Eighties Rewind II

These days, when people think of Scott McCloud, they think of his books explaining comics, or his web-comics evangelism. Back when Talking Heads were touring, Scott McCloud was the guy who wrote and drew Zot! Zot the superhero was a teenage adventurer from the fantastic future of 1965—as envisioned by the 1939 World’s Fair. (Hear Aimee Mann sing about it at Last.fm. You need that whole record, Whatever, by the way.) Zot! the comic book is about a twelve-year-old girl named Jenny.

When Zot (aka Zach) comes to our Earth, he befriends Jenny. Their relationship is sweet and hesitant and infra-romantic. The splash page to issue 12 is a brilliant and entirely tasteful evocation of Jenny’s awakening sexuality and Zot’s role in it. (The picture doesn’t appear to be online, so you’re going to have to find a copy of the book.) Zot! started as a color book, but with issue 11, the first in the current collection, went black and white. There were financial reasons to go black and white—production costs went down, and in the mid-1980s black and white comics enjoyed a short-lived, speculative bubble. Artistically, McCloud took advantage of the format in his drawing technique: color would ruin the black-and-white issues of Zot! as surely as it ruined It’s a Wonderful Life and Casablanca.

Sometimes Jenny goes to Zot’s world and sometimes Zot comes to Jenny’s. McCloud renders Zot’s world and its inhabitants in bold, mangaesque outline, while illustrating Jenny’s world and its inhabitants with the detail and solidity of woodcuts. A worthwhile appreciation of the comic by McCloud’s friend Ampersand offers a nice example of the latter style. Twomorrows offers a couple examples of the former.

Your one-word description of the book would have to be “sweet,” but not so you have to race for your insulin kit. See Ampersand for some of the philosophical issues at play in the series. The villains are wonderfully quirky, even presaging some of the outre antagonists of Grant Morrison’s run on Doom Patrol. I’m excited at the prospect of reading the series anew.

Once you’re done with the collection, there’s Zot! Online. (Not an MMORPG but a webcomic!)

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