Or  “Puzzling…  Intriguing…  Entertaining…  A Little Infuriating…  Must Be Dave Sim.”


Most of you, our Faithful Spoilerites, are too young to remember the black and white independent comics boom of the 80’s, a time when the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were more than a color-coded merchandising phenomenon, where being able to actually draw wasn’t really a prerequisite, a time when having a unique artist’s perspective was not only not uncommercial, it was practically de rigeur.  It was a time where names were made and reputations created, a time which really and truly changed comics as we know them (for good or ill.)  One of the reps coined during this time was that of Dave Sim, the guy who drew that cute Conan parody with the aardvark.  Now, two decades on, the aardvark is gone, the “funny animal parodist” perception has been forever altered, and Dave Sim is back with something truly unique…

GP2.jpgPreviously, on glamourpuss: When asked what he was going to do after Cerebus hit 300 issues, Dave Sim’s stock response was always “Cute Teenaged Girls In My Best Al Williamson Photo-Realism Style.”  When Cerebus wrapped up a few years ago, Dave began working on a number of projects, including this book, which is exactly that…  and so much more.  The first issue of glamourpuss came out this spring, and I picked it up on a lark at my friendly alterna-chick comic store in Lawrence (where I buy most of my non-mainstream titles, as Deon has a tendency not to order books of the more esoteric nature.)  I was floored by what I read, and found myself hip-mo-tized by the stream of consciousness narrative.  The issue was part scholarly comics history, part brutal sendup of women’s fashion magazines and their…  Let’s be delicate and say “subjective” look at the world and how we all fit in it, with a little pseudo-superhero bone thrown to those of us who only read comics for the tights and capes.  It shouldn’t have worked.  That fact that it did is testament to Dave Sim the craftsman, his keen eye for dialogue, and a truly wicked sense of humor…

The issue starts with a wickedly funny analysis of a birth control ad, purportedly (and I have no reason to doubt it is) genuine, an ad that states that “there is no explanation of how [name of product]works.”  Sim (in the voice of glamourpuss) examines the ad and it’s hilarious undertones before launching straight into an analysis of several different ads seen in fashion magazines.  Sim reproduces the ads in his incredibly detailed rendering, before launching into a look at the history of comic strip illustrators Alex Raymond, Milton Caniff, and Hal Foster, best known for Flash Gordon, Terry and the Pirates, and Prince Valiant, respectively.  Sim’s analysis goes even further, analyzing the “Big Three” artists’ influence on modern art through Jack Kirby, Neal Adams, and even forward into the Image school of art circa 1991.  For a comic book historian like me, it’s fascinating stuff, especially as me makes the connection between Raymond’s stylized realism and the work of modern artists like Bruce Timm who create their own style in a completely non-realistic style.

Suddenly, and without warning, glamourpuss returns with a withering examination of anti-depressants, pointing out the startling truth that something like 40% of women are on some form of anti-depressants.  As with many of Dave’s analyses of the female mind, it’s intriguing, a little disturbing, and could easily be labeled misogynistic.  To me, though, it feels like a brutally honest attempt to parse a mindset that the writer knows damn well he can’t ever really fathom.  Through glamourpuss, he wonders why the anti-depressants don’t actually keep you from being depressed, and relates his thought processes to a series of photo-realistic reproductions of real fashion magazine ads, each one showing strangely plastic and emotionless women.  The wonderful thing is that glamourpuss keeps her unique voice throughout, airily recounting horror stories of people who lose feelings for their lovers and lose complete control of their body under the influence of antidepressants.

Boom!  Back to the scholarly analysis, with Foster and Raymond at the forefront, discussing the history of photo-realism, reproducing beautiful panels from each artist (and once again, Dave’s rendering is exquisite.)  He even side-trips to an interview with Milt Caniff where what you might expect to be a friendly rivalry is revealed to be less friendly than one might have expected…  It’s fascinating, and the transitions between glamourpuss’ storyline and the history is wonderfully handled, as we cut straight back to glamourpuss sadly analyzing a Dodge ad showing the image of a cutaway van, hilariously disappointed that the van isn’t actually a cutaway vehicle.  A quick sidetrip to glamourpuss’ evil twin sister Skanko and her tips on how to make men wild (“Tell him your period is three weeks late!”  Heh…)  featuring another wonderful recreation of an ad (this one showing a couple seemingly about to have sex) tops off the issue, and the imagined dialogue between the couple is absolutely hysterically brilliant.  (“Are you going to pull my hair?  Are you?  Pull my mouth down and make me do something disgusting?” she snarls.  He nonchalantly replies, “Is it too much to ask that you “method act” inside your head?  You’re making it extremely difficult to pretend you’re my hot next-door neighbor, Vincenzo.”  HA!)

Let me start with the obvious admonition: This book ain’t for everybody.  It combines a very unique point-of-view with a narrative steeped in (what *I* believe to be) sarcastic but good-intentioned commentary and a healthy chunk of some rather esoteric comics history.  It’s a very personal work, feeling very much like Dave sat down at his drawing board and said “What do I feel like talking about today?”  The art is beautiful, breathtakingly so, and I like glamourpuss as a character, if you can call her that…  The ruminations on glamour mags, on commercials, even on gender relationships are enlightening, even if they are as subjective in their own way as the things that they’re lampooning.  Rumor has it that Dave Sim will not respond to requests for interviews unless the interviewer signs a statement indicating that they do not believe him to be a misogynist.  I don’t know if I would be willing to sign such a statement (though I don’t really know what the heck that really *means,* to be honest) but I can tell you I enjoyed the heck out of this book.  glamourpuss #2 ranks a confusing, fascinating, frustrating and highly enthralling 3.5 out of 5 stars.  It’s a more muscular reading experience than your average comic, sure, and it’s a very personal vision, a very “spirit of independents” sort of read, and I highly recommend that you at least give it a try…



About Author

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.

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