I did my top 20 horror and SF films last year, and found doing the lists to be more fun than expected, so in a massive bit of logic here’s my top 20 films adapted or inspired from comics. I need to point out I mean comics, not ‘superhero comics’ which is a lazy, and incorrect way to describe a wonderfully varied medium and it’d also cut out some bloody good films!
Previously, in this list at #20, X Men, 19, The Crow, 18, Heavy Metal, 17, Spider Man ,16, The Avengers, 15, Danger: Diabolik, 14, The Dark Knight Trilogy , 13, A History of Violence, 12, Kick Ass , 11,Spider Man 2 , 10, Barbarella, 9, Batman Returns, 8, X Men 2, 7, Dredd, 6, Batman and 5, Akira.
I first came across the American Splendor comic at some point in the mid 1980’s when I was expanding my comic knowledge and tastes beyond men in tights hitting each other while women with unfeasible bosoms look on in moist awe.
Really it was an expanding love of Robert Crumb’s work that drew me to Pekar’s work though initially I thought it was tedious and boring, then I actually read it. Once I had I realised that Pekar was telling the sory of a working class man in a post-industrial city trying to make a life for himself. It’s exactly the sort of thing comics should be doing more of because the majority of voices in any sort of comic tends to be the white middle class, or in superhero comics you’ve got heroes being made out of billionaires and arms dealers.
Pekar was real and honest, often to a degree which was painful to read, or funny, or sad, or interesting. He was the guy in the pub who you’d normally avoid but when you actually made the effort to speak to him you discovered fantastic new things about life and humanity from another perspective. This for me was the joy of American Splendor, so when I hear a film was on it’s way I was apprehensive to say the least as this could quite easily have been a total disaster.
Luckily it wasn’t, or rather luck had little to do with it as opposed to the casting of Paul Giamatti who captured Pekar’s essence perfectly, and although he and Hope Davis (who plays Pekar’s third wife, Joyce Brabner) are a little bit too smooth round the edges, the film deals with this by having the real Pakar and Brabner as part of the film’s narrative (not to mention a lot of other real people like Pekar and Brabner’s step-daughter Danielle Batone, and their friend Toby Radloff) so the film isn’t just a dramatisation of Pekar’s life, but a documentary as well as a meta-commentary on the entire process.
American Splendor is a unique, funny, sometime challenging work that isn’t just better than what most people were expecting, but surpassed it. It’s a fantastic film that should be enjoyed by a wider audience because it deserves it.
Next time, are you ready? Nananananana…….