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Annotated Supreme #41

Originally created by Matt Holmes (mholmes@mars.execulink.com)

extensively edited by Enjolras (www.enjolrasworld.com) in January 2002 and January 2004 to add additions from the long UseNet thread and Jim Allan's comments
Date: 1996/08/31

 

Listen, I'm **NOT** up to this task. But I haven't seen anyone else tackle it, and I think it needs to be done. So I'm starting things off.

I'm going to note the not-so-subtle satire items (or rip-offs, if you prefer) from other comics, that Alan Moore wrote into this issue. I'll probably miss more than I'll note, but it's a start. Please add your own observations, if you've read the issue.

COVER
i) SUPERMAN (1st series) # 1 for the pose and backdrop
ii) various 1940's and 1950's DC comics for the "Complete in this issue... see xxxxx" format

INSIDE FRONT COVER
i) layout seems 1960's-ish to me, but I can't quote any actual example
ii) "proudly presented by" smacks of the "Stan Lee Proudly Presents" label used by all Marvels for decades

PAGE 2
i) "micro-sight", and Supreme's thought "How long have I had MICRO-SIGHT?", appears to be a reference to the ever-developing powers of Superman over the 1950's and 60's, specifically the introduction of Microscopic Vision (years after X-Ray Vision had been brought in)
ii) "MERCIFUL MAKER OF THE STARS" reeks of "Great Rao" or "Great Krypton", not to mention Wonder Woman's "Merciful Minerva!"

PAGE 3
i) Sister Supreme.. a black female Supreme...? Likely an homage, in part, to the Lois Lane "I Am Curious Black"
thing, and the whole "relevance" period in '70s DC comics in general. (Oh, and to Captain Marvel over at Marvel, who was a black woman, when the character name formerly belonged to a white man.)
ii) original Supreme, with his leaping (not flying) powers, and squinty eyes, obviously parallels the late 30's, early 40's Superman. The squinty eyes may be a kind of nod to CC Beck as well.
iii) Superion, described later as being from the late 60's and a "sort of future-variant 'SON OF SUPREME' kind of thing"...? Since the Superman, Jr and Batman, Jr stories (in WORLD'S FINEST) came along in the early 70's (I think), they COULD be the genesis of this character.. other ideas?

PAGE 4
i) note that Squeaky the Supremouse actually makes his debut on this page, but we only see his legs and feet (which appear human enough); Squeaky could be Mighty Mouse or Atomic Mouse, but I can't help feeling that I'm missing someone from the Superman or Captain Marvel family?  If you don't think only in terms of mice, it may be a tip of the hat to any of the SA stories that featured super-animals.  Jim Allan notes that there was also a Supermouse character and Captain Marvel had a spin off called Hoppy the Marvel Bunny.  Marvel had Super Rabbit.  Plus, DC had one-page strips about Superturtle.  There was also Super Duck who apparently in his first appearances had super powers but this was soon dropped for some reason.  He became just a normal funny animal character with no powers despite his name but was a popular character in comics for years.  The Flash also had an animal counterpart The Terrific Whatzat.
ii) Supremium seems to have a direct correlation to Kryptonite, even (as we see later) down to the variant versions

PAGE 6
i) "Supremium Stilton"... Stilton is a kind of cheese, similar to bleu. A logical origin story for a mouse.
ii) "Jive turkey"... gotta be Luke Cage... did any OTHER recurring comic book character ever use that term??? Milestone's Buck Wild did, but of course that was an homage to blaxploitation dialogue too.
iii) the "Supremacy", where most of the tale takes place, is apparently an actualized version of the oft-mentioned "comic book limbo" that lesser lights seem to occupy for a time (but never too long, in this revivalism age of ours)

PAGE 7
i) Superion has the (seemingly artificial) ability to open "a golden gate" entry-way into the other dimension occupied by the Supremacy; besides being a story-device to advance our tale, can anyone shed any light on the original of this? It may be a reference to Kurt Busiek's Samaritan's ability to open a gate into his own little pocket dimension, but this may be accidental.

ii) Squeaky's "last one home is a *yeek* ripe limburger" could just be rodent humour, or could be a "big red cheese" reference?
iii) final panel holds the teaser to get you from chapter one to two, in true DC 1960's form! (only thing missing is a little "continued on 4th page following" note)

