“American Splendor” is a comic book series written by Harvey Pekar about his life. It was made into a film that captured the series’ self-reflexive nature very well, including multiple appearances by the real Harvey and the real people he wrote about in his work. I believe the filmmakers successfully recreated the rebellious nature of the comic book, both narratively and stylistically. It breaks many established conventions, such as having the real people that Harvey wrote about as characters in the actual movie, but still having actors playing them too. Also, there is a point where the film switches from the "comic" world to real life, when we randomly cut from an insert shot of jelly beans to a sound stage where the real Harvey interacts with the real Toby. To point out the rebellious nature of this, the filmmakers show the actors playing the roles of Toby and Harvey watching the real people. This served little narrative purpose, but was interesting and in keeping with the defiant nature of Harvey and the subsequent attitude of his comics.
The style of the film lacks continuity, which exemplifies Harvey's search for identity as well. The film is searching to figure out what it is just like Harvey. I thought that captured the comic book style of the comics very well. A specific example for this quest for style is shown by the animation sequences that served as transitions between various retellings of the comics. I also think some of the heightened reality aspects of the comic translated well into the film because the film was so true to the original work. The perfect example of this is when Harvey Pekar's mysterious laryngitis is suddenly healed when his life finds new order. Obviously this is not realistic, it is the stuff of a comic book - but, it serves the story and is thus a legitimate addition.
I do not see Harvey as a hero, really, at least not in the traditional sense. I think he went through a lot in his battle with cancer and his ability to overcome this and continue on with his life makes Harvey Pekar a hero by his own definition of heroism. And also by the definition of Chris Vogler, Harvey is a hero because yes he does change by the end of the film - his outlook on life has changed and he has become more optimistic. So yes, Harvey does change.
Finally, I think he does do a good job of showing life in a real way while still making comedic art. But it’s comedy in a depressing way that shows life with an appropriate lack of glamour.