Monday, November 24, 2008


The World of Supreme fansite

In the process of recovering all of my data from backup the last couple of weeks, in the wake of both of my computers dying, I have by necessity been doing a lot of digging into old subfolders and files I haven't touched in ages. I've turned up some old projects and proposals I'd completely forgotten about, but in addition I stumbled on archived versions of the various websites I've posted over the years.

One of those websites represents what is probably one of the most fannish things I ever did, at least in public. Sure, I taught myself a smattering of Klingon (and was for a while a card-carrying member of the Klingon Language Institute), which may be slightly more fannish, but that was something done in the privacy of my own apartment, and not plastered on the interwebs. The "World of Supreme" site, a fansite for the then-ongoing Alan Moore superhero series Supreme, was the meticulously researched tip of a fanboy iceberg that is still calving chunks of ice floating around in my head even now. (I think that metaphor got away from me a little there.)

Here, in all it's Web 1.0 glory, is The World of Supreme, just as I first posted it online in January of 1998. Complete with eyestrain-inducing starfield background, the occasional typo, and my transient insistence on using my complete middle name (a tendency I toyed with once or twice in college, again in my late 20s, and then abandoned forever after).

And if you can't take the white-text-on-starfield (and really, who could blame you), here is a sample of what you'd have found, if you'd been one of the handful of people to have stumbled on the site in its brief life, ten years ago. I've not corrected any errors of spelling (or of fact), so consider yourself forewarned.

Alan Moore: A Brief Sketch
by Christian Roberson

If you who are reading this do not know who Alan Moore is, stop reading now. Go to your local comic shop or Barnes and Noble, and pick up any or all of the following: Watchmen, V for Vendetta, Miracle Man, Swamp Thing, The Ballad of Halo Jones, Skizz, A Small Killing, The Bojeffries Saga, From Hell, Whatever Happened to the Man of Steel?, or 1963. Bring them home, get comfortable, and read. Then come back. Go ahead, we’ll still be here.

You’re done? Good. If you’ve gotten this far, you have some idea who Alan is. You may even have realized his importance. But in case you haven’t, I’ll spell it out for you: Alan Moore is the finest writer even to work in the field of comics. Ever. Period.

I make the former statement with confidence, have reviewed the options. The comics field has known it share of fine writers, both in the mainstream and the alternatives: Dave Sim, Neil Gaiman, James Robinson, Frank Miller, Kurt Busiek, Mark Waid, Seth, Matt Wagner... The list goes on and on. None, however, has the far reaching ability, and the sheer native talent of Alan Moore. Alan can beat anyone at their own game, whether it is the most mainstream of superhero comics (see his work in Wildcats and on the occasional issue of Superman) or the most challenging of the alternatives (see From Hell or Big Numbers). Alan (and I call him Alan not out of any personal familiarity, but out of respect.... and so I don’t have to keep typing his full name) has a talent more versatile than any in this, or any other industry. He created the vogue in “Dark Fantasy” through his work on Swamp Thing in the eighties, presented the field with the most ground-breaking of the revisionist superhero comics in Miracle Man, and gave what everyone though was the final word in superheroes with his Watchmen. Many in the industry, including Alan himself, felt that after Watchmen there was simply nothing left to say about superheroes. It had all been said. But the comics kept right on talking.

Other creators, of lesser imagination, picked up on what Alan and Frank Miller had done in their superhero Last Will and Testaments, but they picked up on all the wrong elements. Thus, trying to capture the magic and gravity of those books, their own books became dark and disturbed. This dismal period was characterized by books known as “Grim and Gritty.” What was astonishing was that this phrase was used as a selling point, as a badge of honor. Look, the titles said, Batman used to just arrest people, but look at Shadowhawk: He breaks their backs. In this morbid atmosphere, the majority of the more talented creators turned away from the genre all together. Miller went on to do Sin City and Martha Washington books, and Alan turned to working on more mundane subjects.

It was at this point that Alan paraphrased J. Ballard, noted science fiction author, and said that no writer could imagine anything more alien and strange than the person living next door. The real trick, he essentially said, was to write about normal people, in normal settings. No more aliens, no more swamp monsters, no more heroes who could extinguish the sun with a single breath.

But superhero comics were still being made, and they only got darker and darker.

Eventually, Alan looked at the genre, and what superheroes had become, and felt a measure of personal responsibility. In many ways, the more complex psychological themes he introduced to the superhero had resulted in the sad state of the superhero in later years. To the surprise of everyone, Alan returned to superheroes, but not in the way most might have expected.

