Saturday, April 18, 2009

Zot! 1987-1991

by Scott McCloud
From 1987 to 1991, I was not reading a lot of books published outside of the Big Two, and so while I had seen issues of Zot! around, I'd never bothered to read a single one.

Now, having made my way through this gargantuan collection of close to twenty-five issues of this Eclipse series, I think it's something that my younger self would have liked even more than my older self does.

McCloud rightly divides this book into two different sections - there are the 'Heroes and Villains' stories, and then there are the 'Earth Stories'.

The first bunch of issues are set primarily on Zot's alternate Earth - an exciting utopia somehow still plagued by bizarre criminals. Zot has a large supporting cast on his planet, who for the most part, never really did much. Many of these stories would have benefitted from either the inclusion of the original ten colour issues of this book, or at the least, a re-cap page, as it's a little confusing at the start of the book. There just seems to be a bunch of stuff that happens, which I feel like I should understand better. These stories are standard superhero fare, although they try to be more than that, with the inclusion of such a bizarre rogue's gallery.

The 'Earth Stories' take place after Zot is stranded on his girlfriend Jenny's (and our) Earth, and the focus quickly shifts away from the fantastical nature of Zot's life, and instead emphasis is placed on Jenny and her friends, and the problems they have growing up.

McCloud's stories in this section today seem a little too earnest, but heart-warming, as he tries to tackle issues of loneliness, alcoholism, homophobia, self-esteem, and teen sex. These stories need to be looked at in their historical context, when they would have been ground-breaking and daring, and they work really, really well.

It is great through the course of this book to watch McCloud mature as a writer and an artist, as the seeds of what would become 'Understanding Comics' and its sequels begin to grow in his mind, and on the pages of Zot!. Characters like Dekko (with his Art Deco head and modernist visual perspective) are obvious, but welcome, attempts to stretch the superhero genre, before McCloud basically abandoned it all together.

One thing I really enjoyed in this book are the commentaries following each story arc. McCloud really goes into a lot of depth explaining his circumstances and goals for the book at each step, and this sheds a lot of light onto the stories themselves. A lot of trade paperbacks (and $3.99 comics) today try to include 'dvd-style extras', although usually this material comes off just filler. With this book, McCloud really raises the bar for this type of thing. This is highly recommended.

No comments: