This is perhaps one of the most significant releases of the end of 2018. While Alan Moore, recognized as the greatest comics writer in history, is finishing his last band -drawn (the fourth volume of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) Urban Comics publishes this week the first volume of the complete Tom Strong, a major series of the author of Watchmen and V for Vendetta, and unavailable in France for far too long, for 35 euros.
A tribute to the pulps of the 30s
Tom Strong is one hundred years old, but he seems to have thirty. Born in 1900 on Attabar Teru Island, this "hero of science", endowed with extraordinary longevity, intelligence and physical strength, protects the city of Millenium City without ever getting tired. Accompanied by his wife Dhalua, his daughter Tesla, their Pneuman robot and Solomon, a talking monkey, Tom Strong faces extravagant super-villains, including his greatest enemy, Dr. Saveen, better known as the "Science Mickle".
If by opening the pages of Tom Strong, you hope to find the darkness of Alan Moore's best-known comics (Watchmen, Batman: The Killing Joke, V for Vendetta, From Hell, Neonomicon or Providence), you are wrong. Tom Strong is certainly the brightest comics Alan Moore. Tom is the ultimate anti-Rorschach. It is a typical hero of the pulps of the 30s: jovial, moral, without any real psychological stake. Yet, think again: despite the apparent simplicity of his main character, Tom Strong is a much more complex work than it seems.
Alan Moore is a regular on daring wagers. We remember some artistic biases that helped propel the firmament of comic scriptwriters: Chapter 5 of Watchmen, built like a palindrome; the musical chapter of V for Vendetta (accompanied by his score for piano); Chapter 4 of From Hell, a gigantic ballad in Victorian London, with a commentary on psychogeography; the magic classes of Promethea. In Tom StrongAlan Moore routinely uses the abyss methods. Several chapters let perceive a comics in the comics. Indeed, Tom Strong is a very popular hero in Millenium City, and has his own comics, read by all the kids.
Despite his almost ridiculous villains, his uncomplicated hero and his very Manichean universe, Tom Strong illustrates well the genius of its author. As a child, Alan Moore loved these pulps, which helped shape his extraordinary imagination. It is therefore natural that he pays tribute to them with this comic book. However, he returns the codes with humor and tenderness. Some villains, such as the Modular Man or Ingrid Weiss, optimized Nazi warrior, are both hilarious because at the limit of the caricature, while incorporating a story driven beating, in which we never get bored. And that's what Moore wants to show: how even the stories he read as children were peopled with ridiculously ridiculous characters, their adventures were written with such mastery that boredom is impossible. The example of the narrative arc about the confrontation between Tom and Ingrid Weiss is the symbol of this paradox: Weiss is the absolute caricature of the Nazi. Haircut brush, blue-eyed blonde, she hates Jews and advocates the benefits of the Third Reich, and mixing English (French in translation) and German. This hilarious character does not prevent the reader from entering the story, because it is carried out drumming. Alan Moore brilliantly mixes genre tribute and metadiégetic criticism of the genre.
A flagship title of the ABC label
At the end of the 90s, Alan Moore is the most respected comic book author in the profession for a little over ten years. His works for DC (Swamp Thing, V for Vendetta, Watchmen, Batman: The Killing Joke) have written it in the legend. Despite his success, Alan Moore is disgusted by the two giants of the comics. His works do not belong to him, and he thinks (rightly) that he has been fooled by his royalties. In the 90s, after slamming the door of DC Comics, Alan Moore tries a more experimental approach. He will write during this period three of his greatest masterpieces: From Hell, an infinitely complex work mixing theories about Jack L'Ripper, psychogeographic treatise on Victorian London, political pamphlet on the poverty of social classes, reflection on the relationship between men and women from antiquity to the present day, and thesis on magic; Lost Girls, a pornographic comic book written in collaboration with his wife, in which Alan Moore pays tribute to fantasies, male and female, under Victorian literature ; and The Voice of Fire, his first novel, in which Alan Moore tells, on different timelines, the History of his hometown, Northampton.
When, in 1999, Alan Moore created the label America's Best Comics (more commonly known as ABC) for WildStorm / Image Comics, the firm of cartoonist Jim Lee, the eyes of the profession are on him. Alan Moore creates several series, including The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Tom Strong, Top 10 and Promethea. Four masterpieces, for which Alan Moore seems to have gotten rid of the darkness of the 90s which allowed him to give birth to terribly dark and violent works (From Hell and The Voice of Fire). Moore leads his reflection on superheroes to a climax, continues to twist the codes, with all the humor we know him. Aided by terribly talented designers, including Gene Ha (for Top 10), Kevin O'Neill (for The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen), Chris Sprouse (for Tom Strong) and J. H. Williams III (for Promethea). Rid of the canons of DC and Marvel, Alan Moore has acquired with ABC the artistic freedom he has sought so much. And this artistic freedom is deeply felt in works like Tom Strong. Tom Strong has nothing to envy to other titles of the label ABC. Each of these works are complementary, and bring a new facet to Moore's reflection on superheroes and comics.
The future of the ABC label in France
The ABC label gave birth to four of Alan Moore's biggest series: Promethea, Top 10, Tom Strong and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
Top 10 was published in an integral by Urban Comics in December 2015. This integral contains the twelve chapters of From Hellas well as both spin-off Smax and The Forty-Niners. Tom Strong will be published in two integrals at Urban Comics. The first integral will be released this Friday, December 7, 2018 and will include chapters 1 to 19. The second integral will be released in the summer of 2019, according to the information given to us by Urban Comics. It should include chapters 20 to 36. It is assumed that this second integral should also allow us to read both spin-offs, The Many Worlds of Tesla Strong and Tom Strong's Terrific Tales.
Since ABC was sold by Jim Lee against Moore's advice to DC Comics, and DC's publication rights were sold in France to Urban Comics / Dargaud, it is assumed that Promethea will be published by Urban Comics as well. Since the series is 32 chapters long, it is assumed that if Urban publishes it one day (there is little reason that this does not happen, since Moore is one of their leading authors), it will be published. in two integrals. This series has not had a spin-off, but puts an end to the entire ABC universe in a gigantic cross-over. The opportunity for us to find in chapter 32 of Promethea the character of Tom Strong.
Finally, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is published in France by Panini Comics. This is because Moore left Image Comics following DC's takeover of ABC and his president's misleading V for Vendetta. Since then, the adventures of League are published at Top Shelf in the United States and at Knockabout in England. We hope that Panini Comics will soon publish the fourth and final volume of The league Extraordinary Gentlemen, entitled The Tempest, still in the process of publication.
If Alan Moore has indeed ended his career, that his fans are reassured: Urban Comics still has some strings to his bow, including a publication in two volumes of The Saga of Swamp Thing. Panini Comics should also publish the following Cinema Purgatorio, the horrifying anthology of Moore. And, after discussion with the Delirium editions, it seems possible that this publisher publishes, after the masterpiece The Halo Jones Ballad, released last October, other series published by Moore at 2000AD, including DR & Quinch.