Mar 15, 2008

File Under: Things I Didn't Know About Alan Moore Comics

So, in making myself a list of the comics that comprise the America's Best Comics line, in order to have a more complete collection of them, of course, I found out something interesting about the Tom Strong series. In the 11th issue, we are introduced to "Terra Obscura", and it's science hero Tom Strange, an alternate version, we suppose, of the title character.

But the truth is a little stranger.

Tom "Doc" Strange, is actually a super-hero from a now-defunct Golden Age publisher called Nedor Comics. They operated from 1936 to 1956, and were apparently a rather prolific publisher. It's a reflection on my comparatively poor knowledge of comic book history that I had no idea who they were. So it turns out that all the characters on Terra Obscura were actually characters from Nedor Comics who had become public domain characters after their copyright ran out and no one renewed it.

Interestingly, the characters were revived by the publisher Americomics in the 1980s, a publisher that also published the Charlton characters before they were sold to DC. The Charlton characters were, of course, the inspiration for the heroes in Moore's Watchmen. The two revivals, written by the same man, though decades apart, couldn't be more (if you've forgive the pun) different. Where Watchmen is grim, and, let's face it, utterly brilliant, the Tom Strong and Terra Obscura stories are light-hearted, celebratory of the kind of heroes that were popular in the Golden Age. I suppose that the mark of a really great writer, that he can present two diametrically opposed views of the history of super-heroes, and still make them both completely compelling.

But enough. I could praise Alan Moore all day, and it would get us nowhere. Both Tom Strong and Terra Obscura are available in collected editions from DC Comics. And a far more insightful and complete look at these old heroes is presented at Nolan's Niche, at the CGC website.

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