Glamourpuss #2

A comic review article by: Matthew J. Brady

Who knows what is going on with Dave Sim these days. Actually, who knows what's been going on for the last fifteen years or so, ever since he turned his long running series Cerebus into a forum for personal essays about the evils of women and other such bizarre opinions. But at least while that series was going on, he had something to keep working on, month in and month out. Now that he's finished his life's work, what's he supposed to do now?

Well, it looks like he's continuing to put out more of his idiosyncratic stab at refining his artwork and examining its history. As with the previous issue, he continues to redraw (or trace, if you want to be mean about it) panels from the comic strips of Alex Raymond, filling the word balloons and captions with commentary on the artistic styles used. This issue is actually a bit easier to follow than the last one (for a non-artist like me, at least), with less discussion of specific techniques and equipment, and more of a look at the various competing "schools" of photo-realistic comics art, including how they informed and built upon each other, eventually morphing into the comics art styles that are used today. It's fascinating stuff for those who like to read about that sort of thing, and it also reads a bit more smoothly than the previous issue, with Sim even using word balloons to have a bit of a dialogue with himself, rather than just fill them with the words of his essay.

In the other parts of the issue, Sim continues his parody of fashion and the culture surrounding it. The title character (who, in a strange confluence of comics tropes and haute couture, always refers to herself in the third person) opens the issue by ruminating on the meaning of a dog food ad that depicts a woman petting her dog in bed, with the text "I promise to always be there when you wake." It's amusing stuff, but a section in the middle of the issue is even funnier, as Glamourpuss presents readers with a letter to her therapist, Dr. Norm, arguing with him about her perception of anti-depressant medications as pointless and useless. It's a weird, funny, stream-of-consciousness rant, ending with a long rumination on a series of Michael Kors ads, which Sim reproduces in large single- and double-page splashes.

The whole Glamourpuss section seems to be there for Sim to try out his photo-realistic art style and build a story of some sort around it, and it's pretty amusing stuff, but it still brings up troubling issues, mainly because of Sim's notorious negative views toward women. Glamourpuss is a flighty, neurotic, narcissistic person who makes a point of saying she cares about real-world issues, but she approaches them as minor trifles, like a bad hair day or something, reducing much of the world to contemptible and trivial, almost beneath her notice. So is this Sim's view of the fashion industry, or women in general? He and his defenders would probably claim the former, but some of what he's written tends to indicate the latter, making reading his work a strange exercise in filtering out offensiveness in order to get to the good stuff.

And that good stuff is pretty good, if only because there's really nothing else like it on the stands. The artwork continues to be gorgeous, and even if the comedy flirts with reprehensibility, it's still quite funny. I don't know how Sim is going to keep doing this for twenty issues, and whether anybody besides him will care at that point, but for the moment, it makes for a unique, enjoyable read. But if he starts talking about creative lights and emotional voids, it's all over.

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