May 19, 2015

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 84: Supreme #43, October, 1996


There are certain comics works that, like Plato's Republic, only really begin to offer up their secrets upon subsequent readings. Morrison's The Invisibles is one, and Moore's Supreme is another. Reading this series again for probably the fourth or fifth time, I'm struck by how meticulously planned the story is. The story contained in the first 13 issues is titled "The Supreme Story of the Year," and it really is one long story that encompasses past and present and gives clues as to the events of the future. I think something that really distinguishes a great writer from a good writer is understanding the serialized nature of the medium, or the genre, and using it to its fullest extent. In a novel-length work, the clues that Moore drops might be taken simply for background, but in a story that is being released in discrete chunks like this one, there is time for the reader to really focus on the "background" details, to recognize the importance of what might seem extraneous.

This is the first Maximum Press cover, and the series supposedly takes on the subtitle "The New Adventures." I get the impetus behind re-branding, but this is only the 3rd issue of the reboot, so to reboot the reboot, so to speak, seems a bit premature. But if Liefeld is known for one thing in the industry, it's poor business decisions. We'll talk about that a bit more when we get to the "ending" of Moore's run. (Okay, he's also known for not being able to draw feet, but that's less-relevant here.)

Speaking of the cover, Warren Ellis really has a point. What a terrible picture. I think, had I been collecting this title at the time, that my eyes would have skipped right over it. It's nondescript, really. There's nothing that draws me to it.

Well....that's not entirely true. The more I look at it, the more craziness appears. Is Judy Jordan basically thigh-high to Supreme? I don't even want to think about what their sex life must look like. And again, I just don't believe that the arms of either version of Supreme would be able to bend. There's always been a lot of talk about the hyper-sexualized depictions of women in superhero comics (see how Judy's breasts are each as big as her head), but what gets left out of those conversations for the most part is the hyper-masculinization/sexualization of men. I can't imagine that Stephen Platt (who drew that cover) thought that how Supreme looks is the epitome of male development. The exaggeration, though here carried to ludicrous extremes, is part of the exaggeration of myth that finds its way into these stories. As I noted yesterday, Chris Sprouse's work on the title does so much to undo this hyperphysicalization of bodies, and really demonstrates how a more reigned-in superheroic art style can work. Also, foreground Supreme's hands and biceps are larger THAN HIS WAIST! What kind of monster is this man?

Okay, enough harping on the art. It's way better than anything I'd be able to do. The story this issue maintains the format that makes the whole run so successful, the flashback that is filled in for us at the same time that it's filled in for Supreme. This is a stereotypical metafictional trope, and Supreme deals in metafiction almost as well and as whole-heartedly as Morrison's Animal Man. Though Moore never shows up to talk to Supreme, which is a conversation I'd give a lot to read.

Continuing "The New Adventures" tomorrow. See you then.

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