Cerebus creator Dave Sim's new comic glamourpuss
December 27, 2007 12:57 PM   Subscribe

Aardvark Vanaheim presents: The Fabulous World of glamourpuss. Four years after publishing the 300th and final issue of his epic-length Cerebus, comic artist Dave Sim has announced that he is launching a new bi-monthly title debuting April, 2008. The topic? Fashion.

In the intervening years, longtime collaborator Gerhard severed ties with Sim's Aardvark-Vanaheim publishing company, and Sim published essays and correspondence in his Blog and Mail website, including contemplations on whether, given popular opinion on his (disputed, at least by him) misogyny, politics, religion and sanity, it would make sense for him to bother even attempting to publish new works. He completed but ultimately canceled a single-volume "secret project" - with an essay that suggested his belief that forces, both worldly and spiritual, were acting against him. But you have to admit that the new project, described as "part haute couture magazine parody that's SO 'six months ago'," part "homage to the classic photorealism black & white 'beyond noir' comic strips of the 1940s and 50s," and part "strangest super-heroine comic book of all time," does sound interesting. Although given Sim's much discussed misogyny, "a train wreck waiting to happen" seems a likely opinion as well. Previously on Metafilter.
posted by nanojath (23 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The comic's website, incidentally, is idiosyncratic, to put it kindly - I found the tendency to require multiple "humorous" click-throughs to get to some bit of content particularly galling. On the other hand, there are indications that Sim maintains a sense of humor about his perception in the comic book field.
posted by nanojath at 1:03 PM on December 27, 2007

Popcorn is go.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 1:06 PM on December 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

The topic: Women and what's wrong with them.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:23 PM on December 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

It's nice to see how differently he can draw from the style used in Cerebus. In some ways, the pages remind me of the early Love and Rockets -- before they excised the "Rockets" from their stories.

Someone forgot to add the batshitinsane tag to the post, tho.
posted by Slothrup at 1:32 PM on December 27, 2007

I was a big Cerebus fan until after the "Final Ascension"..
then it went all downhill.

Re-appoint Cerebus the Prime Minister!
posted by Balisong at 1:41 PM on December 27, 2007

Son, ye see that dock out there? I built that dock with me own two hands, plank by plank, nail by nail, but do they call me Sim the dockbuilder? Nae. And see that ship out there? I’ve been fishing these waters for going on thirty-five years! but do they call me Sim the fisherman? Nae. And ye see that pile o' aardvark comics there, tall as an oak tree? I wrote them comics. But do they call me Sim the artist? Nae.

But ye fuck one goat . . .
posted by The Bellman at 1:50 PM on December 27, 2007 [3 favorites]

But ye fuck one goat . . .

... defend fucking the goat, continue to fuck goats, put goat-fucking sequences in your pile o' aadvark comics, cut ties with all your non-goat-fucking acquaintances, and sell your fish in tins with a penetrated-goat mascot labelled "billy-goat 'o the sea", and what do they call ye?

For what it's worth, even at his craziest, Sim was always a terrific cartoonist. His descent into creepy, bitter 'antifeminism' really bummed me out.
posted by phooky at 2:09 PM on December 27, 2007 [5 favorites]

Sim is an outstanding artist, and one of the best caricaturists out there.
He's also a batshit insane writer.
And if you look up "misogynist" in the dictionary you find his picture.

This comic might be good to look at, but I bet it will be a trainwreck to read.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 2:11 PM on December 27, 2007

Now THIS is some crazy.
posted by Kloryne at 2:13 PM on December 27, 2007

his women have "multiple origins" tho... if only it was in 3D! (with more quotes ;)
posted by kliuless at 2:34 PM on December 27, 2007

I think those pink dots are permanently burnt into my retina now...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:43 PM on December 27, 2007

I feel bad for the guy that he got his heart broken so badly that it turned him into one of comics' most colossal douches, but in the end it is he who insists on remaining the douche in question. There is zero chance that a new comic about women by Dave Sim is going to be anything but hateful and shitty. Even if he manages to make jokes the whole time.
posted by damehex at 3:13 PM on December 27, 2007

Sim is an outstanding artist, and one of the best caricaturists out there.

Well, he's at least half of an outstanding artist. Does Sim have a new Gerhard? Because if he doesn't, I think whoever the audience is for this may be waiting a lot longer than a month between installments. Unless the comic all takes place in a universe of pink dots...

