Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Supreme 50 and the Meta Commentary on Superhero Love

I've been re-reading Alan Moore's Supreme run from the 1990s. If you're a Superman fan like me, who often wondered what would have happened if DC Comics let Moore run the Superman franchise instead of John Byrne, this series is in your wheelhouse.

Although I'm sure it benefits from Moore's hindsight, these stories are a salute to the era of Silver Age Superman. For the first nine issues, Moore doesn't get an artist worthy of his writing (for the present day sequences, Rick Veitch did a nice job on the flashback stories). Until issue 50, in 1997, when Chris Sprouse takes over.

Supreme's secret identity is Ethan, a comic book artist working on Omni-Man for Dazzle comics. His super speed powers are a huge benefit that any comics artist would love--it only takes him a few minutes to pencil an entire issue. Diana is the new writer assigned to Omni-Man, taking over for Billy Friday, a British writer resembling Grant Morrison. Moore has long had problems with Morrison, who he felt had stolen many things from Moore and his friend, Michael Moorcock. Friday, through his own Jimmy Olsen like incompetence is trapped in a prison of light, leaving the writing job free for Diana.

Diana and Ethan have been flirting for a few issues, leading up to this, their story conference which is also kind of a date. Moore gets to do this meta-commentary of superhero romance tropes, through Diana's voice, as Ethan struggles with how to make his first romantic move on Diana.

This is played between three flashback sequences, drawn by Veitch, basically showing you what would happen if Superman married Lois Lane, Wonder Woman, and Lori Lemaris. None of these end in contentment! In the case of the latter two women, marrying another super powered being results in super problems.

Diana speculates on the best love interest for Omni-Man, while Ethan tells her about Supreme's misadventures. On this page, Ethan is about to finally make his move, but Diana mentions the dishonesty of the hero keeping his identity secret. Diana also mentions the love scene that Steranko put into SHIELD, which was altered by Marvel editorial.

Buying these original issues in the 1990s, you had to be either a real die hard Moore fan or a Liefeld/Supreme fan. It was especially challenging if you were ordering from a mail order service and tracking these in Diamond Previews: Supreme 41-42 were published by Image Comics; Supreme 43-48 were published by Maximum Press; Supreme 49-56 were from Awesome Entertainment; after a publishing gap came Supreme the Return, issues 1-6.

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