Glamourpuss #4

While Dave Sim's got quite a reputation--partially, deservedly so--for being a rather angry and contemptuous dude, it's interesting that Glamourpuss is first and foremost a celebration of comic book art. It's also a pretty intellectually rigorous comic book and if all continues to go well, the only stone-cold masterpiece being put out right now.

Usually, when words like "masterpiece" or "intellectually-rigorous" are invoked in terms of comic book, it's from a comic or graphic novel that screams-out "this is a very smart comic book, I bet you didn't know comic books could be so smart!". The point behind Glamourpuss though, is, "this is how smart comic books already are!"; it has no contempt for the craft or the art-form and doesn't feel the need to take on anything more than comic art itself to show you why comic books are great. Glamourpuss is in love with comic books.

You feel his appreciation in the extended rant about Alex Raymond or the like, side-bar tangent on Bernie Wrightson's arduous inking technique, which he describes with a mix of awe and humor: "So much for the "secret" of Wrightson's ink line...everyone at the demonstration decided to find someone...anyone else's ink line to imitate". And of course, it's accompanied by Sim's amazing recreation of a Wrightson image. Is the implication there--similar to his rant on the previous page about Raymond's amazingly brush-inked cross-hatching--that Sim himself mimicked the artists' "absolutist perfectionism" when inking his recreations?

One of Sim's most thought-provoking points in issue #4 has to do with the problems of reproduction, especially as it pertains to the thin inks of Raymond's "nightingale style". Sim does the amazing and very fun thing of recreating a panel of Raymond's work and then, recreating a shoddy Spanish reproduction to illustrate how the brights and hatching of the work turn into thicker lines and lumps of black. It's fascinating and something I've never considered and somehow I think, illustrates the point better than if Sim were to have put actual images of the two works next to one another and not recreations of both of the works.

After last month's rather half-baked issue, it's good to see Sim totally back on track. While I doubt he'll ever achieve the Pynchon or David Foster Wallace-esque mix of empathetic ennui and detached irony that he did in #2's rant from glamourpuss about therapy, he's back to lots of little dense chunks of text and a really obsessive focus on the inner-workings of the comic craft too. There's still this pesky mix of condescension and flat-out misinformation about fashion and how women digest it, but that's to be expected and is an interesting contrast to the joy found in the comic book craft section.

After last month's issue, Monique suggested that maybe the whole thing was on-purpose. Since Sim was dealing with the angry, ugly rivalry between comic artists, maybe the issue was to reflect that coldness. Sim too, being something of a playful knee-jerk artist, might've also been showing readers like me that indeed, Glamourpuss' brilliance comes out of the apparent disconnect between the fashion stuff and the comic book history lessons. When the fashion satire got really ugly and the comic book history presented something ugly, it made too much sense...it's good Sim's gone back to the ragged disconnect of his two obsessions with the only connecting piece being his stellar art.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed your review about GLAMOURPUSS. Dave Sim is such a challenging artist. His craftsmanship has no peer but as soon as he broaches the subject of women... Well...
Sometimes I wonder if many artists sexual fixations inform their art. Robert Crumb loved his big legged women; Frazetta, his babes-in-armored-bikinis; so I wonder if Dave Sim has progressed past his women in sacks to supermodels that he's just basking in the glow:
"Ha! Not only can I draw girls hotter and more realistic than Wonder Woman but I can go a step further and create a comic book you couldn't even dream up!"
I expect a piece from PLAYBOY might one day happen.