Tinseltown Review

By | Monday, May 18, 2020 Leave a Comment
Tinseltown TPB
I recently picked up the Tinseltown trade paperback from Alterna Comics, which collects the five issues of the 2018 series by David Lucarelli and Henry Ponciano. Going in, I didn't know much beyond the back blurb: "In 1915, Abigail Moore became one of the first female police officers in Hollywood. But beneath the glamorous surface of Tinseltown beats a rotten heart full of corruption and Abigail's about to dive head-first into all of it." I assumed it would be a standard whodunnit mystery piece -- an actor gets murdered for knowing something they shouldn't or whatever. I was pleasantly surprised to find I was pretty wrong.

While there is indeed a murder that takes place, there's no mystery behind it. Abby (as she's known) already knows who did it and why before anyone even reports the person missing, let alone before she finds the body. The story is really about Abby becoming an officer. She's actually hired as an "officer" for Utopia City Studios. While she does patrol the Studio grounds, the expectations of her job are more for appearances than actual police work. She's told, not in so many words, that she's barely a security guard. She's hired as much for her legs as anything else. But she takes the job seriously, and over half the story is about her earning her title in her own mind as well as earning everyone's respect for it. It's not until the final chapter that she really discovers a plot to kill the studio head, which she's eventually able to thwart.

What I really liked about the story was that focus on Abby's character. I think a lot of stories tend to shortcut things and resort to the somewhat cliched training montage, but they really spend time here showing Abby developing, both as an officer and as a character. Which means that when the "primary" plot starts rolling about two-thirds of the way through the overall story, readers have a very good sense of Abby's character. There hasn't been resorting to any broad stereotypes of really any of the main characters; they all feel like well-developed and realized individuals.

There's also the development of the time and place as well. I think a lot of people's knowledge of early Hollywood is limited, and based entirely off modern stylized depictions. Maybe from biopics like 2018's Stan & Ollie. While Tinseltown is certainly a stylized depiction as well -- even moreso since it's not actually based on a real story -- they put a fair amount of effort into showcasing the attitudes and mores of the times. It acknowledges that Utopia Studios (largely standing in for Universal) was progressive for its time, but that it's time was still 1915 and "progressive" didn't mean the same thing in 1915 that it would come to mean a century later. Abby is depicted as a progressive woman circa 1915, not a progressive woman of the 21st century dropped into 1915! (Interestingly, I also happened to just read a recent Doc Savage story that did pretty much exactly that -- they had dropped what was effectively a Lara Croft character into 1938.)

All in all, it was a really good read. It's my first time reading a book from Alterna, and I'm now eager to check out some of their other titles. They mostly caught my attention previously for their unique (I think) business model and, after now reading Tinseltown, I'm even more interested to see if they succeed in the long term!
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