At least in the short term, I'm gonna go for broke and predict financial success, critical failure -- I can't imagine anyone familiar with Sim wouldn't want to see whether this is the woman-as-madonna/castrating-tranny misogynist nightmare it looks like it might very well be, but it'll probably just be so hard to read that everyone will get frustrated and put it aside.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:14 PM on December 27, 2007

Sim, in a nutshell: "Women are so stupid! As proof, see how stupid this woman is, in my comic that I wrote and drew??"

I used to love Cerebus, but when he started his anti-me (i.e. mysogyny) bullshit in the back pages, I had to stop buying it. I started buying the monthlies somewhere in the 150s, and was ready to buy the remaining 150 until the end of the 300-issue run. It's very sad.
posted by chowflap at 5:31 PM on December 27, 2007

I'll probably buy the first few issues. I found Cerebus entertaining till pretty close to the very end, though I think I didn't actually read the last ten issues or so (though I do own them).

Particularly if these are the early, "funny" issues...
posted by wittgenstein at 6:53 PM on December 27, 2007

I don't know a thing about comics, but one thing I know when I see it: Gay, gay, GAY!
posted by gorgor_balabala at 7:49 PM on December 27, 2007

Actually, the last few issues of Cerebus were very good indeed.

I read the whole series and found it, on the whole, to be well worth the time I invested in it. Oh, I didn't agree with a lot of the politics, but I was amazed at the world Sim created. I still am.

It is tragic that his batshit insane world view has totally overshadowed his remarkable work.
posted by Joey Michaels at 9:58 PM on December 27, 2007

Sim, in a nutshell: "Women are so stupid! As proof, see how stupid this woman is, in my comic that I wrote and drew??"

Except that the wierd thing about Sim is that that's not true. It's like there are two people - the one that draws picture stories and the one that writes too many words - that keep coming crashing together.

His female characters - at least up to the end of Form and Void, which is as far as I've read - aren't dumb, or at least aren't dumber than the male characters. Indeed, psychologically, Jaka and Astoria are more complex and interesting than most of the male characters.

I also find the book's obsession with balance to be out of character for the person that I have to accept Sim to be. The infamous "Issue 186 Rant" is a counterweight to the speech given by the Man on the Moon around Issue 100; Jaka's outburst at the end of Form and Void is played against the scene where she gets the two of them safely off the boat (that is to say each is a challenge for one character or the other to bite their tongue and suppress their characteristic reaction to a situation in order that it be resolved diplomatically. Yes, Cerebus passes the test and Jaka fails, but that doesn't mean that Jaka is dumb.) While I'd admit balancing elements are often not of equal weight, the fact that they exist in that way demonstrates the book to be more than a mindless screed.

Another theme is that of recurrence - a situation with Astoria in chains and Cerebus in judgement over her has been played out many times before, with the sexes (and, indeed, species) of the characters switched.

Sim is actively (indeed adolescently) homophobic, but one long chunk is an intelligent appropriation of the story of Oscar Wilde's demise. I'm not sure why it's there, but it is moving.

That is to say, often the book itself subverts and contradicts what the author says the book is about. Which is odd, to say the least.

Perhaps this stems from Sim's refusal to acknowledge any critical arbiter other than himself, but that makes the book singular and unusual. It also pushes the book uncomfortably close to Outsider Art status, and if the book naturally finds itself in the company of From Hell and Love and Rockets on the one hand, it seems quite comfortable in the vicinity of In the Realms of the Unreal on the other.

I tend to go on and on about Cerebus without the critical abilities to do it properly, but someone should, beyond that strange magazine that he published himself. It's a shame that the book is dismissed because Sim is mad. The frustrating thing is that it deserves much better than him.

I'm incapable of reaching an opinion on this new book. It's the most bizarre and uncharacteristic artistic judgement I think I've ever seen. I hope it's good, if only because that will make the whole thing even stranger.

Perhaps he is a closet. That would explain a lot.

It's a long time since I read Cerebus. I should get the remaining books and read it again, really. I do find the prose pieces (186 and all the editorials, particularly the wretched Hemingway and Fitzgerald pieces) very tough going indeed, but in context they're a part of a much more interesting whole. Or at least, that's how I remember it.
posted by Grangousier at 2:50 AM on December 28, 2007 [8 favorites]

I disagree (sometimes vehemently) with many of Sim's opinions as expressed in the back pages (and in long expository essays), but that doesn't mean there isn't a lot to recommend him. I think Grangousier is dead right about how the comic is not a straightforward affirmation of Sim's own beliefs. He's a brilliant artist and oftentimes highly inspired writer. I even agree with some of his antifeminism (some), but more importantly, it's refreshing to see people discussing big controversial ideas, and not just for the sake of controversy. It's a bad thing whenever we think that some argument has been settled for all time. Even good ideas need to be re-examined and challenged from time to time; if they are good ideas, they should be able to prevail.
posted by Edgewise at 8:18 AM on December 28, 2007