PAGE 8
i) Chapter title is "Land of a Thousand Supremes"... that's gotta mean something (beyond the obvious literal meaning)... anyone? Possibly "Land of a Thousand Dances" by Wilson Pickett and turned into a hit by Cannibal & the Headhunters, but more likely "Land of a Thousand Supremes" is a reference to one of a few stories.  Either the great Jimmy Olsen story "World of 1,000 Olsens" from JIMMY OLSEN #105, where he encountered android doubles of himself from all his weirder adventures (e.g., Wolfboy Olsen, Fat Olsen, Elastic Lad, Giant Turtle Boy Olsen, etc.).  It's a ludicrous, ridiculous, thoroughly-entertaining JO story of the mid-to-late 60's.  A porcupine Olsen!  A wolf-boy Olsen!  A turtle-Olsen! It also could be "The World of Doomed Olsens!", which appeared in JIMMY OLSEN #72.  It's apparently (and rightfully) considered an unofficial part of the ADVENTURE canon, since it's been reprinted in both the Adventure LSH-digest run and in LSH Archives. Finally, it also could be the story in Action 233 (1957) entitled "Land of A Million Supermen" and reprinted in Superman 187.  In this story the dictator of Borgonia forces everyone in his country to wear a Superman uniform with the S on the cape being the wrong color. This way if the real Superman ever tries to sneak into the country he'd be able to identify him!

PAGE 9
i) Original Supreme reveals that he was "revised" in 1940, which would correlate to Superman starting to develop new powers (I guess).  Jim Allan notes that part of the Daily Record building he worked in joined Supreme in Limbo.  Accordingly he thinks this refers to the The Daily Star becoming The Daily Planet in Spring of 1940 (Action #23 and Superman #4) and then in the November 1940 issue of Superman, #7, the editor of The Daily Planet becomes Perry White instead of George Taylor.
ii) "Great Starving singularities" exclaims our hero.... reminiscent of the campy Robin and his wacky expressions

PAGE 10
i) MacroSupreme, revealed here to have lasted "one short month, with not even a second appearance" doesn't ring any bells for me (unless he was truly a variant Supreme shown earlier in this series)
ii) Macro warns the current Supreme "beware of Darius Dax", who is apparently a Lex Luthor type. In early issues of Supreme, Liefeld had a Luthor-like mad scientist who had been Supreme's "ultimate nemesis" in the 40's. His name was Zachariah Grizlok, which is important to note in that it is not alliterative and it in no way sounds like "Darius Dax." Moore seems to have changed the "ultimate nemesis" to an alliterative name as a conscious choice. This may be more of a commentary on the alliterative names in the Superman mythos in general than a straight one-on-one comparison

PAGE 11
i) We meet "the current Supremarch", who I guess would be the 1960's Curt Swan Superman ("of the 1960's Silver Dynasty"); he tries to allay his new friend's fears by telling him that this isn't a "hoax or a dream" (and how often did THAT expression show up on covers of the 1960's!)

PAGE 12 (though the numbering stopped at 11, so I'm going by my wits)
i) the "Hall of Supremes" seems like something out of pre-CRISIS Superman's Fortress of Solitude
ii) Supremarch explains that "there's room for everybody in the Supremacy", thereby expressing a very generous, 1960's attitude, long gone from the dog-eat-dog-eat-hero world of 1990's comics.  It's also a thumbs-up to the concept of the multiverse
iii) original Supreme's comment about "I don't know if my SINGLE BOUNDS are getting shorter or the tall buildings are getting bigger" not only clears up any doubt (if there was any left) about who he's supposed to be, but also echoes the sentiments that the Golden Age Superman did in those wonderful 1970's issues of ALL-STAR COMICS where Kal-L was featured as the Elder Statesman of Superheroes (a role he should NEVER have been forced to relinquish). And of course it's a reference to the Superman TV series intro.
iv) Supremarch laughs at his older counterpart's comment about the tall buildings, reminding us that once upon a time characters actually said cute, funny things and other characters laughed at them... they didn't try to "one up" them, or put them down, or steal the spotlight back.. they just laughed! There's some debate about whether Bennett is drawing Original Supreme in the style of the late Mike Parobeck, who was one of the modern masters of "bright" hero comics such as Batman Adventures, JSA, and The Fly, or just drawing as an homage to Golden Age style, which Parobeck imitated to an extent.

