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7 Days To Fame #2
writer: Buddy Scalera
artist: Dennis Budd

It's all fun and games until somebody dies horribly on camera. Then it's ratings gold.

Sure, that sounds cynical, but at the height of the reality television craze, it certainly seemed to be on track. Fear Factor regularly puts contestants through death-defying stunts. The late unlamented Temptation Island certainly did what it could to have relationships die horribly on camera.

Let's face it; some of these people are so unlikable that we we'd welcome at least faked death for them. See the success of Kill Reality on E! last summer, or House of Wax. We want to see Paris Hilton die.

When comics writer Buddy Scalera announced 7 Days To Fame, a mini-series about a fatal reality television show, it had the promise of dark satire. Two issues in, however, and it has become a reasonable premise about a society growing ever more unreasonable.

In the first issue, it arises by accident. Ironically, it's even a celebration of life. Late night talk-show host Marc Figliano devotes seven shows to dissecting an elderly woman's life story. Dying of cancer, Lida Wentworth gets her chance to finally be noticed. Though we only get brief soundbites, it's involving, and a good sign of Scalera's talent as a writer.

Then she pulls out a gun and blows her brains out.

It's not exactly a shocking moment to us. The cover of the book, after all, features an attractive woman with a gun in her mouth. But it's certainly shocking to Marc.

Scalera keeps the book from being coldly exploitative by focusing on the moral issues, even as they start spinning out of control. As the second issue opens, Figliano and his producer have both been fired. Morose, the talk-show host sits drinking his ambivalence away, when two men approach him with a check.

They represent a website. Naturally, the clip of Lida blowing her brains out has been a top download, and they figured they owe Figliano royalties …and a further offer. Since their site is pay per view, people have to know exactly what they're going to see, so why not set up what has become known in the media as "7 Days to Fame?"

It starts out as almost legitimate. But you can see where Scalera may be going when a girl being interviewed on camera ditzily says she'd love to be on the show. What begins as a way for terminal patients to be heard has become far more about the fame. Of course, we knew this would happen. Figliano had to know it would happen. But he, too, wanted the fame.

Though a little cartoony, Dennis Budd's art serves the story well. He makes good facial distinctions, and good emotional reads so we have a sense of subtext.

The second issue kicks the ethical debate up a notch, and to the book's credit, it also doesn't shy away from the legal consequences. Those will clearly become bigger for the third issue.

With Howard Stern moving to Sirius in order to get out from under the FCC, it does seem like the public wants their entertainment unfettered. And just because they want it doesn't mean they should get it.

On the internet, there are plenty of sites like the book's Bizarre.com already that make 7 Days To Fame seem like only a matter of time. Scalera isn't offering us any easy judgments (yet), but he is offering something far more thought-provoking than the sensationalistic covers suggest.

Derek McCaw

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