Gold Digger v2 #1-4 (1993)
By Fred Perry
Apparently the Gold Digger miniseries did well, because less than a year later Antarctic Press decided to follow it up with an ongoing series.
It's back to square one for the Diggers sisters, as they, only to discover that it's being guarded by terrorists, rakshasas, daemon mice, and a powerful curse that brings death to all who plunder the tomb. In attempt to "trick" the curse, Gina creates a "bio-plasmic construct" based on her and Cheetah, only see her plan backfire and bring life to Brianna Diggers, the "Grave Digger," an implacable foe who has Gina's brains and Cheetah's brawn. How can Gina defeat a foe that knows her every move?
Well, with a well-placed squirt from an oil can, as it turns out. In an interesting twist of fate, Grave Digger is defeated, the curse neutralized by Dr. Diggers (who is a powerful archmage after all), and Brianna is welcomed into the Diggers family by everyone.
This is probably why Gold Digger started to catch on — at this point in its history, it's just light frothy fun, filled with heroes who try to reform villains rather than kill them, short self-contained stories, coolk-looking mecha, and hot chicks. In other words, it's got everything a teenage boy (or someone with the maturity of a teenage boy) could ever want from his comics. Except maybe the self-contained stories. Not that Gold Digger doesn't have 'em, but that teenage boys would care.
There's a subtle change in the art at the start of the regular series. It's always been cheesecakey — the main characters are essentially running around in tank tops and cutoffs — but now it's extremely cheesecakey. Everyone's got enormous spherical breasts, bulging pudendas, nipples that could cut through steel, and a permanently arched back. They're wearing dress shirts unbuttoned to the navel and cutoffs cut so high that they're practically butt floss. It's a bit distracting, and honestly, it makes it a bit hard to take the girls seriously. Not that you can't be sexy and serious, mind you, but this a cartoon caricature of sexiness that makes them look like porn stars pretending to be archæologists.
Fortunately, Fred's art is definitely improving. Here's a nice sequence from issue #1, with Cheetah squaring off against Genn the rakshasa...
Those top two panels are a nice moment-to-moment transition — Cheetah's action is easy to follow and dramatic, with a nice flow to it that you don't see in a lot of superhero action sequences. The lack of panel borders is a nice idea, because it makes the transition seem more organic and sudden, but there could stand to be more separation between them because they're running together.
The character designs are more confidently stylized, and the grotesque proportions from the beginning of the miniseries have disappeared. Fred's also spotting detail more intelligently — there are just enough lines to detail Cheetah's powerful musculature without making her seem wrinkled or leathery. Her spots are still a problem, though, as they complicate and clutter any composition she appears in (more variation in the line weight could help mitigate this).
I'm fascinated by Brianna, because her genesis is so weird. She's an amalgamation of two existing characters, possessing most of their strengths, weaknesses, and personality traits, and she's not a villain. In other words, by her very nature she renders the two leads superfluous. In most comics, she'd either be shunted to the periphery and forgotten, only to be drug out later to sacrifice herself in the main character's stead in order to fulfill some shady prophecy.
And yet, 150 issues of Gold Digger later, and she's not just a character, she's one of the main characters. Why?
Well, mostly because by occupying the central position previously occupied by her "sisters," Fred can now start to push Gina and Cheetah in different directions without losing elements of their character he likes to work with. Since her sisters have boyfriends, Brianna can take over the "boy-crazy" role. With Brianna taking over her role as muscle, Cheetah can focus more on her romance with Stripe. With Brianna taking over her gadget fetish, Gina can become more of a pure scientist and less of a gadget-using tomb robber. And if a reader doesn't necessarily like those developments in the main characters, then Fred can always drag out Brianna to fill those niches as needed.
And three is a more dynamic number than two in the long haul. With two leads, there's a sort of balance that can lead to stasis. With three leads, there are always going to be points where it's two-on-one or even every-man-for-himself, which are inherently more dramatic situations.
Plus, she gives Fred an excuse to draw a girl in hot mecha outfits without having to cover up his hot furry or the hot girl in cutoffs. Bonus!
Print Run: 2200
One of the interesting things about Antarctic Press comics from this era is that they list the print runs in the indicia. It strikes me that 2200 is a terrible number for a new series launch — especially for a series launching from an established publisher at the height of the Image bubble — but I guess if AP could get about 66% sell-through, they'd be making their printing costs back at least.
The other issues have a slight drop off to about 2100 copies by issue #4, which is remarkably resilient. But I guess when you're that close to your printer's minimum order, you don't really have the room to drop your numbers dramatically the way DC and Marvel do.