PAGE 13
i) "son of Jack and Joanne Crane, of Littlehaven, USA" would be Jonathan and Martha (or, originally, John and Mary?) Kent, of Smallville, USA
ii) having been born in 1920, the original Supreme was a boy who found a "belt buckle of strange white metal". This origin seems closer to Billy Batson/Captain Marvel, or Donald Blake/Thor... Even the time-period is wrong for Superman, since the boy is 10, making it 1930 or 1931. However, in contrast to the "Darius Dax" point above, Supreme is still Ethan Crane. The most recent version of Supreme's origin is in the Legend of Supreme mini, by Giffen and Fleming, if you're curious. It was a good, though very dark, story which was definitely tossed out of continuity on the last few pages of #41.
iii) describing his powers, though, he sounds like Kal-L: "I could leap over buildings, lift a car or bounce live ammo off my chest!" The "lift a car" bit is a reference to the cover of ACTION #1.
iv) he posed as "Ethan Crane, reporter", again, mimicking Clark Kent, reporter
v) his base of operations, "Omega City", sounds like a Kirby Town, and even the Keith Giffen artwork accompanying it suggests that connection. "Omega" could refer to the concept of "Omega Beams" which Kirby used in his Fourth World stuff
vi) his telling comment on arriving in limbo in 1941: "it was just like I'd been written out..."
vii) his newspaper, the "Daily Record" is obviously the Daily Star/Planet
viii) the next revision takes 4 years, as he doesn't see anyone else until 1945.  Jim Allan notes that the first Superboy story was published that year which might be considered to introduce a new revision of Superman.
ix) the Supremarch (Swan Superman) arrived in 1968, presumably at the time when DC decided to present their first of many "New Look" Supermen
x) we learn that, by the time the Supremarch took over the role, his origin had become more familiar to us Superman readers: "as Last Son of the exploded planet Supron, I WAS supremely powerful..."

PAGE 14
i) we see that the Silver Dynasty Supreme brought with him "the entire planet Supron" (which didn't make much sense since he just said it had exploded, and yet it was, uninhabited by any Supronians, presumably because, as with Krypton, each and every one had managed to make it OFF the planet before it exploded anyway!!). Must be the Multiverse -- and possibly a veiled reference to Kandor too -- or Argo City and the Phantom Zone.
ii) the Three Sergeants Supreme is from the Captain Marvel mythos:  the Three Lieutenant Marvels.
iii) the revisions are described as "unfathomable periodic changes", perhaps as Moore's way of speaking for the multitudes of fans who don't buy the publisher's desire to tinker with a smoothly-running engine?
iv) current Supreme believes he's been around since the 1940's, but admits he doesn't remember much of his "career"... can you say retroactive continuity?

PAGE 15
i) Sirius the Stallion Supreme.. OK, that's Super-Horse (that was easy).. he's even telepathic!
ii) the Silver Dynasty Supreme belts out a hearty "Up! Up and Over!" just like most of us did as kids, causing the other kids to laugh at us and say, "You doofus! It's 'away!' not 'over!'"
iii) another Chapter ending teaser

PAGE 16
i) did we really need a shot up that horse's ass?

PAGE 17
i) first panel shows a Kirby-esque "Fourth World" character in the foreground, along with someone who looks like the FF's Thing?
ii) my absolute favourite moment: the scene with "Supremes White and Gold.. Imaginary versions who were no less real than anyone else after our revision!" Now, this is not only a clear riff of Superman Red and Superman Blue (one of the greatest Superman tales of all time) but also a replay of Moore's sentiments during the "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow" tale that he sent off the pre-CRISIS Kal El with, in which he wrote "Yes, this is an Imaginary story.. but then again, aren't they all? (or words to that effect) This is a beautiful scene, right down to "the twins" mentioning how they made their "imaginary reality" a Utopia.
iii) we get our first look at 'fifties Supreme: "Sorry about the lion's head. It's an effect of Violet Supremium that'll wear off after twenty-four hours." Man, I laughed at that one!!!!
iv) the current Supreme learns that not only might he have an arch enemy named Darius Dax, but he also runs the risk of encountering "The End or one of the various Lokis" (the latter of whom he's apparently already run afoul of, judging by his comments at the start of the story).. if Dax is Lex, then who are The End and Loki? Brainiac and Mr Mxyzptlk?  Jim Allan notes that Loki was the most prominant villain in the Supreme series before Moore took over, so he might actually just be Loki. See http://www.weirdspace.dk/Rob%20Liefeld/Loki.htm.

