A Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Lost Cities
Gold Digger v1 #1-4 (1992)
Story and art by Fred Perry
After the positive reaction to the "Gold Digger" serial in Mangazine, Antarctic Press decided to take the next step forward by producing a Gold Digger mini-series in 1992.
The structure of the series is pretty simple — each issue Gina and Cheetah find themselves dropped into a different legendary city (El Dorado, Atlantis, Shangri-La and Eden2). Along the way they discover a plot by the Atlantean sorcerer Gyphon to conquer the world, and pursue him from city to city in an attempt to stop him from completing the ultimate weapon — Armageddon.
The plot moves at a breakneck pace — even though he's got four 32-page issues to fill, Fred is still acting like he's working in 3-page installments. But it does allow him to cram a lot of action into those 128 pages. Why, in this miniseries alone he introduces the following characters:
- Ace, the world's greatest pilot (who bears a suspicious resemblance to Fred Perry);
- Penny Pincer, Gina's devious and avaricious arch-rival;
- Stripe, the king of the race of anthropomorphic cats who live in El Dorado, who becomes Cheetah's boyfriend (and later husband);
- Dark Bird and Night Flight, a group of barely-competent air pirates who will become one of the title's comedy villains;
- a whole pile of characters from Atlantis, most of whom never appear again;
- Kahn, head librarian of Shangri-La's "Library of Time," who will be Gina's steady boyfriend;
- Empress Lynn of Shangri-La, who has a thing for Kahn and isn't happy he wound up with Gina;
- Subtracto, a sentient computer globe thingy;
- Dr. Theodore Diggers, Gina's unflappable father and the world's greatest arch-mage;
- and Jetta and Thabian, two werewolves who protect the Garden of Eden from intruders, and who don't like werecheetahs very much...
Unfortunately, there's also no attention to constructing the overall plot arc, which leads to several rushed, anticlimactic sequences — including the final "battle" with Armageddon which is resolved in all of two panels. The rushed pace also makes some of the plot threads seem like Cliff's Notes, like Cheetah and Stripe's attraction, which skips the "getting to know you" stage and jumps right to "heavy petting," or the "threat" of Armageddon, which really just stands around looking scary. There's also an unfortunate tendency for all the characters to speak in the same voice, and none of them have more than a one-dimensional characterization. Still, the light tone and sheer range of material being offered means that there's something for just about everyone to like.
Fred's art hasn't changed much from the original serial, except for the addition of a gray wash which does help add some dimensionality to the figures but also muddles the overall page design. Or would, if any attention would be paying to the overall page design.
Still, there are some signs that Fred is developing as an artist. At the beginning of the book all of the characters have really tall faces with huge eyes that are way too far up their heads. By the end of the book the characters are starting to look more pleasingly naturalistic, even if all the female characters still have the same face. And every once in a while he busts out a nice page like this...
There's a lot to like in this page. The looming figure of Cheetah's animal form is used to good effect, and it feels like a natural exaggeration of its normal appearance. The panel sizing is perfect, lending just the right amount of dramatic weight to each moment. The black portions of the sound effects and Cheetah's leotard are well spotted and lead your eye around the page in a nice fluid "s" shape. The character designs for Cheetah and Stripe are fun, distinctive, and memorable.
There are a few problems. There are no backgrounds to give you a sense of where they are. Gina's figure is a bit stiff in the first panel — a bit of action in her hair might help add some genuine fright to the secen (and it would make her hair seem less fake). The sound effects are not particularly well-placed. That third panel violates the 180 rule3 (but it's mostly a filler panel — the real action skips right from panel 2 to 4 so I'm fine with that). The line weight could use some more variation — in particular a lot of the detail lines could stand to be lightened a bit.
There are still a lot of rough edges that will need to be sanded down, but it can't be denied that after the first two stories Gold Digger is starting to take shape as an entertaining (if inconsequential) comic.
- Sorry for the bad cover scan. The logo is embossed gold leaf and that stuff never scans right.
- Which isn't a "city" per se but we'll let that slide.
- "Don't rotate the POV 180 degrees in a single transition." It's on okay guideline, I guess, but I find it's a bit too restrictive.