Friday, May 09, 2008

Fangirl Fridays: You've Come A Long Way, Baby?

Comics: No Longer A Second-Class Citizen?

"Will one day I really be a real respectable entertainment medium,
Blue Fairy?"

"Only if your movie breaks a hundred mil."

Sometimes I get the impression that comics are to the rest of the entertainment industry the way women are to comics -- or at least, that's the way the media perceives it. Let me explain.

A common post in the comics blogosphere is the "look, a major newspaper/magazine/television show recognizes comics exist." I've done these sorts of posts myself. The posts are well-meaning and informative, but somewhat patronizing. The movie industry blogs don't make posts saying "oh look, Time Magazine paid attention to us. That's significant!" But we do.

The same thing sometimes happens in reporting women in comics stories. "Oh, they're paying attention to us! We're legitimate!" The very fact that women figure somewhere in the coverage, either as the subject of a comic book or as a comic creator, is highlighted. Because it's a woman. It's a "see how far we've grown!" type sentiment. The same type of sentiment I see from the comics newso/blogosphere for the mainstream comics coverage.

I'm not saying that we should stop posting this way. I'm just saying that I feel both comics and women in comics have reached a certain level of success where the fact that they're covered by major media shouldn't be such a shock. "Iron Man" is an over $100 million dollar movie. Don't worry. The media is "on" to us. They're almost going to phase out the "Biff! Pow!" phrases in the articles. It's been over 40 years, but seriously, they're going to stop.

Why I Hate "You've Come A Long Way, Baby"

She's come a long way, baby --
she can wear a man's suit with a baby-pink jacket that doesn't match.
Thank you for 30 years of irony and lung cancer, Virginia Slims

Do we need all-women comic con panels and all-women comic link-dumps? Do we need an organization like Friends of Lulu? I've always envisioned Friends of Lulu as 1) A place to celebrate the achievements of women in comics, 2) A place for women in comics to network with and find support from their peers, and 3) A place to provide young women mentorship in comics creation. Within all that there is another component of promoting all-ages comic book material. But I never saw it as a "You've Come A Long Way, Baby!" Virginia Slims type thing. "You've Come A Long Way Baby" patronizes the hell out of me. I don't need to be told how far I've come. I f**king know how far I've come. I was there!

Glamourpuss #1 Review

I was going to just draw my review by tracing panels from old issues of Cerebus and then putting my review in the word balloons, but I decided against it.

Glamourpuss #1 has two components: 1) A meditation on photo realism in comics and Alex Raymond, and 2) Some fashion model s**t. The former is interesting, the latter is flat. Models are shallow, models have eating disorders, models wear too-expensive clothes that are impractical -- there is nothing new here, at least in terms of how this material has been traditionally presented before. This is coupled with the preconceptions going in based on Glamourpuss creator Dave Sim's reputation.

Yes, I know I shouldn't go into an artist's work with preconceptions based on their reputation. But I see these lifeless pictures of the models, I see how they're presented as empty-eyed self-absorbed materialistic cyphers, I read about "Skanko," and in all honesty I have to wonder what Sim is trying to say about women in all this.

And this page differs from what Greg Land does how???

But then I contrast that with all the reconstructed Alex Raymond panels in the book which also feature women. Most of those women are sympathetic, and ironically have more life in them than the actual real-life women Sim used to draw the models from.

I guess the biggest question I have regarding Glamourpuss -- and the answer would have an impact on how I ultimately review it -- is how much irony did Dave Sim intend for it to have? How much he expected us to laugh at things like sore feet and Skanko and how much did he intended for these things to be ironic would make a difference to me. It would mean the difference between the book being an avant-garde work of art and just an overly-hyped trip through one artist's psyche.


  1. Say, on a completely unrelated that Terry Farrell from Deep Space Nine in that ad? Weird.

    A lot of what you say reminds me of what happens to black character or creators in comics, too.

