Gold Digger v2 #20-30 (1995)
After the long "Lich-King" storyline, Fred Perry cools things down a bit with a series of single-issue stories. In these six issues the Diggers sisters and friends are put on trial by some thoroughly modern leprechauns, explore the spaceport beneath the Great Pyramid, save history from evil time-traveling dogs, nearly free all the inmates of a magical prison, and go for a picnic with their boyfriends.
For most adventure series, single-issue stories are usually throwaway fluff, never referenced again. What I find interesting about Gold Digger is that the single issue stories are usually used to introduce characters and concepts that will eventually become very important.
Issue #21 introduces Ryan Tabbot, Gina's occasional boyfriend and rival, and recurring villain Erwin "Pee-Wee" Talon, an eight-year old master of genetic engineering. After all, who makes a better foil for a super-genius than someone who's just as smart — and even less mature?
Issue #22 brings back the Penny/Gina rivalry, and introduces what may be the series greatest villain — Professor Peachbody, a time-traveling dog trying to ensure the rise of a canine-dominated future. It also introduces Charlotte, a timid harpy who will go on to become Penny's best friend.
Issue #23 introduces the Dragon Pharaoh, a mystic juggernaut whose name will keep reappearing throughout the series. It also features a cameo by Selina Masters, further tying Gold Digger into the Ninja High School Universe.
Issue #24 introduces the Edge Guard, a group of lycanthropes from Jade and former students of Julia Diggers. Here, they're mostly used to pad out some introductions, but later they'll become very important. It features two pointless, machismo-laden fights (between Strype and Gar, and Seance and Ryan), but ends on an up note when Stripe finally proposes to Cheetah.
Issues #23-25 also devote a lot of time to differentiating the Diggers sisters from each other by contrasting the way they adventure, interact with each other, and treat their boyfriends, which makes them well-worth reading.
Issue #26 finally manages to kill off the Empress Lynn/Kahn subplot. It also introduces the mysterious Nomad Artificers. For now, they're just the mysterious ancient race that created Subtracto, but they'll keep popping up again and again, becoming more important each time.
Issues #27-28 brings together all of Gina's rivals in one place to battle over a frozen city in the Arctic. There's Penny and Charlotte, Ryan, Pee-Wee, Rivalsan Lendo (from NHS), and the creepy new kids on the block, the psychic Montara twins. These issues also introduce the idea that the androgynous Genn may have a thing for Seance, which is creeping both of them out. They also provide an interesting story where everyone loses, which is a nice reminder
Issue #29 finds the Diggers sisters having to raise money fast in order to pay off a huge tax bill. When their garage sale fails, Penny makes Gina an offer she can't refuse — cover her cousin's shift at Taco Hut and she'll take care of everything.
Issues #19-23 also feature a return to the gray shading technique that Fred used in the Gold Digger miniseries. (I had first thought it was an ink wash technique but here it looks more like it's done with markers.)
The shading certainly helps gives Fred's figures extra volume. However, it's also applied solely with that intention, which also muddies up the page considerably. As you can see from my (admittedly crappy) scan above, the overall effect is to muddy the page and distract from the linework, making it a technique best used for pin-ups and splash pages rather than storytelling sequences.
Fortunately, Fred stops using the shading technique with issue #24. Instead, he makes a greater effort to convey dimensionality through the solid black areas. It works out a lot better in the long run, as the spare, stripped-down style reproduces a lot better and makes his pages far more comprehensible.
Print Run: 4800
Okay, so the sales are definitely leveling off at this point — the series is still holding on to a lot of fans, though, which is a good sign. There's still the occasional dip of about 1000 copies, which is utterly baffling. Of course, the real test will be if those sales can hold through the crash of '96...