May 20, 2015

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 85: Supreme #44, January, 1997

The second-last issue of Supreme for this week wraps up what's ostensibly the Golden Age history of the hero. Though re-telling the Superman story, Supreme's tale begins somewhat earlier than Kal-El's, with,  variously, a magic belt buckle, a strange meteor, or an exploding planet, in the early 1920s. It's an interesting change to make, and one I'm not sure what to make of. Was it simply to place Supreme's origin before that of Superman, or is Moore offering his tribute not just to the Man of Steel, but to the proto-superheroes who appeared in the pulps and early comics before him? Given that Moore moves on from Supreme to the ABC line, where League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Tom Strong draw directly from those earlier mass-market publications, the placing of Supreme in that lineage isn't too far a leap to take. We don't actually see anything that looks like a pre-30s comic in the flashbacks, though, which makes the placement of the character there, by the logic of the comic itself, problematic.

This issue hits the 1950s and everything comes to a stop. I'll admit to only being a little familiar with the early EC comics, and what I've read has never impressed me very much. Perhaps I'm just not reading the right ones, but I found them boring and kind of predictable. Which is strange because I quite like their ancestors in Bruce Jones' Alien Worlds that came out from Pacific and Eclipse in the early 80s. I think perhaps it's the hyperbolic writing about issues that are, quite frankly, very dated that turns me off. But, if I'm not careful, I'll have to stop reading all comics, because datedness is becoming a rapidly contemporary problem. Can imaginative works keep up with reality? Tune in next week to find out!

The Allied Supermen of American confront strange, Crypt-Keeper-esque creatures from the future who transport them into weird analogues of the early Mad, Tales from the Crypt, and Shock Suspenstories. What's kind of interesting about this particular flashback is the steps toward and away from reality it takes. The initial flashback, to the Allies 1950 New Year's party, fills in some of Supreme's back story, and is thus "real" in the sense that it's an event that happened in the ostensible real world that the character inhabits. But the three adventures that various members get taken on over the course of the flashback aren't real. The Morgue Minder tells the group of Allies that he accompanies into a post-nuclear apocalyptic landscape that it's not real, but it is what America will be afraid of in the 1950s. So where exactly is it that the Morgue Minder takes the heroes? Into the fears of the populace? Or into the comics that will entertain that populace? It's almost as if the superheroes, as stories, are being shown the stories that will replace them, though the irony is that it's happening in a flashback from a superhero story from a time in which EC-style horror comics have all but vanished.

And with that, I think it's time to get back to work for me. We'll finish the first chunk of Supreme tomorrow with a quick initial foray into the Silver Age flashbacks. See you tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

Doesn't Superman's origin story take place even before the 1920s? I'm not overly familiar with Superman, but if he is around 30 years old in 1938, then his space ship must have landed on earth in around 1910, right?

Tom Miller said...

That's a great point. Yeah, he'd definitely have to have landed around then. For Supreme's origin, there's a part in issue #41 where the "original" Supreme claims to have been born in 1920 and finds a "magic belt buckle" that transforms him into Supreme (a bit more Captain Marvel than Superman there) when he's ten years old. It still puts him at just slightly before Superman's debut. If Alan Moore would ever talk about these comics, it'd be interesting to pick his brain about the subtle differences he adds between Supreme's origin and Superman's.
(Thanks for the comment, btw. I really like your blog)