Annotated Supreme #41
Originally created by
Matt Holmes (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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
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.
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
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
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!"
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?
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
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)
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"
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!
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
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
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.
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
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..."
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
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?
i) Sirius the Stallion Supreme.. OK, that's Super-Horse (that was easy).. he's
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
i) did we really need a shot up that horse's ass?
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
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/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!
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??
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.
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
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
i) a page without captions or dialogue, followed by..
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
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 (email@example.com), Bryant Durrell (firstname.lastname@example.org),
Scott Hollifield (email@example.com), Robert Hughes (firstname.lastname@example.org),
Sean Med (email@example.com), Thad Doria (firstname.lastname@example.org), and Jim Allan