Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year with Alan Moore and Tom Strong!

The Great Comic Book Heroes 
ushers in 2015 with Tom Strong's Timekeeper and the 
Tower at Time's End!
The Timekeeper and the Tower at Time's End was presented in Tom Strong #13, July, 2001 and was created by Alan Moore, Chris Sprouce, Russ Heath, Kyle Baker and Pete Poplaski. 
The Timekeeper and the Tower at Time’s End is a wonderful love letter from Alan Moore and friends to the Golden Age Captain Marvel, the wizard Shazam and the Rock of Eternity
Regular Tom Strong artist and co-creator, Chris Sprouce handles the prologue with the Timekeeper in his Tower at Time's End.
With the Timekeeper, Moore spins a whimsical tale of the how the Clan Saveen (Tom Strong's arch enemy, Paul Saveen taken from different points in time) try to take control of the Tower at Time's End in order to rule all of eternity. 

The Timekeeper sends out the three pieces of the Capstone into history for Tom Strong and friends to find.
The first is found by the adult Tom Strong and his daughter Tesla Strong. 

Chris Sprouse does his typically amazing job on the art in chapter one while Alan does his brilliant job on dialog here giving us enough hints to a much bigger picture while keeping it sounding natural and not giving too much away.
Young man Saveen gets away with the capstone fragment and Tom and Tesla jump into the timestream after him.
Meanwhile, in chapter two young Tom Strong on his home island of Attabar Teru confronts a little Saveen.
The second chapter of Tom Strong #13 is illustrated by legendary Golden Age comic artist Russ Heath who is most famous for the war stories he drew for Timely, DC Comics and classic EC Comics in the 50's.
Little Saveen gets away with the capstone and young Tom chases him into the timestream where he ends up in the Tower at Time's End with adult Tom Strong and Tesla.

Here adult Tom, Tesla and young Tom get acquainted with each other. Adult Tom's boyhood memories are coming back to him as the situation unfolds.
The third chapter involves a sentient hare not unlike Captain Marvel's Hoppy the Marvel Bunny, called Warren Strong and his arch nemesis, Basil Saveen.
In this chapter, drawn by Kyle Baker, Alan has a ton of fun incorporating the animated animal antics of Warren Strong and Basil Saveen into that of the Tom Strong universe. And if you look closely you can see Warren's beautiful black bunny Patience, the counter to Tesla's mom, Dalua, tied to the tree. 
Warren, just as the Toms did, follows the Saveens into the timestream only to end up at the Tower at Time's End with his alternate egos.
Here Alan and Kyle have a blast showing all the vastly different Saveen's from all of the parallel Strong universes. There appears to be a Simpson Saveen, a Sergio Aragones Saveen, and an Archie Saveen to name just a few.
Pete Poplaski, who drew and edited books for Kitchen Sink in the 70's, did an amazing job on the final climatic chapter where the Strong Family confronts the Clan Saveen
Adult Tom and Warren take on the Clan Saveen while young Tom and Tesla go after the Timekeeper.

Young Tom and Tesla find the Timekeeper and free him from his bonds.

Alan tosses in cryptic dialog of the Timekeeper hinting at, but never fully explaining, the greater understanding that he has of the scenario.
As the Timekeeper knew would happen, the Saveens start to receive some kind of memory feedback as they recall their past here at the Tower at Time's End.

Artist Pete Poplaski shows off his expressive abilities when he draws the old man Saveen in distress. 

The threat is over and the Saveens get sent back home to their respective places in time while the Family Strong digest their experiences at the Tower and get more cryptic words from the Timekeeper.

And that is the end of our tantalizing, time-twisted tale of two Toms. From the very beginning of Alan's career he has beguiled us with brain-twisting stories about time and the paradoxes of it's nature. With the Tower at Time's End we get another fascinating glimpse into the nature of time with the Timekeeper who appears to know all about what is happening, what has happened and what will happen and yet is subject to reliving it endlessly for eternity.
Alan also tantalizes us with hints about the identity of the Timekeeper without spelling it out for us. Judging by the facial features of the Timekeeper and the fact that he wears a red triangle on his robe, Alan indicates that he is probably a very ancient version of Tom Strong himself as fate has seemed to have placed him here to live eternally at the end of time. Though, if this is Tom all alone in the Tower, then one wonders what fate has befallen Tesla, Dalua and friends.

Another interesting thing about the Timekeeper is the fact that his triangle is the inverse of Tom's being red and pointing up rather than white and pointing down. Together the triangles are two halves of a whole hour glass, as depicted on the Tower itself.

Tom Strong was a great series and issue #13 was a high point for me. It's been said that Moore steals from others to create his best work and in this issue he steals from Captain Marvel, the big red cheese, and the whole Shazam mythos, but I think homage is a better word because Moore doesn't try to hide his inspiration but rather indulges in it by making the cover itself a recreation of Marvel Family #1 (Dec 1945) as artist Chris Sprouce indicates by his initials with the words after (C. C.) Beck sorta (detail right).
Of coarse a talented artist like Chris Sprouce could come up with an original cover but it's so much fun seeing a Tom Strong comic dressed up as a Captain Marvel book. (Marvel Family Comics #1, Dec. 1945, Tom Strong #13, July 2001)
Moore and Sprouce even designed the splash page of Tom Strong #13 after a Captain Marvel splash page.

This issue is Alan Moore's love letter to the Golden Age Captain Marvel, totally honoring it with all of it's characters and yet developing them into the own original creation.

The cover of Marvel Family #7, Dec. 1945, depicts the wizard Shazam and the first appearance of the Rock of Eternity, a kind of Mount Olympus for the wizard Shazam and the Captain Marvel family to live in and the precursor to the Tower at Time's End. Like all myths, Alan has redefined the whole Captain Marvel mythos for the modern age, creating something much more intriguing though thoroughly honoring the original work.
It's Alan's invention and though provoking ideas that endlessly thrill me about his work. Though this story was created much later than his most famous works, Alan is just as intriguing and vital here as he has ever been. It makes one wonder if, perhaps, Alan himself, like his creation, will end up living eternally, endlessly spinning stunning stories for our wonderment and joy.
Thanks Alan, wherever you are.


  1. Tom Strong was such a great title! I really miss that time when Moore was writing America's Best Comics: Tom Strong, Promethea and Top Ten.

  2. Fun comics but hardly "much more intriguing" than the real thing. Standing on the shoulders of giants elevates Moore. I'd much rather see Alan Moore (or someone else qualified) revive Captain Marvel in the spirt of the original instead of what we always seem to get: awful sadistic "modernizing" replete with repulsive violence and an adolescent's idea of what "mature" sexual content means. I think Moore is one of very few who could do it well.

  3. The Tower at Time's End is perhaps the funniest comic I've ever read.
    Totally brilliant down to the smallest detail!