately unsettling laying out of his life’s story was, in the end, an act of courage and defiance.

  1. Quite sensibly, David didn’t get this at all. “He doesn’t come with the house,” he repeated over and over, as if talking to an idiot — which, in this case, I was.
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