    But I've always thought comics as a medium was strong enough all on its own, and all the other press is just icing on the cake. I just wish either of the big companies could do something good with their heroines. It seems the only good genre movies about women come from the indie comics.

  2. Comics, just like any other art form, has a small percentage of material at the top that is stunningly good, a somewhat larger layer that tries to be as good as the stuff at the top (and often succeeds), and a huge hunk of stuff at the bottom that works as filler but really does not elevate the medium in any way.

    I can't tell you how many people have told me that they love graphic novels but hate superhero comics.

    I certainly understand and share the love for David B., Satrapi, Sfar, et al., but also want to show them what David Mack did on Echo-Vision Quest in Daredevil or Brubaker's work on Criminal.

    The format shift from floppies to trades may present hope for the future in more than one way.

    If it decreases the need for one "mega-event," re-launch, and ret-con after another (to the point where readers grow numb), so much the better.

  3. I guess the biggest question I have regarding Glamourpuss -- and the answer would have an impact on how I ultimately review it -- is how much irony did Dave Sim intend for it to have?

    I'd planned to pick up Glamourpuss with pretty much this exact question in mind. But then, flipping through it, I realized I didn't want to pay $X over the course of several years for the privilege of puzzling it out.

    Maybe I'll read it from a library some years down the line. But chances are I'll never get around to it.

  4. I read Glamourpuss and I have to agree with Val's assesment. I find the meditations on Alex Raymond style artwork very interesting. So much so I'd like to pick up some Alex Raymond comics in trade paperback if available. The modeling "stories" and "jokes" are both unoriginal and kind of odd at times. I'm not really sure how it fits in with everything else in the book. Am I missing the point/joke of the stories and thoughts involving Glamourpuss, Skanko and others?

  5. If you need to know the artist's intention in the creation of the art, if you need some statement outside of the art, is it really good art?
    I personally feel that art should speak for itself, and that whatever it communicates to any particular consumer of that piece, that's what it means, what it says, at least to that person.
    Sure, for deeper criticism, some additional context for the piece is necessary, but if a straightforward reading of it doesn't give me a coherent message, then I personally find the piece in question to be deeply flawed.
    I also think that irony is overrated, and that an intention towards irony is not enough; the irony must actually be communicated in some fashion, so it's understood to be ironic. And then it's still overrated. And overused.

  6. All the political/gender stuff aside, I'd love just to read a straight art lesson based on Alex Raymond from Dave Sim, and not have to sit through any tired cliches about how shallow or vapid the fashion industry is.

    On the other hand, I can always find interviews with Mark Schultz where he talks about Raymond minus all that other philosophical baggage. So as interested as I am in this kind of art- although to be honest I never thought of it as photorealism because of the conscious stylistic decisions that are made in favor of just mimicking reality- I won't be buying this.

  7. I know it's cool to hate Greg Land, but I'm pretty sure he doesn't hate women and doesn't use his art to advance a misogynistic agenda. It's not really fair, is it? Sure, I guess it'd be nice if he didn't trace so hard, but c'mon.

  8. Dear Dave Sim,

    If you're going to attempt a haut couture fashion magazine parody, it might be an idea to make your book look like a haut couture fashion magazine rather than a church newsletter.



  9. Ah, yes, Virginia Slims... that pink scarf is now a pink ribbon...

    And if THAT irony isn't strong enough, let's dwell on the African American smokers who forget that is was tobacco which inspired the slave trade in North America...

    I guess some of us haven't come far enough. And why we need some people to lead the way.

  10. Yep I "plunked" my hard earned "loonies" (Canadian dollar coins) down for this book. I was a little interested a, little confused and a little dissapointed.

    I thought the art work was OK. Better than what I was used to from D.S. As for the writing, I was expecting "bile and vitriol" against the fairer sex and got a little "spit" and "name calling" against the fashion industry.

    Or did I miss something?

    I'm not willing to spend another 3 bucks or more to find out in future issues...