Glamourpuss #5

By Dave Sim
24 pages, black and white
Published by Aardvark-Vanaheim

I couldn’t help but find it a little apt to finally run a review of Glamourpuss right before April Fool’s Day, since I can’t help but suspect that most people think that Dave Sim is playing an elaborate joke on the rest of the comics industry with this being his follow-up to Cerebus. Once I finally sat down with an issue of the comic, though, I found myself really surprised by this strange, hodgepodge comic, which isn’t really quite like anything else on the market right now. I’m not entirely sure the world is ready for a combination of art appreciation, history lesson, and pop culture spoof, but then again was anyone really ready for Cerebus?

The most interesting part of Glamourpuss for me was, easily, Sim acting as an art professor. Here, he’s recreating Alex Raymond’s old Rip Kirby comic strips and then slowly dissecting each strip, talking about how Raymond used his photorealist skills to create a strip. Of course, this being Sim, his narration is a strange mixture of silly and clinical. "Apart from the obvious ‘hubba-hubba’ quality," Sim writes, "what becomes most apparent here is the animation effect, with the three figures of Jet Allyson moving closer to the reader, her face moving only slightly while her arms and hands change position dramatically: a brilliant example of narrative composition." And so Sim continues with each reconstruction, talking about background details, attention to form, and understanding how things would reproduce on the printed page.

At the same time, though, Sim also continues to treat Glamourpuss as a mock women’s fashion magazine, a combination of advertisements and article snippets peppered throughout the comic. It’s a strange sensation, to shift from reading about how Raymond uses his photorealistic techniques, to Sim writing a strange sort of commentary about different advertisements and models. The connection between the two is there, don’t get me wrong; Sim’s using his own photorealistic techniques here and the results are stunning. From a Porsche advertisement (with Cerebus hidden in the driver’s seat) to a model’s pouting face, every line and detail is meticulously added. Just looking at every single cobblestone underneath the Porsche two-page spread is staggering; the amount of detail and care is really impressive, and it helps hammer home Sim’s discussions of how Raymond showed really integrity over the years in his own work.

That said? After the various accusations of Sim’s attitudes towards women over the years, it’s more than a little disturbing in places to read Sim have his nameless narrator suddenly snap and call the models whores or tramps. Part of me can’t help but feel like Sim is deliberately playing to his audience, here, goading them on for a reaction. None the less, I have to admit that whenever the tone did seem to be getting out of hand, I would ultimately just move on to the next page and admire the art some more.

It’s an odd little comic, with the occasional sequential art story (although once again, Sim is still using his photorealistic skills, using model photos as his baseline for what is in some ways just additional drawings with a strange narration tacked onto those panels and pages), fake ads for shoes that emit farts, and even a surprise zombie. (No one expects the zombie.) It walks a fine line with its satire, and honestly at times I’m not sure which side of the line it’s on. But Glamourpuss has absolutely glorious art, and for Sim’s discussion of Raymond’s art alone it’s so worth reading. I’d love to read a textbook written by Sim about early comic strip art, but I suspect this is probably the closest we’re going to get to such a beast. With that in mind, I’ll definitely be looking at more issues, but it helps that I know exactly what I’m getting into. Certainly not for everyone, but none the less interesting.

4 comments to Glamourpuss #5

  • JRVJ

    Sim is what he is.

    Yes, his mysoginism is problematic, but he is also one of the top comic book artists of all time.

    It is a pleasure to see him do this book, and I truly hope he keeps on doing it.

  • Michael Grabowski

    I’m getting real tired of the fashion-mag parody but the art history text is really interesting, even though I’m not an artist. But the best part of #5 was the Porsche spread. The spinning rear wheel, the reflection in the door, and the surprise Cerebus cameo. Thanks for posting it.

  • There is an interesting UTube video you can find where Sim demonstrates his drawing process. Now, he shows that what he is doing is little more than tracing pictures. Did Alex Raymond trace…of course not! Therefore, I’m not sure what the excitiment is over Sim’s work. He is not recreating an art style but selling traced drawings. I’d also be interested in the copyright implications – I don’t think I saw an attributes to the photographers. So, Sim rips off other artists, mentally masturbates on theories of comic art (sounding sophisticated while stating the obvious) and throws in gratuitous hatefull comments towards women. Now what’s the interest here in the comic again?