Way back when, before Scott McCloud wrote his seminal work Understanding Comics he created his own superhero called Zot. Zot is rather unique in the comics world, in part because Zot is a teenage superhero, but mostly because of the critical issues that Scott explored between Zot’s world (a parallel earth) and our own world. Zot and crew challenged assumptions and explored moral themes that were by and large not touched upon in most mainstream comics. This isn’t comicsforge’s first look at Zot. Way back when, almost at the beginning of comicsforge.com, Josh reviewed the Complete Zot which collects the adventures of Zot, Jenny, and the rest of the gang from issue 11 to the end. And what about those first 10 issues you ask? They were collected separately in this first collection (out of print but can still be found used) on just how Zot entered into our world, how he met Jenny for the very first time, and why the heck Butch turns into a monkey everytime he enters Zot’s world.
Jenny is your typical normal girl…well she is a bit lonely, but that’s just because she moved to a new town. And then…a portal opens and Zot, a young teenage superhero from an alternate world appears chasing a troop of robots in pursuit of a key. After helping Zot, Jenny accompanies him back to his world (along with her older brother Butch) and see the wonders of this new place. They meet new people and robots that work! And Butch gets turned into a monkey! And Zot and crew continue to unravel the mystery of the key to avert a war and to save a world (and perhaps more.)
One of the things that is special about Zot is that he is not your typical superhero. He’s a young teenage boy, full of altruism and hope, and the fallacies of believing he can do everything. In this collection we get to find out so much about him and what makes him tick. For me these first 10 issues don’t have quite the impact that the rest of the Zot series does. In part, because McCloud is still finding his voice and the story in these early issues. But…the stories told are still fascinating look at an alternative superhero. One that defies the traditional one in some ways in that he’s not afraid to show his weaknesses, he isn’t afraid to admit when he made a mistake, and he isn’t afraid to let his emotions show. Even early on McCloud is still a masterful storyteller captivating the reader with the tales of Zot, Jenny, and Butch and their adventures. McCloud is able to capture people as they really are…their emotions, the way the move, the way they speak all accurately captured within these pages. And that’s the highest compliment I can offer to this series.
One of the biggest differences in these first 10 issues, besides Scott finding his voice, is that these issues are in color vs. the black and white of the later series. It’s a more typical style of the comics of the era and to be honest I much prefer the black and white series. While Scott’s line work remains the same, the color in some ways dampens and hides some of the details that show up in the later series. That being said Scott still creates powerful expressions on the characters faces, ones that are easy to read and give deeper meaning to the story at hand. One of my favorite pages (which I’ll be honest in enhanced by the color) is right near the end, where Zot’s face is depicted out on hundreds of television screens and people are rejoicing, bowing, praising, etc. in front of the screen. It’s powerful and heartbreaking all at the same time. No words are ever said on these two pages and no words are needed.
If you like comics that are a bit different, ones with depth and humanity to them then I highly recommend that you pick up the Zot series. You won’t regret it at all.
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