Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Classics - Zot! #33

You know, I've read a lot of comics over the past (mumblety-mumble) years - and to be honest, most of them were forgettable. (It's Sturgeon's law: 90 percent of everything is crud. True about TV, movies, books - and comics, too.)

But this issue of Zot! (published in October 1990) is one of the 10 percent - it's a great example of the power of comic books, and it's an intelligent story with impact.

But first, some background information: Zot is a young man who lives in an alternate universe that seems to be a futuristic (and largely upbeat) version of Earth. He's a hero who befriends a teenage girl named Jenny, and together they have amazing adventures. (You can read my review of the first issue in the series right here.)

After starting out at Eclipse comics as a full-color comic, Zot switched over to black-and-white (with color covers) with issue #11. With issue #28, the stories took a surprising turn from fanciful adventures. Zot is trapped on our Earth and must adjust to a more mundane existence.

The focus of the book shifted to personal stories featuring Jenny, Zot and their friends - including this issue, which turned the spotlight on a girl named Terry.

This is (I believe) the first mainstream comic to tackle the subject of homosexuality. It's a thoughtful, serious treatment that manages to convey the anguish most teens face: unrequited love, confusion, embarrassment, raw emotions - the list goes on and on.

Terry hides the fact that she is a lesbian - especially in light of violence against an effeminate young man at her school. It would be easy for this to enter the dreaded "After School Special" zone that most such stories wander into.

But writer and artist Scott McCloud tackles the subject with intelligence and sensitivity, and he uses his art to depict the conflict within and the intolerance "without." And it really is the story of any teen who has fought to work up the nerve to talk to someone they have a crush on (whether straight or gay).

He also manages a stunning bit of comic book craft at the end of the story - which I can't discuss for fear of spoiling it for you. Suffice to say, it knocked me over when I read it.

Even more impressive, this is a story that hasn't aged at all - it could have been written in 2011, as kids still go through this same agony today.

The honesty of the story is why this comic stayed with me long after most have faded from memory. It's a great example of a master storyteller at work.

Highly recommended!

Grade: A+



Evan Minsker said...

I love Zot! I've been meaning to reread the black 'n' white collection that's been sitting on the shelf for a while now. I recently moved and actually panicked when I thought it got lost in the move. Alas, it was in a forgotten box buried beneath some art books and my two volumes of Swamp Thing.

Chuck said...

Evan, at least it was keeping good company! I wonder why they haven't reprinted the earlier color "Zot" stories yet? All great comics that should always be in print.