Friday, August 21, 2015
Zot! - Earth Stories!
Scott McCloud's Zot! had been a stalwart attempt to bring a Japanese sensibility to American superhero comics when it debuted at Eclipse in 1984. Ten full-color issues which McCloud suggests are limited adventure stories more about style than substance. Then followed the shift to black and white and his attempt to further contrast the futuristic present of Zot's world with the grimmer reality of Jenny Weaver's Earth, our Earth more or less. And finally after Zot gets stranded on Jenny's we get a series of touching low-key character driven tales which McCloud dubs the "Earth Stories".
It begins with a weird two-part story which first shows us a day-in-the-life of Jenny Weaver as she struggles with home and school, both worlds full of commonplace strife that many teenagers face. That is counterpointed with a similar story from Zot's perspective which shows how difficult fighting crime can be in a world which while filled with crime seemingly lacks the clarity of good guys and bad guys.
Then we get a portrait of Jenny's mother who has been little seen in the series to this point, but unlike the father who is all but absent in a family which is undergoing divorce, and never focused on. Here we get a story from her perspective which is about the nature of adulthood and the compromises and regrets which often accompany that journey we all must take-- if we're lucky. It's a sweet story and a thoughtful one.
Following that we get some tales introducing us to some new supporting characters. We meet Ronnie, a young black comics fan who is isolated in the almost exclusively white suburban community and his friend "Spike" who is the artist for the fan comics Ronnie writes. Both are young men trying to find out how to fit in.
Perhaps more tragic is Ronnie's girlfriend Brandie who is a supreme optimist but who struggles against enormous financial pressures and more in a family which suffers the damage of an alcoholic mother.
We get fresh insights into Terry, a longtime character who is revealed to be struggling with her sexual identity at a time and place where such things were far from typical, although as the story suggests in its very title absolutely normal in the broadest possible sense.
Woody is another longtime character who has had a crush on Jenny and finally has to move on when it's clear that Zot is the one she truly cares the most for, though it is difficult for everyone.
One of the most peculiar issues is a simple conversation, halting and confused, but certainly frank between Jenny and Zot as they discuss what it means to their relationship if they move beyond their friendly romance into a sexual relationship. What they decide will intrigue all readers.
And the series wraps as all the characters don't necessarily find full resolution, as life doesn't work like that, but they do get a glimpse of one possible future the access to Zot's world is reopened in time for everyone to have another visit.
This charming series wraps up full of heart and clearly McCloud is no longer interested in just telling superhero yarns, but wants to create comics which plow new territory.
The nature of how that works is the very next thing McCloud would work on as just after he finished Zot he turned his attention to the groundbreaking Understanding Comics.