In the world of
Tom Strong Review
-by Christopher Walton
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.
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
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
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.
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.
successful work has always involved the build up of suspense, the
exploration of terror. If Moore has developed Strong to be a movement away
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