Josh Neufeld & Dean Haspiel break down Harvey Pekar's AMERICAN SPLENDOR the movie (2003) scene by scene, with insight, humor, and inside information. Neufeld & Haspiel were both illustrators for the American Splendor comic book. SCENE BY SCENE is geared toward fans of indy comics and movies, as well as the rapidly growing “movies-by-minute” podcast movement. You can find SCENE BY SCENE atwww.scenebyscenepodcast.com
American Splendor scene #12 (20:21 to 23:45) — Inspired, Harvey stays up all night writing. At a diner with Crumb, Harv makes a pitch for a new kind of comics. He shows Bob the scripts he’s been working on — and Bob offers to illustrate them for him! Plus: an interview with actor James Urbaniak, who plays the role of Robert Crumb in the film!
A discussion about the pros & cons of creative collaborations. Do Harvey Pekar’s artists get enough credit? The great lunchroom fight of 1984! Shout-outs to Stan Lee, John Byrne, Terry Austin, Raymond Carver, and Jay McShann (again).
American Splendor scene #11 (17:51 to 20:20) — Harvey is doing some grocery shopping when he is confronted with a conundrum about which line to wait on — the long but speedy one, or the short one with the old Jewish lady in front? Out of nowhere, Harvey’s animated subconscious — drawn in an R. Crumb manner — pops up to help guide his decision. “Are you going to stand there in silence, or are you going to make a mark?” Another new wrinkle in this unusual film!
How Harvey’s artists did the “acting” in his comics. Did Harvey ever object to something Josh or Dean illustrated, and did Harvey keep some artists on a shorter leash? How the artists in the Vertigo series near the end of Harvey’s career/life were more stylized than the typical A.S. artists of yore. Were Harvey’s earlier stories better than his later work (which leads to a discussion of “later work” in general)? An extended compare-and-contrast session about the original comic that inspired the scene. The differences between cartoons and comics, and what they require of the watcher/reader.
Shout-outs to animators Gary Leib, Doug Allen, and John Kuramoto of Twinkle. Also to Vito Delsante, Prince, Stanley Kubrick, Neil Simon, Woody Allen, Love & Rockets, and Idiotland.
American Splendor scene #10 (16:24 to 17:51) — a sobering moment in the VA hospital’s “deceased” files section leads Harvey to try drawing his own stories. Short on ideas, he flips through some old comics, including an issue of Dr. Quake. But the message he receives is… “GIVE IT UP!” Dino’s art featured this scene!
“Did you really believe brass and brawn could derail your destiny with fate?” — more behind-the-scenes details about how Dino connected producer Ted Hope with Harvey & Joyce, and how Dino’s art ended up in the movie. A discussion about why Harvey chose to make his mark via comics, as opposed to any other medium. Harvey's scripts — did he wrote his stories in a stream-of-consciousness manner or did he plan them out? Stick-figure comics: a shout-out to Matt Feazell’s Cynicalmanand Randall Munroe’s XKCD.
American Splendor scene #9 (14:32 to 16:23) — The flashback is over, and a famous but disillusioned Crumb is back in Cleveland for a visit. He and our man hang out at a random bus stop while Crumb sketches. His marriage over, Harvey is lonely and frustrated — he wants to leave a mark on the world. Harvey doesn’t buy all this “growth crap” — he’d be glad to trade some growth for happiness!
An appreciation of Urbaniak’s Crumb. The revelation that Pekar had actually written a few “underground” comics stories — some illustrated by Crumb — going back to 1972. What were the comics that made you want to become a cartoonist? The “healthy energizing competition” of Dean & Josh’s high school comics club. Josh’s transition from mainstream/superhero comics to alternative comics. Dino as multi-dimensional storyteller: “a testament to life.”
Shout-outs to musicians Blind Lemon Jefferson, Big Mama Thornton, Jay McShann (again); comics creators George Pérez, John Byrne, Howard Chaykin, Frank Miller, Walt Simonson, Michael Golden, Roger Stern, and Neal Adams; and writer/filmmakers Woody Allen, Todd Solodnz, and Jonathan Ames!
American Splendor scene #8 (12:27 to 14:32) — It's still 1962, and Harvey and Bob are chillin' at the Pekar pad. Scratchy jazz tunes play on the turntable. Harvey admires Crumb's Big Yum Yum Book, but grows frustrated with Crumb's apparent lack of ambition ("It's just an exercise"). Still, a friendship is formed over a shared love of jazz and comics.
Pekar & Crumb as friends before they were artistic collaborators. The simple pleasures of reading and listening to music with friends — when socializing and technology were not so intertwined. The merits (and drawbacks) of technical pens. Crumb's underground work and Josh's premature exposure to it. Will Josh ever do his "Crumb comic"? Collaboration vis-a-vis doing your own thing. Drawing other people...
