Notes by Paul Andinach on 'Supreme: The Story of the Year'
Building on 'Annotations Supreme' by (Aaron Severson?)
Panel 1: "I pity the fool" is a catchphrase of African-American tough-guy actor Mr. T, known for his roles in the film 'Rocky III' (in which the catchphrase originated) and the TV series 'The A-Team'.
Panel 3: Another African-American actor's catchphrase: This time comic actor Mantan Moreland, whose schtick in countless films of the 1930s was the hero's assistant who fled at the first sign of danger with a cry of "Feets, do your stuff!"
Panel 3: In the background, there's a fat Supreme with a moustache, carrying a tall lump of rock. His appearance (body shape, hairstyle, clothing, and rock) echoes that of Obelix, the stalwart sidekick of the 'Asterix' comics.
Panel 1: I was all set to discourse at length on the possible significance of Supreme's first girl being named after the female lead of 'Carousel', and then I realised that the latter is Julie, not Judy, Jordan. So it's *probably* just coincidence.
Panel 3: The gray outfit with nametag Darius Dax is wearing is a prison uniform (see also page 15 of issue #47 and page 6 of issue #52A, for instances of him wearing the same outfit actually in prison); apparently he was so keen to take over Omega City and/or kill Supreme that he couldn't take the time to rustle up a change of clothes after his latest prison break. In the Silver Age Superman comics, Lex Luthor was often the same way.
Panel 5: Supreme is seen here posing in front of an American flag, with an American eagle perched on his arm. There's a famous image of Superman in a similar pose, originally the cover image of Superman #14 (published in 1942, roughly contemporary with this bit of flashback).
Panel 1: "San Diego" is the San Diego Comic Book Convention, first held in 1970. Now called Comic-Con International, it's one of the largest and busiest events on the comic book industry's calendar (and increasingly of allied industries such sci-fi film and television). Hence Ethan's comment that if Neil Gaiman seemed stressed at San Diego, it's not necessarily a reliable guide to his usual state of mind.
(By giving Neil Gaiman a separate existence in this reality, is Moore implicitly absolving him of being one of the inspirations for Billy Friday?)
Panel 3: Newspaper headline: "JOHN PROPHET FEARED DEAD". Prophet is another of Rob Liefeld's superhero characters; I don't know anything much about him, nor whether this headline is a reference to something specific that was happening in another title at the same time.
Panel 1: The current annotation has missed an important fact about Mighty Man: he is a pre-existing Image Comics character, who debuted in Erik Larsen's flagship series, 'Savage Dragon', in 1992. Most of the subsequently-noted similarities to Captain Marvel already existed in Larsen's version of the character, and are not metatextual additions by Moore (which is not to say that Moore didn't take conscious advantage of them, in the same way that he took advantage of Glory's similarities to Wonder Woman).
Mighty Man is one of two 'Savage Dragon' characters to appear in 'Supreme'; the other is SuperPatriot, who we will meet in the next issue. Unlike Liefeld's characters, who have been replaced by Moore's versions, the original Mighty Man and SuperPatriot are still active in the pages of 'Savage Dragon'; the versions in 'Supreme' might be regarded as alternate universe counterparts. ('Savage Dragon' itself has already featured a number of alternate-universe counterparts of its main cast; what's a couple more?)
Panel 4: Aladdin's outfit resembles that worn by Disney's version of the character (from the 1992 animated film). Disney's version of the story is also one of the few, if not the only, in which Aladdin possesses a flying carpet.
Panel 3: Talos was a figure in Greek mythology, a giant man of bronze who protected Crete. (The inscription here seems to say TALUS, which is the Latin form of the name.)
Jack-a-Dandy's giant monocle may be a reference to the giant coin that's been an indispensable exhibit in Batman's trophy room for years; especially since Jack-a-Dandy is Professor Knight's (which is to say, Batman's) opponent more than he is Supreme's.
Panel 1: The current annotation mentions: "A large, beetle-browed creature either made of stone or a statue (this may be the same trophy as the Shmoo-like creature shown earlier; the art is unclear)." I don't think the art is *that* unclear: it doesn't look anything like the Shmoo-like creature to me.
Panel 1: Die Hard is another of Rob Liefeld's creations; he is a member of the Youngblood team, and debuted in 'Youngblood' in 1992. For SuperPatriot's history, see the note for issue #43 page 11. Both characters started their careers in the 1940s, hence their absence from the 1938 flashback last issue.
Panel 4: On the wall in the background, the silhouettes of two children playing ball. After the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima in 1945, walls had silhouettes permanently burned into them where objects had shielded them from the full force of the explosion, including at least one place where the shielding object had been a person; human silhouettes subsequently became part of the imagery of anti-nuclear protest. The specific two-children-playing-ball silhouette may have originated in Ray Bradbury's short story "There Will Come Soft Rains", first published in 1950.
