Thursday, June 28, 2012

Nihilist Spasms

The Museum of Dr. Moses by Joyce Carol Oates (collected 2008): As prolific as a pulp writer, Oates has been lauded again and again for the quality of her prose. She is a fine writer, but don't go to her work to feel good. Or even to experience catharsis. There aren't any conventional happy endings here in these dozen or so stories and novellas.

The title novella deals with family secrets and long-standing conflicts, as do most of the other stories -- the heart in conflict with both itself and other hearts. There's suspense here, though it's of a peculiar sort, as one generally waits to see what horrors will unfold by the end of a story. Oates is a witty writer, but I wouldn't call her funny. Frankly, her fiction is mostly humourless. "The Twins: A Mystery" has wit to spare but unlike, say, Kafka or Thomas Ligotti, Oates doesn't generate absurdity that can be laughed at despite its attendant horrors.

The grimness can wear a bit. A lot, sometimes. One story, told from the POV of a serial killer, is a small gem of characterization that nonetheless casts no light -- human cruelty has been so well-documented in fiction and fact that the story seems to have been rendered superfluous by the weight of its antecedents. It's a perfectly rendered, perfectly hollow bit of nihilism.

Other stories let enough light in to succeed, though. "Feral", ostensibly fantasy, devastates on a number of levels with its tale of a child gone horribly wrong. "The Man Who Fought Roland LaStarza" allows Oates to indulge her love of boxing within the context of a family drama, though the final revelation of the story doesn't shock. The aforementioned "The Twins: A Mystery" strives mightily for some sort of absurdist effect, but it just sorta sits there -- the shock ending in this case undone by the absurdity of the protagonists. Three stories are essentially static depictions of the thoughts of serial killers and/or child murderers: more gestural than narrative, and even one is almost too many.

Overall, Oates is fine writer, and one well worth reading. One's reaction to her will depend on one's tolerance for a universe without much light, and a writer who can't be light without the effort showing. More light! Recommended.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

My Long Zombie Nightmare

Zombies: Encounters with the Hungry Dead, edited by John Skipp (2010) containing the following stories:

* ? Lazarus (1906) by Leonid Andreyev,
* ". . . Dead Men Working in the Cane Fields"(1929) by William B. Seabrook,
* The Return of Timmy Baterman (1983) by Stephen King,
* ? The Emissary (1947) by Ray Bradbury,
? A Case of the Stubborns (1976) by Robert Bloch,
* ? It (1940) by Theodore Sturgeon,
* Lie Still, Sleep Becalmed (2007) by Steve Duffy,
Bitter Grounds (2003) by Neil Gaiman,
* ? Sea Oak (1998) by George Saunders,
* The Late Shift (1980) by Dennis Etchison,
A Zombie's Lament (2010) by S. G. Browne,
Best Served Cold (2010) by Justine Musk,
The Dead Gather on the Bridge to Seattle (2010) by Adam Golaski
The Quarantine Act (2010) by Mehitobel Wilson
The Good Parts (1989) by Les Daniels,
Bodies and Heads (1989) by Steve Rasnic Tem,
* On the Far Side of the Cadillac Desert with Dead Folks (1989) by Joe R. Lansdale,
* Like Pavlov's Dogs (1989) by Steven R. Boyett,
* Jerry's Kids Meet Wormboy (1989) by David J. Schow,
The Visitor (1998) by Jack Ketchum,
The Prince of Nox (1992) by Kathe Koja,
Call Me Doctor by Eric Shapiro,
* The Great Wall: A Story from the Zombie War (2007) by Max Brooks,
Calcutta, Lord of Nerves (1992) by Poppy Z. Brite,
God Save the Queen (2006) by John Skipp and Marc Levinthal,
Eat Me (1989) by Robert R. McCammon,
We Will Rebuild (2010) by Cody Goodfellow,
Sparks Fly Upward (2005) by Lisa Morton,
Lemon Knives 'N' Cockroaches (2010) by Carlton Mellick III,
* Zaambi (2006) by Terry Morgan and Christopher Morgan,
The Zombies of Madison County (1997) by Douglas E. Winter,
Dead Like Me (2000) by Adam-Troy Castro.

Six months later and I'm finally finished this anthology. Now I know how the survivors of a zombie apocalypse feel. There are a number of good and/or historically relevant stories here. I starred them. There are a number of stories that I wouldn't classify as zonbie stories because while they feature dead people walking, I wouldn't classify 'dead people walking' as the sole determinant of zombieism. I question-marked those.

