The Life & Times of “Baby” Otto Zeplin Vol. 1 by BT Livermore

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The Life & Times of “Baby” Otto Zeplin Vol. 1
By BT Livermore

Graphic novels and historical fiction are two of the hottest literary genres in print today. If good looks and relative truths are the big sellers, then I’m one consumer you can blame. I love them both, so I love The Life & Times of “Baby” Otto Zeplin Volume 1.

Moreover, what’s more hip than zines and minicomics? The art of printing and distribution has never before been so firmly (excessively?) in the hands of the layman. I consider this self-published ficticious comic book about a baby born 100+ years ago to be the trendiest thing I’m going to read all year. At least Baby Otto’s mom isn’t the only one who will ever think he’s cool.

Here’s where the history comes into play. BT Livermore took pity on a small gravesite near his home in Portland, Oregon. The name etched into the dull stone tomb reads “BABY OTTO ZEPLIN [b.] May 9, 1900 [d.] January 13, 1901.” Gasp. Only eight months of life? How sad. That marker is Baby Otto’s only known legacy, but his untold stories carried so much possibility for BT’s imagination that he invented a life for the kid and fashioned it together as a comic book.

Even if Otto had lived eighty years instead of eight months, he probably wouldn’t have been as exciting or charming as he is in BT’s minicomic series The Life & Times of “Baby” Otto Zeplin. The mini is a petite 4.25×3.5”, 28 pages long and full of one-shot Dennis the Menace-style comics that depict Otto’s life one day at a time. In this first of ten volumes, Otto wins the lottery, enjoys a rainy Portland day, goes on a picnic and is stalked by the ghost of Ulysses S. Grant.

There are no big yawns here. The book is has plenty of unexpected surprises and really sweet moments. I particularly liked the page turn after Otto decides to feed the birds.

This beautifully illustrated and bound mini is simply eye-catching. The cover is a deep scarlet cardstock flecked with dark spots over which a classy black and gold screen-printing job pops a grin at your attention. The book has textured cream endpapers like crinkled onion skin onto which Otto’s face has been watermarked. The images are clearly rendered in grayscale on smooth, cream-colored heather paper with cleanly cut right edges. It’s all held together with red machine-stitched binding. It’s all very attractive.

BT did a fantastic job of putting the book together but he also did his homework. He spent some time investigating the Zeplin family and the time period. To this purpose, sousaphones and penny candy can both be found within “Baby” Otto’s pages. Other highlights include Daddy Zeplin’s mustache and Baby Otto’s full-body bathing suit.

I look forward to volumes 2-9, but not 10. I’m having fun reading about Baby Otto. I know what’s to come in the last chapter of his life and I don’t look forward to it. BT is doing a nice job of creating comedy without making Otto a comedic figure. The story within is as colorful and lovingly-built as the printed material. This isn’t a dead baby joke, it’s taking care and creativity to make an old forgotten name meaningful once again, if only for a little entertainment.

–Sarah Morean

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