Public Domain Vol. 1: Past Mistakes review – AIPT











Chip Zdarsky’s latest work shows a satirical edge on creators and the rights to their own creations.
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If you are well-versed in the history of comics, you know it’s an industry that has not been too kind to the creators that have shaped the medium, whether it is the legal issues Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster faced when trying to regain the rights to their creation Superman, or the numerous fights that Jack Kirby had with Marvel. Out of these struggles came things like Image Comics, a place where comics creators could publish material of their own creation without giving up the copyrights to those properties. It is at Image where Chip Zdarsky initially thrived, co-creating Sex Criminals and Kaptara, and although he still has time to write for Marvel and DC, he can solely create titles like Public Domain
Originally published on the digital platform Substack, Public Domain centers on the Dallas family, who are trying to live their lives as the father Syd toils away on his comic book “The Domain”, spawning a franchise of movies, toys and games without Syd seeing much return from it. When Syd’s two sons, Miles and Dave, discover that their father still technically owns “The Domain”, they wonder if they should convince him to fight for their family’s legacy. 

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Zdarsky has always maintained his funny bone, whilst balancing a sincerity throughout his work, whether it is the empathy you feel towards the characters of Sex Criminals or the heartwarming nature of his Spider-Man comics. Even when he goes dark with titles like Daredevil, Zdarsky never falls into cynicism. One can argue that Public Domain is Zdarsky at his most cynical, showing how sinister the fictional publisher Singular Comics can be when wanting to maintain control, as well as how dismissive the Hollywood people feel about the whole medium of comics, despite it being the source of their financial well-being. 
The world that Public Domain presents could be seen as too black-and-white, from the good-natured creators to the evil-minded publisher, but Zdarsky does show the flaws within the heroes of this story. As the man of the house, who created superheroes in order to support his family, Syd never really fought over ownership for his creations and has thus grown distant, which ended up having an effect on his children, who followed their path where they ended up screwing themselves. Whilst Dave seems happy in his beach bum lifestyle, Miles – who looks a lot like Zdarsky – has the more dramatic arc, with his own issues that he hopes to resolve by trying to convince his dad. Whilst the narrative tries a little too hard in creating stakes for Miles’ gambling problems, the resolution leads to something heartfelt for the whole family. 
Given Zdarsky’s quirky art style, the visual storytelling is very mundane, since it’s a story about people and relationships. With the emphasis more on people, Zdarsky can show how a character through their facial expressions, and some of the humor comes out if this, whether it’s the happy-go-lucky nature of Dave or the introduction of the Dallas family’s lawyer, Sammy Sockem. Zdarsky always finds unexpected places to laugh, even with the most incidental characters, the best of which is a security guard who doesn’t like his job, but finds joy when throwing Miles out of the building.
Whilst the overall message about creators fighting for their own creations can be blunt, Public Domain ultimately tells a heartfelt story about a family learning to reconnect in a world where everyone is against them.

Public Domain Vol. 1: Past Mistakes
‘Public Domain Vol. 1: Past Mistakes’ review
Public Domain Vol. 1: Past Mistakes
Whilst the overall message about creators fighting for their own creations can be blunt, Public Domain ultimately tells a heartfelt story about a family learning to reconnect in a world where everyone is against them.
Reader Rating0 Votes
0

A great exploration on family, with each member having their own flaws and approaches to resolving them.
A quirky and expressive art style that isn’t too flashy, but creates moments of visual comedy.
The story isn’t pulling its punches on how cynical both industries it depicts can be…
…even though some readers will feel that the depiction and message is too black-and-white.
The attempt to raise the stakes when it comes Miles’ arc is perhaps unneccessary.
9
Great
Buy Now
Comixology/Amazon

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