The rest run the gamut from perfectly OK to dreadful, but being a nice fellow, I didn't indicate which ones are which. I must say, I'm exhausted by boundary-pushing hyperviolence, especially when it's linked to sex. I just don't care and I'm not scared. There's a surprisingly low 'fun' level here. Zombies are serious business. So serious that I don't remember what half these stories were about. They've all vanished into the eternal slurry of the walking dead, of what the walking dead leave behind.

But you know what? Zombies aren't a horror trope that can support all that much seriousness or social commentary. I think George Romero's Dawn of the Dead beautifully shows how much heavy lifting the zombie can do, and how much that heavy lifting must be leavened with humour and pathos. Not recommended except for the zombie obsessive.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Real Sasquatch Adventures

Sasquatch/Bigfoot by Don Hunter with Rene Dahinden (1992): Oh, Sasquatch, favoured monster of my youth. I actually read the original version of this book back in the 1970's. I realized this fact only because I remembered the famous snuff-box incident when I came across it here.

The snuff-box incident involves a hunter in the 1920's escaping from a family of Bigfoot by tricking the father into eating an entire box of snuff (that is, powdered tobacco). Once Dad fell over with a paralyzing bellyache, our resourceful prisoner ran away from the other Bigfoot. Frankly, it reads like a rough draft of a Trailer Park Boys scenario. Just substitute 'pot' for 'snuff.'

Don Hunter does a competent job of arguing the case for the existence of Canada's favourite cryptid (sorry, Ogopogo), focusing on long-time (and now deceased) Sasquatch hunter Rene Dahinden and his decades-long accumulation of interviews and field experience. Could a relatively large number of 800-pound omnivores remain mostly hidden from humanity in the tens of thousands of square miles of forest of the Pacific Northwest? Maybe.

But problematically, Sasquatch makes repeated forays into civilization through the years: walking down highways, shambling around 5 minutes from downtown Vancouver, accosting skiers, running around construction sites, knocking on car windows...none of this sells the isolationist argument for a cryptid. What it sells is an 800-pound raccoon with no discernible fear of people.

The Native Canadians who named Sasquatch (though that term is an approximation of several different terms from several different tribes) maintain that it's been out there in the Pacific Northwest causing trouble forever. And it really, really likes Vancouver Island (its apparent ability to swim would make it a member of humanity's branch of primates and not those of chimps or gorillas -- they can't swim, though they do sink beautifully).

Still, the book is fun -- Dahinden's narrative isn't exactly Ahab-like (he doesn't want to kill Bigfoot), but he certainly devoted the last 40 years of his life trying to track the big fella down. Yet even now, 20 years after the publication of this revised edition, the sum total of usable Sasquatch footage remains those 20 seconds or so of fuzzy film shot in Northern California. Hunter tries to make the case that the film is authoritative, to such an extent that I started to wonder if there was another high-resolution version of the film that only Sasquatch hunters are allowed to see.

But it's a better world with the possibility of a Sasquatch wandering around somewhere in it. It's a nice mystery, one that doesn't seem to get anyone hurt. Just remember to keep your snuffbox handy. Recommended.

Bazaar of the Bizarre

Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser: adapted by Howard Chaykin from stories by Fritz Leiber; illustrated by Mike Mignola and Al Williamson (1991; collected 2010): Lovely adaptation of several of Fritz Leiber's terrific, seminal sword-and-sorcery tales featuring Northern barbarian Fafhrd and Southern thief Gray Mouser having adventures in and around the imaginary city of Lankhmar in an unknown time and an unknown place.

Leiber's stories were unique for their sense of humour at a time -- the series started in the 1930's -- when sword and sorcery tales were in their infancy, the rules of the game having just been codified by Robert E. Howard in his Conan stories. And Conan wasn't a barrel of laughs. These stories often are, though they also contain sinister magic and mayhem, sorrow, ghosts, monsters, and literally cut-throat businessmen.

Obviously, one should read the originals. Leiber was one of the true greats of the Golden Age of American science fiction and fantasy, with a career stretching from the 1930's up until his death in the early 1990's. He was probably the best prose stylist in the entire field for decades, while his eccentric and encyclopedic tastes and interests made him a major figure in American horror, science fiction, and fantasy.

