Debuting in 1993 with a four issue mini-series and continuing through both a black and white series, and color series, writer/artist Fred Perry’s Gold Digger has the distinction of being one of, if not the, longest running female fronted comic book series. Gold Digger is the story of super genius, treasure hunter Gina “Gold Digger” Diggers, and her family, friends, and enemies. It’s not just that the main character is a woman, it’s that the majority of the supporting cast is also female. As such many issues, if not full story lines would often fail the reverse Bechdel test featuring few men at all, and yes sometimes the conversations between the guys are about the women in their lives.
The core of the series is Gina and her step-sister Brittany. They’re the two that are featured in the first panel of the first issue of the original mini-series. While Gina is ostensibly the main character of the series, Brittany is nearly as important. It was these two fans originally fell in love with. And it is these two that have grown the most. In her original incarnation Gina was a boy crazy treasure hunter who was worthy of her “Gold Digger” nickname. As the series progressed she grew out of the boy craziness, became more of a legitimate archeologist even getting a teaching job at Georgia State University in Atlanta, and gained enough enemies of truly evil proportion that she makes some superheroes blush. Brittany changed just as much. As the start of the series the were-cheetah didn’t even go by her given name, instead preferring to be called Cheetah. She was purely the muscle of the two. Now she’s a loving mother and wife. Goes by her real name, and became a powerful mage relying more on just her muscles in battle.
It’s not just characters who grow throughout the series, It’s the relationships between the characters that evolve too. Perhaps this is best exemplified in the way the relationship between Gina Diggers and her one-time rival, now good friend Penny Pincer(-Koss). At the beginning of the series there is no doubt that the two are enemies. In some of the early stories Penny is almost a villainess in her rivalry with Gina. Indeed, she was the one that gave Gina the derisive nickname of “Gold Digger”. As the series went on it evolved into respect, and then into out and out friendship. Few other series allow the characters to grow, much less have strong enough female characters that one of the arcs throughout the comic book series is the way that a friendship developed between two women.
One of the elements of Gold Digger that shows just how focused on women the series is, is the fact that fact that one of, if not the most, common recurring male character is a plot device as much as anything else. Kevin “Ace” Koss is the best pilot on Earth, and that’s his character. Yes, he’s a loyal friend, and husband of Penny Pincer-Koss, but he serves the purpose of amazing pilot who gets the characters in and out of dangerous situations. He lacks the depth of the women in the series, including his wife. Lacking the depth and character growth of their female counterparts is common among the men in the series including Brittany’s husband Stryyp’gia.
Now to address the elephant in the room when it comes to discussing the significance of Gold Digger and the importance that women play throughout the series: yes the women have been highly sexualized at times, particularly relatively early in the run. The facts are that Fred Perry is a military veteran who clearly enjoys drawing the female form, and was still fairly fresh out of the military when the series got started. That said, Perry is someone that has no problem showing men in equally revealing outfits and also showing them as sex objects. Indeed given how lascivious Gina was early on in the series, the men in Gold Digger were more likely to be looked on as merely existing for their looks than the women were. Thus, it’s less a case of just portraying women in the sexiest possible way, but rather showing everyone in that way.
Make no doubt that Gold Digger is a high quality comic series. It wouldn’t still be around if it wasn’t, but the legacy of the comic book will be the fact that it lasted this long where almost every character of note is a woman. The characters have evolved, and so have their friendships. The fact that it did so while certainly being the longest running manga style American comic book is all the more impressive. Thankfully for anyone who may want to check out series, publisher Antarctic Press has archived the first 199 issues of the series online http://antarcticpresslibrary.com/?cat=1″ target=”_blank”>here. It cannot be recommended enough.