Sunday, February 14, 2010

Millennium City - Where's My Zeppelin?


Valentine's Day is great. I'm not going to poo-poo it, as that is somewhat in vogue nowadays - or has been since the beginning of the holiday, anyway - but rather I'll talk about why it's awesome. (Yes, if you don't have a significant other, Valentine's Day sucks. Move along.)

New books. New DVDs. New things that stimulate the mind (and body!), and inspire us to do things! Whatever these things are, we will take what we receive on Valentine's Day and move forward into the future, turning those seconds and minutes and hours into the present!

This year I will be doing this with the help of one man, one of the most romantic and eloquent men on the face of this here blue and green orb we live on. I will be within the world of his creation, a technicolor palette come to life, radio serials playing in the background, and fat dirigibles punctuating the skyline.

Happy Valentine's Day Alan Moore.

- • -

About three years ago I bought a trade-paperback from the comic shop I go to/work at/live in, and it has sat inside a box since then, unread and unloved. I've looked at it a few times, but only its cover, the hard edges of its spine, its descriptive back panel that wants to lull me into reading the inside despite the number on that well-formed spine. Instead of a large, black "1" it is labeled with an infuriating "2."

Up until Valentine's Day I haven't been able to read anything regarding Tom Strong, Alan Moore's pseudo-composite of Doc Savage and Superman, but my lovely girlfriend got me the first collection of Tom Strong, and after eating the dark chocolate orange cake she made me (freaking AMAZING), I read the first issue of Tom Strong.

Alan Moore is perhaps completely misunderstood. Some of his books are impenetrable constructions of narrative that leave the reader feeling like he or she is jumping into the middle of a tale that has unfolded for years before their entry into the world he - and his artists - have created.

That's part of the fun, though. There's somewhat a sense of disconnection right there at the start, but it's more internal than anything, a fear that you won't know what the hell is going on. Moore wants this, and somewhat depends on the feeling of history inherent in his writings. You can't freak out. Just read, and be confident that you will reach that comfortable place where the story settles down around your mind, the two mingling and creating that sought after feeling of complete and total involvement.

I got the "Deluxe Edition" of Tom Strong volume one, which means it's hard cover, forty dollars, and contains some form of special features. I flipped toward the back to see what exactly these were, hoping for script pages, and was disappointed to see a few sketches, maybe some cover images, and NO scripts.

After my initial disappointment over having gotten the "Deluxe Edition" and finding out it isn't all that deluxe, I started to read. First, the introduction of sorts by Moore himself. This introduction is more of a history, a mixture of fact and fiction that helps to build the world before you've seen a single image of it - outside of your mind - and starts to work toward whittling away at the feeling of confusion that may be threatening your reading experience.

Tom Strong was born on a remote tropical island, lived the first ten years of his life within a compression chamber with a heightened gravity - about five times that of Earth - and emerged as a physically impressive specimen, his intellect equally as impressive due to his father being a genius, and his mother an emotionally receptive and loving person.

He lives within a world that was most likely somewhat present in certain minds in the 19th century. Tom Strong has a daughter he names Tesla, a reference to the great scientist/inventor/imaginator Nikola Tesla, whose mind was constantly churning, putting things into the world that could have taken us to the place occupied by Tom Strong's fictional Millennium City.

We didn't arrive there, however, but here, where we currently live. There are large cities, metropolises with towering buildings and technological breakthroughs that could have been wonders. Mostly we seem to inhabit a place short on wonder, lacking the verve of a setting where everything seems possible, and actually is.

In his introduction Moore references a patent clerk resigning in his fictional world in the year 1899 because, "...everything had already been discovered or invented." This wasn't true for his creation, and is certainly not true for our world either.

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