Tom Strong, the fan favorite comic book created by Alan Moore, has always been a different type of superhero story. But when writer Peter Hogan takes them to Terra Obscura, things get really unusual.
"When I was writing it, I often found myself thinking, I don't think anybody's done anything like this in superhero comics before," Hogan said.
Beginning in July, the six-issue Vertigo mini-series Tom Strong and the Planet of Peril will reunite Hogan with regular Tom Strong artist Chris Sprouse. But it will also take Hogan — and Tom Strong fans — back to the world of the 2003 comic Terra Obscura.
The first Tom Strong comic was launched in 1999 by Sprouse and Moore as part of the latter's "America's Best Comics" imprint at WildStorm. The title character is a science hero, and he explores many different timelines and universes, which often pay homage to different comic book genres.
In 2003, the Tom Strong spin-off series Terra Obscura was launched by Hogan as an alternate version of Tom Strong's Earth. In the first volume, Tom traveled to Terra Obscura and met his counterpart, Tom "Doc" Strange. The series lasted a total of 12 issues.
While Hogan has united with Sprouse to write Tom Strong stories before, the Planet of Peril story stands out because of its return to Terra Obscura. Newsarama talked to Hogan about the series — and got some spiffy new pages from DC to show off.
Newsarama: Peter, it sounds like you're getting to return to the worlds of both Tom Strong and Terra Obscura. What brought about this story combining them both? Was it your idea?
Peter Hogan: Yes, it was my idea. It occurred to me that Tesla being pregnant by Val Var Garm might not be an entirely wonderful thing for them; it might be problematic and dangerous — life-threatening, even, if the child had inherited Val's fiery powers. So, I began to think of things that might solve this problem, and came up with the same conclusion that Tom does in the story: that the one thing that might save Tesla and her child can only be found on Terra Obscura.
Which delighted me, because I've wanted to go back there again for years.
Nrama: We've been told that Tom is trying to save Tesla's unborn child when he goes to Terra Obscura. But how much of Tom's background (or the past of Terra Obscura) do readers need to know going into this story?
Hogan: Well, I've tried to make it fairly user-friendly on the Terra Obscura front, but there's no denying that you'll definitely get more out of the story if you've read at least some Tom Strong before.
Nrama: When Tom and Val Var Gam journey to the far side of the galaxy to find Terra Obscura again, what do they find? How has Terra Obscura changed since Tom (and readers) last visited?
Hogan: Something very bad has happened there, so it's no longer the same world that we saw in the two mini-series. Tom and Val blunder into this situation, and discover that they have to help save that whole world before they can save Tesla.
Nrama: What's it been like for you as a writer to return to that world?
Hogan: Wonderful. I've always felt there was a lot of potential and a lot of mileage in those characters, and I still feel that way.
Nrama: The Tom Strong franchise has attracted some of the best writers in the business, including your work over the years. What do you think is so compelling to writers (and in particular, you) about this world?
Hogan: He's a fantastic character. Apart from the powers and the intellect, he's a genuinely nice guy who always tries to do the right thing, the fair thing, and he'd always rather find a non-violent solution to problems if he can. Plus, he has a great supporting cast.
Nrama: What's it been like working with Chris Sprouse on this Tom Strong story? Chris is an acclaimed storyteller. What do you think Chris has contributed toward the world of Tom Strong — and this installment in particular?
Hogan: Well, Chris is a fantastic artist, and he creates good machines but I think his biggest talent lies in depicting the emotional stuff, in a way that really touches people. Whatever I ask for, I'm pretty sure that Chris will always be able to deliver it.
Nrama: After it's done, are there plans to return to the world of Tom Strong?
Hogan: I certainly hope so. Both Chris and I want to do more, and I have ideas for at least two more series.
Nrama: What else are you working on? Where else can we see your work, Peter?
Hogan: The second series of Resident Alien starts coming out in August from Dark Horse. They'll also be publishing a mini-series next year of King's Road, a fantasy story by myself and Phil Winslade which debuted in the last few issues of Dark Horse Presents.
Nrama: Then to finish up, is there anything else you want to tell potential readers about Tom Strong and the Planet of Peril?
Hogan: I think it's unusual. I could be wrong, but when I was writing it, I often found myself thinking, I don't think anybody's done anything like this in superhero comics before.