Howard Chaykin, one of comicdom's wittiest scripters, does Leiber proud here in distilling the stories down into dialogue. A young Mike Mignola approaches his later Hellboy form, aided by legendary inker Al Williamson. Mignola's art shows when it should and suggests when it should. The monsters are creepy and the women gorgeous.

Teeming Lankhmar itself becomes a seedy, crowded warren of strange houses and temples and dim alleys. The countryside, when we see it, is filled with menacing space. Williamson makes Mignola lighter in the lines than Mignola-inking-Mignola later would, which fits the material -- there's no character here as massive and gravitic as Hellboy. These characters are light on their feet; so, too, both writing and art. Recommended.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Unreal Estate

Dream House: written by David Loucka; directed by Jim Sheridan; starring Daniel Craig (Will Atenton), Rachel Weisz (Libby), Naomi Watts (Ann Patterson), and Elias Koteas (Boyce) (2011): A talented director (Sheridan directed Daniel Day-Lewis in My Left Foot) and a solid cast result in a major stinker. Studio tampering fingerprints this production, though I'm not sure how much better the film would have been without interference. The grim lifelessness of many of the scenes doesn't seem to have anything to do with the whims of focus groups.

Daniel Craig quits his job and moves his family (a wife and two daughters) into a dream house in a small town. He's going to write a novel. But a family was murdered in that house, a fact the real-estate broker didn't tell Craig. The father apparently killed the mother and two girls but got shot in the head by the wife in the process, a head wound that put the father into a mental asylum for five years. But now the father's out, never convicted of the crime. And a mysterious watcher lurks outside the windows at night, scaring Craig's wife (Weisz) and children. A divorced neighbour (Watts) seems to know more than she's telling.

And then, 45 minutes in, the movie implodes with a twist that really needed a lot more build-up. The movie wanders off into the woods, bumping into trees. There's a half-hearted attempt at another twist in the final scene, though the scene is ambiguous enough to explain away as just another plot development and not another reversal.

You can at least add Dream House to that long list of films in which fire is only dangerous if it actually touches you, even when it surrounds you. These movies exist in a universe in which air doesn't transmit heat, and what a marvelous universe that would be.

Craig acts a lot like late-career Harrison Ford here, joyless and withdrawn. He looks like he's ready for a brawl with the key grip at any second. Watts's character seems to have had all her character-development scenes edited out of the movie: she's all plot device. Weisz is fine in a thankless role as a loving yet sexy wife. Sheridan pretty much disowned this film, and I can see why -- it's not even bad in an enjoyable way. It induces 80% boredom and 20% rage. Avoid! Not recommended.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Giant-Size Movie Thing

Beginners: written and directed by Mike Mills; starring Ewan McGregor (Oliver Fields), Christopher Plummer (Hal Fields), Melanie Laurent (Anna) and Goran Visnjic (Andy) (2011): Set mainly in 2003, Beginners tells us the story of Oliver Fields as he recovers from his father's recent death and tries to forge a lasting romantic relationship.

Fields's father (played by Christopher Plummer, who won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for the role) came out of the closet after his wife's 1999 death, and the movie jumps around in time to show us Oliver reacting to his father's public embrace of his sexual identity, his father's lengthy battle with cancer, and Oliver's own search for meaning.

The movie's skillfully structured and maintains a nice, organic balance of sorrow and joy throughout. There's a very cute Jack Russell terrier with some killer dialogue (!), a very cute French actress, some nice little comic moments involving Hallowe'en parties and graffiti, and some beautifully written scenes between Oliver and his father, young Olilver and his mother, Oliver and his father's much-younger lover (ER's Goran Visnjic, bouncy as a spaniel), and Oliver and the actress.

The direction is accomplished without being too showy, and Mills comes up with an effective recurring structural motif that comments on Oliver's state of mind while also reflecting his career as a visual artist. Plummer certainly deserved his Oscar win; McGregor could have at least used a nomination, as he convincingly portrays a withdrawn character in the grip of powerful emotions. Highly recommended.


50/50: written by Will Reiser; directed by Jonathan Levine; starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Adam), Seth Rogen (Kyle), Anna Kendrick (Katherine), Bryce Dallas Howard (Rachael) and Anjelica Huston (Diane) (2011): Seth Rogen plays Seth Rogen in a movie about how Seth Rogen's friend battles cancer, based on a true story about how Seth Rogen's friend battled cancer.

