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average writing
skilled art
historical bonus 2
total score 6
zero comics _ Zero Comics 2 _ Zero Comics 3 _ Zero 4
Zero Comics #1
Zero Comics #2
Zero Comics #3
Zero Comics #4
REVIEW SCORE: 6
REVIEW SCORE: 6
REVIEW SCORE: 5
REVIEW SCORE: 7
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keyline
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Zero Comics
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1974-1979 / The Greenwood Organization - Zero Comics - Last Gasp
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Warren Greenwood and Pete Von Sholly were both art students at Syracuse University in the early '70s, several years after the esteemed Vaughn Bodé had attended the same college. Of course, Bodé went on to undeground comics fame, but eventually he returned to Syracuse to give a lecture in Greenwood and Von Sholly's illustration class. In an email to me about that lecture, Von Sholly wrote that "Vaughn was very nice to us, invited us to visit his studio in Utica (which we did) and also told us to look him up if we ever came to L.A."

At the time, Bodé's Cheech Wizard strip was running in National Lampoon and Von Sholly wrote that Bodé was working with Ralph Bakshi on War Wizards, an animated movie based on Cheech Wizard. 18 months after Bodé's death, Bakshi's War Wizards mutated into Wizards, which didn't have Cheech in it at all and Bodé received no credit for any contribution to the movie. Alas, I'm digressing slightly from the story of Zero Comics.

You can imagine that meeting Vaughn Bodé proved to be inspirational for Greenwood and Von Sholly, but they were already pursuing underground comic-book fame and fortune with the artwork for Zero Comics #1. They were so determined to succeed that they self-published 2,000 copies of the book (with black-and-white covers) after being shot down by various independent and underground comic-book publishers.

The first issue featured only two stories, the first being a collaboration and the second entirely penned by Greenwood. Curiously, both stories featured anthropomorphic vegetables (okay, the tomato is technically a fruit, but for the sake of poetic license...) who take on superheroic personas in science-fiction adventures.

I don't know how quickly Greenwood and Von Sholly managed to sell those 2,000 copies, but the first issue must have had some success because within months they were already accepting work from other contributors and getting ready to publish the second issue. It was around this time that the pair had moved out to Los Angeles and the Bodé connection had given them access to underground luminaries like George DiCaprio. Von Sholly says that DiCaprio "was a BIG help to us both, introducing us to Ron Turner and Fred Todd (Last Gasp and Rip Off of course) and also to many cartoonists in L.A. like Bill Stout, Robert Williams and Sergio Aragones."

Excited by their new colleagues and/or their own delusions of grandeur, Greenwood and Von Sholly felt brave enough to publish 10,000 copies of the second issue with color covers. It featured three additional creators, but the book's content was still dominated by the founding partners. It took another year to put out the third issue, but by that time they had partnered with Last Gasp and were able to leverage whatever advantages Ron Turner could bring to the table.

After three issues of Zero Comics, Greenwood and Von Sholly were both working on other underground comics, and Greenwood began developing another comic book called Space Dog that he would also self-publish. It would take three years before they got back to publishing the fourth and final issue of Zero Comics, which wrapped up two serialized stories that were left hanging in the third issue.

Zero Comics is certainly a peculiar title, primarily driven by science fiction and vegetables, and it was really hit-and-miss with the quality, but it was willing to take chances, as demonstrated by its daring and enigmatic trilogy "The Space Cadet Tee-Vee Show is a Bomb!" Even though I'm too dense to wrap my head completely around that trilogy, I would not be surprised to discover that some well-read people find "The Space Cadet" to be a philosophic masterpiece about 20th-century popular media.

On top of that, "Shadows Over Happy Times" (aka "Brok"), which leads off each of the four issues, is a pretty entertaining epic of proletariat rebellion. If you could condense the best of Zero Comics into two issues, you'd have a nice little title, but the weaker material (some of it not very daring at all) drags down the overall critique of the series.

As Zero Comics was completing its run, Greenwood and Von Sholly worked on a few other Last Gasp titles, including Slow Death, Forbidden Knowledge #2 and Neurocomics. They both moved on from comic-book work in the '80s and began stellar careers as storyboard artists, with Warren Greenwood working on animated TV versions of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (130 eps!), She-Ra: Princess of Power, Spiral Zone, and Jem (among many others).

Pete Von Sholly is still an accomplished illustrator who went on to produce storyboards for over 100 feature films, including Nightmare on Elm Street (III and IV), The Mask, The Green Mile, and The Shawshank Redemption. Von Sholly has remained involved in comics and has a plethora of alternative and counterculture media products available on his website, Vonshollywood (and Von Sholly's blog is also fun and colorful).