Out of the Vault – Chassis

This is one of those books picked up as an experiment. In the mid-90’s, there was a boom in cheesecake books featuring hot babes as main characters, because hot babes on the cover sell books and the best excuse for having a hot babe on the cover is to make her the main character.

Chassis was one such book, published in 1996 by Millenium, an independent publisher out of Rhode Island. How long ago was it? On the inside front cover, the authors ask for feedback via email at ChassisMcB@aol.com.

Chassis is the story of Chassis McBain, a beautiful redheaded race driver. At least, we’re supposed to believe she’s beautiful, based on stuff like this…

See, if they want to put her in cheesecake ads, she must be beautiful. BTW, the reason she’s so angry is that she only wants to sponsor products that tie in with racing, because she’s got Principles.

The twist in the concept is that in this retro-future alternate 1940’s, the cars are rocket cars that race in the sky. And unlike Danica Patrick, Chassis actually wins.

One of her fellow drivers asks Chassis out to dinner, but she is planning to have dinner with her fiance, whom she just loooovvves. He doesn’t show, though, and we soon learn that he is avoiding her in order to keep her safe, because he’s mixed up in some deal involving a hallucinatory drug that causes people to experience their worst fears. Oh, and the drug just happened to be in the perfume sample that Chassis’s agent wanted her to try, because …

Well, that part never made sense. Anyway, heartbroken Chassis decides to go out with the hunky fellow driver she turned down before and we finally get to see the cheesecake we’ve been waiting all issue to see.

Yeah, I’m disappointed, too. But at least there’s danger in the final panel, as Chassis tries the drug-tainted perfume sample that thugs have been killing folks all over town to recover.

Chassis suffered from only two problems: the art and the writing. Which sounds like a flip dismissal, but seriously, it’s true. You can see in the panels above that William O’Neill’s art is too angular and sharp-edged to do justice to a cheescake character like Chassis.

And Darryl Taylor’s scripting didn’t make the characters pop. Chassis was supposedly principled,  but spent the entire book either pissed off or depressed, mainly over little things like an unappealing sponsorship offer (which was actually an attempt to kill her, but still…) and a missed dinner. We learned nothing about her past, not even whether Chassis was a nickname or her given name. There was nothing actually interesting about her, except (literally) her “chassis,” and that wasn’t well-drawn enough to be all that interesting, either.

So if it was no good, why did I buy it? Mainly on the strength of that Adam Hughes cover. I figured that if he liked it enough to add his talent to the cover, it must be okay. And I liked the zoot-suited, big-fins-on-the-cars, retro-future vibe. But the actual story just wasn’t interesting.

So I never bought issue #2. Chassis lasted for 3 issues with Millenium, then has continued to kick around with various publishers with different creative teams in subsequent years, including Hurricane Comics (3 issues), Image Comics (5 issues), and Bluewater Comics, which announced in 2008 that it would “re-lunch” the series (it doesn’t appear to have ever published any actual issues, though). There was even an announcement at the 2005 Comicon that Ben Burtt, legendary soundman, would be directing a Chassis movie. I have no idea if that’s still in the works.

So it must have gotten better. Maybe I should have stuck with it.

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