Alex Ross – Supreme
Alex Ross talks about redesigning Alan Moore’s character Supreme. Visit: www.alexrosscollector.com
Supreme, Suprema, and Radar.
Art by Alex Ross.
Supreme is a fictional superhero created by Rob Liefeld and first published byImage Comics (1992-1996, and again from 2012), then Maximum Press (1996-1998), and later by Awesome Entertainment (1999-2000). He was originally a violent, egotistical Superman archetype, but was rebooted by Alan Moore to pay tribute to the classic Silver Age Superman mythos, as guided by Mort Weisinger.
Supreme is also the name of a comic book series which lasted 56 issues. Moore started with issue #41 and his run would later be collected as two trade paperbacks by the Checker Book Publishing Group: Supreme: The Story of the Year and Supreme: The Return. Moore’s work on the series won the 1997 Eisner Award for Best Writer.
Supreme was originally introduced in issue 3 of Rob Liefeld‘s initial Youngblood limited series as a flipbook story, and he was later spun off into his own series. His history varied from story to story; at one point, he was an extremely religious angel of vengeance, who cited Scripture to justify his actions. At other times, Supreme considered himself to be a god, especially after defeating the Norse god Thor and taking his mystical hammer, Mjolnir. Although considered to be the most powerful being in the Liefeld universe, he had his share of defeats, including being killed in the cross-title Deathmate Black series (published by both Image and Valiant Comics), losing his powers in Extreme Prejudice, and being brutally killed by Crypt in Extreme Sacrifice.
Supreme was eventually given a more comprehensive treatment in The Legend of Supreme, a three-issue miniseries by Keith Giffen and Robert Loren Fleming. In the story, a reporter named Maxine Winslow investigates the “origin story” of Supreme. As the story unfolds, we learn that, in 1937, Ethan Crane shot and killed two men in retaliation for the rape of a 15 year-old girl. Crane was subsequently shot by two police officers, but he survived and was sentenced to life in prison. In prison, the government offered him a chance to participate in an experiment to enhance humans, hoping that, unlike the six previous guinea pigs, he would survive.
Crane perished like the others; but unlike the others, he came back to life. The outside world was strange and new to him. Making his way to a church, Crane found sanctuary given by Father Beam, and soon discovered some of his new abilities. He took the name “Supreme,” and, upon hearing about the ongoing war in Europe, he decided to do his part. Not much was revealed about Supreme’s work in World War II, but it is known that he joined the Allies. After the war ended, Supreme felt that he had done his part, playing a good Samaritan to society, and left Earth. In reality, the accidental death of Father Beam at his hands drove him away.
Supreme spent decades in space, fighting against various threats on the side of an alien race known as the Kalyptans (the race of Gary Carlson and Erik Larsen’s Vanguard). He eventually returned to Earth in 1992 to find a greatly changed society, complete with genetically enhanced superpowered humans that could be found in teams like Youngblood and Heavy Mettle. Supreme became the field team leader of Heavy Mettle for a short while, but soon left the position after defeating the villain Khrome.
As Supreme fought Thor over the possession of Mjolnir, a character by the name of Enigma acquired another Supreme from an alternate timeline, to be kept in storage in case Supreme was defeated. Supreme did not lose, so the other Supreme was left to his own devices (most importantly in the events of The Legend of Supreme). Supreme eventually appeared to die during an assault on humanity by Lord Chapel, but in actuality, he ended up stranded on an alternate Earth. He spent several years there until the alternate Supreme originally removed from this reality by Enigma returned and was overpowered by the original Supreme. The original Supreme managed to switch bodies with the alternate Supreme, thus restoring his powers. After various events involving Enigma and Probe (Supreme’s daughter from the future, sometimes known as Lady Supreme), the original Supreme worked with Probe, Enigma and the alternate Supreme to defeat the evil Norse god Loki, whose machinations had been the cause of the various shifts between realities. In the end of Supreme #40, loose ends had been wrapped up, and, while Probe remained on the alternate Earth, Supreme returned to Earth.
Alan Moore’s Supreme
Alan Moore was asked by Rob Liefeld to write further adventures of Supreme. Moore agreed, on the condition that he could throw out everything previously done with the character, as he felt the comic was “not very good.” Beginning with issue 41 of Supreme, Moore began retooling Supreme, using multiple layers of metafiction, with each issue containing commentary on storytelling, comics history in general, and the Supermanmythos in particular. The clichés of the superhero genre were frequently used without Moore’s characteristic deconstruction and sense of irony. He stated in interviews that it was also something of an apology, as he had become famous for deconstructing superhero characters in various dark ways.
