Thursday, August 30, 2007

Putting the Strong in Super-Strong

Alan Moore and Chris Sprouse, with multiple other creators at different points.

There’s something weird going on with The Ottawa Library and Alan Moore collections. Both Promethea and Tom Strong are available, except for the last book. This may have meant that I missed a return to form in Promethea but ending Tom Strong on book five wasn’t exactly great either, albeit for different reasons. The last story in book five is a decent cut off point but I simply want more of the character and the world Alan Moore created for him. Regardless, I’ve requested that the library system add both books to their collection, so if you’re in Ottawa, please do the same.

What did I think about the Tom Strong stories? Simply put, I loved them. This is basically the superhero comics I wish I had more of. And it’s not simply that Alan Moore is writing them, I love the stories in book five (and I believe some of the other volumes) that were written by others just as much. If you don’t know, Tom Strong is basically the combination of Superman and Mr. Fantastic. The stories are not just great four coloured superhero action but also act as a meditation on how superhero comics evolved from pulp heroes through the golden age, the silver age and the extreme age to become something of their own.

These stories are as much a history lesson of the medium as they are just plain old ripping yarns.

Chris Sprouse does an amazing job on the characters here. Tom is just realistic enough to be convincing as a person but also stylized enough to be a fictional superhero. Looking at each panel was making me start to really dislike Mr. Sprouse because the art just looks so neat and easy. The characters are presented with an almost absence of detail and Tom, in particular, looks all the better for it. Like the stories themselves, the characters are only drawn to focus on the important aspects and that in itself makes them look and feel like they should for this work.

Characters aside, the rest of the world is populated by everything you could possibly imagine. Old-timey science gadgets, retro-sci-fi space suits and flying saucers, cable cars, and a city that reaches higher into the sky than anything modern could ever hope to. This is a perfect mix of the idealized past and idealized future presented for us in the here and now. If you’ve made the connection in your head once about pretty much anything in comic books then it’s probably here in a story and it looks better than you could imagine.

I love how the hero tends to find amicable solutions to problems but isn't afraid to duke it out either. He manages to fight Nazis, time travellers, shape shifters, and he fights villains with his wife and daughter, a robot, and a talking gorilla.

So yeah, I liked it. A lot. So much I’ll be buying the series even though I’ve read it all through the library. From what I can gather the original release schedule was kind of All-Star Batman and Robin like and I can’t imagine I’d have enjoyed the series as much reading it in that manner. Maybe it’s just my general malaise with monthly floppies at the moment but I’m really glad I read this series in the trade. My attention span is long enough to sustain it and there is more than enough hope and joy in these stories to come out the other end feeling better for having read it. Now, to find copies of the last book and to start the Terrific Tales and the rest of the America’s Best line…

1 comment:

The Fortress Keeper said...

TOM STRONG ROCKS.

I especially loved the "Crisis On Infinite Earths" riff that revolved around an alternate world where Tom Stone - rather than Strong - ignited a super-hero crisis of Civil War proportions through an illicit affair.

And Tesla Strong is the best Supergirl I've seen in years!!!