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Actually, he's not even loosely disguised. He's just slightly distanced from reality for satiric effect. The Bluebeard in Division and Rush, the new comic on the Tribune's Chicago Now blog site, is called Stu Peterman, and he's murdered four of his past wives, whereas Drew Peterson couldn't have killed more than two. But Peterman, like Peterson, is a self-aggrandizing ex-cop who looks like an Alpha walrus.
Peterson is, at the moment, in jail awaiting trial for the murder of his third wife, Kathleen Savio. Peterman runs seminars on ways of getting rid of wives who have worn out their welcome. The women in these audiences think he's sexy. Tracking Peterman are a couple of detectives who want to put him away — but that's not easy.
The idea of blogging a comic on Chicago Now came from Fernando Diaz, the site's community manager for news and opinion. "I got hot for a graphic novel of Daley with a conscience," he tells me. "The Daley we don't see, the alter ego, the trials and tribulations he goes through running the city." It's an idea generous in spirit, perhaps, but leaving plenty of room for political satire. And Diaz thought it could track the local headlines, maybe no more than a day behind.
Diaz took his idea to Len Strazewski, a journalism professor at Columbia College who's written Starman and other comic books. "I have just the guy for you," said Strazewski, and put Diaz in touch with Todd Allen. An adjunct professor in the department of arts, entertainment, and media management at Columbia, Allen's written a lot about new media and comic book publishing. He's even written a college text book, The Economics of Web Comics.
Allen didn't think he could trail the headlines by a day — certainly not while collaborating with an artist, which he would have to do because he can't draw. Besides, he had his own idea for a comic. A "darkly satirical detective comic," he calls it in "The Secret Origin of a Web Comic," a piece he just wrote for Publishers Weekly.
Division and Rush is drawn by Scott Beaderstadt (Trollords), and a week's worth of new panels is posted each Wednesday. The Peterman story arc will run 16 weeks and then Allen will see. Either he comes up with another guest star, or he focuses more on his detectives. "Hes got a good concept with these two guys," says Diaz. .
The only public comment posted so far on the Division and Rush site comes as no surprise. It says: "Kathleen Savio was someone's daughter, sister, mother, and friend. Using her murder as a subject of humour makes you a total ASSHOLE. Get help."
"I'm getting more e-mails than public comments," Allen emailed me. "Probably because of the subject matter, I may be a guilty/secret pleasure. There were a couple positive posts on the WindyCitizen, couched with it being 'twisted.' Which it most definitely is. If they bother to contact me privately, it's all been positive. Of course, the second I say that you know I'm due for some hate mail."