American Splendor scene #7 (11:11 to 12:17) — Flashback to 1962. A fateful encounter: while searching for old records at a yard sale, Harvey meets shy greeting card illustrator (and comic book collector) Bob Crumb. Special guest: actor Eli Ganias, who plays the role of Pahls in the film!
Marty Pahls and "Marty & Pahls" — the real man who introduced Pekar to Crumb (and married one of Crumb's sisters). Bits from "The Young Crumb Story"... Eli Ganias' juicy behind-the-scenes stories: "arm-around" on the cutting room floor, trailer talk, accents, the other actors, and much more. Eli’s prior knowledge (or lack thereof) of the American Splendor comic book (“a lot of text"). Shout-out to Dean's HariKari Kane.
In American Splendor's sixth scene (10:00 to 11:11), the real Harvey Pekar sits at a fake yard sale, talking about his years as a used-record collector / salesman. Harvey's transition from collecting "sides" to collecting stories.
It's talk therapy for Josh & Dean as they discuss family issues related to collecting/hoarding. The pros & cons of collecting stamps, baseball cards, comics, and music. Creating an industry from your own collecting. From collecting to creating— collecting as "research." Shout-outs to the Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Godfather, Marilyn Monroe, and Lester Young!
In American Splendor's fifth scene (8:00 to 10:00), it's a few months later. A depressed and lonely Harvey is at his flunky file clerk job at the V.A. hospital. Mr. Boats comes by to offer some poetic advice about women. The conversation turns to music, and then to Harvey's side gig as a used-record dealer. Mr. Boats accuses Harvey of not "turning loose the good stuff!"
Collier’s Disease, hoarding, “cat hoarding," and Harvey's tendency to “collect” misfits. The recurring character Mr. Boats (and his film portrayal by Earl Billings). “Jack the Bellboy” and Harvey's different personae. An appreciation of the research involved in mining previously unrelated American Splendor stories to guide the plot of the film. Finding the right medium in which to tell your story. “Semi-auto-bio” comix: authenticity and making stories from real life. Editors—oy! Note: this episode is 10% funnier than the previous one.
In American Splendor‘s fourth scene (6:06 to 8:00), Harvey's wife decides this "plebeian" lifestyle just isn't working for her anymore. Without being able to speak, our man is powerless to prevent her from leaving him. Poor Harvey!
Harvey's apartment sparks a conversation about "collecting" versus HOARDING. An appreciation of Paul Giamatti. The original American Splendor story — illustrated by Sue Cavey — that contributed to this scene, and its similarity to a singles ad ("Harvey on Tinder"). Josh's dramatic reading from the script initiates a discussion of storytelling and the filmmaking process. Dino caps off the episode with his own "American Dilemma" — a hilarious tale of competitiveness, frustration, practical jokes, and how he started working with Harvey.
In American Splendor‘s third scene (4:49 to 6:06), Harvey visits a throat doctor and exhibits a little hypochondria. Plus, he's having marital problems.
The boys correct an error from the previous episode. They talk about the original American Splendor story that inspired this segment, and the differences between the comic and the film. A discussion of the early issues of American Splendor and notable Pekar illustrator Gerry Shamray. Josh talks about his early artistic influences and how he first met and started working with Harvey. Dino and his shirts (or lack thereof). A comparison of the scene as it appeared in the in the script as opposed to how it played out on film.
American Splendor's second scene (1:24 to 4:49) introduces Paul Giamatti as Harvey Pekar, walking the gritty Cleveland streets, interwoven with the film's opening credits, all formatted to look like comic book panels. Then we meet the real Harvey Pekar in a faux behind-the-scenes documentary setup.
A discussion of American Splendoras a groundbreaking type of comic book — an alternative to both mainstream superhero comics andunderground comix. Some information about writer/directors Shari Springer-Berman & Robert Pulcini, as well as the previous attempts to make an American Splendorfilm. Josh discusses making nonfiction comics, specifically journalistic comics and autobiography. The city as character: Harvey Pekar's Cleveland and Dean's stories of Brooklyn and Trip City.
AMERICAN SPLENDOR's prologue (0:00 to 1:24) opens in the year 1950. It’s Halloween and an 11-year-old Harvey Pekar refuses to be a superhero. Josh & Dean introduce themselves and the show before diving into the scene, with memories of past Halloween costumes, as well as LaGuardia High School, which both hosts attended. A spirited discussion of Harvey Pekar the man and the legend, and his influence on Dean & Josh. Plus, some background on Josh’s career as a nonfiction cartoonist.