Tom Strong by Alan Moore

tom strong

Alan Moore is a comic book writing GOD! If you want to argue that with me, knowing something of his resume, then I can only assume the level of graphic novels or comic books you can handle ranks only as intelligently stimulating as Archie or Daffy Duck. With such great tales as The Watchmen and V for Vendetta, Moore has made his books socially relevant as well as entertaining. But compared to those one may think Tom Strong to be tame and subdued. But if you think that then you aren’t paying attention.

Tom Strong is a superhero that is as much scientist as he is super strong. Tom is born to parents stranded in Africa after a shipwreck. His parents are scientists and remarkably intelligent. They create a special chamber to raise Tom in with a robotic valet to serve him named Pneuman. His other companion is an enhanced ape named King Solomon. Tom’s parents die while he is still a boy and he is taken in by the local tribe. With his intelligence and strength he creates a paradise in his new home. He takes the daughter of a might chieftain; Dhalua to be his wife and together they have a brave but impetuous daughter; Tesla.

With his abilities Tom and his family fight evil wherever they encounter it. In Africa, in New York, in other times and other worlds.
What one would consider to be pretty standard stuff in the comic book world. But then you are missing the obvious.

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Tom Strong’s origins mirror two pop culture heroes of our time. Tarzan and Superman. People misplaced from their natural worlds into a different world and culture. But with glaring differences. Tom is shipwrecked in Africa and befriended by an African tribe. He is white, they are black. But unlike Tarzan, he does not automatically consider the dark skinned people to be violent or primitive or his enemies. Tom befriends them and becomes part of them. He does not wait for the first white girl to show up before he falls in love, but falls for the daughter of a chief. Their different racial pigmentation never is a factor. In fact, Moore basically passes it over as if this is how it should happen. In Tarzan, you get the impression that it would have been far more acceptable for Tarzan to mate with an ape before he would ever take an African princess for a wife. Thank goodness Jane came along or those poor apes might not have been safe! But in Tom Strong, the racially mixed marriage that produces a child is the most natural of all happenings. Why should he wait for some random lost English lady to get shipwrecked?

Unlike Superman, Strong does not consider his strength as an entitlement of superiority over others. Especially his wife and daughter. Though genetically enhanced to be superior, its a position he fights against. Never more so than when he is attacked and captured by Nazis who want Tom for their experiments in created the perfect white race. It is in this one storyline that Tom faces racism in its rawest form. Moore handles it superbly.

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While the comics of Tom Strong are not as striking in their social activism as others in the Alan Moore library; don’t be fooled. Moore does not stray far from his beliefs and he presents them in a truthful and entertaining fashion.

And unlike the parade of politically charged and correct comics coming out from the two major publishing houses, there is no pandering here. This is simple honest writing. Which is what makes it so good.

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