Surprisingly dramatic, 50/50 's strengths lie with Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt's performances, which generally feel as fresh and realistic as perhaps any movie with Seth Rogen can feel. The writing tries to avoid cheap laughs, and the make-up department actually makes Gordon-Levitt look awful as his character undergoes chemotherapy.

Little movie bits do intrude throughout (and even if they, too, are based on reality, they nonetheless become movie bits because we've seen them in movies too many times). Older cancer battlers dispense hard-fought wisdom and hash brownies. A cute therapist becomes a possible romantic partner.

Thankfully, the movie remains capable of giving us non-movie bits as well -- Gordon-Levitt's character really is debilitated by his cancer and its treatment. No character is rendered completely unsympathetic. And Gordon-Levitt himself has become a fine, nuanced actor. With sharper writing, this could have been a revelation rather than simply a surprise. Lightly recommended.


The Most Dangerous Game: adapted by James Ashmore Creelman from the short story by Richard Connell; directed by Irving Pichel and Ernest B. Schoedsack; starring Joel McCrea (Bob), Fay Wray (Eve) and Leslie Banks (Zaroff) (1932): Short, sweet adaptation of one of the most reprinted, most adapted, most imitated short stories ever. 63 minutes!

OK, the movie originally clocked in at 78 minutes, but preview audiences got freaked out by some (then) graphic footage, and the pre-release chopping frenzy ensued. Made before the Production Code but released afterwards, The Most Dangerous Game also featured too much skin (you won't notice), and so wasn't re-released for years after its debut.

On an island with a surprisingly diverse landscape, an evil hunter who has grown bored with hunting animals now hunts the most dangerous game -- man! And he keeps trophies! Can shipwrecked big-game hunter Joel McCrea defeat evil Count Zaroff at his own game?

Well, that's the plot of the movie.

This is a lot of fun in a short package, and you'll probably spend a few minutes marvelling at the bizarre yet effective sets (and trying to spot the King Kong sets -- this movie was filmed at the same time as King Kong, with the many of the same actors and production staff). Recommended.


The Rite: suggested by a book by Matt Baglio, written by Michael Petroni; directed by Mikael Hafstrom; starring Colin O'Donoghue (Michael Kovak), Anthony Hopkins (Father Lucas Trevant), Ciaran Hinds (Father Xavier), and Alice Braga (Angeline) (2011): A good-looking, moodily directed movie that has a dumb script, The Rite offers us The Exorcist for Dummies. That young male lead Colin O'Donoghue bears a striking resemblance to Evil Dead 's Bruce Campbell really doesn't help the suspension of disbelief.

A young American priest with faith issues gets sent to the Vatican's Exorcism school. Hilarity ensues as he gets sentenced to do field work with super-Exorcist Anthony Hopkins, playing Anthony Hopkins.

Cats and frogs strike sinister poses -- Hopkins's Father Trevant lives in what looks like a cross between a student ghetto and a small-animal zoo. Are the demons Trevant labours to cast out real? Will faith be restored? Will a character with the name 'Angeline' play a pivotal role? Will possessed people get all veiny, do weird gymnastical tricks, and talk in spooky voices about things they couldn't possibly know? Will there be a demonic, red-eyed mule? Wait, what? Yes. Yes, there will be.

The movie spends a lot of time talking as if it's smart without ever exhibiting much intelligence. It does look good, though, and the director wrings about as much shock and horror out of a pedestrian script as almost anyone could. All of this is ostensibly inspired by a true story. Not recommended.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Conan: Beginnings and Endings

The Chronicles of Conan Volume 1: The Tower of the Elephant and Other Stories: written by Roy Thomas, based on stories and fragments by Robert E. Howard and L. Sprague de Camp; illustrated by Barry Windsor-Smith and others (1970-1971; collected 2003): Marvel's long-running affair with Robert E. Howard's mighty barbarian begins here, with the first few early-1970's issues of the Conan colour comic book (a B&W magazine, The Savage Sword of Conan, would soon follow).

Roy Thomas was always a bit of a wet blanket as an adapter of Howard's stories. He buffed away all the sharp edges of Conan for the Comics Code Authority while indulging in that peculiar sin of 1970's comic books, the endless description of things one can already see in the comics panel.

