Tales From the Public Domain #1

Posted: Tuesday, October 24, 2006
By: Steve Saville

Cover of Tales From the Public Domain #1 Creator(s): Barry Shapiro
Publishers: Baaar-Sum Comics, LLC (Self Published)
From: USA
Price: $3.95 (US)

I’ve never been a big fan of the style of comic that uses photographs, adds speech balloons and creates a narrative by combining the two, so it was with some trepidation that I approached Bowery at Midnight.

The creators in their covering note introduce their concept as follows: “this monthly satirical series captures stills from films that are in the public domain and retells their stories with zany dialogue and plot twists ala the Marx Brothers.”

We are promised in the blurb that Tales from the Public Domain has no equivalent on the current market. Quite simply what Shapiro has done is taken a number of stills from the 1942 movie Bowery at Midnight and added his own dialogue to amusing effect.

Personally I find it reminiscent of a couple of occasions when I have sat in a darkened cinema and the soundtrack has died but the movie has kept running and some wag in the audience has provided an alternative soundtrack. The results inevitably oscillate between the hilarious and the only mildly amusing. And so it is here, for much of the 33 pages what we are presented with is amusing but rarely does it go beyond this. When it does though it really is very good. The use of modern colloquialisms like “wus” and “geek” is very effective and a high point. As is the scene where Miss Judy descends into the gruesome underground lair of the mad doctor and they discuss the décor, now that’s funny. The satirical digs at the police force are also very funny.

I must concede though that despite my reservations Shapiro has chosen his stills with care and has hung them together in a way that does flow. And I must also concede that all the elements for success are here, murder, mayhem, laughter romance. I just feel that the sum total is ultimately not equal to the component parts.

A further area that I must praise Tales from the Public Domain on is the restraint they have used. The temptation would have been to provide a dialogue that was just lacking in any sense of taste but they have not gone down that path and their comic is better because of it. Why even the sex scene is blanked our by the concluding credits.

Overall it may be that the comic is just a little too long and kind of overstays its welcome but any comic that gets zombies into its final pages is worth a look.

In a Word: Pictorial.

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