Tuesday, 13 December 2011

The Critics On Glamourpuss

Glamourpuss #14 (July 2010)
Art by Dave Sim

Here’s Glamourpuss #1. Beautiful images of 20 year old models in fantastic clothes all done in his best Al Williamson photo-realism style. And whatever else you can say about Glamourpuss, I wouldn’t think anyone would be able to doubt it’s an absolute work of artistic beauty. Because through all of his years as Dave Sim; evil genius comics mastermind, people did tend to forget that he was also Dave Sim; bloody good artist. His illustrations here are just perfection, with a mix of styles as the page demands. But everything in the book just looks sublime. Also of note, as always, is his use of lettering. Sim should, if nothing else, go down as one of the most creative letterers in the comics business. It’s toned down slightly here from some of the absolutely incredible and radical work in Cerebus, but it’s still inventive and downright clever how he plays with his typography and lettering... As a book full of extremely pretty pictures, Glamourpuss works. As a book looking at the technical qualities of an art style I think (from my non-artistic point of view) that it works. As a book chronicling the development of the photo-realistic style in the 50s and 60s it works as a piece of journalism. Finally as a wacky parody of high fashion magazines it... well, it sort of works.

Dave Sim’s Glamourpuss is one of my favourite regular comics. A grand departure from Cerebus, it’s a strange brew of the history of inking and photorealism styles in comics through the twentieth century, with Dave Sim first reproducing the pages in question, then taking those relearned skills to reproduce fashion magazine images, upon which he places a self-knowing satire on the magazines and those who write and read them. It’s an immersive experience, educational and amusing in equal measure. And no one’s reading it. Fix that, people, fix that.

 ...a scrupulously cultivated, astute and thrilling analysis by an artist of a visual style and its masters... what Glamourpuss offers, what Sim is able to present, is compelling. Here are comic strips and panels in slow motion, enriched by informative commentary and authoritative explication woven together with industry scuttlebutt and the medium’s history. The results are so cumulatively engrossing and persuasively intriguing that although I can never recall glancing at Rip Kirby or The Heart of Juliet Jones in the funny pages while growing up, I’ve snapped up the recent Kirby reprint volume from IDW and have been likewise tempted by Classic Comics Press’ inaugural release of their The Heart ofseries.

An appreciation of the photo-realism thread in comics wrapped in a parody of fashion magazines, Glamourpuss is a book to be consumed on several levels. As a scholarly work, it provides a unique depth and insight into the lives and works of Alex Raymond, Al Williamson, Stan Drake, and other artists whose contributions to the medium are immeasurable. By copying from the best-possible sources, Sim shows a glimpse of what long out-of-print strips might look like with restored fidelity, tuned to brush lines the thickness of a single hair. It is, of course, still Sim's art. Copies of copies of copies doesn't equal the real thing. So while it's Raymond's art that Sim is appreciating, we're appreciating his. It doesn't take much time to be reminded that whatever else he may be (more on that later), he is also a virtuoso of the medium. In both his translations of the photo-realists' works and fashion magazine photos, he brings depth, character, and flair to each image. Usually with those maddeningly meticulous cross-hatchings that helped define his style in Cerebus. Even the layout and flow of the book is impressive, and the design and digital production work of Sandeep Atwal smooths the reader's ride from parody to narrative to appreciation and back again. Each issue is a visual experience from cover to cover.

(from the Wednesday's Haul blog, May 2008)
...You see, it is all about fashion and beautiful women. Well, that and the men who were perfectly able to capture them in ink during the fifties and sixties. Dave Sim’s first major published work since Cerebus isn’t about politics, religion or the sexes but about Alex Raymond, All Williamson, Neal Adams and John Prentice, the photo-realist comic strip artists who are Sim’s idols and inspiration. One part history lesson and one part art lesson, Glamourpuss is Dave Sim’s very public attempt to define elements of these artists’ work and to learn how to become one of them. And what better way to do that than by trying to draw beautiful, fashionable and glamorous women in their photo-realistic style... In Glamourpuss Sim remains as much up and center, hijacking the narrative by the second page to turn the book to be about himself and about his artistic heroes. Dave Sim ruminating on his favorite artists is a lot easier to accept and digest than his ruminating on gender roles ever was. And as he’s writing about these artists, he’s recreating panels of theirs. The book is filled with Sim’s attempts to recreate and learn from some great artwork of the photo realists. Sim admits that they’re tracings of Prentice’s or Williamson’s work but he’s trying to pull them apart and put them back together. He’s attempting to learn from them. He then applies those lessons to his own artwork through recreating photographs out of fashion magazines in pen, brush and ink.

(from the Flotsam & Jetpack blog,  August 2008)
It's no surprise to me that Dave Sim’s new project Glamourpuss lampoons the world of fashion, and the magazines that cover that sphere. What does surprise me is that he mixes the satire with an amiable and rather cute sort of cartoonist geekery. At one moment he’s being pretty funny narrating the vapid thoughts of a high fashion model, the next he's griping while giving a historical rundown of Alex Raymond's rapidly disappearing thin lines. In the weirdest sort of way, this dynamic makes Glamourpuss a very personal work, though not with the intensity that usually accompanies such items. It's not intense — it's jolly. Glamourpuss is personal in the sense that it is a comic book representation of one side of a conversation you would have with Dave Sim if, in fact, you were having a conversation with him about the photo-realism cartooning style that kept being interspersed with a few giggles at the expense of haute couture.

(reviewed by Jarett Kobeck, October 2009)
...Best comic ever?

Back issues of Glamourpuss are always available from ComiXpress.

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