January 13, 2009

Zot! The Complete Black and White Collection by Scott McCloud

Hi guys, Olga of Get Thee to a Punnery! I need to be smacked. I have yet to read anything from my list. However, I have the full Sandman series waiting for me at a friend's, so that will soon be remedied. 'Til then, please be content with the following review.

Zot! is a comic created by Scott McCloud, who is better known for having written and drawn Understanding Comics, a comprehensive work on the creation of comics. I found Zot! The Complete Black and White Collection at my my library after not finding a book I was looking for. I seem to have this allergy that prevents me from leaving the library empty-handed. So, I chose Zot!

Zot! is a series that combines the superhero elements of classic comic books with the newer genre of real-life, relationship based graphic novels. I suppose if you were to ask me the difference between a comic book and a graphic novel, that would be it, although that's not necessarily always the case. The definition of a graphic novel and a comic book is highly debated, and this review isn't where I would necessarily lay my lines down about that.

Anyway, I digress.

Zot! tells the story of a blonde-haired superboy named Zot who comes from an alternate earth, and his relationship with Jenny Weaver, a teenage girl from our own earth. The first half of hte collection is comprised of the 'superhero' stories in the series. Zot (real name Zachary Paleozogt) battles a host of villains who are all in some form or another caricatures of the villains McCloud grew up on.

The second half of the collection deals with more introspective, personal stories. McCloud deviates from the classic superhero format by literally exiling Zot in Jenny's (i.e. our) earth and moving the focus away from him. Entire issues of Zot! are devoted to characters that were introduced as minor players in previous issues, such as Ronnie, a comic book obsessed school friend, or Terry, Jenny's best friend who comes out in an issue.

Zot! was published in comic form from 1984 to 1993, and the stories that McCloud introduces, if you look at the time he was writing and drawing them in, are ground breaking. My favourite story has to be Jenny and Zot's first time. The story is left open to allow the reader to decide for themselves if anything actually happens.

What I liked most about the collection was McCloud's commentary. He provides insight into his drawing habits and his personal thoughts about each story. You can really tell he's an incredible perfectionist and it pains him in some ways to publish this collection, warts included. Personally, I didn't think there were any warts, but I'm not an artist, let alone a graphic novel artist. I liked knowing what he thinks of his own stories.

The stories themselves were fun to read. While not terribly complicated by any standards (McCloud admits that he had little knowledge of how to write a story when he first started drawing Zot!), they're interesting and humourous, as well as touching. I could understand Jenny's (I want to say motivation here, but it's not a play...c'mon Olga, work that vocabulary!) desire to flee her world and live in Zot's, where everything is just better. We've all been there before, and we don't have to be fifteen to feel like that.

The characters also made Zot! a good read. Each one, be it a villain or a friend, has a story and they're all interesting. I could go on and on. Seriously, if you happen to stumble upon this collection at the library, I suggest you take it out. It's not McCloud's best work, but it's a really great read nonetheless.

Rating: Four Stars


Carrie K. said...

Oh, I wish our library would get on the ball when it comes to graphic novels. Their selection is paltry.

Olga said...

Aw Carrie! I know how you feel. I used to live in a city with a pitiful collection. Since moving to Toronto I've been wallowing in so many lovely graphic novels that it's hard to keep track of them all! You should write to the library and urge them to purchase more. They won't know people want them unless you speak up. :)

Nymeth said...

I think it's not so much that comics are superhero comics, but more than the word "comics" is sometimes used to refer to stories originally published in a serialized form (and superhero comics often are) and "graphic novels" are published in a book format to begin with. Personally I use them interchangeably, though, even because many "comics" go on to become "graphic novels".

Anyway. This sounds so good. I loved McCloud's Understand Comics and really look forward to reading more of his stuff. Thanks for the review, Olga.