In a world where superhero movies are the modern mythology of our time, one man has discovered a dark secret that could shake his family’s legacy … forever. As Eminent Domain is about to become the biggest movie in the world, comicbook artist Syd Dallas is about to have everything he understands about the industry flipped upside down. Will his sons be understanding? Are comic creators fairly compensated? Find out (maybe) in Chip Zdarsky’s latest series Public Domain.
Public Domain #1 focuses primarily on Miles Dallas, the son of comic artist Syd. Having lost a romanticized view of his dad’s legacy (perhaps it had to do with being drawn as a villain in one issue?), Miles does everything he can to stay away from the money-making machines that are the movies based on his dad’s comics. As the son of someone who has his own legacy, I deeply related to Miles’s frustration of trying to make it on his own in an unrelated field, only to have the gravitational pull of his father’s work drag him back in kicking and screaming. Additionally, you feel the frustration of Tanya (the assistant of the egotistical comics writer, Jerry, who created the Domain), who wants to join the legacy of comics writers before her–only to be held back by the very people she idolizes.
These are just a couple of examples of the deep character work that Zdarsky brings to Public Domain. There’s also the underlying tension between Syd and Jerry that explodes in an unexpected way by the end of the issue. Plus, we get an unglamorized look at how movies based on comics arguably benefit the wrong people, complete with cliched jargon that definitely doesn’t sound like anything you hear in interviews with actors and directors involved in these films. Top that off with some top-shelf Zdarsky wit sprinkled throughout, and you end up with a solid debut issue.
Since the book is so character driven, Zdarsky knows that the visual emotional depth comes from getting right into the characters’ faces–we witness their grimaces, their disappointment, and even their joy written in their expressions (but not in words). I particularly loved the look on Syd’s face as he was witnessing the movie based on his work. It tells us a lot about Syd as a person, and it foreshadows how he’s going to feel about the upcoming fight.
Zdarsky opts to go the one-man show route with Public Domain (even going so far as to write the solicit), obviously because when the movie gets made, he gets all the glory (and money). Until then, we readers are stuck with a brilliant debut issue that is grounded in character work that is equal parts hilarious and melancholy. Don’t wait until this hits public domain; support the arts and the artist and add it to your pull list!