AS 14: Jellybeans, Lentils, and Lent

American Splendor scene #14 (27:32 to 32:26) — Our most authentic episode to date!  And the next thing, it’s the 80s… Harvey has published eight issues of American Splendor to critical acclaim but little financial gain. He’s still a “flunky file clerk.“ Toby stops by to offer Harvey some gourmet jelly beans. Before you know it, the film gets META as the real Harvey crosses paths with Paul Giamatti and the real Toby Radloff crosses paths with Judah Friedlander!

What if there was a Harvey Pekar Award in comics? How nuns get their names. Critical success vs. commercial success. The question of Toby Radloff and existential loneliness. Shout-outs to Gerry Shamray, Sean Carroll, Soho Zat, Chester Brown/Yummy Fur, Joe Sacco, Maya Neyestani, the Angouleme Comics Festival, and the JLA/JSA crossovers of the 1980s!

Episode Notes

“Lentils and Lent” from American Splendor #9 (1984). ©Harvey Pekar, art by Sean Carroll.

5 Replies to “AS 14: Jellybeans, Lentils, and Lent”

  1. Brett

    This is my favourite scene of the movie ! We get the great “dad-joke” of lentils/Lent (which is clever and silly) and Toby’s response “You are a funny guy” said in such a robotic way.
    The “pina colada” line is one I still use now, any time that I eat something tasty !
    Then that super meta-scene is the coolest thing I have seen in a movie and one I go back to over and over again.

    Oh, and I reckon the “Pekar” would be a prize for channelling emotion (especially negativity) into a great comic. A winner for 2018 might be Tom King and Mitch Gerard’s Mister Miracle, which takes emotions like depression, being a new dad and being trapped in a life in which suicide seems the only way out and uses them to craft a story about Mister Miracle and Barda being forced out of their domesticity to fight another battle against Darkseid.
    I am sure there are a million others I cannot think of right now, so sorry for paucity of examples !!

  2. Brett

    Man, I should wait and comment after I have heard the whole episode !
    Dean’s idea that autobio comics are more voyeuristic and more difficult to identify with than a Superman comic is interesting, and one I am a bit ambivalent on.
    It’s true that it can be easier to identify with a fictional character – they tend to be archetypes we can identify subconsciously and relate to an that level, we all aspire to be a benevolent person with super powers like Superman or to be as self-sufficient and logical as Batman (at least to some degree).
    I do think though that these fictional archetypes are a level removed from reality and so can only be identified with on a surface level.
    Whereas with an autobio comic it is the specificities of someone’s life that translate into a unviersal experience. I am not a file clerk, but have felt trapped in a job that makes me feel like a small cog in a massive machine. The fact that Harvey has that specific job which I can relate to with empathy means I can identify with him in a way I cannot with Superman. Just realised – the difference is empathy. I can feel empathy for Harvey because he is a normal bloke like me (albeit older and on the other side of the world) but I cannot really have empathy for Superman, I can only ever aspire to be like him.
    Hope this makes some sort of sense !!
    Thanks again fellas for a great podcast

  3. Dean Haspiel

    Thanks for listening and responding, Brett.

    In general, I would agree that superhero comics are about aspiring to be a heightened level of character, but my favorite superhero comics are the one’s where the protagonist is flawed. Morbidly human and trying to make connections. Trying to make brave decisions. Peter Parker wrestling with being Spider-man (“with great power comes great responsibility”) is a great example. Trying to control the monster inside (Bruce Banner and his Hulk) is another. My favorite Marvel character is Ben Grimm aka The Thing. A misunderstood monster with a heart of gold. Curiously, I find DC Comics superheroes harder to relate to. Which is why I was thrilled to find a way to love Superman via Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely’s ALL-STAR SUPERMAN. Of course, I loved the TV and movie versions of Superman as portrayed by the late/great George Reeves and Christopher Reeve, respectfully.

    I did read that Mister Miracle series and it was good. One of my very favorite series of all time is SCALPED by Jason Aaron & R.M. Guera (and other artists). If you haven’t read it, give it a shot.

    I suppose I desire a certain kind of escape. And, as much as one can identify with reality, I strive for more than that and that’s probably why I relate to genre more than memoir. BUT, the sweet spot for me is when genre collides with memoir. And, that’s the kind of collision I strive for in my personal comix works like Billy Dogma, and The Red Hook.


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