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Mind Opener: Getting Graphic


By Bethany Powers '11

Published Apr 1, 2010 9:00 AM


From American Splendor: The Life and Times of Harvey Pekar.

His comic book series was adapted into an Academy Award-nominated movie starring Paul Giamatti. Her graphic memoir was named the best book of 2006 by Time magazine. And neither of these graphic artists included superheroes that fight crime and villainy in their acclaimed works.

At "Titans of the Graphic Novel: Harvey Pekar and Alison Bechdel" on April 23 in Royce Hall, these renowned comic book authors will discuss the inspiration for their works as well as their use of graphic novels as a way to make sense of their own lives.

For 35 years, Pekar worked as a file clerk at a VA hospital and in his spare time created the now-famous comic book series American Splendor, detailing the day-to-day events of his own life. He is honest and revealing as he muses about his family, his job, money woes, and his neighbor — anything and everything he encounters. The film adaptation of his works was not only nominated for an Oscar, but won a top prize at the Sundance Film Festival and was nominated — and won — a host of other critics' awards.


From Fun Home by Alison Bechdel.

Our Cancer Year, his graphic novel about his battle against lymphoma, was critically acclaimed and won the Harvey Award in 1995 for best original graphic novel. Pekar has also written a jazz opera and is jumping into a new realm of the comic world — webcomics.

In a similarly autobiographic style, Bechdel's graphic memoir Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, is the narrative of her childhood and the complicated relationship with her father growing up. She is also known for her syndicated strip Dykes to Watch Out For, which takes a fresh perspective on some of the most pressing issues in modern America.

Both authors have taken a powerful tool often used for fantasy and imagination and used it to observe and comment on their own lives, as well as on modern events. Touching, smart and relatable, these authors have transformed the way graphic novels are used and appreciated.

Titans of the Graphic Novel: Harvey Pekar and Alison Bechdel. April 23, 8 p.m. Royce Hall. Tickets: $48, $36, $24. $15 for UCLA students. For more information, call (310) 825-4401 or visit