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Who Is Tom Strong? Exploring the World of Alan Moore’s Golden Age Superhero

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In 1999, Alan Moore launched America’s Best Comics, an imprint of WildStorm–still at Image Comics at that time. The idea was to develop a line of comics partly based on the 1940s Golden Age of comic books, partly animated by Alan Moore’s passion for magic. The most famous title of the imprint was obviously The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen–the series was later published by Top Shelf and Knockabout Comics–, but Tom Strong became the more developed universe.

Created by Alan Moore and artist Chris Sprouse, Tom Strong is a “science hero” who, with his wife Dhalua, his daughter Tesla, the enhanced ape King Solomon and his robotic valet, Pneuman, fought science criminals and other supernatural/paranormal dangers for decades, but also at different times, worlds, and realms.

Tom Strong was born on the fictional West Indian island of Attabar Teru. There, his scientist parents put him in a high-gravity chamber and gave him an intensive education. Plus, he grew up eating a root used by the natives of the island for health and long life. When he got out, he was stronger, faster, more intelligent and healthy than the average human being. He became an adult and married Dhalua, the daughter of Attabar Teru’s Chief Omotu. Together they relocated to Millennium City and had a daughter named Tesla.

In the civilized world, Tom Strong became a science hero and fought masked “science villains” like Paul Saveen, the Nazi Ingrid Weiss, the mechanical-molecular megalomaniac Modular Man, Aztecs from an alternate Earth, and more.

The Expanded World of Tom Strong

Tom Strong is a homage to pulp fiction heroes such as Doc Savage and Tarzan, and its quite optimistic universe became a playground for creators to explore the classic tropes of Comic Books’ superhero stories in new ways. The series mixed pastiche, homage, parodies, and innovative ideas.

Alan Moore wrote the first 22 issues of the main Tom Strong series before letting a string of writers take over–like Peter Hogan, Geoff Johns, Mark Schultz, Steve Aylett, Brian K. Vaughan, Ed Brubaker, Michael Moorcock, Joe Casey, and Steve Moore. Artists like Jerry Ordway, John Paul Leon, Pasqual Ferry, Shawn McManus, Peter Snejberg, Duncan Fegredo, Ben Oliver, and Paul Gulacy worked on the title when Chris Sprouse didn’t.

The World of Tom Strong went beyond the main series with spin-offs. First, there was Tom Strong’s Terrific Tales, an anthology offering Young Tom Strong tales, Jonni Future stories (extra-dimensional sci-fi adventures), and one-shots about different characters of the Strong Universe. Then, Terra Obscura written by Peter Hogan was based on old Nedor Comics characters. Hogan and Chris Sprouse also worked on the miniseries Tom Strong and the Robots of Doom and Tom Strong and the Planet of Peril.

The End of America’s Best Comics

As you may know, after Watchmen, Alan Moore vowed to never work for DC Comics again. When Jim Lee sold Wildstorm to DC, Moore had to choose and decided to work with DC once again in order to keep the promises made to other artists and to end his universe in a truly original way.

Promethea was another series created by Alan Moore, this time with J. H. Williams III and Mick Gray. It is the ultimate exploration of magic, superhero mythology, and mysticism by Moore wrapped in a sci-fi action story. It is thematically dense and visually experimental. Also, it is about Sophie Bangs, a college student from an alternate futuristic New York City in 1999, who embodies the powerful entity known as Promethea whose task is to bring the Apocalypse.

Naturally, as promised, Promethea ended by bringing the Apocalypse (in a form). This ending also affected Tom Strong and the other series from America’s Best Comics. This was the END.

Not completely though, as Peter Hogan and Chris Sprouse’s limited Tom Strong series were published a few years later (in 2010 and 2013) and Tom Strong himself entered the DC Universe by becoming a recurring guest star in “The Terrifics” (2018-2020).

Tom Strong Reading Order

It was recently announced that the main Tom Strong series will be collected in one big Compendium edition.

In the meantime, these stories are available in other collections. First, the Deluxe Edition:

The Paperback editions, plus the spin-offs:

The Terra Obscura characters are introduced in Tom Strong #11-12, the spin-off series takes place after that. More Precisely, Terra Obscura Volume 1 explores the consequences of the events depicted in #12, Volume 2 continues to follow the characters. The series takes place before Tom Strong and the Planet of Peril.

The next two Tom Strong limited series are a continuation of the ongoing Tom Strong series

Later, Tom Strong joined the DC Universe in The Terrifics, a series written by Jeff Lemire with art by Dale Eaglesham. It is not a Tom Strong book, the science hero is only a recurring guest star.

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