Even if you're not really a comics history buff, there's a pretty good chance you know the name Alan Moore, and an even better chance that his name probably calls to mind some very specific images. Moore's work on books like BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE and WATCHMEN helped usher in a new—and famously grim—age for superheroes. These were stories that started to really test the limits of what the superhero genre could do and where it could go by making things darker, more violent and more grave than ever before.
But it’s easy to forget that Moore's work wasn't all about taking things for a spin on the gritty side. Let's take a second to get a little more familiar with one of Moore's most optimistic characters, especially since he's reemerged lately in the pages of Jeff Lemire's THE TERRIFICS.
Created alongside artist Chris Sprouse, his name is TOM STRONG and he's what we like to call a “science hero.”
Tom's origin is a little strange. He's not actually a metahuman, technically, but he was raised in a "high gravity chamber," meaning that his muscles became much stronger and faster than the average person's over time. On top of that, he was very frequently fed a special local herb that imbued him with what amounts to peak human everything. So, while he remained genetically just a normal human, anyone else would have considered him to have superpowers.
Of course, a childhood like this wasn't exactly a cakewalk. Tom's parents were distant, some may even argue cruel, and considered their son to be more a science experiment than a human being. Still, despite these less than ideal circumstances, Tom grew up with a strong moral compass and a deep sense of compassion that carried him into adulthood…even after he was forced to watch his parents die in a terrible earthquake (from which he was protected, thanks to his high gravity chamber).
After escaping his rather eccentric childhood, Tom moved to a place called Millennium City, a technological wonder outfitted with some of the most advanced technology in the world. There, Tom began his crimefighting efforts in earnest, becoming a public hero and brilliant inventor who quickly garnered a huge fanbase. He became insanely rich, able to fund any number of technological projects and engineer any number of inventions, as well as functionally immortal. He was actually born at the turn of the century, but maintained the youthful look of a man in or around his early 40s. He even had an official fanclub who called themselves the Strongmen of America.
Eventually, Tom met his wife, Dhalua, and had a daughter named Tesla. Together, they made superheroics the family business, traveling the world (and sometimes beyond it) to save and inspire. Taking cues from pulp adventure stories and high-flying Golden Age action, these were comics specifically meant to be a love letter to the medium itself.
Tom's arch nemesis wasn't your traditional megalomaniacal super-villain, either. He was a man named Paul Saveen, who, just like Tom himself was a "science hero," considered himself a "science villain." He was a genius engineer, brilliant scientist and prolific inventor. He just considered his own methods much more civilized than...well, everyone's.
Though Tom's stories predominantly took place on what was known as Earth-ABC and not within the main DC Universe, his stories occasionally dipped into the idea of their very own multiverse. Every so often, Tom's stories would take him to alternate realities where he'd find comparable alternate versions of himself—a teenage version called Tom Teen, a cowboy-themed Western version, a Tom that was a talking rabbit—you name it. His adventures took him just about everywhere.
But it seems like all of that is about to change. Almost twenty years after his creation, Tom and his family are on a collision course with the DCU in a brand-new way. What does his cryptic message herald for Mister Terrific and his eclectic band of do-gooders? And could he really be dead?
Only time will tell, but as for the question of who he is, we can now consider that mystery solved