Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

June 9, 2012

Comics I Read In Series Form In The 1980s: Zot!


I sometimes wonder after the demands I hear from younger consumers of popular art that they must start at the beginning with new-to-them works or must consume what they encounter in a certain way. I was always pretty well-served by engaging whatever I found whenever I found it. You get more happy accidents that way. I skipped the color Zot! when it was coming out; nothing in its pages looked like it could interest me in the slightest. When the 11th issue arrived, returning us to McCloud's extended young-adult work in black and white form, I was a senior in high school and had been going through an incredibly lousy series of life experiences. Emotionally pummeled and eager to read as many comics as I could buy no matter their level of familiarity, I responded very, very strongly to Zot!'s blend of teenage romance, retro good guy-ism and unabashed nostalgia. Every kid is Jenny Weaver on that car about something.

I read Zot! #11 and #12 over and over again that year; lucky for me, those issues function very well as a stand-alone treatment of McCloud's ideas over the work entire. I picked up and devoured the Zot! color issues and started buying the black and whites as I moved through college, slowly and gently working my way out of the majority of what had gone wrong. My recovery had very little to do with comics, but I'm grateful for the companionship that Zot! and some of my other favorite comics provided, and believe that by its nature serial entertainment builds that kind of relationship with its readers far more effectively than stand-alone work can. Those comics are dear to me.

I still think Zot! is a pretty good series, too, with tremendously appealing characters and several strong narrative choices that paper over the more pat and uninspired directions in which its author might occasionally charge. I was thinking about becoming a playwright in those days, and I believed it was a good comic book for informing that artistic path (not all of them are); a lot of Zot! is in the conversations, and how what we want becomes a public thing pressing against other folks' desires and needs, and if we're lucky how we might experience the grace that comes with some sort of resolution, even if it's not ours, or the one we would have chosen. How we negotiate fantasy, what purposes it serves, that's an overriding theme right up my alley. Being lucky enough at the time to get my hands on some untranslated manga meant I even recognized some of the formal tricks in McCloud's toolbox. I think the series ended at just about the point it should have, and certainly waved goodbye right when I was ready to see it go. I'm grateful.
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