Black & White Trade Post: The Crow & Zot!

ZOT!: THE COMPLETE BLACK & WHITE COLLECTION 1987-1991 (Harper/Eclipse Comics originally)
Written and drawn by Scott McCloud
Collects Zot! #11-18, 21-36
A few months back I did a post about listening to Man Or Astroman while reading Zot! Zot’s the comic that Scott McCloud did back before he decided to explain comic books to the world. Zot comes from an alternate Earth where everything’s pretty perfect. He’s a hero who can fly and uses gadgets that his uncle Max creates to stop what little crime there is (which is usually committed by supervillains instead of regular people). At some point Max discovers “our” Earth and comes over. Zot meets a girl named Jen and they’re kind of dating. Her and her friends go back and forth between their Earth and Zot’s, though, when Zot is on our Earth, he pushes the line and gets into a lot of trouble when he tries to play the superhero. This 576 page book collects only the black and white material that McCloud did, which explains the holes. The first 10 issues were all in color and, according to McCloud, way more simple and superhero-y. The two issue gap of #19 and 20 were when drawn by Chuck Austen while McCloud and his wife Ivy got married. There are thumbnails of those issues in the collection, but not the actual reprints.

I was lucky enough to be given this book back when I was working at Wizard. It sat around for a while. Heck, 576 pages of anything is intimidating. And I did end up taking about a month long break in the middle of reading that actually fit pretty well in the flow of the series, but I really really enjoyed this comic. I’m sure like many of you, you’ve read the “superhero in the real world” concept over and over and over again. But, instead of taking a negative view of the idea, McCloud zooms way in and explores the relationship a young girl has with said superhero and how that hero deals with the challenges he can’t zap with a gun. The first part of the book focuses mostly on Zot’s adventures against enemies like Zybox the world-absorbing robot, 9-Jack-9 the cyber assassin and Dekko the…killer building? Like I said, it’s a long book and I’ve forgotten big chunks of it, but the “standard” hero vs. villain issues are really solid. I only use the word standard in the sense that it’s what you expect from a superhero comic, not that it’s common by any means. The second part, has Zot stuck on our Earth and focuses more on how he interacts with real, human evil and how the supporting characters deal with everyday life, or at least their really shitty lives. I’d like to say that these are my favorite issues, but really, I don’t think there’s a single one I disliked. The arcs are solid all around and, I recommend this book for anyone interested in branching out into more indie-oriented comics while still sticking with superheroes. Also, I’m a big fan of how the book itself is put together. Not only does McCloud do a nice, informative intro that explains the book much better than I did, but he also talks about every single arc after you’re done reading. I love that behind-the scenes approach to extra features. It’s also funny to read how hard on himself he is as an artist, especially because some of his pages blew me away.

THE CROW (Kitchen Sink Press)
Written and drawn by James O’Barr
Collects 1-5?
Like every other 11 year old in 1994, I saw and loved The Crow, though I’m pretty sure I saw it a few years later. Anyway, with all the mystery thanks to the Brandon Lee’s tragic death and the overall radness of the movie, it was sure to be an instant classic with dudes. I think I knew when it came out that it was based on a comic. If not, I did soon enough, but I never read it until this weekend. I got the book in a swap thanks to the wonderful and highly recommended Sequential Swap TPB trading site.

I liked the book, though it wasn’t all that spectacular. Frankly, I think the screenwriters and director took an alright comic and made it a kick ass movie. I kept reading and getting close to parts I remembered like Eric killing the pawn shop owner or him confronting the little girl’s mother and getting pretty excited only to be let down by standard fare. In the movie, Eric fills a shotgun full of rings and blasts the owner away and he squeezes the drugs out of the mothers arm, in the comic it’s just a simple gunshot and chiding.

So, while, action-wise the movie doesn’t offer up much of interest, it does capture an emotional sense that I didn’t expect to feel. O’Barr really does seem to capture the pain and rage of losing someone you love intensely. In fact, I’d say that’s the real strong suit of the story, especially considering the idea of the Crow and resurrection isn’t really explained in the book (unless it was in one of the transcriptions of friggin’ Joy Division lyrics I skipped over, hey, writers, please stop quoting the damn songs you like in your works unless it actually matters!). Anyway, I’m not sure if the book would make much sense if you hadn’t seen the movie, at least on a larger scale than the basic revenge story (I wonder if that sentence has ever been written before).

So, anyone else read Zot or The Crow and have any thoughts? I’d like to hear them. Are the other Crow books worth reading?

Music To Read To: Man Or Astro-man? & Zot!

I don’t normally listen to music while I read. Mostly because I have trouble concentrating. So, when I do, it’s usually something without words like jazz or instrumental rock and roll (Joe Satriani’s Surfing With The Alien, John Paul Jones’ Zooma, that kind of thing). Back when I was working at Wizard I got my hands on a copy of Scott McCloud’s Zot! The Complete Black And White Collection 1987-1991 from Harper Collins. It had been sitting in the to read long boxes in my closet since then and I recently picked it up to see how it is. And it’s great. I’m only 336 into the 576 page book, but I feel like I’m enjoying it along with the commentary that McCloud gives after each story arc.

The real point of this post though, is to talk about music accentuating the reading material. I was sitting in bed one night, reading this volume when it popped into my head that the brightness and sci-fi leanings of Zot’s earth would go really well with my favorite modern surf rock band Man Or Astro-man? (for what it’s worth, my all time favorite surf rock group is The Ventures). I went out into the living room, popped a reading light on, turned my iPod to the correct Artist and read for quite a while.

And I gotta say, it was a near perfect fit. It was kind of eerie actually. When the story slowed down, the record did so too. Kind of like discovering that Wizard Of Oz and Darkside Of The Moon fit together, but of course, dependent on the speed with which the reader can read. I first listened to EEVIAC Operational Index and Reference Guide, Including Other Modern Computational Devices (1999) and then Project Infinity (1995) because that’s the order they’re in on my iPod. The mix of surf rock and old sci-fi movies was like whatever kind of wine goes with whatever kind of steak, it just happened to work.

My experience with Man or Astro-man? goes back a while. I happened to see the following video for “Theme From Eeviac” along with the video for “Denise” by Fountains of Wayne on 120 Minutes and I was sold (on both bands). I would go on to purchase both Project Infinity and A Spectrum Of Infinite Scale (2000) at my beloved Boogie Records (used and new respectively). Soon after they broke up, which is a bummer, but I’ve still got a few other albums to check out if I ever get the urge. Anyway, here’s the first video I ever saw, along with a few others I found on YouTube that show off their goodness and weirdness.

I highly recommend checking them out if you have even a remote inkling that you might like surf rock or are a big fan of old sci-fi movies or if you just like to read a lot of sci-fi. I used to actually turn Man or Astro-man? on when I played video games. This was back in the PS1 days, before games scores and dialogue were important. Do yourself a favor and check them out!