The Lich-King Gold Digger v2 #13-19 (1994-5)
By Fred Perry
And here it is, the first real multi-part epic since the regular series started - "The Lich-King."1 You see, it turns out that Dr. Diggers's father was once a powerful mage, who was changed into a twisted undead abomination by a laboratory accident. In the intervening years, he's conquered the Land of the Undead, but his power is rapidly running out. In order to regain it, he must take over the body of a blood relative - his granddaughter, Gina! Along the way, we're also introduced to Julia, Gina's long-lost mother, and Brendan, the werewolf who nearly destroyed the were-cheetah clan years ago.
Actually, this is a really nicely put together story. Each issue stands on its own, while containing plot threads that are necessary to the story as a whole. Every character gets something to do without looking weak or ineffective - Dr. Diggers provides some magical know-how, Cheetah and Julia provide the muscle, Gina and Brianna come up with a clever way of defeating the Lich-King. Even the villains are made to look tough without being invincible - Brendan has great power but no knowlege or control to back it up, and for all his scheming, the Lich-King is forced to improvise when his plan starts to fall apart.
These issues also introduce Jade, the "realm of magic" that exists alongside Earth. Mostly, Jade exists as a place where Fred can stick all of his explicitly magical creations without having to worry about how they'd change life on earth. He even manages to come up with a clever explanation for why we haven't heard of it before - a curse placed on Julia makes it pointless for the Diggers to visit Jade, so they just don't bother.
Also of note: Mimi Masters from NHS gets a brief guest-star role in issue #15 (though interestingly enough, not Count Boscoe). The opening scene of issue #13 is the first appearance of the leprechauns, who will become some of Gold Digger's most reliable comedy characters over the next several years. Here, Penny Pincer sells them some leprechaun-sized weaponry to help them protect themselves from the "rapacious" Diggers sisters...
What a combination, indeed. Here's another favorite page, from issue #15...
I'm going to sound like a broken record here. As usual, the action sequences really flow nicely - slight viewpoint and range as Cheetah picks up a skeleton and smashes it. The angled panels really do add some extra energy to the scene, and the switch from horizontal to vertical panels signals a nice change of emphasis, while allowing the four top panels to act as a near-simultaneous unit. And as usual one has to admire Fred's willingness to draw just about anything from leprechauns driving tanks to horny skeletons. But as usual the linework is slight with no significant black areas, meaning that individual panels can be hard to comprehend and the eye isn't directed around the page in any meaningful manner.
There are also instances in these issues where Fred starts to hit his limits. Take a look at the cover to issue #13 up there - there's no way that werewolf could be holding Cheetah's hands together like that unless he was simultaneously crushing her wrists into jelly. Her hips are likewise non-existent, to the point where that bikini bottom must be glued on. Anatomical slip-ups and awkward poses like these become increasingly common in these issues.
He also has a bit of trouble drawing Julia Diggers, Gina's long-lost mother. At first she looks just like Gina, which makes perfect sense. But at some point he also realizes that Julia needs to look older than Gina, and he can't quite wrap his head around that. At first he tries a few subtle things, like small crow's feet and some accented cheekbones, but they aren't noticeable enough. Then he goes overboard emphasizeing them, but it backfires and makes Julia look like she's suffering from some sort of wasting disease. He eventually gets it under control, but it'll take a few years.
Print Run: 4500
Yowzers. That's quite a jump. Clearly, people are checking out the series and liking what they see. Can't say I blame them - comapred to the other adventure comics of the day, Gold Digger is simple, fun, and visually distinctive.
Then again, I'm not sure how trustworthy these numbers are. The indicia for issue #18 indicates that sales dropped back down to 2000, before jumping back up to about 4000 again. I can't think of any reason why sales on that particular issue would dip - it's part three of a four part story, and sales have been trending up for months. Maybe a typo in #18's indicia, perhaps? Or maybe some sort of financial trouble at AP?
- Technically, only issues #15-19 comprise the "Lich-King" story, but since the preceding two issues are devoted to introducing some of "Lich-King's" primary antagonists there's no reason not to include them in a discussion of the overall story.