Tom Strong

Today I’m reviewing a book by Alan Moore. Moore is often recognised at one of the greatest auteurs to every work in the comics industry. Words like “genius” and “brilliant” are often applied to his stuff. In his mainstream comic work, Moore tends to combine pulp low brow entertainment with high brow pretentions. He’s been credited with introducing postmodernism to the comic form. Using Tom Strong as an example, allow me to explain.

Tom Strong is the story of a Doc Savage type adventure hero, the kind that dominated early science fiction pulps. Tom Strong is also a simulation of a long running american artifact; it’s a fake long running comic book.

Many stories are told in a clean, modern style. But when they flash back to Tom’s previous adventures in different era’s ,Moore does pastiches of older comic forms.

We get a 1920s crime adventure, a 40’s WWII story, a 50’s horror comic, a 70s radical feminist adventure, a victorian illustrated short story, and more. Each story reflects different eras in American culture. The 1920s adventure, for example, uses an incorrect scientific concept, phlogesten, , specifically known to be wrong today. In the modern day storyline, we get lines such as “You know, science eventually proved phlogesten didn’t exist, but we both know it did back then.”

Moore exhibits many writing tricks on the book, from flashback stories within stories, eight page adventure shorts, sequences done in incongruent or contradictory styles, and more. For example, one story is told in the form of a collectable trading card set, and one simulates a Tom Strong hanna barbara cartoon. Moore also recreates some classic Superhero comic tales, such as Crisis on Earth 2, classic Captain Marvel adventures, and more.

The art, by Chris Sprouse, is exceptional, and a variety of guest artists do pastiche sequences that add the postmodern collage effect of the book. Moore has no trouble finding great artists, he’s hot stuff in the intelligent comic world.

Unless you’re allergic to all things retro, check out Tom Strong. I’m certainly glad I did.

Publisher: America’s Best Comics (DC Comics)
Authors: Alan Moore and Chris Sprouse, and others
Volumes Reviewed: 5+