Panel 1: Assuming that his 'Savage Dragon' history applies wherever it's not explicitly contradicted, Mighty-Man-as-Mighty-Man is ever unchanging, but his human identity underwent some dramatic changes between 1949 and 1996, hence his comment that he has "maybe changed just a little bit". (More on this when we get to page 20.)
Panel 1: The cryptic remark by the angelic twins in the bottom right corner is a mangling of "potrzebie", a word frequently used in Mad magazine as a random nonsense word. (It's a real word in Polish, but don't ask me what it means.)
Panel 3: Again as per 'Savage Dragon', Mighty Man's human identity during the 1950s was radio broadcaster Robert Berman. (Everything the current annotation says about him resembling radio reporter Billy Batson is probably still true, just at one remove.)
In the background is the Wolf Man from the 1941 horror film 'The Wolf Man', labelled "Wolf Man Jack" - Wolfman Jack was a radio disc jockey who started his career in the early 1960s.
Panel 4: The current annotation says "The figure at the left edge of the panel bears a striking resemblance to William Gaines", which may be true, but actually it's Sgt Bilko, Phil Silvers's character in the 1955-1959 TV series 'The Phil Silvers Show'.
That it's Mighty Man whose manliness is being thrown into question foreshadows his own personal future: after the death of radio broadcaster Robert Berman, the power to transform into Mighty Man passes to another host - and *her* name is Ann Stevens.
Panel 3: The current annotation says: "Waxy Doyle notes that Roy Roman and Diehard are now part of other teams, and Mighty Man adds that the Patriot (now a cyborg hero) is as well." Actually it's (also) Doyle who mentions that the Patriot is part of another team; Mighty Man's reference to the Patriot is a response to Doyle's comment that "sometimes people change".
Diehard, as noted above, is a member of Youngblood. SuperPatriot is a member of the Liberty League in 'Savage Dragon', but they probably don't exist in Supreme's continuity. Given that Roy Roman's a new character, there's probably no guessing which team he's part of, unless it's revealed in a later issue.
Panel 1: The current annotation says: "Doc Wells is referred to here as “Doc Erwin.” It is not clear if Wells’ first name is intended to be Erwin, or whether this is an error that was not corrected prior to publication." In the collected edition, it's become "Doc Wells", which would seem to answer that question. (I think it is also established somewhere in the series that the Doc's full name is Erwin Wells, but I don't recall exactly where.)
Panel 4: Supreme's exclamation of "Merciful Mondrian" refers to modern artist Piet Mondrian (1872–1944). Supreme doesn't actually get turned into a Mondrian pastiche during this sequence; Mondrian didn't do people, preferring landscapes early in his career and non-representational geometric shapes later. (Mondrian did do a famous series of compositions based around red, white and yellow rectangles, so a Mondrian Supreme might not be entirely out of the question - but he'd have trouble carrying on his conversation with Doc Wells without a mouth...)
Panel 1: Supreme's transformation here is based on Salvador Dali's painting "The Face of War".
Panel 5: "Billy Friday - Hero of the Prism World" echoes the title of 1980s DC Comics series 'Amethyst - Princess of Gemworld' (a comparison I suspect Billy would not appreciate).
Panel 4: The current annotation says: "including images of John Lennon and Paul McCartney" - And two more heads partly hidden behind Supreme, presumably George Harrison and Ringo Starr.
Panel 1: The current annotation says: "Taylor’s last name is spelled inconsistently in the series: here it is spelled “Kendal,” but in issue #52B it is spelled “Kendall.” In this issue, all references to "Kendall Manor" have two Ls, and all references to "Taylor Kendal" have one L. Whether this pattern continues in #52B I don't know, as I haven't yet found a copy of that issue.
Panel 1: Ethan's exclamation of "Sacred Paracelsus" presumably refers to the 16th-century Swiss physician Paracelsus, but I'm not sure why.
Panel 2: In this panel and in this pose, Jack-a-Dandy bears a striking resemblance to the mascot of The New Yorker magazine (although that worthy fellow is usually depicted inspecting a butterfly rather than a set of superweapon blueprints).
Panel 6: The Walrus and the Carpenter are probably a reference to the Mad Hatter, a similarly Lewis-Carroll-inspired foe of Batman.
[I count six panels on this page. For some reason the current annotations treat the first two as a single panel, and the third and fourth as a single panel, but the last two as separate panels. I see no justification for this, so I'm going to count them *my* way.]
Panel 2: The bare tree with the floppy pocket watch draped over it is an image from Salvador Dali's painting "The Persistence of Memory"; appropriate, since this is Taylor's memoryscape.
