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Ego and Hubris: The Michael Malice Story

Ego and Hubris: The Michael Malice Story

by Harvey Pekar, Gary Dumm (Illustrator)

“Michael Malice is one of the most puzzling twenty-first century Americans I have ever met.”
–Harvey Pekar

Who’s Michael Malice, and how did he become the subject of a graphic novel by Harvey Pekar, the curmudgeon from Cleveland?

First of all, Michael Malice is a real person. He’s 5’6” and weighs 130 pounds. Although


“Michael Malice is one of the most puzzling twenty-first century Americans I have ever met.”
–Harvey Pekar

Who’s Michael Malice, and how did he become the subject of a graphic novel by Harvey Pekar, the curmudgeon from Cleveland?

First of all, Michael Malice is a real person. He’s 5’6” and weighs 130 pounds. Although on the cusp of thirty, he could easily pass for a scrawny teenager.

One day Michael, a guy with a patchwork employment record and dreams as big as his ego, meets Harvey and begins to relay all these wild stories about his life. Simple as that. Harvey thinks the guy is bright but a bit of a riddle–though not the kind wrapped in an enigma. It’s strange. He seems like the type of person you meet every day, rather ordinary, until you really get to know him. Then you realize he’s exceptional, unusual, and contradictory. Pleasant one minute, really nasty the next. But isn’t cruelty part of human nature? We digress. . . .

Harvey writes up and illustrates one of Michael Malice’s tales, “Fish Story,” which is part of American Splendor: Our Movie Year. It makes a splash and spawns this book, Harvey’s first hardcover, a graphic novel event about one guy’s life.

Ego & Hubris relates how, a year and a half after his birth in the Ukraine, Michael Malice moved with his parents to Brooklyn. He’s an intransigent kid, a hard-ass–both a demon to and demonized by the people who cross his path. His life is a constant struggle for validation in a world where the machine keeps trying to break him down. But Michael has a way with people . . . or rather, has a way of getting even with people. Hey, if you can’t live up to your parents’ expectations, at least you can live up to your name.

Michael had never come close to fulfilling his huge dreams–until now. And just as Harvey’s been the everyman for a certain generation of graphic-novel readers, Michael Malice will be the everyman for a new generation.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Praise for Harvey Pekar and American Splendor

“Pekar lets all of life flood into his panels: the humdrum and the heroic, the gritty and the grand.”
–The New York Times Book Review

“[Pekar] has a vision that makes daily city life–a ride on the bus, a run-in with a boss, or simply buying bread–dramatic.”
–Chicago Sun-Times

“Simply stated, American Splendor is the most superb literary endeavor to come off the streets of Cleveland in decades.”
–Cleveland Plain Dealer

Publishers Weekly
American Splendor's Pekar branches out into a full-length story of someone else. This first-person tale documents the life of New York native Michael Malice, a fairly streetwise geek of frightening intelligence, if he does say so himself. Which he does. Numerous times. Malice's autobiography consists of a long string of episodes where he is right and everyone else is wrong. From first grade-where a teacher forces him to mispronounce a word in a children's story-to his string of nowhere temp jobs, he's in constant contact with people who are far stupider than he. The story gets much of its power from the shock value inherent in the narrator's unshakable confidence in himself. Dumping a girlfriend with leukemia, beating up on his intellectual inferiors, heaping contempt on those he doesn't agree with, Malice has endless energy for pointing out the faults in others. Still, Pekar makes him a compelling and memorable character, with his endless hunger for something better. Malice is clever and, at moments, surprisingly sympathetic-chiefly when he contradicts his own stated principles and derives intense satisfaction from the approval of others. Dumm, longtime Pekar collaborator, illustrates in his usual straightforward, quotidian style. (Apr.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The latest from the renowned graphic memoirist offers a fascinating character study of a character who isn't Harvey Pekar. Though Cleveland's Pekar (American Splendor, 2004, etc.) has mined his own life for stories that have taken him from the comic-book pages to late-night TV to the big screen, the writer here turns the spotlight on another character. Meet Michael Malice, whose issues with authority, ambition and political correctness will strike a familiar chord with Pekar's readers. Through the illustrations of Gary Dumm, the reader enters the world of this Brooklyn-raised son of Russian immigrants, a young man who quickly realizes that the American dream isn't all it's cracked up to be. From grade school through college and into the workforce (where he finds his comfort level as a temp), he always seems to be something of a misfit or an outcast, feeling that he's so much brighter than those who would attempt to teach him or judge him. As the title of the book suggests, Michael might be a little too smart for his own good-quick to reject conventional wisdom and common sense in favor of an intellectual rigidity that puts him in a league with the likes of Ayn Rand. Pekar and Dumm invite the reader to identify with Malice, telling his story through his eyes in his words, yet the course of his life puts his vaunted intelligence at odds with the realities of the world around him. The narrative has all the deadpan realism of Pekar's autobiographical work, and even has some sort of happy-or at least optimistic-ending that the writer has never previously permitted himself. Whether or not Pekar has exhausted the storytelling possibilities of his own life, fans will appreciate this change ofpace.

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
American Splendor Series
Product dimensions:
6.22(w) x 9.54(h) x 0.70(d)

Meet the Author

Harvey Pekar, a native of Cleveland, is best known for his autobiographical slice-of-life comic book series American Splendor, a first-person account of his downtrodden life, which was made into a movie starring Paul Giamatti. He is also the author of Best of American Splendor and American Splendor: Our Movie Year. He is an omnivorous reader, and obsessive-compulsive collector, and a jazz critic whose reviews have been published in The Boston Herald, The Austin Chronicle, and Jazz Times. He has done freelance work for the critically acclaimed radio station WKSU and has appeared eight times on Late Night with David Letterman and two times on The Late Show with David Letterman.

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