American Splendor is a movie that follows Harvey Pekar throughout his journey of life and how he came to be a famous comic artist. American Splendor is also the name of Pekar’s comic that he wrote as an underground comic artist. As I watched American Splendor the movie, I noticed many similarities between certain elements of comics talked about in Scott McCloud’s book Understanding Comics.
First, I found that the general idea of the movie American Splendor relates to Understanding Comics because one of McCloud’s arguments he discusses in his book is that comics is an art form that should be taken more seriously and seen as something that is acceptable for all ages. In the movie American Splendor, Pekar is inspired by Theodore Dreiser who shows that comics can be an acceptable art form for adults. Pekar’s comics appealed to people because they were real life situations that he experienced that everyone can relate to in some way which brings me to the nest similarity I found between the movie and the book Understanding Comics.
McCloud’s talks about how he believes a simpler comic drawing may be the best option when it comes to trying to make the characters relatable, universal, and spark imagination in the audience. In a scene in American Splendor, Pekar is shown attempting to draw a comic in a library with the quote “I got a job”, with frames and stick figures. Even though he didn’t use those drawings, because he never actually drew for his published comic, in McCloud’s eyes Pekar’s stick figure drawings may not have been the worst idea to use. McCloud believes a simple drawing allows the audience to imagine that character is us and feel more invested in the story itself.
Pekar’s comics also focus on black and white drawings and let the story be the leading force within the comic which is similar to McCloud’s opinions. McCloud makes the case that focusing on the content within the comic and the power of the story should take priority over how intricate the drawings are within the comic.
Lastly, McCloud writes about the powerfulness of using varying transitions, panel shapes and sizes, and line styles to create an impactful story. I researched one of the American Splendor comics and found an image of a man on the phone. Pekar uses Scott McCloud’s technique and separates the two frames of the boys on the phone with a jagged diagonal line that splits the frame into two. In comics, this jagged line is frequently related to a phone and creates a very intriguing and in my opinion satisfying aspect to the comic because if the two men on the phone were separated by a straight line and a different frame it would have taken me longer to identify they were in different places chatting on the phone.
I thoroughly enjoyed watching American Splendor not only because of the humor but also because after reading Understanding Comics I was able to identify elements of comics and better understand the art form. Although there were massive amounts of similarities between Understanding Comics and the movie American Splendor, these were just a few that stood out to me.