Weekly Wire
Tucson Weekly Checkered Future

By Mari Wadsworth

JUNE 1, 1998:  CHECKER COMICS: We've heard the grumblings of comic book fans (and artists, and store owners) for some years now: that the comic book industry smashed itself to pieces in a self-destructive tantrum not unlike that of one of its mutant, angry money-makers. In simple language, the industry alienated its fan base and sales hit the skids.

The renegade indie comic is no new phenom, to be sure. But we (admittedly not among the regular comic-reading elite) hope the emergence of publisher Checker Comics, which describes itself as "singularly dedicated to re-establishing this relationship (with fans) by recapturing the art and science of comic book creation," is a promising portent for talented artists (of which this town has plenty) and neglected readers alike.

Above their publishing credentials, the Dayton, Ohio, company says they are "more importantly comic book fans ourselves."

Clearly, they've got a decent sense of humor: Sample inventory for review consisted of the innocent Vegman: America's Vegetarian Super-Hero alongside Chemical Warfare, a dark tale rendered in the classic war comic style.

Two great comics that taste great together.

Actually, our attention-deficit addled brains favored the former, which features mild-mannered "Just Bill" from Santa Fe, who's transformed into hunky Vegman through the power of UV sunglasses and a sound diet. He undergoes more character development in 32 pages than you'll find in a whole summer of blockbuster movies, all rendered with quirky, childlike humor and bad puns: from milquetoast house-husband to carnivorous, ego-maniacal superhero (he strikes a blow for superheroes everywhere when he turns down a trophy and demands $50 million a month to continue fighting injustice in Santa Fe), on to his reformed, part-time, vegetarian crime-fighting status.

Other titles due out this summer from Checker include Mutator, wherein a cadre of superscientists endeavor to change the course of humankind by manipulating our genetic evolution; and Danger Ranger, which has a really pretty cover featuring FBI hero Kirby Jackson, who joins a "hastily assembled, technologically intensive team" to deal with a wave of paranormal crime. "(Due to) shady power politics and stifling bureaucratic incompetence, the game has changed. Now Jackson is stuck in a dead-end job...as a superhero."

Who among us hasn't had that experience?

Anyway, keep an eye on the racks of your local comic books stores. Even if Checker doesn't mark the beginning of a new era in comic book publishing, they indubitably offer the beginning of a few new series to chill with this summer.

Each of these first issues are $2.95. For more information, write or call Checker Comics, 257 Wayne Ave., Dayton, Ohio 45402; or (937) 586-9688.

GENERATION YES: Mercifully, the Gen X soundbites are slipping off the radar screens, leaving those of us lumped into this nebulous demographic to figure out our brilliance or mediocrity without the help of the pundits and filmmakers. Even so, the cover story "20 Under 30," in the June issue of Working Woman, is a welcome progress report since the late '80s/early '90s, when post-graduation angst and an oversaturated job market were at their peak.

Profiled herein are 20 women under the age of 30, each a rising star in her chosen industry: from alternarock darling Ani DiFranco and Latina magazine founder and publisher Christy Haubegger (a review of this terrific mag is long overdue, but we promise to get up to speed this summer); to big brains like Rockwell Semiconductor Systems design engineer Lisa Guerra, Mars Pathfinder flight director Jennifer Harris, and MIT assistant professor of economics Susan Athey; and go-getters like financial analyst and CEO Liz Davidson (the youngest of the bunch at age 26), pcOrder.com president Christy Jones, and attorney Julie Su, whose counsel for Thai garment workers in 1995 prompted the Los Angeles Times to call her "the most celebrated young, non-O.J. lawyer" in the Golden State.

An inspired list, to be sure. Though you might feel a little less exalted about an evening of "Must See TV" after reading it. Working Woman ($2.95) is available at local newsstands and booksellers.

BODIES FOR HIRE: It's finally happened. It started with...oh, who knows, but let's say the clock in the town square, for the sake of argument (in our town, it's on Church Avenue between Congress and Broadway). Then came along professional sports like the Lazy Susan of the marketing trough, a colorful, moving billboard for everyone from the U.S. Postal Service to Gatorade. And on and on it goes, down the line, to public school marquees, which we thought might be the final frontier for billboard advertising. We expected the scourge of corporate sponsorship to move laterally from there, until there wasn't a shiny plastic surface left on the planet that wasn't emblazoned with some unlikely product label.

But wait, there's more! Like latter-day saints of capitalism, there's a new breed of entrepreneur hitting the street: the corporate-sponsored homeless. So far, major multinationals haven't been courted. But some plucky Phoenix-area transients have been spotted in recent weeks wearing T-shirts advertising local businesses. Somewhere therein, they're also advertising their business plan: They'll give you the shirt on their back...for a nominal fee.

Hey, more power to 'em. This is the most far-fetched scheme to employ the homeless yet, but we're all for it. Affordable advertising for small businesses, a license to get off the medians, and a clean new industry. Puts a whole new angle on that "Tucson First" philosophy.

But what we're really holding out for is the day when the Big Brothers start sponsoring social ills like they do sporting events. We've long been of the opinion that it's crazy to spend a thin dime (let alone upwards of $50) for the privilege of giving Nike, Ford and Disney free, ambulatory advertising. They should've been paying us all along to wear their goddamn sweatshirts and ballcaps. Now they can pay the disenfranchised and downtrodden. What lobbyists can't do for us, maybe advertising agencies will.


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