Current Reviews


Glamourpuss #4

Posted: Monday, December 1, 2008
By: Steven M. Bari

Dave Sim
Dave Sim
Aardvark-Vanaheim Comics
Plot: Alex Raymond discovers a way to keep his fine line cross-hatching from smudging up in the engraving process. But how does he even get those lines so fine in the Rip Kirby comic strip? A power ring? A Radioactive inking brush? Rolling the bristles of his brush on scrap paper after each stroke?

Comments: No. But Dave Sim has an idea how Raymond did his enviable “Nightingale Style.” Unfortunately, he’s not letting the sought after secret out. Did he use a pen or brush? Pen and brush? What kind of pen? What kind of brush? The world may never know.

Yet, after three issues (I missed issue # 3), this particular study of artistic technique is by far the most interesting and easy to follow. Namely, Sim focuses on a single subject, that being the “Nightingale Style” rather than a history of the strip Rip Kirby and its influence. Also, the incredible composition of Raymond’s featured panels lends itself to the reader’s curiosity. For example, the lips Raymond’s women are made up of hundreds of lines, which create a photo-realistic sheen of glossy lipstick. Even if he used a pen, which would be much easier than a brush, the effort to detail is admirable and its effect is engrossing. Hence, why Sim has spent over a year uncovering Raymond’s method (and why he’s keeping his lips shut).

As for the fashion satire sections of the book, Sim’s photo-realistic style is improving while his biting comments on the women’s beauty industry remain hilarious. The most noticeable improvement is the transition of depth in the tracing process. Previously, many of the reproduced pictures looked flat. Yet, Sim has achieved three-dimensionality in these pinup ads, either by some new technique or better equipment to capture the photos details. For more about how Dave Sim puts an issue of Glamourpuss together, check out the link to my blog below.

Lastly, let’s consider the character of “Glamourpuss” who inhabits the book as its editor and chief writer. In his review of Glamourpuss # 2, fellow Comics Bulletin contributor Matthew J. Brady posited that she is a manifestation of Sim’s anti-feminist views. Despite writing some rather challenging works in the past, I don’t presume Glamourpuss and its titular character to be a continuation of themes in that massive 6,000 page novel called Cerebus. Moreover, reflect on the less politically correct statements in this issue concerning leaving one’s stuff in the ladies’ locker room: “Remember most trophy wives used to be airline ‘stewardesses’ and other sorts of bipedal vermin. They will literally gnaw through a burglar proof combination lock in second if there’s a Prada tank or Nine West belt at stake.” Is this any different than Jon Stewart’s playful swings at Republicans on The Daily Show?

Glamourpuss is shortsighted and materialist, but so are the people she is meant to satirizing. “A possible upside of the financial crisis will be a return to a more authentic time in the city [New York City],” speculates photographer Taryn Simon in the “Norwich Notes” of this December’s Vogue. How “authentic” are we talking here? Street crime? Graffiti? Mob hits? Sex clubs? Race warfare? As one of the unemployed masses, I’m itchin’ for something to do, so be specific!

I believe that Sim’s target of satire in Glamourpuss is not women, but the industry that would propel them into a cycle of self-loathing and intellectual degradation. If Sim chose to assail Betty Friedan over Ann Wintour (editor of Vogue) than you could maintain Brady’s argument. But Sim’s faux articles capture a fundamental feminist concept: “There was a strange discrepancy between the reality of our lives as women and the image to which we were trying to conform.” -- Betty Friedan in The Feminine Mystique.

And satirizing that disparity, while observing its resultant beauty, makes Glamourpuss a funny and fine looking book to read.

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