Alan Moore, a man considered by many (including myself) to be The Greatest Comic-Book Writer Of All Time, was hired by Rob Liefeld to take over the SUPREME series, beginning with issue #41. That’s quite a coup for this series. As I’ve said in my previous reviews of this series, one of the biggest drawbacks was a lack of a consistent creative team. There were 9 different writers, often switching back and forth, during the first 40 issues of this series. So to not only find a consistent writer, but one who happens to be Alan Moore, is amazing. Over the next several years (hampered only by an erratic shipping schedule as the title changed publishers 3 times, starting with Image Comics, then moving to Liefeld’s Maximum Press imprint, then ending on Liefeld’s new company Awesome Comics) Moore would write 22 issues of Supreme.
Unfortunately, on the art-side, it remained inconsistent, with multiple artists on different issues. Some of this was done purposely, as Moore would often include flashback stories, so a different artist would be employed to draw that story, separate from the artist of the main story, to give the flashback a feel of taking place in a different era. Still, over the course of these 22 issues, interior and cover art was provided by Rob Liefeld, Jerry Ordway, Joe Bennett, Keith Giffen, Rick Veitch, Dan Jurgens, Richard Horie, Bill Wray, J. Morrigan, Mark Pajarillo, Chris Sprouse, Ian Churchill, Norm Rapmund, Adam Pollina, Jonathan Sibal, Ed McGuinness, Jeff Matsuda, Brian Murray, Melinda Gebbie, Stephen Platt, Lary Stucker, Al Gordon, Kevin O’Neill, Jim Starlin, Matt Smith, Jim Baikie, and probably some other names I’ve missed.
Still, altogether, I feel that is one of Alan Moore’s best, albeit underrated, projects. Now, for this particular post, I’m going to cheat a bit, I’m not really going to recap or talk much what happened in the series itself. It’s been covered before by other writers who are much more talented than myself. So if you want to know what happened in Alan Moore’s Supreme, I recommend reading these reviews:
In George Khoury’s excellent book The Extraordinary Works Of Alan Moore Alan Moore tells what his process behind revamping Supreme was:
Well, when I was originally given Supreme, it’s so obvious that it is a Superman knock-off that has been based upon a kind of half-baked understanding of the comics of the mid-1980’s. It’s somebody who thought “Right, gritty realistic superheroes, that’s the thing to do. How do you do that? Well you take someone like Superman and make them a psychopath.” And so, he’d done that, and it wasn’t very interesting, the character wasn’t very interesting, none of the writers who worked on it seemed to be able to do anything with it because, actually, the idea of Superman as a psychopath is not a very interesting idea, and it’s one that other people had probably done better in other places years before. So when he [Rob Liefeld] initially suggested that I might want to write the character, I suddenly thought, “Well, how could I rescue this lame, appalling Superman knock-off?” And I thought, well, perhaps if I were to make it like a really, really good Superman knock-off, if I were to actually try -, because at the time, I remember thinking that the regular Superman book actually was at least as much of a lame Superman knock-off as Supreme was. [laughs]
This wasn’t the character that I’d grown up with, or that I was familiar with. It seemed like most of the more enduring parts of the Superman mythology had all been carted away, or changed into something more synthetic and less appealing. So I’d decided that I’d rather liked the old Superman, that I’d rather enjoyed that rich mythology and continuity, all those kind of stupid but enduring elements, you know? Krypto the Super-Dog, all of the old fashioned stuff that had so much more charm than the modern incarnation of the character.
And so, having come up with what I thought was the core intriguing and whimsical idea of The Supremacy, the idea that there was a some place where whenever a comic got revised, all of the stuff that had been revised out of the book ends up in some sort of limbo dimension. And that every conceivable misguided version of the character exists there somewhere, out of continuity. And once I’d come up with that fairly simple idea, I realized just how rich and funny I could make my treatment of it. The idea of a planet with hundreds of Supremes, every conceivable variation and where of course I could parody the various ills of the comic industry and where I could play with wonderful ideas, you know? Which was always the thing that Superman represented to me as a child. It didn’t represent to me power or security or anything like that; it represented wonderful ideas, ideas that to me at that age were certainly magical. Where, to me, they provided a key to the world of my own imagination. As so what I wanted to do with Supreme was to try and give some of that sense of wonder, some of that pure imaginative jolt that I’d experienced when I was first reading comics. I wanted to try and give that to the contemporary readership so they could get an idea of what it had felt like. The kind of buzz that those wonderfully inventive old stories and comics and provided.
Considering what a mess Supreme was after 40 issues, I never really faulted Moore for scrapping it all and moving in another direction. However, as I’ve also said from the beginning that I think there is great potential in the original concept, which Moore dismisses. I’ve pointed to both Warren Ellis and especially Mark Millar’s run on the Wildstorm comic-book series THE AUTHORITY as an example of what Supreme could have been. More of a “bad-ass” superhero, than a “psychopath,” as Moore describes him. But even a “psychopath Superman” has potential, as Mark Waid would eventually prove with his series IRREDEEMABLE
Nevertheless, what Moore did with Supreme, using him as an homage to the Silver Age Superman but set in the modern day was very clever. I enjoyed it because it was such the opposite of what Moore did in Miracleman. In that book who deconstructed the silliness of Silver Age comics, but with Supreme he embraced the silliness of Silver Age comics. And he made it work! Even though the parallels to Superman are obvious (Littlehaven is Smallville, Judy Jordan is Lana Lang, Darious Dax is Lex Luthor, Diana Dane is Lois Lane, Suprema is Supergirl, Radar is Krypto, as Ethan Crane Supreme wears glasses so that no one recognizes him, etc) it somehow never feels like a cheap copy. Alan Moore’s Supreme stands on its own as a unique character. And reading it all as a complete run, it is very satisfying, and I highly recommend it.
The only thing keeping it from getting an A+ is the inconsistent artwork.
Unfortunately, getting the complete collection isn’t so easy. If looking for the single issues that’s Supreme #41-56 (note: #52 was split into two issues, #52a and #52b) and then finished as Supreme: The Return #1-6. The series was also eventually collected in two trade paperbacks from Checker Publishing, which are both out of print and therefor can be rather expensive. There’s Supreme: The Story of the Year and then Supreme: The Return (which is also available on Kindle, although the first one isn’t). I hope that all of the issues get released digitally through Comixology someday.