Zebra Girl is one of those comics that I love to bits, but I just wish it updated slightly more often!
Now I feel horribly ungrateful saying that, I’m sure the author has a life, a full time job and other things to do. And, of course, he should totally do whatever works for him. But as a consumer, reading Zebra Girl is an exercise in extreme patience – one page per week is equal to about one issue of a comic every 6 months.
So I come back once every 2-3 years and read a bit more, which takes about 20-30 minutes, and wish for a time machine. Still, if you’re a new reader, at least there is a fair amount to get your teeth into.
The characters and comic concept
Sandra is an everyday kind of girl, a little serious, but nice enough. She lives with a brother and sister, Jack and Crystal, who are zany and impulsive. When a bit of magical experimentation goes awry Sandra is turned into a demon. Now she faces life as a demonic entity and all it entails.
Zebra Girl never really deviates significantly from that initial premise but the delivery of that concept alters vastly. Initially it starts out as a gag-a-day style thing, very lightweight in content and tone. Fifteen years later and it’s a dark, emotional drama with complex characters.
We sadly never get to know Sandra very well prior to the magical accident that then defines her life from that point on. There is an underlying anger and sadness in her but is that the demon or was it always there? Doesn’t seem likely we’ll ever know unless there is some sort of prequel done in the future.
Jack and Crystal start out as fairly two-dimensional characters in the opening pages of the comic (as does Sandra to be fair). But as the comic develops they become much more complicated and well developed with it. Jack in particular gets to be the focal character in his story at one point, and it’s a pretty good one, even if it does have a deux ex machina ending.
There is a 4th “main” character who is introduced part way through what I’ll call the second story arch. Both the story introducing this character, along with this characters premise, feels a bit at odds with the rest of the comic. Personality wise the character is fine; they’re a darker, no nonsense, sort of character who gets off some pretty snappy lines from time to time. But, without overly spoiling, I just wish they weren’t what they are.
There is no consistent antagonist to Zebra Girl but, given their relatively short screen lives, there have been some memorable ones along the way. Likewise secondary characters are all done quite nicely.
As mentioned above, the story starts out as a non-serious gag-a-day style comic and evolved into a darker character based drama. Its strengths (which only really become apparent after it evolves out of its initial phase) are its characters, their interactions and dialogue. There is a bit of an emo/goth/”nobody understands me” vibe to Zebra Girl but it manages to just narrowly fall on the right side of pathos without falling into self-indulgence.
Unfortunately there is a lot of breaking of the 4th wall in the first hundred pages or so which thankfully ends when the comic gets a bit more serious.
So far stories in Zebra Girl have never really gotten that complicated or involved. Certainly in the earlier story arcs they tend to have some scene setting, and then a reveal of what is going on, and then work directly to some sort of resolution.
To be fair the last completed story, the best so far, had a bit more substance with what could be generously called a sub-plot. The current story is a bit baffling at present as it doesn’t quite jibe with a characters previous stated intent and personality but I presume something is up and all will be revealed in due course.
The art, initially black and white before moving to monochrome, develops from a very basic style to some really fantastic artwork in the latest stories. I’m a big fan of the style and the use of shading.
Author, publishing and timeline
The author of Zebra Girl is Joe England who attended the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia. Beyond that I couldn’t find much else about Mr. England.
What I did find out though is that Joe has a YouTube channel. It’s not generally related to Zebra Girl, he uses it to share his thoughts on movies and Doctor Who episodes from what I can see.
Zebra Girl volume one, covering comics from 2000 – 2002, is available for purchase via the store link on the main page of the comic. I understand there are plans to release further books.