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Tom Strong Review


Christopher Walton

Alan Moore. Just one name, and one that can send a tingle through a fan-boy’s heart. His reputation precedes him, and it sets a very high standard. A standard which the Eisner Awards feel Moore has reach with the flagship title of his ABC line of comic books; Tom Strong. Neil Gaiman claimed in a recent Wizard interview that Moore is the best writer in comic books today, when he's trying. We'll, in a "pseudo" fashion, I have to agree with Gaiman here, bur Moore really is not trying.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not anti- Alan Moore. Of course Watchmen is a benchmark, similarly From Hell. I can respect Moore for what he has achieved with the comic book, he knows the confines and wide open spaces to be enjoyed with graphic fiction. He is a pillar of this industry, just as Kuberick was for film. But how many people remember fondly Barry Lyndon? About as many as will remember Moore for Tom Strong.

So what really is at fault here? In the case of the defense I implore you that it is not Chris Sprouse. He is a breath of fresh air, with his sublime, smooth line work and attention to design. A mature brother of Ed McGuninness of Superman fame. This is not the only

similarity shared with the big blue one, Strong is, for all purposes a 1950's pulp Superman. The problem is Strong is more of a superman than the icon himself is. Superman is Clark Kent, he has a human side. You know the alter ego to which all readers can relate to. It may be a used and abused tool but it really works. You have to show a human side to all characters of fantasy, even if it is moments of weakness in the

battle or making a fool of yourself on the date with the hot babe. I can see what Moore is trying to achieve here with Tom Strong, a title focused squarely on the super-hero, as Tom Strong is Tom Strong 24/7.But it doesn't work.

To overcome this lack of reader/ character association Moore is attempting to dazzle us with fantasy. Pushing the envelope further and further, a very similar trick Warren Ellis introduced on The Authority. IMAX production values, the most outlandish situations and plot the author can imagine. Moore does not allow us to have fun in these situations, mainly because Strong does not allow himself to have fun. Strong can never be terrorized as effectively as Rorschach and Nite Owl were by Adrian Veidt in Watchmen because Moore is allowing Strong too much space. He is the lead character of an ongoing series, unbeatable for a century protecting the planet, he's never going to be effectively terrorized.

Moore's most successful work has always involved the build up of suspense, the exploration of terror. If Moore has developed Strong to be a movement away from

his tried and tested traditions as an author, all credit to him. But one the nostalgic furor has died down over the return to mainstream comic books by Moore, facts will have to be faced. Moore has created a legend for himself over the years as the master craftsman of his generation and Tom Strong is not meeting his standards. So much so that issue #8 was frankly unreadable and a disappointment for the admission price. Tom Strong is a failed piece of pulp fiction, enjoyable in it's own little way but quite meaningless. It's not even good fun and barely deserves its Eisner nomination, let alone the award.

Copyright©2000 Christopher Walton