A sophomore year full of zombies and alien invasions! Eeek! (And you thought 9 a.m. class in Stocking was hard …)
Welcome to the life of Destiny Zero — sophomore, Pi Phi and protagonist of the new comic book series Zeroids the Return. Published by Cornell alum Ed Catto ’85 and his partner Joe Ahearn, Zeroids the Return gives new life to the 1960’s cult Zeroids toy — and does so against a Technicolor backdrop that Cornellians will find eerily familiar …
Though lawyers advised Mr. Catto against explicitly stating it in the book, Zeroids takes place at Cornell — or, at least a university very, very similar to it. And though the problems that Destiny and her sisters have to deal with are a bit bloodier than prelims and papers — the story of Zeroids is one that Mr. Catto is sure Cornellians will relate to, and enjoy.
The Sun spoke to Mr. Catto last week about the Zeroids, sororities and how being a Cornellian prepared him for the world of comics.
Sun: To start with, why don’t you tell me a little bit about the comic, and where the idea came from?
Ed Catto: Well, I’m an advertising guy during the day […] but my nights and weekends thing is all about taking old properties and kind of bringing them back. You know, kind of polishing them up and getting them ready for new fans. […]
Zeroids was a toy from the ’60s, and they were popular for about two or three years […] So we brought Zeroids back, and we brought them back in a new comic series. It’s a great way to get this story out and we can have a lot of fun.
So now after about 30 years the Zeroids are back. And they are starring in this new Moonstone series called Zeroids the Return — it’s a two issue limited series. And when that completes, we’re going to be starting an ongoing series.
Sun: And I know it takes place in Ithaca and that one of the protagonists is a Cornell student … ?
E.C.: Our lawyers have advised us not the use the name Cornell. But, well, it takes place in Ithaca, New York at a university very similar to Cornell. It looks a lot like Cornell. [Laughs.] And our protagonist is a girl named Destiny Zero, and she’s a sophomore at the university, and she’s also a Pi Phi — because my daughter’s a Pi Phi at Bucknell.
Sun: I read that she was a Pi Phi and wondered why — but I guessed maybe it was because you dated a Pi Phi while you were at Cornell …
E.C.: There were some wonderful Pi Phi women in my day and none of them would have anything to do with me. [Laughs.]
[…] But anyway, in our story there’s this horrible threat from space that’s basically turning people into zombies. And these sorority girls are very savvy, and they’re dealing with it in a non-shrinking violet kind of way. We present them as very strong women, with good heads on their shoulders. And it’s a great fun adventure, that I think shows college-age girls in a positive light.
Sun: It seems like you’re also combating some of the stereotypes of sorority girls. I would imagine that when most people think of sorority girls, they don’t think of them as kicking butt.
E.C.: Absolutely right. In our series we’re presented with an issue because the Zeroids toys themselves are really corny […] so we decided to do a “mash-up” of a lot of different sci-fi clichés, and each time we’ll do something a little different. So we’ve got robots from space, we’ve got alien invasions, we’ve got sorority women, we’ve got zombies, lots of zombies. But we wanted to try to put all of these elements together, have a little fun, and sort of throw people for a loop. So while you may expect sorority girls to be shrieking in their underwear, here it’s just the opposite. These girls really do kick butt, as you said.
Sun: I remember reading a review online (on Brokenfrontier.com) that said that the Zeroids were “what happens when someone takes all the clichéd plot devices and does them right.” Do you think that that’s a fair assessment — that you took clichés but put them together in a way that makes them fresh, as opposed to stale?
E.C.: That’s just what we tried to do […]
In some ways our story is going to be a twisted version of Dorothy as she travels through Oz. […] The heroine is Destiny, and her helpers are going to be these crazy looking robots called the Zeroids. Again, trying to take an old, hackneyed plot device and make it really different […] And we’ve been really encouraged so far. The comic book world, which is really jaded — full of smart people, who’ve read a lot — has really been embracing it. We haven’t had a bad review … yet. Although, now that I said that we probably will. [Laughs.]
Sun: So, given the fact that it takes place in Ithaca, at a university that’s very similar to Cornell, do you think it will resonate more with Cornellians than just an average reader?
E.C.: Yeah I think so. A lot of it takes place in Cayuga Heights. […] And one of the covers, done by [graphic designer] Chris Short, has a robot, the heroine and in the background you can see a building that looks a lot like the Clock Tower.
I think it will be a fun thing for a Cornellian [to read].
Sun: Do you have any recommendations for what students interested in comics can do while still at Cornell? In Ithaca?
E.C.: When I was at Cornell I was part of the Ithaca Comic Club and very involved in the conventions we’d have. There’s also a great comic book writer who lives in Ithaca named Roger Stern. […] He really fostered a lot of my excitement [about comics]. And through the Ithaca Comic Club there were a lot of great guests who came through, a lot of great pros from the old days. So now, for the 35th Ithaca Comic Convention, they’ve invited me back as a guest of honor. And they laugh and say that every once in a while this happens — you have a former fan come back as a professional.
So I would recommend that people who really love comics, or who even want to get into a pop-culture genre, to become a part of this club. Or start a club at Cornell. There’s also a great comic book store downtown called Comics for Collectors. And the Cornell Store has some great graphic novels on sale, though they don’t sell comic books anymore.
Sun: So, I know you’ll be at the Ithaca Comic Book Convention, so I would guess that you can get Zeroids that way, but how else can people get their hands on a copy?
E.C.: Lots of easy ways. Come to the Ithaca Comi-Con on September 25th or go down to Comics for Collectors. We’ll also have it online at comicsology.com. Or you can send me an e-mail, and I’ll send them out one.
Sun: A personal Cornell connection, always useful. Well, now a fun question. Since you’ve been thinking about comics, superheroes and Cornell, I have to ask — if you were to assign a superpower to any famous Cornellian, who would it be, and why?
E.C.: Oh, gosh, I would give it to Frank Rhodes. He was such a wonderful figurehead and leader when I was at Cornell. For so many of us he just serves as the epitome of a great Cornellian and a great leader […] We just still love the guy, all these years later.
Sun: Any last words, to leave us Cornellians with about Zeroids?
E.C.: It’s a really fun romp […] that has a real pop-culture sensibility. Ostensibly, it’s a story of a girl and robots who eat up zombies — but in reality it’s just a great adventure story. And I think part of the [message to take away] is that Cornell just prepares you for so much. I feel like the well-rounded education […] and connections I made really allowed me to do something as crazy as publish a comic book about zombies.
For more information on Zeroids the Return go to captainaction.net, or moonstonebooks.com.