That said, the whole "Cerebus turns into Spawn and kills women who speak up" thing was a little over the top.
posted by Joey Michaels at 8:27 AM on December 28, 2007

I came to Cerebus pretty late in the game, and my reading is still in the territory that is pretty universally acknowledged as the good stuff, so I've yet to draw my own conclusions about the later stuff (although I've read the most infamous essays in other venues). I've been reading the Blog & Mail on and off for a couple years and found it alternately interesting and infuriating. He can be quite engaging and indeed humble in discussing his personal experiences - at least when it doesn't get into his standing in the comics world or perceptions of his controversial beliefs: when he gets into the latter (for instance, a fairly recent long, multi-part justification of his standing challenge of Bone author Jeff Smith to fisticuffs) he is usually at his most unlikable. I thought his commentaries on the comics industry, both mainstream and independent, were usually insightful and thoughtful. His writing kept me interested enough to keep checking back in, which is why I knew about the new project.

His rhetorical technique that I find most false and odious is the classic straw man - crafting a caricature of his perceived opponent and then venomously skewering it. This is exemplified by the [Fifteen (formerly Fourteen) Impossible Things to Believe Before Breakfast That Make You a Good Feminist] - which he appears to believe is his tour-de-force statement against feminism, given his obnoxious decision midway through the Blog & Mail run to append it to the beginning of every post. And it is very easy to imagine this new title being a vehicle for just this sort of rhetoric: an ongoing caricature of women in modern culture with a transparent rhetorical agenda. If so, I doubt it will last for long. Still, I plan to check it out for at least a few issues. Whatever Dave Sim is he is not as one-dimensional as the picture discussions of him often present.
posted by nanojath at 10:58 AM on December 28, 2007

That said, the whole "Cerebus turns into Spawn and kills women who speak up" thing was a little over the top

Then again, Cerebus did have the whole 'Sermon on the mount of dead lawyers' thing going.

I first started reading Cerebus at about 70, and it was, at that time, wonderfully clever, irreverent, insightful, and mysterious.

I went the distance, collecting the monthly reads until 300. It was clear by the end the direction he'd gone in, and, to be frank, it was the same kind of madness that makes creationists think they have a point. A curlicued circumlocation of logic in favour of the anecdotal. Where Sim had once provided an amusing yet grimly accurate portrayal of the complexities of politics and certain aspects of religion, he had gone on to suggest that his views on everything were correct by virtue of being his. He could not defend them without accusing his 'attackers' as not having thought things through as carefully as he had, and when confronted with simple, step by step, refutations of his thesis, retreated into his own made up religion.

But, as a scantily clad character in Morrison's 'invisibles' once said "We're the kind of people that laugh at mental illness".

I think Grangousier is dead right about how the comic is not a straightforward affirmation of Sim's own beliefs.

Now here's the weird part. He thinks it is. The end of 'Going Home' is about how the entire moment is ruined by Jaka revealing her unmarriedness, despite the fact that the craptacular, insular community has already rejected Cerebus. Without knowing Sim's somewhat individual beliefs, it's an interesting tale of town vs country. Sim places all the blame on Jaka for getting in the way of Men's business.

Part of the reason Sim is such an interesting artist is that he just doesn't realise how wrong he is. He's almost too clever for himself. He has created characters of such richness that when he makes them do something so caricaturish , it doesn't ring true within the narrative - and the other narrative aspects are so strong he's set his agenda up for a fall.

This is why it took so long for people to tell whether he was truly a mysogonist or just tricking folk. Ultimately, in my humble opinion, he has given up on evidence and moved so far into the subjective that an honest appraisal is impossible. He is so very, very wrong, yet cannot see the fallacies of his own arguments, because he believes he has become strong with God.

That said, he's fucking talented, in lettering and page design and characterisation. I have the complete run either in issues or Swords or one phonebook. It is a shame that the earlier brilliance got subsumed by the later agenda-weilder, but I would say that, if you ignored the textual component past 150 (not so much the first Reads stuff - but not even I made it through the perversion of his Pentateuch ) it ranks up there amongst comic greatness.

I just don't think Sim is capable, anymore, of realising why it does.
posted by Sparx at 10:59 AM on December 28, 2007 [2 favorites]

Dave Sim is crazy as shit and can write/draw/letter and design his ass off. That alone makes anything he does worth checking out.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:46 PM on December 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

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