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domeland 2nd
 
solid writing
competent art
historical bonus 4
total score 8
Domeland!
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2nd Printing / April, 1974 / 24 pages / Charas Comix
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First Printing August, 1973
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REVIEW SCORE 9
Some counterculture one-shot (single-issue title) comic books appear to be little more than odd anomalies on the landscape of the underground era (Comic Book, Mutants of the Metropolis), produced by people who faded out of the scene as easily as they faded in. Other one-shots served as launching points of careers (Larry Fuller with Ebon) or had little-known but interesting stories behind them (Austintatious, Far Out West). The 1973 one-shot Domeland! certainly falls into the latter category, but not for the interesting story behind it, but the interesting story that follows it.

Domeland was conceived, written and produced by Charas, Inc., a small New York company that built (and really, really wanted to popularize) geodesic domes as housing structures back in the early '70s. It might seem odd to promote geodosic homes with a comic book, but Charas apparently believed they could ingite a grass roots movement towards geodesic domes because the technology was so cost efficient and environmentally friendly. Domeland is very earnest about explaining the science behind the geodesic structure of the housing. In fact, Charas incorporates a cartoon guest appearance by Buckminster "Bucky" Fuller into the comic book. Fuller was famous for having reinvigorated Dr. Walther Bauersfeld's 1923 invention with his own geodesic designs, leading to tens of thousands of geodesic domes being built around the world in the 1950s and '60s (including by the U.S. Army).

Charas scripted the comic book as a dream-like learning adventure for a group of six ordinary New York men and women. During this adventure, the group mutates through two- and three-dimensional life forms as they learn (with the help of Bucky Fuller) about triangles, geometry, science, and—of course—icosahedrons. Towards the end of the comic, the story ventures pretty deeply into the mathematics integral to designing geodesic homes, and there are character squabbles along the way, but the net result is the group builds a super cool geodesic house and lives happily ever after. As an underground comic book, Domeland is pretty average, but as a manual for building geodesic domes it's quite entertaining. The sincerity of the script seems to echo Charas's belief that geodesic domes were the perfect shelter: practically indestructible, very affordable, and environmentally sound.

The artwork for Domeland is also pretty mundane, but that should come as no surprise since Charas hired an unknown (and therefore cheap) former art student named John Holmstrom to illustrate the comic book. In fact, Domeland was 19-year-old Holmstrom’s first published work, and afterwards he was so embarrassed by it that he didn't retain a single copy for himself. However, Holmstrom still had a few things working in his favor; he had studied under Will Eisner and Harvey Kurtzman when he was a student at New York's School for Visual Arts in 1972. And when he could no longer afford tuition at the college, both Eisner and Kurtzman liked Holmstrom so much that they hired him as a personal assistant.

In 1974, after the Domeland experience, Kurtzman helped Holmstrom advance his career by lining up freelance jobs and other opportunities, which led to Holmstrom being hired as the editor of a new national humor magazine similar to National Lampoon. The magazine never launched, but the experience would later inspire Holmstrom to publish his own counterculture publication. By 1975, Holmstrom had reunited with an old high school buddy named Eddy "Legs" McNiel and Eddy's friend Ged Dunn. After Gunn suggested they all collaborate to start a publishing company, Holmstrom and Legs came up with the start-up cash to rent a dumpy office near a rail yard and the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel. A few months later, the first issue of Punk magazine hit the streets.

The history of Punk magazine is an important and complex story, but bottom line Holmstrom edited 18 issues (15 of which actually made it to market) of a very influential rock fanzine. His experience eventually led to him work for many years at High Times magazine, where he became publisher and grew so rich he started up Punk magazine again twenty years after its last issue. The revived mag didn't prosper, but today Punk has a nice website and Holmstrom recently signed a licensing deal with a clothing company in Japan that might make him even richer. The company, Morrison & Co., LTD, is marketing t-shirts, keychains, lighters, bike helmets, purses and belts, and representatives from the company told Holmstrom they actually liked some of his cartoon characters from Domeland.

Speaking of Domeland, you might be asking, "so what ever happened to Charas back in 1974, anyway?" Well, they almost lined up a great deal to build tons of geodesic homes in India, but apparently somebody who mattered found out that Charas is actually Spanish for hashish, which might have clouded a deal that was never consummated. Charas did go on to build several geodesic homes in the South Bronx in the mid '70s, which were all destroyed by thugs within days. Charas finally got out of geodesic housing business and became a Puerto Rican activist organization that might still be active in New York today, and may even have a very rudimentary website.
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keyline
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HISTORICAL FOOTNOTES:

There are two printings of Domeland, both by Charas, Inc. The 1st printing (500 copies) has no cover price, though it is believed to have been sold for 50 cents. The 1st printing is magazine size (8.5 x 11") and has a textured, matt, colored paper stock cover with a white, offset paper stock interior. The 2nd printing (1,000 copies, shown above) is 7.875 x 10" with a 75-cent cover price and has a full-color, matt cover stock with white interior pages. The indicia for Domeland's 2nd printing is here.
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COMIC CREATOR:
John Holmstrom 1, 3-21, 24 (art)