Who is Supreme? Caped and powered up, he fights unusual crimes in the streets of his city as any superhero might. Between 9:00 and 5:00 Supreme works as a writer and editor for… a company that publishes comic books. Supreme’s alter-ego Ethan Tate can pass on plenty of great superhero “material” to his writer colleagues, recounting his own exploits to provide a basis for the company’s “Omniman” series. This is a stable arrangement without much glory or romance for our undercover hero until a galley copy of a comic book appears that not only tells the story of Supreme’s past, but also predicts his future. Thus the story begins with a broad hint that not everything in Supreme’s universe is as straightforward as it seems.
Readers may catch on to Alan Moore’s little game faster than his protagonist as Supreme stumbles into alternate realities reminiscent of World War One superhero cartoons and adventure stories from even earlier in the history of comics. By the time he reaches “The Supremacy,” a world inhabited by every prototype and “cancelled” incarnation of Supreme from a Mickey Mouse lookalike to a blue bug-headed monster, our hero has begun to realize that he is neither unique nor in control of his own destiny. Now it is up to Supreme and his assorted sidekicks and colleagues to keep the city of Omegapolis free of supervillains, even as the very fabric of their universe is manipulated by an unseen hand. Just a little knowledge of the history of the comic book genre will add a lot of depth to Moore’s story line, with is otherwise a sly examination of how our self-image can change when we first see ourselves through the eyes of others.
Supreme: the Return
by Alan Moore
Art by Chris Sprouse, Rick Veitch, Alex Ross
Checker Book Publishing Group 2003