Saturday, 21 April 2012

Kieron Gillen on Glamourpuss

Glamourpuss #1-4 (April-November 2008)
Art by Dave Sim
(from Kieron Gillen's Workblog, 1 December 2008)
Comic buying has remained sporadic ever since moving to London. About once a month I manage to pop into one, throw down a load of money on stuff and move out. This has meant that my following issues in singles is relatively dead, with a few exceptions - quite often I pick up issue ones to have a nose, the choice cuts of my favourite writers, stuff by friends/peers/people-I'm-bitterly-jealous-of, stuff which has been so argued about in a forum I have to buy to have an opinion. Oh - and stuff that I'm researching for pitches, obv.

There's one thing which sits outside of all that, which I've picked up every issue of and kept lying around for me to stare at bemusedly. It's Glamourpuss. It's quite the singular thing. As in, there's nothing quite like it.

It's very comics.

Glamourpuss is wot Dave Sim did after Cerebus. Which is an interesting thing, in and of itself - it being less a comic series and more 300 issues of Rorschach's origin sequence ("Void breathed hard on my heart, turning its illusions to ice, shattering them. Was reborn then, free to ink ones intricate design on this morally blank world. Was Dave Sim"). The idea that he would do anything else after that seemed strange and in and of itself. That Glamourpuss manages to be stranger than that simple concept says much, y'know? 

It's a hybrid fashion-parody/history-of-photorealistic art comic. It makes no attempt to join the two. You just have a couple of pages of Sim's rendition of ladies with sarcastic takes on women's fashion magazines. And then you have a couple of pages of Sim's talking about Alex Raymond's brushes and shit, by putting words into recreated versions of the drawings. And then more fashion parodies. And then more Alex Raymond's brushes and shit. And eventually Sim runs out of space and stops for another couple of months.

It's quite the thing. I have trouble believing it exists. And since it exists, I have trouble imaging it in any form other than comics.

As I said, it is very comics.

It's not just the economics of the thing which means it’s a pure comic - that we're a medium where one talented individual can pretty much throw any crazy shit in front of a sizeable audience, assuming they’re talented enough. Could you do it as a TV show? Yeah, theoretically. If you had a big pile of money and self-financed. But feasibly, no.

But more than that - there's something about it that despite its structure, it maintains an aesthetic unity. In most medium, going from one to another - while do-able - is intrinsically jarring. It's not that jarring in Glamourpuss. In fact, it's kind of natural. I think this is because comics engine is juxtaposition. We put things by one another and between the two, we create a certain sort of sense. In Understanding Comics McCloud wonders whether there's such a thing as a non-sequitur transition, because he thinks that there's some magic in the form which means that any two images create a kind of sense by being presented deliberately by one another. Glamourpuss is bi-monthly proof of that theory.

It's not a perfect book. Its... well, random, improvisational imperfectness is part of its charm. The fashion parodies have their moments, but even then are only agreeably spiteful rather than actively funny. But the wrestling with the inking is fascinating, watching someone who's at the top of his field wrestle with the old masters technique while also providing a lecture-in-comics to those who don't know anything. I mean, I'm British. I didn't enter comics at all seriously until I was inching towards my late twenties. I don't even know who Alex Raymond is. But I do now. Had a hell of an inking line, apparently. I'm going to ask McKelvie what an inking line is. It sounds awesome. I wish I had a hell of an inking line.

Kieron Gillen is a comic book writer, best known for his creator-owned comic Phonogram, created with artist Jamie McKelvie, as well as numerous projects for Marvel Comics.

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