PAGE 18
i) "Kid Supreme and Probe.. I mean, Lady Supreme?" seem like Captain Marvel references, specifically Capt Marvel Jr and Mary Marvel, since Superboy wasn't a separate entity than Superman until quite recently.  Jim Allan notes that both were prominant characters in the Supreme strip before Moore took over. See http://www.weirdspace.dk/Rob%20Liefeld/Danny%20Fuller.htm and http://www.weirdspace.dk/Rob%20Liefeld/Probe.htm.  He also thinks this is the announcement that they are now out of continuity.
ii) Sally Supreme, "a secondary... from the 40's" is apparently an politically-incorrect throwback, since all she does is giggle and show off her waist that's no more than six inches around! Anyone venture a guess as to the model(s) for this character? By "secondary" he may mean either supporting character or, more likely, sidekick.  In general, it was probably a commentary on the uselessness to which many female characters were relegated in those days.  Plus, this could be Mary Marvel. That her name is Sally suggests she is to be understood as an out-of-continuity version of Suprema.
iii) Supremarch tells us that secondary Supremes are always harbingers of a revision, "as if the universe is desperately trying different variations to get things right, before it gives up and starts again." If this is true, then both the MutantVerse (with doppelgangers of Thor, Iron Man, Captain America and Spidey) and the DCU (with its burgeoning Super- and Bat-families) must be on the verge of another rewrite. Hey, what do you know.. Marvel's starts any day now!

PAGE 19
i) Supreme-of-the-future, with his cliched enlarged bald head, is clearly from the crazy 60's and its obsession with huge pated futurions. I'm sure Superman himself suffered this fate (thanks to Red Kryptonite, probably) on at least one occasion (anybody got an issue number handy??)
ii) in true 1990's fashion, this latest Supreme is revealed to be something special, since he's the first one "to find this place BEFORE your true life begins" (only because you sent some Supremes to bring him there, dodo!!)... gosh, I wonder if he's a True Hero in the mold of the great Kyle Raynor??

PAGE 20
i) the "fly by" of Supremes is way cool, and reminiscent of those old "keep 'em flying, boys!" posters from World War Two (intentionally so, I'm sure).
ii) we learn of "Diana Danes" and "Judy Jordans", the alliterative girlfriends in the mold of Lois Lane and Lana Lang
iii) there are also variants of "Billy Fridays" and "Lucas Tates", who look like Jimmy Olsen and Perry White, respectively (but Tate has a name more in keeping with Darren Stevens' boss on BEWITCHED!)
iv) Supremarch's comment that, should the current Supreme choose to stay with his new friends rather than return to "his" Earth this would mean "that Earth was without a Supreme" reminded me of the post "Death of Superman" arc called "World Without a Superman". Maybe that's unintentional, though.

PAGE 21
i) the current Supreme's sendoff is grandiose and warm, with Squeaky telling him "We LOVE you!" (there's a mouse who's in touch with his feelings!). It's also a nod to a time when this wasn't considered hokey dialogue
ii) Superion's "golden gate" once again provides a Boom Tube-ishly quick transition from dimension to dimension

PAGE 22
i) emerging from Clark's "Storage Closet" was pretty funny! ii) the new reality's Diana Dane unfortunately has to deal with something Lois Lane never did (unlike Cat Grant in recent continuity), namely implied sexual harassment from her boss... Alan, did you really HAVE to update things that much?
iii) the revelation of finding his address in his wallet was pretty funny, and we see that he's now in "Omegapolis", a metropolis by any other name

PAGE 23
i) a page without captions or dialogue, followed by..

PAGE 24
i) another one!
ii) the final panel promises a trip back to Littlehaven, to start filling in the gaps in his memory about which he now has a greater understanding (how will his origin compare to the various versions he just heard about from his predecessors?)

On a personal note, I'd just like to say that reading this issue was among the most fun I've had with a comic all year. It was a more emotional experience than any of the entertaining KINGDOM COME issues, and even more thought-provoking and nostalgic than any recent STARMAN or UNTOLD TALES OF SPIDER-MAN.

I can't wait to see where Alan goes from here.

Big thanks to Elayne Wechsler-Chaput (firehead@panix.com), Bryant Durrell (durrell@best.com), Scott Hollifield (scotth@cris.com), Robert Hughes (rhughes3@nsl.ix.netcom.com), Sean Med (seanmed@aol.com), Thad Doria (dor1@midway.uchicago.edu), and Jim Allan (jallan@smrtytrek.com).


Matt Holmes
mholmes@mars.execulink.com
 

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