The Final ’80s Countdown, Part Twenty-Six.

§ February 5th, 2024 § Filed under final countdown § 6 Comments

Here we are, at the next-to-last entry in the Final ’80s Countdown, as voted by YOU! And me, but the one I voted for will be the next and final entry in this series. However, I would have voted for many of the comics I’ve covered here, and this one was really, really close….

Zot! (Eclipse Comics 1984-1991)

Well, this will be a tricky entry since I spent a couple or three posts talking about Scott McCloud’s Zot! about a year ago. (Note: the third post mentioned that a fourth post was coming, regarding something I found in a Zot! letters page…and then I got distracted and didn’t cover that topic back then, and I can’t remember now what I found! So I’ll have to peruse my Zot!s and see if I can’t remind myself for yet another future post!)

Anyway, there’s probably going to be some minor duplication of information here, but I’ll see what I can do. For the uninitiated, Zot! is about a young lady in our world named Jenny, who is surprised by a teen gentleman in gravity boots who flies through a portal from his world. His world, by the way, is Earth of the far-flung future of 1965 (Jenny’s, our, Earth being in 1984 at the time). Zachary T. Paleozogt, AKA Zot, is a young hero of his near-utopian Buck Rogers-esque Earth, with its advanced science and space travel and other technological marvels…not to mention the occasional villain!

Jenny of course prefers Zot’s magical world to her own “real” imperfect world of crime and misery an’ such, and spends a lot of time there with Zot and his friends and family through most of the first half of the run (which had a year-and-a-half gap between issues 10 and 11). For the latter part of the series, Zot! has it’s run of “Earth Stories,” in which Zot is trapped on Jenny’s Earth and finds his optimistic point of view contrasted against the real world at large. This run of stories also focus on the various personalities and issues of Jenny’s friends, dealing sensitively with teen romance and homosexuality.

Notably, that aforementioned publishing gap resulted in a shift in presentation and tone for the series. The first ten issues were a generally light-hearted sci-fi adventure (though not without its serious emotional moments), all in color. Starting after the gap, with issue #11, the series goes entirely black and white, and the storytelling becomes more somber and introspective as well. Not that there isn’t still humor and adventure, but there’s a larger emphasis on the emotional worlds these characters inhabit, versus the two literal worlds that are the settings for these stories. Though as I cover in this post, some questions are raised (and never answered) about the actual nature of Zot’s Earth.

It should also be noted that there are a couple of special related issues published along the way, but not by McCloud! Between issue #10 and #11 was the nigh-infamous Zot! #10 1/2 by mini-comics genius Matt Feazell, as seen here scanned from my very own personal copy:

I’ve probably said here before (and told Mr. McCloud his own self) that this was the very first Zot! comic I’d ever read, and went back and bought the previous 10 before #11 came out.

In addition, there’s a Matt Feazell-created Adventures of Zot! #10 1/2 issue #14 1/2. And Feazell provides “10 1/2” Zot adventures as back-ups starting in #11.

The series eventually came to an end with #36, with the only follow-up being a webcomic McCloud created and serialized originally on a comic news/reviews site, and is now hosted at his own webpage. And that’s it for Zot!, a mostly self-contained story aside from those previously mentioned unanswered questions. It’s a wonderful piece of work, with beautiful cartooning supporting a story that mixes adventure, silliness, and real emotion in just the right proportions.

I covered in this post about the various reprints available for the series. You can check there (things haven’t changed since I wrote that), but in short: the black and white issues are mostly reprinted in a book called The Complete Black and White Collection which is currently available. Issues #19 and #20 are only represented by McCloud’s layouts, as the stories had been drawn by another artist.

The first ten color issues have appeared in an out-of-print single volume from the now-defunct Kitchen Sink, and may go for premium pricing. Feazell’s 10 1/2 mini-comic and issue #14 1/2 remain unreprinted to the best of my knowledge. It should be noted that single issues of the series are relatively inexpensive though it may take some tracking down. The Feazell issues may be a little harder to spot.

I feel like a Zot! omnibus collecting everything together would make for a handsome, if mildly cumbersome, package. At the very least, it would be nice to have the first 10 issues back in print as a necessary, I think, contrast to the back half of the series.

Zot! stands as one of the classic indies of the period, and well worth seeking out if you haven’t read it. McCloud may be more famous now for his Understanding Comics series of books, but I’ll always have a soft spot for Zot, Jenny, Butch, Dekko, 9-Jack-9, Woody, Terry, Uncle Max, and so many more.

6 Responses to “The Final ’80s Countdown, Part Twenty-Six.”

  • Rob S. says:

    I loved this series. It’s long past time I revisited it. I’ve got the Complete Black & White somewhere around here.

  • Ben Diehl says:

    And there is a rumor that you have (or had!) some original Zot pages for sale at the shop!! Someone should grab those!!!

  • Patrick Gaffney says:

    There is also a signed and numbered variant of ZOT 10 & 1/2. Instead of a 25cent in the top right-hand corner, it has an “a” with a slash through it (I’m guessing for Feazell’s Not Available Comics). The inside front cover has a “first printing- November 1985 700 copies, with a number written next to it. (mine is 349). I have no idea where these were sold. I picked it up on eBay a couple of years back and it was just advertised as ZOT 10.5. The signed and numbered was a surprise to me when I opened it.

  • Tom W says:

    It’s interesting that of all these series, all of which are owned by their creators and could theoretically still be publishing today, so few are. Only the two Matt Wagner series, Turtles in various forms, and Usagi Yojimbo are still going strong. (And, arguably, Miracleman, but that’s it’s own story.)

    Partly that’s just natural wastage, sales falling as the B&W boom ended for those included in it, Chester Brown transitioning over to graphic novels that didn’t need to be serialised first etc, but there must be an element of exhaustion – ‘I have to spend my whole life doing this? Nah’. Scott McCloud could return to Zot! whenever he wanted, he presumably owns it, he presumably intended to at one time, but for whatever reason he hasn’t. The folly of youth intending to do one series forever? Makes achievements like Cerebus and Gasoline Alley look all the more heroic.

  • Thom H. says:

    @Tom W: If my hunch is correct, we’ll need to add Love & Rockets to your list of continuing series soon.

    Otherwise, I agree. It seems like some creators just petered out over time. Although I’d say some, like McCloud and Larry Marder, explored different interests/opportunities probably for creative/professional reasons that are quite understandable.

  • Jeff R. says:

    A Zot! Omnibus would be incomplete without the Dekko story from McCloud website but that was also an infinite scroll experiment so could only practically be in a digital Omnibus I guess.