The mid-to-late-1980s was the beginning of something new. I had been a comics fan as far back as I could remember, but I had always bought my comics from whatever drug store or convenience store was around. But in the mid-80s, I bought an issue of a magazine about comics (I can’t remember which one) that had a cover feature about “alternative comics.” I was living in Joliet, IL at the time, and I found a store there that was devoted to comics. Devoted to comics! I was amazed! I started buying comics that didn’t come from Marvel or DC: Cerebus, Nexus, The Badger, American Flagg!, DNAgents, normalman…and Zot!
All of these new comics impressed me and influenced me, expanded my notion of comics and stories. But Zot! was something else. At a time when I was growing up and finding the world to be a lot more complicated than I’d thought, Zot! took me back to my innocent youth. Zachary “Zot” Paleozogt was everything I wanted to be: confident, charming, relentlessly cheerful and optimistic. He lived in a world of my dreams, a parallel Earth filled with Art Deco buildings and retrofuturist flying cars. The 10-issue color series was one of my favorite comics of the time.
My friend Chad recently sent me a copy of Scott McCloud‘s Zot!: The Complete Black and White Collection, collecting issues #11-36. After a few years off, McCloud returned to writing and drawing Zot!, only this time the comics were in black and white, focusing more and more on complex stories and the “real world” of our Earth. In its entire run, Zot! went through a huge, impressive shift in plot, tone and storytelling.
My love for Zot! is intense. It’s not just the retrofuture world Zot comes from, although that does give me a huge kick. It’s not just the character of Zot, although I do love that guy. It’s the whole tapestry: Zot’s sort-of-girlfriend, Jenny, and her complicated inner feelings; Woody, the nerd blossoming into a really nice guy; the fun, loud supervillains Bellows, the Blotch and the Devoes; the tragic supervillain Dekko; the sinister, creepy 9-Jack-9; the mix of fairly traditional superheroics and down-to-earth realism, comedy and tragedy; the teen angst; the scenes of high school kids playing RPGs. Zot! touches on so many things that have been important to me, the fears and anxieties, the hopes and dreams. It fills me with joy and sings in my heart.
Thank you, Chad, for sending this collection to me and reminding me how much I love this comic. Thank you, Scott McCloud, for writing and drawing Zot! And for the rest of you: go read Zot! if you haven’t already. It probably won’t touch you the same way it touches me, but it really is quite wonderful.