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HarperCollins Risks Bankruptcy, Publishes Zot!

There are some actors who have the reputation of being a “show-killer.” As soon as they’re brought on board a television show, the program is doomed for failure. So when you tally up the roll call of show-killers, we have a new addition to stand alongside such illustrious members as Sean Maher (Firefly, The $treet, Ryan Caulfield) and Rena Sofer (Blind Justice, the US version of Coupling, Just Shoot Me!, The Chronicle, Oh Grow Up). I’m referring, of course, to Scott McCloud’s comic book Zot! and its new attempt to kill mammoth publisher HarperCollins.

I kid, but only a little bit. So far McCloud’s series has taken down two publishers; first was Eclipse Comics, which published the original 36-issue run and one collection, before eventually collapsing into bankruptcy and the company being bought up by Todd McFarlane. McCloud took the book to Kitchen Sink Publishing, which published three of a four-volume reprint series, only to also go bankrupt mere weeks before the final volume was to go to the printer.

And yet? The book is absolutely worth it.

McCloud’s Zot! starts off as a straight-forward science-fiction epic, with young Jenny Weaver traveling to a futuristic alternate Earth where Zachary T. Paleozogt, known to everyone as Zot, is a hero that regularly saves the world from destruction. As much fun as those early storylines are, with a quest to find the Key to the End of the World, it was in the pages of Zot! that McCloud refined his style and storytelling abilities. The final storyline in particular, known as the “Earth Stories,” involves Zot being trapped on our world and having to learn what it’s like to deal with being an ordinary teenager among Jenny and her friends, not a science-fiction element in sight. It may sound clichéd, but it’s a credit to McCloud that they’re the most engrossing issues of the series.

Of course, this is also a series that includes the made-of-electrical-currents assassin 9-Jack-9 from whom no one can ever escape, an art-deco inspired cyborg who can’t stop replacing his body parts with machines, and the Devolutionaries who transform people into chimpanzees and want everyone to live a simpler life. It’s crazy and funny and well worth being on your bookshelf.

The timing of this is pretty impeccable, I might add. I was just cleaning off a bookshelf yesterday and was looking at the three Zot! collections published by Kitchen Sink, and began to fantasize about there eventually being a fourth one to go alongside it. I certainly wasn’t expecting the great news about a 576-page, 6×9″ all-in-one-volume collection showing up (and only for $22.95, which is an amazing bargain) in July 2008. Now sure, this means that HarperCollins clearly is tempting fate. But if anyone can break the curse, it’s them. And if not, well… hey, at least we got that collection, right?

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