Sunday, June 3, 2012

Work for Hire

Alan Moore's Complete WildC.A.T.S.: written by Alan Moore; illustrated by Travis Charest, Matt Broome, Jim Lee and others (1997-98; collected 2007): Alan Moore's work-for-hire years at Image and Image/Wildstorm before Wildstorm jumped from Image to DC offer interesting work, though certainly not essential work.

Created by Jim Lee and Brandon Choi in 1992, the WildC.A.T.S. (Covert Action Team, natch) are a bland, derivative bunch of knockoffs of popular DC and Marvel characters. Gathered by an alien to fight part of an alien war taking place on Earth, they somehow got a short-lived animated cartoon.

To understand the staggering depth and complexity of thought that went into this alien war, understand that the opposing sides are the good Kerubim and the evil Daemonites. The most notably knocked-off knockoffs include Majestic (Superman), Zealot (Wonder Woman), Maul (the Hulk) and Grifter (Wolverine with guns, but with a mask that makes him look like Bob Burden's great superhero The Flaming Carrot when drawn in profile).

Moore ups the angst and alienation quotient here, giving character to characters hitherto pretty much without character, but there's only so much anyone can do with most of these chumps. Along with Moore's work on other Wildstorm characters and his work on the Spawn portion of the Image universe, this is the Alan Moore material one can skip if one is going to skip Alan Moore material. It's a testimony to Moore's skill that he can make the Wildstorm universe, with some of the most ridiculous character names in the history of superhero comic books (Overtkill anyone?), seem at all interesting. Lightly recommended.

 

Rick Veitch and Alan Moore parody Superboy
Supreme: The Return: written by Alan Moore; illustrated by Rick Veitch, Rob Liefeld, Chris Sprouse, and others (1997-99; reprinted 2004): Over in the Rob Liefeld corner of the Image superhero universe was Supreme, a Superman knock-off with elements of Captain (Shazam!) Marvel in his DNA depending on who was writing him that week. Then Alan Moore took over, given carte blanche to do whatever he wanted to the character.

What resulted were about 25 issues of metafictional lunacy. If one ever wondered what would have happened had Moore continued to write for DC -- well, Supreme looks a lot like an All-Star Superman that never existed. His origin rewritten by Moore to be a close, often satiric analog for that of Superman's, Supreme is made aware early in Moore's run that he's subject to periodic continuity revision. Different versions of Supreme and his supporting characters live in a pocket universe called the Supremacy.

And so it begins. Moore and his artists (most importantly the magnificent Rick Veitch) take Supreme through stories and eras that straight-facedly satirize both the publishing eras and individual stories of Superman and the Superman family, with analogs for everyone from the Legion of Super-heroes to Krypto the Superdog to Brainiac and the Phantom Zone criminals. The giant, disembodied head of Jack Kirby puts in an appearance. It's that kind of book.

Along the way, Moore seems to be working out ideas that would be more fully fleshed out in his subsequent America's Best Comics work and titles that included Tom Strong, Promethea, and the League of Extraordinary Gentleman. Fun and bizarre. Recommended.

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