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"Every night, I walk out here, just to wait... I know he's not up there... not exactly... it's just the only place to look... And I know it hasn't been that long... Still... it seems like I've waited forever... Y'see... there's this guy I know... like no one you've ever met... from a place... you would not believe."—Jenny Weaver
Zot! is about Zachary T. Paleozogt or "Zot," a superhero from the far-flung future of 1965. He goes about fighting villains and righting wrongs, stopping crimes, and generally being a decent human being.
It's also about Jenny Weaver, a thirteen-year-old girl whose parents are on the cusp of divorce, whose brother is generally nice when he's not drunk, and who has a philosophy that the Earth is "wrong" and filled with "broken people."
The comic is a study in the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism, a love story, and a Slice of Life story about a group of teenagers trying to make their way in the world. It just so happens that one teenager comes from a very different world.
Written by Scott McCloud (of Understanding Comics fame) in 1984 and then from 1987-1991, (and as an online comic in 2000), Zot! was a mainstream comic that played around with superhero tropes and generally brought to the mainstream what had previously only been seen in manga or underground comics. There is now a giant, 500+ page Omnibus edition with all the issues of the 1987-1991 black & white run in it.
Zot! provides examples of:
- AI Is a Crapshoot: Zybox.
- Battle Butler: Peabody, Zot's butler robot. Only after several modifications though. His default mode has no combat capabilities beyond ejecting unwanted dinner guests.
- Betty and Veronica: Jenny is torn between Zot (Veronica) and Woody (Betty). Unusually, both acknowledge that it's Jenny's choice and they genuinely like each other. Also, Zot's blonde, while Woody's brown-haired.
- Chekhov's Gun: Chekhov's Pie.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: the Blotch comes from a planet of these.
- Cuckoo Nest
- Crystal Spires and Togas: Sirius IV in the future version seen through the Door At The Edge Of The Universe.
- Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: Dekko to a tee.
- A Day in the Limelight: The acclaimed "Earth Stories" are a series of these for most of the Earth cast.
- Digitized Hacker: 9-Jack-9.
- Deconstructor Fleet
- Dogged Nice Guy: Woody, who loves Jenny, even though he knows Jenny will probably choose Zot in the end.
- Everything's Better with Monkeys: Heck, even Butch is a monkey in Zot's world. Also, the De-evolutionaries or "Devoes." Revert!
- Excited Show Title
- Five-Man Band (only during the stories in Zot's world):
- Flanderization: Not within the comic itself, but Matt Feazel's parodic back-up stories, Zot in Dimension 10 1/2, features it in spades, with most of the characters becoming extreme caricatures of their normal selves.
- Genre Shift: the first 11 issues are fun, superhero-y stuff. The next 16 issues mixes the superhero stuff with nice deconstruction and some interesting stories in Jenny's (our) world. The last 8 stories take place entirely in our world and are all narrated by different characters. They don't feature any superheroics (besides Zot himself), focusing instead on smaller, individual stories about the characters themselves.
- Harmless Villain: Ignatius Rumboult Bellows, a steampunk-powered supervillain.
- Kid Hero: At the beginning of the series, Zot is only fourteen.
- Kissing Discretion Shot: The end of Zot! Online.
- Knight of Cerebus: 9-Jack-9, who is nasty enough to inflict Cerebus Syndrome on Zot's world. As per Word of God, his appearance was what led to the Earth Stories, since the other world was no longer innocent enough to serve as a proper contrast to Jenny's.
- Large Ham: Bellows. Zot tells him that he makes a great villain because of all his hammy dialogue and flair for dramatic confrontations.
- Lotus Eater Machine: Zybox uses one, which leads to a disturbing story in which Jenny is in a reality where her memories with Zot are hallucinations based on a cartoon.
- Mad Artist: Well, Dekko's completely off his rocker, and just happens to be an artist. His art became more popular as he became less human, though.
- Mad Scientist: Uncle Max has a bit of this. He's also a Mad Musician.
- Meaningful Name: Arthur "Art Dekko" Dekker, an artist who eventually became a cyborg whose head looks like the top of the Chrysler building, which has Art Deco-style architecture.
- Muggle and Magical Love Triangle: Jenny's having to choose between Zot and Woody.
- No One Could Survive That: Dekko, more than once, as well as Zybox. 9-Jack-9 however didn't survive - physically. Too bad his mind was already hooked up to a computer at the time.
- Parental Abandonment: Zot's parents disappeared when he was fairly young. It's not until later that he finds out they were killed by 9-Jack-9.
- The Professor: Uncle Max.
- Psycho for Hire: 9-Jack-9.
- Raygun Gothic: Zot's world is a textbook example, except textbooks aren't usually so much fun.
- Retro Universe
- Robotic Reveal: Zot discovers he'd been turned into a robot by Dekko after a grenade goes off in his hand.
- Sanity Has Advantages: Dekko's biggest weakness. Dr. Bellows' second biggest (right behind "not being able to shut up").
- Schoolgirl Lesbians: Pam Singer and Terry
- Shout-Out: To one of Scott McCloud's major influences, Astro Boy.
- The Sixties: Zot's Earth is perpetually stuck in 1965, but it's a completely different 1965. There was no Vietnam, no World War II (although there still was a Civil War and a World War I).
- Steven Ulysses Perhero: Zachary Paleozogt became Zot. Arthur Dekker became (Art) Dekko.
- Technological Pacifist: The creator of Zybox didn't want it falling into the hands of the military, so he told it it could break the rules of its programming. Which was a very, very bad idea.
- Their First Time: Zot and Jenny spend a whole issue talking about this.
- Very Special Episode: The issue where we find out that Terry is a lesbian. The commentary even notes how it feels very "after school special"; that said, it's a very visually well-executed despite its Anvilicious nature, even going into Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped territory.
- Victory-Guided Amnesia: The result of traveling through the Door at the Edge of the Universe.
- Who Wants to Live Forever?: Dekko actually does, thanks in part to how disconnected he is from his humanity. Pathetically, it's the only thing he has going for him anymore. When he tries to make other people robots to turn them immortal, not a one of them accepts the change.
- Word of Gay: A reader brought up the possibility that the dead Prince Drufus had been gay; McCloud liked the idea and said "sure".
- Write Who You Know: Woody is based heavily on Scott McCloud. Pretty much Woody's entire circle of friends are based on McCloud's experiences, including a line he overheard on a bus and used on the comic.
- Zeerust: Intentionally.