Thursday, October 25, 2007


The Hypernaut

I meant to mention this the other day, but got sidetracked working and never got back to it. The blog Again With the Comics this week showcased one of my favorite chapters in one of my favorite comic series, Alan Moore's 1963. The story is "It Came from... Higher Space!", featuring the Hypernaut.

If you're not familiar with the series, it was Moore's early '90s homage to 60s Marvel Comics, published by Image Comics, and featuring a host of talented artists who would later work with Moore on projects like Supreme and the America's Best Comics line. The idea was to replicate the feeling of early sixties Marvel comics, complete with cheap newsprint, letters pages, and fake ads. Most of the characters were pretty close to the originals to which were homage, if one is being generous, or parody if one is not. Mystery Incorporated is a quartet of astronauts who return to Earth with powers, the Fury is a young wisecracking New Yorker with acrobatic abilities, Horus is a mythological god who shares his existence with a normal man, USA is a star-spangled super-soldier, et cetera, et al. But two of the concepts, while they started out mirroring familiar Marvel types, quickly developed into novel and really quite interesting ways.

One was Johnny Beyond, who is a kind of beatnik Doctor Strange (and really, why wouldn't the mustachioed Stephen Strange in his Greenwich Village brownstone have been a beatnik, after all?), who is featured in a nutty crosstime story. The other is the Hypernaut.

It's clear to see how the Hypernaut was probably intended as a take on Iron Man, but it's just as clear that the concept quickly grew in entirely different directions. The Hypernaut is a former test pilot who, after an accident that wrecks his body, is picked up by an alien vessel. His unseen benefactors, unable to repair his body, instead upload his consciousness into a cybernetic sphere, which can be housed in any one of a wide variety of robotic bodies, and induct him into an interstellar guild of protectors called the Hypernauts. He takes up residence in Hyperbase One, a floating satellite, along with an alien monkey named Queep.

There's a little bit of the THUNDER Agents character Noman here, a bit of Green Lantern, perhaps a bit of Iron Man. But really it's just an excuse for Moore to play around with concepts like Flatland and the higher dimensions. The story itself, a big idea framed within in a brief lighthearted adventure story, is similar in a lot of respects to some of the strips Moore did earlier in 2000AD, and would later write for the various ABC titles.

There's a whole sad tale about how the 1963 series never came to its conclusion, and the projected "Annual" that would have wrapped the stories up was never completed. But the issues that did get published are well worth seeking out. Each stands on its own, functioning both as a parody/homage of and commentary on a particular subgenre of sixties superhero comic, while at the same time function as perfect examples of sixties superheroics. And threaded through the background of each story are little bits and pieces that add up to a larger story. It's possible to piece together what the story of the Annual would have been.

In any event, check out the Again With the Comics blog to read the complete story of the Hypernaut and the Higher Space, and check the back issue boxes if you should happen to find yourself in a comic shop. 1963 is smart, good fun.

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