The Story of the Year
Given free rein over the Supreme—and, indeed the wider Maximum (later Awesome) universe—Moore plotted one of his fabled dense storylines to revolutionise the Supreme universe. Drawing on the Silver Age Superman (and the innovations of Silver Age greats such as Julius Schwartz, Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson in particular[), Moore's Supreme both built upon and ignored all the issues that had previously seen print, re-creating the character from his origin(s) up. Although the "Story of the Year" arc was intended to finish with a Silver-Age-evoking 80-Page Giant special issue, it was ultimately split into two parts: 52a and 52b. Nevertheless, the action (which included multiple flashbacks to "earlier" Supreme stories/adventures, as well as pastiches of and references to a number of comicbook staples) tied together by #52 in a manner which saw the seeds sown in Moore's earliest issues addressed several issues later. (A common factor in much of his work, but especially seen in his later ABC titles Tom Strong and Promethea).
This new version of Supreme had a secret identity as Ethan Crane, a mild-mannered artist for Dazzle Comics, who received his powers as a result of a childhood exposure to a meteorite composed of pure Supremium, a meta-element that can alter reality. When not saving the world as the archetypal superhero, Crane illustrated the adventures of Omniman, a Supreme-like character undergoing a re-launch with a change of writers.
Moore did not simply ignore the events of the previous issues; he turned them into a central part of his Supreme storyline. In Moore's first issue, Supreme returned to Earth from space and discovered that not only was he living in the most recent "revision" of reality, as it is an ever-changing story, but that there had been many previous versions of himself. Retired Supremes lived in another reality, dubbed the "Supremacy" by its inhabitants, an afterlife for characters whose stories had come to an end. Supreme first suffered from amnesia, but quickly learned that his returning memories were "backstory" that was gradually being filled in. As Supreme himself mused while visiting the site where he first gained his powers: "Maybe I really did just pop into existence a few weeks ago [...] but standing in that hole I felt something. I felt a long, peculiar life well up around me, and even if my life is a tale the Universe wrote only yesterday, it started right there, in that ditch.” As Supreme’s memories “returned,” the flashback sequences to Supreme’s childhood and previous adventures were told in the style of different periods from comics history.
The Supreme story also contained references to characters from the Superman stories, a sister with identical powers (Suprema, a reference to Supergirl) and a superpowered dog (Radar the Hound Supreme, a reference to Krypto).
Darius Dax was also introduced in this storyline. He was a Lex Luthor-styled evil genius who begrudged Supreme. Dax died twice in the series. The first time, he died in prison of lymphatic cancer caused by exposure to Supremium. Before he died, Dax transferred a copy of his consciousness to “micro-machines, no bigger than dust mites” which he concealed in a book. He mailed this book to Judy Jordan (a Lana Lang analog) just before his death. When she opened the book, Judy inhaled the dust and the copy of Dax’s consciousness was transferred into her brain after her own personality was erased. Dax used Judy’s body to trick Supreme and trap him in his own prison. Dax went on to abandon Judy’s body in favor of a superpowered android body. Still unable to beat Supreme, he merged the android body with Supremium, causing him to fall backwards in time not once but twice, appearing first as the Supremium Man in an earlier story and, after absorbing still more Supremium, as the very lump which landed as a meteor and gave Supreme his powers in the first place, creating a predestination paradox.
Supreme: The Return #5
The original Supremium Man.
Art by Ian Churchill.
Moore’s work on the book continued until Supreme #56, at which point the series was re-launched as/followed by a mini-series entitled Supreme: The Return. This ran for six issues before being abruptly cancelled amidst Awesome Entertainment‘s collapse. Moore had written an additional one-two issues which were never published, a point referenced by artist Rick Veitch, when talking about the Checker TPB collection. He notes that Supreme: The Return’s “biggest failing is that the final issue of the story was never produced. This volume takes care of that little problem by ignoring it completely and just tacking ‘The End’ on the last story.”
Following the defeat of Darius Dax, Supreme finds an ember of Judy Jordan’s consciousness still in her body, which he transfers to a Suprematon android. Her new artificial body is endowed with superpowers, but Judy has trouble adjusting to another body and having missed the last 20 years of her life. S-1, the only other sentient Suprematon, confesses his love for Judy. S-1 changes his name to Talos, and the two are married by Supreme in the Flying Citadel. The new couple leaves Earth and finds an uninhabited planet to live.
