Way back in May of 2008, I wrote a bit about Dave Sim’s glamourpuss– as you’ll note, it’s a mostly complimentary review appreciative of the project’s complexity. More than a year later, I continue to collect the title– in fact, the only two books I buy are glamourpuss and Sim’s Cerebus Archive– and I still lack any grasp on what the hell is happening.
The book’s main conceit– a comics history of photorealism buried within a broad-stroke emulation of fashion magazines– is, prima facie, one of the most bizarre ideas for a creator owned title in the history of Western Comics. Dig deeper and one sees, kinda, sorta, the connection: there’s a subterranean link between the photorealism and fashion. The tradition’s artists spent an awful lot of time drawing women and their clothing; the fashion industry provided both.
When the first issue of glamourpuss was released, I described it as a parody of fashion magazines– the early issues certainly felt like one. Sim’s approach subsequently revealed itself as unfathomably weirder. Issue #8, for example, contains a deconstruction of Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen’s book Influence. The humor is buried so completely beneath the glamourpuss (titular character) persona’s attempts at humor that it becomes impossible to claim glamourpuss contains parody or even satire. The laughs are wry and detached, deconstructionist but not. If there’s a word to describe this, I have no idea what it is.
I think the title is suggesting there’s something amiss with the influence afforded the Olsen twins (which is true), but its convoluted methodology obscures the point. All the layers of meta-commentary cancel each other out, leaving the reader wrestling with the Olsens’ ability to genuinely unsettle. The twins are creepy enough that one doesn’t need Sim, glamourpuss or glamourpuss. Meanwhile, Sim intersperses his analysis with stunning photorealist artwork and gossipy meditations on the scandalous early life of Margaret Mitchell, authoress of Gone With the Wind, and how she may have been blackmailed by the Hearst syndicate into writing a 30 page bible for Stan Drake’s “The Heart of Juliet Jones.” The book ends with what has become a trademark of the series– a caustic letters column in which fans write gushing letters to/about Sim, only to be ripped apart by the glamourpuss persona.
Best comic ever?
Agar Agar in “The Harem of Bacchus” by Albert Solsano. From Dracula Magazine, 1972.
Remarkably, even in context, it don’t make a lick more sense.
Collected in TPB by Warren Publishing. Whose offices were located at 145 East 32nd Street.
I worked in the same building for two years and had no idea. The things you learn with comics.
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