Panel 3: Supreme mentions a Police Chief O'Brien as one of Professor Night's associates. There's also a Chief O'Brien mentioned during Ethan's trip back to Littlehaven (issue #42, page 13, panel 3) as one of the Littlehaven residents from the old days who has passed on. I wonder if he's related?
Panel 6: I would guess that the figure with the tusks and the figure with the saw are the Walrus and the Carpenter, previously referred to on page 12.
Panel 5: The list of symbols in the current annotations misses the logo of the soft drink brand 7-Up (at left, under the Mtv logo).
Panel 2: Another missed symbol: the face at the top is pop-artist Andy Warhol.
Panel 1: Dali's melting watch (previously seen in issue 47, page 19) makes a return.
Panel 2: 'Yellow Submarine' is the animated film featuring the music of the Beatles. The oceans through which the titular submarine travelled - which included the Sea of Time, the Sea of Science, the Sea of Nothing, and the Sea of Holes - were indeed quite surreal.
Panel 4: The current annotations note that Wonder Woman acted as the secretary for the Justice Society. What is perhaps more relevant, since the group of heroes featured in this issue is equivalent to the Justice League, she served the same role for the Justice League in their early adventures. (And it had nothing to do with her being the only female member, I'm sure.)
Panel 4: "Allied Super-Animals of America" is a reference to the Just'a Lotta Animals, a funny-animals version of the Justice League of America created by Roy Thomas and Scott Shaw and featuring such characters as Super-Squirrel, Batmouse, Wonder Wabbit, and the Martian Anteater. They appeared within the funny-animal superhero series 'Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew', first as characters in the comics read by the people of Captain Carrot's world; later (perhaps inevitably) a story in the style of the JSA/JLA team-ups revealed that they really existed in an alternate dimension, and they joined forces with the Zoo Crew to defeat a team-up of their respective villains.
Panel 2: The prisoner on the right, described as "not identified" in the current annotation [for page 20, panel 1, for some reason], is Jim Stormbird, who we get a better look at in the following issue.
(Incidentally, the colourist seems to have become confused in this panel, as Diehard's mask has temporarily changed to the same colour scheme as SuperPatriot's.)
Panel 2: Judy Jordan learning kung fu and becoming involved in women's rights may be a reference to Wonder Woman's activities during the early 1970s, when she lost her superpowers and costume, learned martial arts, and became involved in contemporary concerns, culminating in an issue with the banner "SPECIAL! WOMEN'S LIB ISSUE" - which turned out to be the last issue of the new approach before they started putting everything back the way she had been. About the same time, the old-style Wonder Woman was featured on the cover of the first issue of Gloria Steinem's Ms magazine, with an accompanying article about what a strong female role model she was.
Panel 1: The wedding of Doc Rocket and Alley Cat, attended by many superheroes, brings to mind the wedding of Mr Fantastic and Invisible Woman in Marvel Comics - even before one notices that the groom in each case was Dr R Richards.
Panel 3: The current annotation says: "As revealed in Judgment Day #2, a strange fluke of evolution allows dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures to survive on Conqueror Island, which was discovered in the early part of the 20th century by Professor Conqueror, grandfather of Conqueror leader Daniel “Blacky” Conqueror." This is a neat double-ended reference: As the Conquerors of the Uncanny are to the Challengers of the Unknown, so Professor Conqueror is to Professor Challenger, the star of Arthur Conan Doyle's novel 'The Lost World' (the titular Lost World, of course, being a remote plateau populated by surviving prehistoric creatures and discovered in the early part of the 20th century by the Professor).
Panel 3: Perhaps off-topic, but I feel moved to comment on how far off-model Suprema is on these two pages: older (or at least taller and thinner) than usual, and wearing an uncharacteristically bad-tempered expression - not to mention a skirt that displays far more of her upper thigh than the one she usually wears.
Panel 6: The current annotation says: "Officiating the ceremony is the jackal-headed Annubis, an Egyptian deity who oversaw the judgment of dead souls." It looks to me more like another Egyptian deity, ibis-headed Thoth. Thoth was associated with science, philosophy, and religion, and credited with the invention of written language.
Panel 4: "The Light and Void Cafe", appearing in this battle-of-the-sexes tale, may be a reference to Dave Sim's theory of the "male light" and the "female void". (It would probably help this annotation to include some explanation of what Sim's theory actually is, but I am pleased to be able to say that I personally have no idea what he's on about.)
Panel 3: The man in black is Jim Stormcrow, last seen in issue 49. The man next to him in brown might be Blake Baron, likewise.
Collected edition - Supreme: The Story of the Year:
Not an annotation, but a request for one. The collected edition is decorated by sketches (and on the cover a painting) by Alex Ross of some person who looks almost, but not quite, entirely *un*like Supreme. It's been bugging me ever since I first encountered the book, years ago - anybody reading this know what's up with that?