Thursday, August 20, 2015

Zot! - Heroes And Villains!

I don't recollect when I first saw or bought Zot! by Scott McCloud, but I for sure had several issues of the Eclipse comic's color run which started in the mid-80's. But when I moved away form the Independents to focus on Marvel (driven by the need to conserve finances for my growing family) I lost track of the character and made no effort to follow the series as it moved through the decade into the early 90's, even when it lost its color and shifted to black and white storytelling. Scott McCloud though was very much on my radar with his insightful books Making Comics and Re-Inventing Comics, some of which even show up in a textbook I use for my classes.

So I was intrigued when I chanced upon a very cheap 2007 collection which gathered together most of the black and white run of the series. It looked like a handsome volume, well worth the small money and frankly I was intrigued. I'm pleased I bought the book. It is great, not only offering up some dandy stories told in McCloud's Japanese-inspired pristine style, but the connecting material putting the stories into context really open up the themes of the book.

The beginning of the black and white run with the eleventh issue was seen by McCloud as a reboot for the series and so beginning there is no problem for the novice. We meet in the the first two issues our protagonist Jenny of our Earth who has a "boyfriend" named Zot who is a superhero of sorts on an Earth in another dimension which resembles ours but feels more futuristic and idealistic. Jenny thinks her humdrum life of a broken home complete with pesky brother and a school life full of the boredom that can engender would be improved by shifting her load to Zot's world. In these first two stories we meet a steampunk villain named Bellows who proves to be a blustery but ineffectual baddie for our hero who dispatches him with smiling aplomb.

The next three issues offer up a more intense trilogy detailing the struggle against a computer named Zybox who in its quest for a soul ends up enslaving Zot's world and seems interested in ours. Zybox is a terrific foe who like the famous Tardis is bigger on the inside which allows the devious computer to toy with his victims as he looks to complete himself.

In a light-hearted one-shot we meet the Devoes, luddite-minded kooks who use advance technology to reduce the world to primitive apes when man was not slave to his machinery but lived ideally in the trees.

One of the scariest Zot villains is Art Dekko, a madman who suffering from cancer had his whole body slowly but surely replaced by various bits of technology. His madness is a threat to the world, or at least he imagines it so.

(Note: Issues nineteen and twenty of the series were art fill-ins by Chuck Austen which went on sale in the same month and are not included in the collection I read. McCloud still thinks highly of them, but I can offer no opinion.)

The Blotch is a baddie who worships greed and who practices a loathsome and unrepentant capitalism which attempts to reduce all of the world to merchandise and all people to employees. That's seen as a bad thing in Zot's world, or at least it is eventually just as in ours.

Perhaps Zot's most dangerous foe is 9-Jack-9, an electric assassin who travels through electronic equipment to seek out his victims. He's been around for decades and never fails, even challenging the seemingly perfect record of our hero Zot. This villain points to a coldness which perhaps suggests the nature and arguably origin of evil.

After these various super-heroic encounters the series does a shift as Zot and Jenny become stranded on our Earth. We'll look at those stories, regarded by some as the best of the series, next time.

More to come.

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