May 21, 2015

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 86: Supreme #45, January, 1997

To be fair, the first chunk of Supreme could probably have stopped with yesterday's issue. The flashbacks put a nice cap on the Golden Age recollections of the titular character, whereas this issue moves us into a definite Silver Age vibe. But I really felt like reading Supreme today.

Alan Moore anticipates the responses (such as this one) to the comic in light of his previous superhero work when he has Billy Friday ask, upon entering the Citadel Supreme, "This is like, a sort of post-ironic statement, yeah?" to which Supreme gives a definitive "No." But it is, really. Though it's not completely without its irony, it's an irony that's less disparaging to the genre from which it's taking a step back. I'm stuck on this idea of the ironically reconstructionist mode, and I'm wondering if it's a mode that can really only be explored in a genre like the superhero where the are these constant revisions of the fictional reality. I've theorized elsewhere about the notion of abstraction through over-definition, where a character goes through so many iterations that it becomes everything and nothing at the same time. I think this over-definition can also open the way to reconstructing a superhero, but from an ironic stance, with the understanding of the ridiculousness of the genre, but also with the understanding that the wondrous, the ridiculous, doesn't necessarily mean superfluous.

This issue also raises another of the questions I would ask Alan Moore about the series: why make Billy Friday an obnoxious dick? He's meant to be the Jimmy Olsen analogue of the series, and, supposedly, previous iterations of reality have featured him as "Supreme's Pal." Why the change? He is a relatively amusing caricature of the British writer of the 1980s and 90s, but one wonders if a less-antagonistic relationship might have been more narratively profitable. Moore seems to put him in here so he can laugh at people like Grant Morrison or Neil Gaiman (or himself). It's almost too many levels of metafiction.

We'll leave Supreme for a bit with the tease of next issue's introduction of Suprema. Back to Miracleman, who has just cast off his Golden Age, and is figuring out now who he actually is. I find a similar movement in Supreme now, in that the main character is moving from filling in the past of his world to filling in his personal past, and figuring out how he fits in the modern world of the 1990s. It certainly was a weird world to try to fit into.

See you tomorrow.

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