A month or two back, I reviewed a copy of this NZ mini-comic I picked up:
Only a few days after that, I was surprised to receive an email from Victoria Dreyer, the creator of "Tour Girls". She was equally surprised that I had managed to get a copy of Tour Girls #0. Seems that the 200 copies of Issue #0 were pulled from shelves, and replaced with an issue #1. The original #1 was then pulled, and replaced by an alternate #1, which was also pulled.
FINALLY, "Tour Girls #1 Redux" was printed and distributed. It contains a reworking of the events of "Tour Girls #0", plus the story from "Tour Girls #1". It looks like this:
It was then followed by #2 and #3.
Victoria was kind enough to send me copies of #1 Redux, #2 and #3 for re-review. They duly arrived (thanks heaps Victoria), and I duly read them. Let me summarize the events of the first four comic books.
#0: Milla & Jax are tour guide girls. Milla is a whacky Japanese girl with a knicker fixation. Jax is a tough martial-artist Kiwi girl with... a knicker fixation. They and their tour bus is sucked through a black hole into another world.
#1: Our protagonists are in a world of acid seas. They meet "Gippa", a genetically modified giant furry slug who adopts them. A giant acid tsunami approaches and they run into a large tower. They are monitored by a group of elite, "SS" style soldiers in sexy uniforms.
#2: Milla & Jax meet a young boy who explains that this is New Zealand in 2296, two hundred years after the great war. The ruling elite soldiers arrive, zap the girls with a neuro-toxin and imprison them. Another group of rebel soldiers is also monitoring the girls. Seems the rebel soldiers created the original black hole (by accident, a new weapon misfired).
#3: As the rebels bicker about how to effect a rescue, "Gippie" oozes into the cell. Then somehow, the doors mysteriously open and the girls escape. The leader of the rebels (who is clad in leather-strap bondage uniform) reveals his interest in Jax & Milla. He has the hots for them. The mystery is also raised... where did Milla hide her cap and headphones, which have mysteriously re-appeared?
And... there ya have it.
So, is it an improvement at all? Well, certainly there's more comic book now... being as there are four episodes rather than one. But for having worked my way through four comics, I really don't yet see anything yet resembling a "story" in the strict sense. Yes, we have a series of "events", or perhaps "scenes". There is some character sketching going on. But the silly and superficial style perfectly echoes the complete disregard for any sense of true conflict, or any layering in this narrative which while it may appear to have multiple threads, is still fundamentally linear.
Look, here I am throwing terms like "linear narrative" around, when all we're dealing with here is a bit of fun that somebody threw together because they felt driven to create their own comics. Perhaps the greatest problem with this book is the fact that the visual production values are so high. The paper and printing is high quality, and the glossy color cover art so... glossy and colorful... that it's easy to expect a professional comic book inside. But that's unfair. This book features a couple of twenty-something girls sketched in black & white having a few semi-risque giggles. Nothing more, nothing less.
The "reworking" of #0 consists of a redrawing of the first two or three pages, and a complete overhaul of all the lettering and SFX. I think some of the inking was re-done as well. The overall result is far more effective in terms of visual impact. I'm not sure exactly what happened subsequently with the three different versions of #1 required to get a "satisfactory" release on the shelves. But it must have been something spectacular.
From a commercial point of view, pulling and re-releasing and pulling and re-releasing is embarrassing stuff. Profit margins are razor-thin (or fat but negative) on NZ comics. I suspect there were a few NZ comic shop owners wondering just exactly what was going on, and whether it was all worth the bother.
So... was it all worth the bother? Well, in terms of the actual story... I have to say "not really". But in terms of a step on a journey for Victoria Dreyer... well that's another story. One of the other NZ Mini-Comics waiting on my desk to be reviewed is an anthology entitled "Pictozine", and it features a four-page vignette from a Ms. V.L. Dreyer which demonstrates a maturity in both writing and art which is a million miles beyond "Tour Girls". More on that in the near future.
The real bottom line is this. V.L. Dreyer has showed a massive amount of determination to get these books published. She has two or three other projects on the go, and based on her track record, I'd bet good money they're more than just talk. How many NZ-based comic artists managed to produce at least a half-dozen slick-looking mini-comics in the last decade? You might need all your fingers to count them, but you won't need all your toes.
Fine, Tour Girls is a shallow, low-brow, low-art offering that's gonna appeal to the young teen girl market at best. But my evaluation of its creator is already out of date. Victoria is already moving on to better things, and her major sin seems to be that her ability to publish was just a few years ahead of her ability to produce a story that was truly ready for commercial sale. But I'll be keeping an eye out for Blue Scar promotions. My instinct says there's better things a-coming, and I'll be curious to see if I'm right.