Nonetheless, the strength of Howard's original stories still shines through, especially in the title adaptation of what I'd say is Howard's finest Conan short story. "The Tower of the Elephant" offers us a thieving young Conan, a seemingly impregnable fortress, a wicked sorcerer, a giant spider, and a surprisingly sympathetic character who allows Conan to showcase his rough-hewn Cimmerian honour. Other stories introduce such Conan staples as giant snakes, wicked Set-worshipping wizard Thoth-Amon, and an endless string of slave girls, prostitutes, and thieves.

Main artist Barry Windsor-Smith, a Kirby knock-off artist before his stint on Conan, grows with astonishing swiftness from issue to issue. He maintains the dynamism he learned from Kirby while coming quickly into an early version of his fluid, evocative style. He's the only comic-book artist I can think of whose two main artistic influences are Jack Kirby and the Pre-Raphaelites. It's neato. Recommended.

The Chronicles of King Conan Volume 1: The Witch of the Mists and Other Stories: written by Roy Thomas, based on characters created by Robert E. Howard and stories by L. Sprague de Camp, Bjorn Nyberg, and Lin Carter; illustrated by John Buscema, Ernie Chan, and Danny Bulanadi (1980-81; collected 2010): Writer Roy Thomas's decade-long affiliation with Conan at Marvel Comics would end fairly early into this early 1980's spin-off series, which gives us a 50-something Conan ruling the Hyborean Age's greatest kingdom, Aquilonia.

The five double-length adventures reprinted here present King Conan's final, multi-issue battle with the wizard Thoth-Amon, owner of the most unwieldy hat in Marvel history. Conan's son Conn is a chip off the old block, already a decent fighter at the age of 13. Penciller John Buscema's Conan is stolid and solid and grim. Buscema is strong on humans and, as always, somewhat uninspired when depicting the fantastic -- unlike seminal Marvel Conan artist Barry Windsor-Smith, Buscema is too representative in his art to convincingly depict magic and monsters. It all makes for a good time-waster, but not much else. Lightly recommended.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Hashish Dreams

The Hashish Man and Other Stories by Lord Dunsany, containing The Secret of the Sea, The Field, Where the Tides Ebb and Flow, In the Twilight, A Narrow Escape, The Three Sailors' Gambit, The Three Infernal Jokes, Thirteen at Table, A Story of Land and Sea, Bethmoora, Idle Days on the Yann, The Hashish Man, The Madness of Andelsprutz, Charon, The Guest, The Exiles' Club, A Tale of London, How the Enemy Came to Thlunrana, In Zaccarath, The Idle City, A Tale of the Equator, Spring in Town, Wind and Fog, After the Fire, and The Assignation (Collected 1996):

The stories collected here come from a small slice of Dunsany's career -- 1908-1916, to be exact. They offer a wide though not completely representative sample of the prolific Irish writer's once-popular and immensely influential body of work, a body that influenced both H.P. Lovecraft and J.R.R. Tolkien, among others -- a number of critics mark Dunsany as the most influential fantasist of the first half of the 20th century, in part because in novels and short stories he seemed to arrive at every destination, if not first, then with the surest and most genre-defining hand.

Many of the stories here are more short prose poems than anything else, essentially plotless and dedicated to describing a fantastic mood or location or state of mind, often within the frame of being a dream vision or a vision inspired by opium or hashish (hence the title); Lovecraft would emulate this aspect of Dunsany's midway through his writing career, along with the dreamier, fey-er aspects of Dunsany's stories about fictional gods and fictional lands where Ireland is the fiction to the inhabitants.

Dunsany's work in horror and in the 'club story' are less well-represented here -- there are no Jorkens stories, probably Dunsany's most famous stories, set within a fictional men's club where the men tell fantastic stories over brandy and cigars, none more famous than the unincluded "Two Bottles of Relish" -- though there are nonetheless examples. The sameness of tone of some of the prose poems works against trying to read this in one sitting -- but dabbled within in three or at most four stories at a time, the collection is an engaging revelation. Highly recommended.

City of Fallen Angels

The Bible Repairman and Other Stories by Tim Powers containing "The Bible Repairman," "The Hour of Babel," "Parallel Lines," "A Soul in a Bottle," "A Journey of Only Two Paces" and "A Time to Cast Away Stones" (Collected 2011): Tim Powers is pretty much the best living American fantasist -- the only writer I'd say could contest him for this imaginary title would be Gene Wolfe. Longtime friend of Philip K. Dick, Powers may show Dick's influence in his eclectic choice of subject matter and in the intricate, sometimes byzantine complexity of his plots.

