First, there's Eugene Wang. Then there's his girlfriend, Chief. And finally his mother, Selma.
And before you even get to the end of chapter one of graphic novel The Wang, Chief and Selma have met in the Fascist Nation Bondage & Sex Superstore (modeled on -- you guessed it -- Fascinations) and begun a lesbian affair because, as Mom says, "We both weren't getting enough love from you, Eugene."
Now Eugene's creator, Denver author Stan Yan, feels like he isn't getting much love from Diamond Comic Book Distributors. The company has refused to include the cover image of The Wang in its catalogue, Previews, explaining that it wants to keep a PG rating and that Yan's vibrator cover is just too PG-13.
"I respect that they're a private company, but by the same token, Diamond has sort of a monopoly on distribution of the new comic-book industry," Yan says. "And there's a little bit of a double standard. Another book has an image of a woman taking her shirt off, and you can see the bottom of her huge breast -- almost to the nipple, but not quite. Another has liquid latex paint painted on a woman, and her outfit is such that it creates a major cameltoe -- and that was fine."
But Yan isn't shut out completely: Diamond will still distribute The Wang to comic-book stores starting in September, using an illustration from chapter three to sell the book. Complains Yan, "I think what they have done is a disservice to retailers' ability to make an educated buying decision based on the actual cover art."
And if he knows about anything, it's buying decisions. Yan began penning the comic tales of Eugene as a final project for his art class at the University of Colorado, where he was getting his accounting degree. "I stated doing a superhero parody, and in development, it became less about superhero stuff and more about the dysfunctional relationships of the characters in my book -- Eugene, his mom and his girlfriend," Yan says. "So I got Eugene off of steroids and out of his tights and cape and made it more of a twisted slice-of-life story."
But not his life, he insists. Pass the vibrator.
A purrfect match: Chauncey Billups has the city's heart right now, but fame is fleeting. Fortunately, the next celeb worthy of some Mile High hero worship is already waiting on the bench: Morris the Cat.
The newest finicky 9Lives feline hails from Aurora and has the sort of lowly beginning that most stars would hide under fake names and dark sunglasses. Marcy Brown, director of Rocky Mountain Alley Cat Alliance, was at the Vista Haven trailer park last year, catching feral cats at the management's request, when she spotted Jack the Cat digging food out of a dumpster. "I set my trap and he went right in, and I realized as soon as he was in the trap that he was tame," Brown says. "I asked the neighbors if he was anyone's cat and posted fliers, and finally a woman told me that Jack's former owners took off and left him behind."
The moon-faced orange tabby's mug was soon posted on the RMACA's website, and he was sent to foster care with volunteer Laura Smith. In August, RMACA got a call from Morris's trainer, Rose Ordile. She'd seen Jack on the website and thought he might be the perfect understudy for Morris IV, who assumed the title in 2000. Since the first Morris was discovered in a Chicago animal shelter in 1968, all of the Morrises have been rescues, and Ordile regularly trolls the web in search of her next star.
But Brown wasn't letting her foundling go to just anybody -- even if Ordile did have the Del Monte brand backing her. "We really wanted to make sure about the whole situation," she says. "We didn't know Rose, and we didn't know 9Lives' procedures. So she went through the procedure just like anyone off the street."
Jack's rise to stardom wasn't guaranteed, either. Even though the cat's personality convinced Ordile early on that he was her man, she still had to submit numerous photos to Del Monte to prove that Jack was the proper heir to the Morris throne. In March the company finally gave the go-ahead, so Ordile adopted the vagabond and took him back to Hollywood.
Morris IV is still going strong, so for now, Jack's enjoying a leisurely life of cushions and cream. "These cats ride in limos," Brown says. "If they need to be transported to another state, they have a seat on the plane; they don't go in cargo. Here's this poor cat, abandoned, eating out of a dumpster, and now he's riding in limos."
Didn't the same thing happen to Hilary Duff?
