Zoot! # 1, 2 and 4 (1992 and 1993)

I seem to already be establishing some themes on this blog. I’ve reviewed comics by Frank Miller twice, issues of Captain America three times, and now am going to review a second comic released by Fantagraphics. Are these themes in my comic fandom? Am I revealing truths about my passion for my favorite hobby that were previously unknown to me? Sigh. Sometimes I am such a mystery to myself.

(Don’t read the above with a straight face, please!)

Anyway, we’re here today to talk about another obscure black and white series from the friendliest comics publisher in north Seattle, Fantagraphics. Okay, they may not be the friendliest publisher around (or even in north Seattle, come to think of it!), but Fantagraphics is certainly the most adventurous publisher. Not only have they helped spark the careers of such comics luminaries as Pete Bagge, The Bros Hernandez and Dan Clowes, but they’ve also consistently sponsored the work of more obscure cartoonists, sometimes from even more obscure corners of the world.

Such is the case with a set of brothers less well-known than the Hermamdez Bros, the Langridge Brothers, who released through Fantagraphics six issues of their own series, called Zoot!. I believe the artist partner is Roger Langridge, who draws in a marvelously angular style that seems ideally suited for humor comics. And indeed many of the brothers’ comics are humorous. If some of the humor seems lost in the long journey over the Pacific – if you can explain the joke on this cover, please let me know – the reader can still enjoy the marvelous silliness of the stories in these comics.

Although, I should say, there are some stories in these three issues that are rather serious. There’s "The Journey Halfway," a continuing serial about a man who seems to be having an extremely bad day. It’s an intriguing story with some interesting storytelling, but I’m having trouble figuring out a plot in these three episodes. Is it pretty much a shaggy dog story or is there an additional level of depth to what the Langridges are trying to do here?

Much more incongruous is "Short Story" in issue 3, an emotional essay into sexual murder. The story explores mass murderers’ treatment of women, from Ted Bundy to Jack the Ripper, to the Black Dahlia killer. Sitting as it does in an issue of a mostly humorous magazine, this story feels strange. Even odder, it reads like an essay be an earnest college student looking to explore the role of violence in American society – the tale explores the surface of the issue without ever really providing any insight or depth. In his introduction to the piece, Andrew Langridge admits to having battled with the piece for some time, so it’s clear that this is a story that means a great deal to him, and which he’s struggled to get just right. I wish they had left it out of the comic, as it just doesn’t fit either thematically or in terms of quality.

Aside from that one complaint, Zoot! is a perfectly charming and fun bargain bin find. It’s kind of inspiring to see that cartoonists all over the world are doing interesting comics. And there are many very funny pages, like the one I scanned in below.

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