Tom Strong really has it all. A generically heroic main character with a dramatic origin, a love interest that is integral to the story, several appropriately cartoonish villains, and not one but two comic relief sidekicks – a talking gorilla and a stuttering robot. He even has a sensible, yet instantly recognizable costume. Tom Strong seems like an easy mark for a movie, so why hasn’t Hollywood fed it into the meat grinder yet?
For those of you who are unfamiliar, Tom Strong was part of the America’s Best Comics line created by Alan Moore for Wildstorm back in the late 1990s, a line which also included Top Ten, Promethea and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Tom Strong was Moore’s attempt to bring the concept of the superhero back to its pulp roots, and has as much in common with Doc Savage or the Shadow as it does with Superman.
Referred to as a “science-hero,” Tom Strong is raised in a high-gravity chamber and educated by his scientist parents on the fictional island of Attabar Teru until an accident kills his parents and releases him from the chamber as a teenager. He grows up among the natives of the island, and his exposure to a local root combined with his time spent in the gravity chamber results in him being nearly perfect physically and mentally, and extremely long lived – although born in 1900, by 2000 he looks to be in his early 40s.
He has adventures throughout the 20th century, fighting Nazis, killer robots and sentient Aztec temples, and frequently travelling in time and visiting alternate realities. He is ably assisted by his wife Dhalua and their daughter Tesla, both natives of Attabar Teru with similarly long lifespans, as well as by Pneuman, a steam powered robot butler, and Solomon, a gorilla who talks like an Oxford science teacher. His recurring villains include Paul Saveen, a classic 1920s sinister stage magician, and Ingrid Weiss, a buxom Nazi obsessed with bearing Tom’s children to jump-start the master race.
The current Tom Strong series, written by frequent Moore collaborator Peter Hogan with artwork by original series co-creator Chris Sprouse, concerns Ingrid Weiss and the son she tricked Tom into fathering, and their plot to change history, creating a world where the Nazis win the war with the help of a race of robots from Atlantis. It’s been done before, but Hogan and Sprouse have so far managed to pull off the story with enough charm that it feels fresh.
The most important thing about the Tom Strong comics is that they are bright, cheery and fun, telling exciting and engaging stories without lapsing into the dark angst that seems to pass for sophistication in many mainstream comics today. The series seems tailor made for a Hollywood summer blockbuster, with its world threatening plots and larger than life characters.
And besides, Alan Moore hasn’t had a reason to complain about Hollywood since last spring’s Watchmen movie…
— Jefferson Powers