To be truthful, part of Alan’s motivation must have been monitary. His more esoteric projects were not the cash cows his mainstream projects had been, and his early attempt at self publishing through Mad Love had proved a failure. The return to the mainstream, then, allowed him to continue producing his more challenging work.. 1963, in particular, can be seen as a quick cash grab for all the creators involved. (And it paid off. With the profits from those six Image books, Rick Veitch was able to publish Rare Bit Fiends, Steve Bissette brough out Tyrant, and Don Simpson was able to launch Bizarre Heroes.)

However, Alan’s later superhero work can also be see as a kind of penetance. Having inadvertantly brought the superhero to such a lowly state, Alan felt that younger readers were left without a safe haven. The sense of wonder engendered by the comics of Alan’s own childhood were completely lacking in these books, filled to full page bleed with guns and knives and huge splashes of blood.

Alan produced work both for Todd McFarlane and Jim Lee, scripting Spawn specials and issues of the Wildcats. He would still not work for the Big Two, however. Things had not changed that much. The issues that had driven him away from the mainstream in the first place... labelling, creator rights, etc... were still very much present. At Image though, free from those constraints, Alan could produce the kind of work the Big Two would never have let him do. Straight, simple, superhero comics.

After a few years of such assignments, Alan began to work for Liefeld’s Extreme Studios, scripting the character Supreme. Always a blatant copy of Superman, Alan took the character one step further. No longer a copy of Superman, the character became Superman. But not the Superman of false deaths and cyborg duplicates and teenage clones, he became the forgotten Superman of bottled cities and phantom criminals and super-powered dogs. Through Supreme, Alan recreated the strange and wonderful world of Mort Weisinger’s Superman, with all of the silliness and solemnity that entailed. Along with penciller Rick Veitch, Alan created flashbacks to the golden and silver ages of Supreme, presented as though they were reprints from never-published classics of the fifties and sixties. The writing was perfect, the pencils perfectly capturing the look. Bookending these flashbacks was the story of an amnesiac Supreme, rediscovering his past. Through these stories, Alan introduced a whole new world of heroes and stories, an entire universe, launching fully blown from Supreme’s head as though it had always existed and we just had never heard about it.

Supreme has become, in essence, everything that DC Comics should be, everything that it w as and no longer is. Dinosaur islands and giant chimpanzees, floating cloud fortresses and evil duplicates. Alan has populated this world with characters at once familiar and strange, Professor Night and Twilight the Marvel Girl, the Fisherman and Skipper, the Allied Supermen of America and Zantar the White God of The Congo. It is a big world, a world of wonders, presented every month in the pages of Supreme (and Judgment Day, and Youngblood, and soon to be more). Do yourself a favor. Pick up an issue, and then get lost inside. You may never come back out, but you won’t mind the trip.

Lord, I *love* me some Supreme!

I picked up the first TPB a few years back with no idea what to expect. And at first, I was a little put off by what seemed to be a silly story. But near the end of the first chapter (issue), it suddenly clicked. Alan Moore is a freaking genius! And I don't use mock profanity lightly, my friend.

(Personally, I still giggle about Elaborate Lad. Jimmy Olsen never knew how good he had it...)

Hope to see you at ConDFW in February!

Word verification: gaillead
Isn't there supposed to be some kind of balm there?
Sweet! Will enjoy reading over it later. You know, in 20+ years of reading comics I never really liked Superman until I read the Supreme tpbs a couple or three years ago. I think his Supreme work doesn't get nearly the press it deserves.
Chris, have you read the other Awesome Universe stuff that Moore did, like Youngblood, Glory, and the Judgement Day crossover? None of it rises to the level of the Supreme stuff, and the art is sometimes horrendous, but the ideas are terrific and they make a nice complement to the main series. And interesting, too, in the way that it prefigures what Moore would later do with the ABC books. In many ways, Supreme lead to Tom Strong in the same way that Glory led to Promethea. Worth hunting down, and can probably be found for not much.

And I'll most definitely be at ConDFW. I imagine I'll be easily locatable in the bar.

(I'd heard that there was no balm in Gaillead, but they might have restocked by now...)
I passed on the Supreme trades, Dan, when I saw that they didn't include all the extra bits that ran in the original issues. In particular there was some stuff in the two double-sized issues, 52a and 52b, if I recall correctly , including "guided tours" of the Citadel Supreme, cover galleries of old Supreme comics, etc. If you've only read the trades, it might be worth seeking out those two issues (or, if your ethical framework is flexible enough, you could always look for *cough*scans*cough* online).
Thanks for the tips on the extras in 52a & b, will look for them.
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