Continuing our look at modern New Zealand comics, we really do have to take a look at ChopperChick. I've managed to pick up two ChopperChick comics, but I have to admit I'm still really no wiser regarding what these comics are actually about.
Let's start with the basics. Both comics are A5 format (about 75% the height and width of a normal "U.S." comic). Visually, these comics are much more appealing than most of the NZ comics with which they compete for shelf space. The first, Toolbox is color laser photocopied, though for some reason, full color seems reserved only for the advertisements, and the actual "story" is almost entirely in pink and pale blue.
The story, as such, occupies 15 pages. I'll give you my interpretation of what the story seems to include. The first three pages have lots of text, but are drawn in a kiddie-manga sort of style. Our protaganist is "GoGo Garage", who at age sixteen has scratch-built a hot-rod that races across the Australian Outback at 550 miles an hour. GoGo doesn't go to school very often; she's more of a racer.
However, as we learn from GoGo talking to herself, her car seems to have been built with too much love, and has acquired a life of its own. Becoming possessed, her hotrod hatches a deadly plan. Leaping off a cliff, the car crashes itself, killing GoGo too.
At this point, it looks like we get a shift in artist, or at least in style. The remaining twelve pages are heavily air-brushed, are very stylistic, and feature no text. What we see through the art is GoGo and the car rising from the wreckage, twisting and merging to become the cyborg... Toolbox! There's also a little baby animal sort of thing that appears from nobody, with a tail like a beaver. Toolbox and beaver head across the desert on foot until they meet... ChopperChick!
Toolbox collapses, until ChopperChick gives her some oil. Toolbox then fixes ChopperChick's broken motorbike, and off they ride - until they come to a burning garage, out of which walks "Crimson Death", who looks like a ten foot tall Ridley Scott Alien, with a bike helmet. But then the ground parts, and out of the burning chasm comes "The Bubby with No Name", a baby in a bike helmet who chases off "Crimson Death".
Toolbox, ChopperChick and the Bubby (and the beaver presumably, though I can't see him in the final panels) ride off into the distance. Yay! All I can say is... what the hell is the point supposed to be of all this?
After the "story" there're a couple of character profiles (that give no info of any real use), then some artwork that didn't get used in the story, but which didn't get discarded. There're some ads, and it all adds up to 32 pages including front and back covers.
An ad in that Toolbox comic from 2001 promised... "The origin of ChopperChick presented as a one-issue micro-series coming soon." Well, 2003 finally sees the arrival of "ChopperChick Preludes (with a special appearance by Toolbox)."
This version has black and white inner pages, on glossy paper. The ChopperChick origin story goes something like this. Hot babe rides her bad-ass bike really fast. She crashes, and turns into a ghost/angel type thing. Three old fogeys come along and offer to resurrect her, if she joins them. She agrees, they turn into deaths-head rock musicians, and say that she now has to join in their unholy heavy-metal band.
She doesn't want to, and then this Elvis look-alike turns up and says that he'll save her. Seems he is her dad, and he tells the other three rockers to bugger off. Now, she is ChopperChick, restored from death, and she has to find her way in this world. But daddy will always love her.
I say once more... what on earth is this about? Is it satire? It sure doesn't seem funny, or witty, or clever. There's no drama, there're no characters which which I can identify with at all, and I'm pretty good at identifying with the weirdest of characters. Nope, there's just nothing here to get stuck into. It's about as mentally nourishing as six inches of mint-flavoured dental floss.
There's a four-page "backup story" showing the original "Toolbox story" that Simon created for the U.S. Market. We see toolbox, gorgeous cyborg with hot engine pipes crashing into a chop-shop (where stolen cars are cut down and reworked for resale). One of the workers there is a ten-foot-tall troll-like guy, but Toolbox beats him up. End of story.
It's tragic to me that this much effort and focus has gone onto something of so little redeeming value. Unfortunately, books like this with high visual appeal are going to leap out and catch the eye, but then turn readers away after a few pages. Surely there must be something out there, being created in New Zealand today, which really does inspire some optimism for the future of the industry?
Next: Enough of this messing about, let's review the New Zealand graphic novel - "Hicksville".