Monday, May 5, 2008

Glamourpuss #1

Dave Sim’s post-Cerebus comic book has finally hit the shelves and… I have no idea where he’s going with this!

Which isn’t to say it isn’t good. I just don’t know what it is, exactly. It is partly an analysis of the art of Alex Raymond, and his Rip Kirby strip in particular; partly exercise in photo-realistic brush work; partly satirical look at the fashion industry. That last one is the one most likely to garner attention. Not only is it the hook around which the comic is organized and sold, but it brings Sim directly into a subject that has caused Sim some controversy: women.

I am not going to get into the history of Dave Sim and his relations with women readers (or, perhaps, just women) in too much detail. There was a time when they made up a large part of his audience. Then he began to bring his views on women, and, to a lesser extent, gays, into his work. His vehicle for this was a character named Viktor Davis (Victor is Sim’s middle name). Davis argued that men were sources of light and women consuming voids. How seriously Davis’ views were meant to reflect Sim’s quickly became a moot point as Sim’s editorials began attacking, in his view, feminism, but in the views of many readers, women in general. Over the last fifteen years or so, a discussion of Sim has rarely gotten far before the subject of misogyny is raised. For more on this, just google his name. There’s tons. As for Glamourpuss, that Sim has decided to follow Cerebus with a comic that satirizes women’s fashion cannot help but raise the worse possible expectations. Those pages that actually do satirize fashion magazines are hit and miss. The dieting advice is pretty lame, but the short piece on ‘The Self-Education of N’Atashe’ is very funny. Reading it, though, I couldn’t help but wonder how many readers would have enjoyed it more if they didn’t know Sim had written it.

Sim says he created the book in order to draw photo-realistic pictures of pretty girls, but in his closing comments he admits that was an afterthought and offers to come up with another origin story for issue two. In the end it all seems to come down to Alex Raymond and photo-realism in comic art. Fashion would seem a more reasonable choice once this is understood, simply because an important difference between stories like Rip Kirby and, say superheroes, or even Raymond’s Flash Gordon, is the ability to draw ordinary people in a convincing manner in everyday clothes. No capes, no rippling physiques. And here he gives us a lot of samples of his attempts to emulate Raymond’s style, along with commentary on Raymond and his efforts to master photo-realism. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Emulation is an important learning tool, and one that probably isn’t stressed enough; but I have to wonder, is this comic going to be a Dave Sim sketch book? I don’t know. And I don’t know if that’s enough to keep buying it. But I am going to give it a few issues, however, before making a decision. Sim has said that there won’t be a trade until it is completed and that may be a while.

Glamourpuss, Issue 001. Words and Pictures by Dave Sim. Published by Aardvark-Vanaheim.

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