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american splendor 1
excellent writing
exceptional art
historical 5
score 10
American Splendor #1

Only Printing / May, 1976 / 52 Pages / Harvey Pekar

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The inaugural issue of American Splendor must have seemed like a strange bird to a lot of comic book fans in the summer of 1976, even those of the underground persuasion. Sure, Justin Green's autobiographical classic, Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary, had paved the way for brutally honest introspection and everyone was used to Robert Crumb's deeply personal rants. But what's this shit "from off the streets of Cleveland"? Who the hell was this Harvey guy and what the hell were these stories supposed to be? Yeah, some of 'em were a bit amusing, but not laugh out loud funny. Some of them didn't seem to say much at all and they kind of just ended when they ended, without even making a point.

As it turned out, American Splendor #1 opened a massive door to "real life" autobiographical comics. Pekar told his stories straight from the book, with no embellishments. He never tried to fluff up his miserable little life into more than it was, and in the first dozen-plus issues of Amerian Splendor his life wasn't much. Pekar was an acerbic, paranoid, self-educated, literary man who loved old jazz records and feared failure. He didn't get along with almost anybody who "worked for the man" or put on airs to impress people.

American Splendor features virtually no sex, toilet humor, violence or melodrama. Instead, by conveying stories about the grime and pain and challenges of everyday living, it provides meaning, poignance and virtue to an otherwise mundane American life; the same type of existence endured by the vast majority of people not only in this country, but around the world. By writing honest stories about the experience of living, Pekar changed the scope of comic books and built the framework for future alternative comic creators who wanted the medium to be bestowed with serious literary and artistic value.

As Pekar told the Vancouver Sun in an interview in 2004: "The reason I got into comic books was so little had been done with the form. It was as good an art form as any that existed, it's just that for some reason people didn't want to write adult stories."

It is currently unknown how many copies of this comic book were printed. Pekar was known to have printed approximately 5,000 copies of early issues of the book. It's possible that the first issue had less copies printed, but I don't believe that was the case. This issue has not been reprinted.
Harvey Pekar - 1-23 (stories)
Gary G. Dumm - 1-2 (art collaboration), 5-30 (art collaboration), 39 (art), 40-52 (art collaboration)
Greg Budgett - 1-2 (art collaboration), 5-30 (art collaboration), 40-52 (art collaboration)
Robert Crumb - 3-4 (art)
Lod Jeric - 28-30 (layout)
Brian Brian Bram - 31-38 (art)