Public Domain #1 is written, illustrated, colored, and lettered by Chip Zdarsky, with Allison O’Toole serving as editor. The print version is published by Image Comics, with the comic originally appearing on Zdarsky’s Substack. Artist Syd Dallas helped create the superhero known as the Domain, the foundation of the publishing juggernaut Singular Comics. However, the creation looms large over the heads of Syd’s sons Dave and Miles; Miles, in particular, resents Syd’s co-creator Jerry Jasper and Singular for misleading his father and taking the credit and money he feels his father deserves. Matters aren’t helped when Jasper’s assistant Tanya Ko discovers a shocking piece of information concerning the creation of the Domain.
As more and more comic books are being adapted for film and television, particularly in the superhero genre, the question of creators’ rights has come up. Many writers and artists who create the characters fans love often struggle to make a living, while the studios that adapt their work rake in billions of revenue. This has led many creators to launch their own series and/or publishing imprints, from Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s We Have Demons to Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman launching KLC Press. Public Domain follows in that same mode, adding a layer of metatext to its story. Having read Zdarksy’s guest issue of Crossover with Phil Hester, it’s not surprising that he knows how to work his way around metatext.
It’s also fitting that a comic tackling creators’ rights found a home at Image. The publisher was founded when artists decided to leave Marvel Comics and create their own characters so that they could have a measure of control over their stories. Zdarsky is no stranger to Image, having served as the main artist and co-creator of Sex Criminals; he brings the same mix of humor and heart-on-your-sleeve emotion that fueled that title to Public Domain. Throughout the issue, readers will see how the weight of the Domain hangs over Miles’ head: he’s distant with his father, and he’s angry when the editor-in-chief of the newspaper he works at asks him to interview the lead actor in the latest Domain movie.
The rest of the characters are just as three-dimensional and human as Miles, particularly his family and Tanya. Dave has a look that I can only describe as “how do you do, fellow youth?.” Syd comes off as affable and charming. And Tanya is dealing with Jasper and his massive ego, which is extremely commendable. This lets Zdarsky offer some biting commentary on how writers are often seen as the most important part of a comic when the artist has just as much say in how the product is delivered.
It helps that Zdarsky illustrates the entire issue to make everyone look like real people. The coloring also adds more depth to the final product, whether it’s the cold blue of a lonely night or a wave of yellow representing the flashing cameras at a movie premiere. Zdarsky’s lettering is often cut off in certain panels, just as a risque joke is told, which made me laugh more than a few times.
Public Domain #1 tackles the major issue of creators’ rights in a funny yet heartfelt way and continues to cement Chip Zdarsky as one of the most interesting creators in the industry. If you’ve loved Zdarsky’s other creator-owned work or his Daredevil run, I highly suggest picking this book up. And if you want more, Zdarksy’s Substack is always open for subscriptions.
Public Domain #1 will be available wherever comics are sold on June 24, 2022.
Public Domain #1
Public Domain #1 tackles the major issue of creators’ rights in a funny yet heartfelt way and continues to cement Chip Zdarsky as one of the most interesting creators in the industry. If you’ve loved Zdarsky’s other creator-owned work or his Daredevil run, I highly suggest picking this book up.
Collier “CJ” Jennings is a freelance reporter and film critic living in Seattle. He uses his love of comics and film/TV to craft reviews and essays on genre projects. He is also a host on Into the Spider-Cast.