If you only read Being Carter Hall, you may not know that I also enjoy comics beyond those which feature winged warriors smashing into their foes with a variety of archaic weaponry. No, your humble blogger also enjoys comics about art, and comedy, and history, and satire, and fashion.
Yeah, that's right, fashion. Like those super glossy magazines you see peering out at you on the magazine rack at your grocery store or local newsstand. Filled to overflowing with coutre and advertisements and Really Good Advice. Those proud periodicals which proclaim that not only is alright to be beautiful, its the only acceptable solution! And so I am going to talk to you about The High Fashion Comic Book That's "So Six Months Ago," Dave Sim's glamourpuss.
glamourpuss is several different concepts all rolled into one, primarily out of necessity. Artist Dave Sim (best known for his epic Cerebus) decided that his next major project would be drawing "cute teenaged girls in my best Al Williamson Photo-Realism style." And thus was the book was born, a hybrid of an self-examination of learning to ink in the style of Photo-Realists such as Williamson, Alex Raymond, Stan Drake, and Neal Adams, and a lots of images of models looking pretty. For a creator very frequently (and not entirely inaccurately) called a mysoginist, this seemed like some sort of joke when first announced.
But a joke it is not. The first issue hit without much fanfare for anyone save Sim afficianados and Sim bashers (notably, Gail Simone, a lady with such venom in her heart for Sim that it makes me wonder how she could come across as so affable). But whatever anyone, myself included, was expecting to get, we got something else entirely. The first issue details Sim's admiration of the Photo-Realists, and his early attempts to emulate Raymond's style, working from copies which had been photostatted so many times that the fine lines had long since merged into a blur. But right up against this was a bizarre monologue from the titular glamourpuss, supermodel and all around fashionista who's personal role model is Mahatma Ghandi, and who wows us with tales of her summer on the Left Bank in Paris in a Blumarine dress, earrings by Kenneth Jay Lane, gloves by Charter Club, and clutch by Jennifer Alfano.
Next to that is an advertisement for her "dream condo" toy, which brags that it is so "completely lifeless. Completely sterile. So authentic, you'll swear you've been transported to the Downtown Core of any major North American City."
And then we're right back to the history again. Just like that. And then we get a lifestyle article about the benefits of eating "fodd" instead of "concentrated, low-calorie food in pill form." This is followed by a piece staring glamourpuss's evil twin, Skanko. And no I am not making any of this up.
It might take you a few reads to get it, but when you get it get it, that ultimately this entire book is about the art, and the attempt to achieve the lost art of "beyond noir" Photo-Realism. The satirical commentary is just icing, filling in around Sim's often striking beautiful depictions of the models he sees in fashion magazines. This book is about these artists, and the influence which their comic strips had on the rest of the comics world, even now; the second issue features an interlude wherein Sim demonstrates the links between Alex Raymond, Milt Caniff, Jack Kirby, Neal Adams, Art Adams, and Bruce Timm -- all of it illustrated spectacularly in black and white.
I'm not an artist by any stretch of anyone's imagination. But, as the saying goes, I know what I like. And one thing which I like is hyper detailed pen-and-ink drawing, without the use of color to help convey the story. Seeing Sim's work from issue to issue is not only very aesthetically pleasing, but also illuminating; you see the different styles grow and take shape. And when he talks about Bernie Wightson, and why his Frankenstein looks so amazing, I was so shocked I had to book the comic down to think about it. This history is fascinating, and being illustrated in this manner helps make it more digestable than any lecture could ever hope. Anyone who considers themselves a fan of comic book art needs to have this book on their pull list because this is like taking a seminar on Photo-Realism.
And it's funny as all heck to boot. The cover headlines alone range from the inane ("Pole Dancing For Pre-Teens: It's Never Too Early") to bizarre ("DELETE Laugh Lines! COVER Dark Shadows! DESTROY 99.99% Of Bacteria!") and everything in between. We get glamourpuss's "Really Good Advice (which shares space with the Swimsuit Issue), a series of potential superheroines (including GirlFlash, Leather Cleavage, Flowerbomb, and Veiled Threat), and glamourpuss's reflections from her annual trip to rehab.
A personal favorite bit of Really Good Advice: "Write your worries on a piece of paper, then burn it... Tell yourself that now those worries are reduced to ashes they no longer need concern you. (NOT recommended if one of your worries is that you might be a closet pyromaniac.)"
I've really only begun to scratch the surface of why this book has been a favorite from the first issue. There's no other comic book on the market which combines all of the different elements of glamourpuss, let alone does them which such style and panache. This truly is one of the overlooked gems out there on your comic shop's rack, and deserves a spot on your budget. Give it a try. You'll laugh, you'll admire, and you'll learn something to boot.
Looking for something fabulous to read? Then pick up Dave Sim's glamourpuss. You'll be glad you did.
Interested in reading more? Good! Check out the lesser-known titles reviewed in these other blogs and "Read These, Too!":