Ethan Crane’s growing romance with Diana Dane (a Lois Lane analog) starts to falter after she becomes annoyed with the way he “gets all weird and runs away.” He tries to reconnect with her as Supreme (after arranging a meeting as Ethan). Supreme gives her a tour of the Citadel to give her ideas for Omniman. After a trip to the Supremacy Diana discovers Ethan’s secret identity, and appears willing to try and continue the relationship in the full knowledge of what she is getting into.
After Darius Dax becomes the Supremium meteorite at the end of The Story of the Year, he is sent to a place similar to the Supremacy, called Daxia. Every version of Dax before him lives in Daxia, including Darius Duck, Daxor, Daxian, Doomsdax, Mad Nazi Scientist Dax, and “Grim” Serial-Killer Transvestite 80′s Dax. The combined intellect of the Daxes lets him cheat death once more and return to the land of the living. He immediately sets about trying to destroy Supreme once again, and sets in motion another circular chain of events, this time involving Billy Friday (a Jimmy Olsen analog) and Master Meteor (see below).
Announced Finish with Alan Moore scripts
At New York Comic Con 2011, Rob Liefeld and Erik Larsen announced that the last unpublished Supreme stories will be published and drawn by Erik Larsen. Supreme #63 was published in 2012 by Image Comics, featuring Moore’s final completed Supreme script.
Erik Larsen’s Supreme
Erik Larsen would ultimately take over Supreme as artist and writer, for four issues (#64-68). Larsen’s run would ultimately see the wholesale purging of Alan Moore’s work on the title and the restoration of the original early 90s version of the character. In the letter page for his first issue, Larsen wrote “My thought was to marry the two and take what Alan had done and what came before and try to find something in the middle which might appeal to both audiences.” Larsen opened his run with a resurrected Darius Dax and his own various counterparts laying siege to the Supremacy, killing countless Supreme counterparts with weapons he stole from the Supremacy’s armory, which was where he entered the lair. Supreme The Fifth (the ruler of the Supremacy and the Supreme SUPREME), as are Radar, 90% of the Supremes, and a good number of the supporting cast members of the Alan Moore run (Billy Friday and Judy Jordan in particular). To stop the killing spree, the surviving Supremes ( “Moore’s” Supreme, 50′s Supreme (with a lions head), Squeak (mouse Supreme), 70′s Lady “Sister” Supreme) are forced to free the “original” Supreme from the early Rob Liefeld comics, who’s violent, bigoted, and psychotic behavior led to him being placed in suspended animation so that he could not hurt anyone ever again. Freed, the original Supreme murders all of the darius Daxes and then, in retaliation to the other Supremes and out of jealousy that he is not unique as he originally thought, turns against the heroic Supremes and permanently removes their powers via Silver Supremium and destroys the Supremacy.
Returning to a much different earth, the “original” Supreme goes on a killing spree, murdering criminals in order to force the world to fear him and to re-establish his dominance as the most powerful man on Earth. He shuns Diane Dane (who as reality begins to warp again, is now pregnant with the original Supreme’s child due to the change in timelines retroactively altering the past so that she had sex with “original” Supreme) and furthermore learns of the “Power Supreme”, the source of power for every incarnation of Supremes. Furthermore, Supreme finds himself shackled to the Alan Moore Supreme’s alter ego (Ethan Crane) and is fired from his job due to his inability to draw artwork.
When confronted by Suprema (his former daughter, who sided with the Supremacy when they decided to imprison him), the original Supreme brutally assaults his daughter and only through the intervention of Omni-Man (father of the hero Invincible), is Suprema saved and rescued by the now powerless Squeaks. Omni-Man fairs little better than Suprema as he points out to the “original” Supreme the hypocrisy of his actions and tries to reason with him to stop acting like a villlain. Ultimately, Omni-Man is saved when Khromium (son of Supreme villain Khrome) captures his long lost nemesis and takes him to his homeworld for execution.
Larsen’s run (which was not well received and subjected to much criticism for it’s treatment of the Moore run) ends with the Alan Moore Supreme and his allies discovering, upon learning of reality warping itself to adjust to the return of the original Supreme, that there is a chance that the Supremacy could still exists, though access to it is near impossible due to the reality warp “rebooting” the location of the entrance point (the Citadel Supreme) to the moon. Meanwhile, the original Supreme kills Khromium and commits wholesale genocide, destroying the villain’s homeworld, killing billions all in the name of wiping out Khrome’s family.
With his departure, Supreme was cancelled.