Going to the dogs: Some Denver pooches may soon get the royal treatment, too. As part of East West Partners' Riverfront Park development, plans are in the works for a dedicated off-leash dog park at 20th and Little Raven streets.
"We've been having a lot of dog use of Commons Park," explains Amy Fuller, the non-dog-owning CFO of East West Partners. "So in figuring out how to keep dog owners and non-dog owners all happy, we determined that we needed a dog park, and this is a good location because it's offset from Commons Park. It's a little smaller than Parks and Recreation usually likes, but we really need something down here."
Stapleton dog-park architect EDAW has signed on to design Riverfront's playpen for pups and will unveil some initial ideas at a public meeting on July 21 at 1610 Little Raven Street, where the discussion will also focus on how to raise funds so that the park can open by 2006. As creative as EDAW may be, however, the facility will still have to adhere to the Denver parks department's off-leash guidelines, which were developed last year in connection with a one-year pilot program that turned portions of five Denver parks into off-leash areas ("The Straight Poop," April 3, 2003).
"City councilwoman Judy Montero did approach us and heavily lobbied us for a dog park in downtown," says Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Tiffany Moehring. "In the pilot year, we wanted to stick with the five, but there was such community support that we did look at alternatives that would not be managed by us. The site they're looking at is city land, but they're looking at fully developing it with funds raised by the community. We do want to accommodate their request, and we'll be very involved."
One of the reasons department manager Kim Bailey is looking favorably on the East West request is the relatively problem-free status of the temporary dog parks. "We have had very few issues, if any at all, with our pilot off-leash program," Moehring says. "Things have come up that we have been able to address, nothing that says they're not working or that they're not a success. In terms of turf, in the Kentucky bluegrass areas, we're seeing quite a bit of wear on the grass, but in some of our native areas that aren't cultured at all, they seem to take the use a lot better. But the turf is a lot rougher on the dogs' paws."
While Riverfront's turf type is still up for debate, considering the fancy-shmancy location of the proposed park, it's not surprising that Fuller and other members of the committee -- which includes Montero and representatives from Denver's parks department and Division of Animal Control -- are thinking of at least one grand gesture. "We'd like to have some interesting formations," Fuller says. "We'd like to have some interesting sculptural elements to it, too."
"Stapleton put a fire hydrant in the center of the park, with dirt around it to get the dogs to pee on it and leave the grass alone," says Park Place resident, dog owner and Riverfront Community Dog Matters Group member Travis Roth. "That could be replaced with a piece of art if the artist had a lot of confidence in their work -- since they would basically be designing something to be peed on."
Scene and herd: Denver Public Schools superintendent Jerry Wartgow surprised most Board of Education members when he arrived at the June 24 meeting wearing a black-and-yellow zoot suit, complete with pachuco chain and pheasant-tail-festooned hat. But member-at-large Theresa Peña wasn't shocked: Her brother, Craig Peña, had supplied the threads when Wartgow wandered into Suavecito's, his Santa Fe Drive shop, earlier in the day with North High School principal Darlene LeDoux.... Former mayoral candidate Don Mares is out soliciting business for Fleishman & Shapiro, the law firm he landed with after losing the runoff election in June 2003 to John Hickenlooper. You can find his business cards at Mikey's Italian Bistro at West 38th Avenue and Quitman Street, stacked between cards for Danika Stromberg, Independent Beauty Consultant for Mary Kay, and Belly Dance Duo Suzara & Devina. Turns out that Mares is a regular customer, a fan of the Southern Italian dishes of restaurateur Alaya Ouerfelli. The Fanta Girls seem to be everywhere, including local movie screens, where they sing "Do you wanta Fanta" during the previews. But don't make the mistake of confusing them with the Smirnoff Vodka Girls, even though both babelicious sets dress in shocking-colored miniskirts with matching wigs. Asked if they were the Fanta Girls when they dropped by the Minturn Saloon one day last week, the clear-liquor ones snarked, "Uh, we're the Smirnoff Girls, can't you tell?"
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Westword's biggest stories.