Ben Hatke’s charmingly whimsical comics character Zita the Spacegirl first appeared as a webcomic and then in print in Flight Explorer, a small volume published in 2008 as a kid-focused companion to the Flight comics anthologies, to which Hatke also contributed.
Zita went on hiatus for some time, leaving those of us who enjoyed her slightly off-kliter explorations of other worlds to wait for her return.
Hatke has brought Zita back, doing the character justice with a full length volume of Zita the Spacegirl that takes her from curious young girl on her way home from school to spacefaring adventurer out to rescue her captured friend in one story.
Though his work is carefully crafted, Hatke manages to keep a feeling of innocence in his drawings, and a loose, almost casual feeling to the linework. He applies color with a muted and atmospheric palette, placing his plucky adventurer and her oddball collection of companions in dark toned scenes that contrast with the bright fields she left behind.
Zita the Spacegirl is available as both a hardbound and trade paperback edition. There is a preview on MTV Geek, that I noticed at the bottom of their article, Buying Comics for Girls: A Gift Guide.
The feature lets you leaf through the pages and enlarge them, but there has been a loss of image quality in the process (particularly to the ink lines) and I can’t recommend it. Try instead the smaller, but crisper excerpt at the bottom of this page on the Macmillan site (images above, top three).
You can also find some Zita sketches on the publisher’s Flickr pages.
Hatke’s blog also has Zita updates and information, including the Great Zita the Spacegirl Jolly Giveaway Contest, in which you can win a a signed hardcover edition with a tiny (and very nice) original watercolor. You can enter by just adding a comment to the post. (Contest started yesterday, December 8, and runs for one week.)
The blog also mentions Tales from the Bohemian Highway, a small collection of comics and sketches Hatke has published through Lulu. In the edition that Hatke was kind enough to send be as a review copy, it includes his entry to the wonderful Draw yourself as a teen challenge started by Dave Valeza (see my post here).