Before there was The Sculptor, before there was Understanding Comics, there was Zot!, a comic series by the legendary Scott McCloud that was later molded into one complete 573-page book, Zot!: The Complete Black and White Collection.
Zot is a hero from an alternate planet Earth, complete with flying cars, ray guns and tyrannical super villains. In Zot’s down time, he travels between dimensions to a much more familiar Earth to visit a girl named Jenny, who occasionally accompanies him on his adventures.
Because Zot! was originally a series of shorter comics, the full collection doesn’t read as one coherent storyline. Rather, it covers a myriad of Zot’s escapades, running the gamut from taking down comically evil villains; a love triangle between Zot, Jenny and a boy from Jenny’s world; to stopping the plans of a psychotic robot — a storyline which actually manages to be slightly disturbing amongst the other whimsical adventures in the book.
But, while the character of Zot serves as a figurehead for this series, the spotlight is really on Jenny, the teenage girl struggling to grow up in the real world, when she knows there is a fantastic alternate world out there, full of adventure, waiting for her to return.
In this collection McCloud provides his original storyboards for each of the comics, as well as his own commentary about the series. It’s intriguing to hear such a well-known face in comics discuss one of his very first works.
The final artwork of Zot! is a charming blend of Japanese and American styles, with simplified, stylized facial features and muscular, superhero body-types. Character design aside, where Zot! really shines is in its highly-detailed depictions of the world in which Zot lives. The architecture and technology of this alternate Earth is fully realized and masterfully brought to life within the panels of this series.
Overall, this collection encompasses a series that started out as a whimsical adventure in an alternate dimension and evolved throughout its lifespan into a much deeper and touching coming-of-age story. Seeing McCloud bring together this collection of comics from when he was first beginning to understand the medium is in equal parts fascinating and inspiring.