I was recently listening to the League of Nobodies‘ podcast where they were discussing the first volume of Alan Moore and Chris Sprouse’s Tom Strong. I haven’t read all the series yet but listening to them talk reminded me of something from the very first issue.
During the podcast, they talk a bit about Tom’s parents, Sinclair and Susan Strong, and their journey to the island of Attabar Teru. During the boat voyage there, the couple’s only companion is Tomas, the wheelman on the boat. As they near the island, the waters get rough and the boat runs into some rocks jutting out of the ocean. Tomas is unfortunately killed.
On the next page, the married couple find themselves washed ashore on Attabar Teru. And then the most peculiar exchange takes place:
I don’t know about anyone else, but I always hear a touch of sorrow when Susan says, “In my way.” Exactly how close were they? Alan Moore always includes a sexual undertone to his stories and whole parts of Promethea are aboout sex. So maybe I’m reading too much into it but I have this sneaking suspicion that Susan and Tomas were more than two people aboard the same ship.
The story on the next page jumps three months into the future and we get a glimpse of the island laboratory that Sinclair’s robot Pneuman made for them. It’s quite a feat. As the rain begins to fall, Moore and Sprouse show us one panel that can only be described as foreplay between the husband and wife.
After that night that nothing should have come from it, Susan is in labor, about to deliver a child and Sinclair is ill prepared for it. He reminds Susan that he’snot a medical doctor and you can practically hear the desperation in his voice as he has no idea what to do. Luckily for them, the natives of Attabar Teru show up to help with the birth and a healthy baby boy is born into the world.
- Susan was “fond” of the sailor Tomas.
- On the night that the couple had sex, Sinclair said “… and nothing shall come of it.”
- Susan names her son “Tomas.”
Alan Moore is a deliberate writer and there’s not a word or a panel that is in any of his comic books that doesn’t carry weight and meaning to it. With those three points, it seems fairly obvious to me that Tom Strong is not Sinclair Strong’s son but that he’s Tomas the sailor’s son. There’s a couple of other subtextual points that support this.
- The one time we see Tomas, he’s wearing a red and white striped shirt. Tom Strong’s shirt is red with an upside down white triangle on it. The design is different but the color pattern matches.
- If anything actually did occur between Susan and Tomas, it was a mixed race relationship, just like Tom Strong’s relationship with his wife Dhalua.
Later in Tom Strong Volume 4, Tom Strong meets his mother from an alternate world. On that world, Sinclair died in the shipwreck and Tomas is definately the father of Tom Stone, that world’s alternate version of Tom Strong. That story could throw the question of Tom Strong’s father out the window because it implies that with Sinclair as his father, he grew up to be Tom Strong and with Tomas as his father, he grew up to be Tom Stone. But maybe the whole point of Moore’s later story is to show the difference whether Tom had lived to be influenced by Sinclair or by Tomas. And just because it happened on an alternate world one way doesn’t mean that it had to happen just the opposite way on Tom Strong’s world.
You can see how Alan Moore builds up what appears to be a simple story, adding layers and subtext to it and creating more than a simple story about the birth of a super hero. From the time when he was producing League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Promethea and Top 10, Tom Strong may be the most simple and basic of Alan Moore’s stories but Moore is never just simple and basic. He always has something else working beneath the surface of his actual text.
You can read the first issue of Tom Strong on DC’s website.