Short Cuts 68: Public Domain Volume One – Past Mistakes; Gender Queer – A Memoir; The Department of Truth Vol. 3 – Free Country

Public Domain Volume One: Past Mistakes
Chip Zdarsky, writer & artist
Image Comics, 2023

Classic comic book artist Syd Dallas is responsible for creating pop culture’s greatest hero: the Domain. His glory days are behind him, and now he is invited to movie premieres starring his character mostly as a courtesy. His sons Miles and David have a complicated relationship with both the creation and the creator, as deadlines on Domain comics deprived them of their father’s attention while they were growing up. But they think of the character as the family’s legacy and are convinced Syd should fight for it, especially after a document is discovered that granted him full ownership of the Domain. This puts him in conflict with co-creator writer Jerry Jasper and publisher Singular Comics. But all he really wants is the rights to make Domain comics, so he and his sons launch the new imprint Dallas Comics. This is a knowing introduction to a comics series about the comics business. A bit reminiscent of Howard Chaykin’s Hey Kids! Comics!, but with less historical perspective and far fewer axes to grind.

Gender Queer: A Memoir
Maia Kobabe, author, illustrator
Oni Press, 2019

This was the most challenged book in the United States in 2021 at libraries and school systems, a target of the culture wars on the basis of its subject alone. Kobabe was born female, but was never comfortable with her gender identity. Her first menstruation caused the first of many identity crises. Maia found that although she was attracted to women, she did not feel like a lesbian. But she did not want to be transformed into a male, either. So what is she? As a nonbinary/queer/trans person em finally settled on the pronouns e/em/eir in place of the frequently used they/them/their. The story is a difficult passage to a comfortable personal identity, but is not without both joy and humor. It is certainly not explicit in any way, apart from frank discussion about physical gender differences. In the end em’s comfort with her identity may be the most disturbing thing to those who challenge it (and I daresay very few of them have actually read it).

The Department of Truth Vol. 3: Free Country
James Tynion IV, writer; Martin Simmonds, artist; Aditya Bidikar, letterer; Elsa Charretier, Tyler Boss, John J. Pearson, David Romero, Alison Sampson, Jorge Fornes: artists; Matt Hollingsworth, Boman Titov, Jordie Bellaire: colorists
Image Comics, 2022

Six guest artists contribute six “Deviations” which tell the story of the founding of the Department of Truth and Lee Harvey Oswald’s rise to the top position. Lee and new young recruit “Doc” Dalton Hynes (who publishes a magazine about the Men in Black and wears a tinfoil hat) go off in search of one of the Men to capture, and along the way they uncover the event that set the mysterious Scarlet Woman free, as well as inadvertently bring about the creation of the legendary Mothman. In the end Doc becomes convinced that Lee is himself a fantasy made real, not a real person. But he’s real enough to convince President Nixon to support him: and his fake moon landing is so convincing that the huge audience watching it on TV make it real.


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