Harvey Pekar (Paul Giamatti) is an obsessive compulsive who works as a file clerk at his local Cleveland hospital. At home, Harvey spends time reading, listening to jazz and writing about everything that interests him. At a garage sale of old records, he meets Robert Crumb (James Urbaniak), a greeting card artist and music enthusiast who is finding success from his underground comic books. Harvey begins to write his own brand of comic, using his profoundly problematic every day life for material, which Crumb begins to illustrate. The first American Splendor comic is published in 1976. When he receives a fan letter from Delaware book store owner Joyce Brabner (Hope Davis), they correspond briefly and decide to meet.