But Powers' other strengths -- his careful attention to historical detail and his ability to ground even the wildest of fantastic conceits in that detail -- are all his own. He writes fantasy as if he were a 'hard science fiction' writer.

Powers normally seems to prefer novels to spin out his detailed, involving tales, so short-story collections are rare and generally quite short. This is no different, but the density of imagination in the stories collected here makes this brief collection (less than 200 pages) seem much more filling than its length would suggest. All of the stories are filled with the wealth of invention and attention to detail that marks Powers' work; the general introduction and afterwords to each story supply fascinating insight into the inspiration for the stories.

Los Angeles, Powers' preferred locale when he's not travelling through time and space, is the setting for five of the six stories. The sixth and last, "A Time to Cast Away Stones," returns us to the horrifying early 19th-century world of Powers' novel The Stress of Her Regard, focusing on the fascinating Trelawny, a fellow traveller with Byron and Shelley who would live to be an occasional confidante of the Pre-Raphaelites, and who is noteable for almost wholly inventing a biography for himself that survived unchallenged for nearly 80 years. Highly recommended.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Work for Hire

Alan Moore's Complete WildC.A.T.S.: written by Alan Moore; illustrated by Travis Charest, Matt Broome, Jim Lee and others (1997-98; collected 2007): Alan Moore's work-for-hire years at Image and Image/Wildstorm before Wildstorm jumped from Image to DC offer interesting work, though certainly not essential work.

Created by Jim Lee and Brandon Choi in 1992, the WildC.A.T.S. (Covert Action Team, natch) are a bland, derivative bunch of knockoffs of popular DC and Marvel characters. Gathered by an alien to fight part of an alien war taking place on Earth, they somehow got a short-lived animated cartoon.

To understand the staggering depth and complexity of thought that went into this alien war, understand that the opposing sides are the good Kerubim and the evil Daemonites. The most notably knocked-off knockoffs include Majestic (Superman), Zealot (Wonder Woman), Maul (the Hulk) and Grifter (Wolverine with guns, but with a mask that makes him look like Bob Burden's great superhero The Flaming Carrot when drawn in profile).

Moore ups the angst and alienation quotient here, giving character to characters hitherto pretty much without character, but there's only so much anyone can do with most of these chumps. Along with Moore's work on other Wildstorm characters and his work on the Spawn portion of the Image universe, this is the Alan Moore material one can skip if one is going to skip Alan Moore material. It's a testimony to Moore's skill that he can make the Wildstorm universe, with some of the most ridiculous character names in the history of superhero comic books (Overtkill anyone?), seem at all interesting. Lightly recommended.


Rick Veitch and Alan Moore parody Superboy
Supreme: The Return: written by Alan Moore; illustrated by Rick Veitch, Rob Liefeld, Chris Sprouse, and others (1997-99; reprinted 2004): Over in the Rob Liefeld corner of the Image superhero universe was Supreme, a Superman knock-off with elements of Captain (Shazam!) Marvel in his DNA depending on who was writing him that week. Then Alan Moore took over, given carte blanche to do whatever he wanted to the character.

What resulted were about 25 issues of metafictional lunacy. If one ever wondered what would have happened had Moore continued to write for DC -- well, Supreme looks a lot like an All-Star Superman that never existed. His origin rewritten by Moore to be a close, often satiric analog for that of Superman's, Supreme is made aware early in Moore's run that he's subject to periodic continuity revision. Different versions of Supreme and his supporting characters live in a pocket universe called the Supremacy.

And so it begins. Moore and his artists (most importantly the magnificent Rick Veitch) take Supreme through stories and eras that straight-facedly satirize both the publishing eras and individual stories of Superman and the Superman family, with analogs for everyone from the Legion of Super-heroes to Krypto the Superdog to Brainiac and the Phantom Zone criminals. The giant, disembodied head of Jack Kirby puts in an appearance. It's that kind of book.

Along the way, Moore seems to be working out ideas that would be more fully fleshed out in his subsequent America's Best Comics work and titles that included Tom Strong, Promethea, and the League of Extraordinary Gentleman. Fun and bizarre. Recommended.