May 17, 2015

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 82: Supreme #41, August, 1996


When I first laid hands on Supreme #42 (tomorrow's comic), I really didn't know what to expect. It had Alan Moore's name on it, but if his other Image stuff is anything to go by, just the name is not a guarantor of excellence.

Then I read it. And then I bought every single issue of the series that was available.

To say that Supreme is one of my favourite comics is an understatement. Though flawed, I think it might be one of the most well-conceived and well-rendered superhero comics ever. So that I'm here comparing it with Moore's other superhero opus, Miracleman, is appropriate.

If you like, we can see the two as mirror images. Where Miracleman starts out very innocently in his origin, and has it twisted inside out in Moore's revision, Supreme starts out twisted, and is revisioned into innocence. This initial issue is all set-up, with only one superheroic punch up right at the very beginning. Moore ties the series in to its previous incarnation (basically a very violent version of Superman), and in doing so acknowledges not only the metafictional history (i.e., Supreme as Superman), but also the character's fictional history in the pages of Image comics. He, of course, proceeds to chuck all that out and start fresh, but through the device of the "revision of spacetime," he does not alienate all those readers who might have enjoyed the previous adventures.

Supreme, then, is the story of the first superhero and of the processes of authorial and editorial flux that he has undergone over the course of, at the time of publishing, 60 years. The series bounces back in time to investigate those particular eras in the development of Superman, and reflects on how those eras inform the current version of the character. I've often said that this series is the best Superman story you're ever likely to read that doesn't feature the Man of Steel himself. Even the cover of this issue is a tribute to the first issue of Superman.

In comparing the series to Miracleman, then, the initial response has to be to the weight of history that is placed upon the character, rather than taken from the character. The weight is distributed evenly over about 13 issues, and Supreme's discovery, along with our own, is not alienating of traumatic, but celebratory.

I've not yet quite figured out how to divide the series up, but we'll likely be on Supreme for most of the week, and then back to Miracleman for the Red King storyline. But for now, let's celebrate the superhero, and the superheroic, with "The Man of Majesty!"

See you tomorrow.

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