Spoilers ahead for The Terrifics #1.
On the final page of today's The Terrifics #1, the team encounters a distress signal from a character named Tom Strong, who warns the team of a threat to the universe.
Tom Strong isn't a new character, but he might not be that familiar to DC readers, since Terrifics represents his first appearance in the main DC line.
Who is he?
Although Tom Strong was created during the tail end of the gritty 1990's era of comic books - by artist Chris Sprouse and writer Alan Moore, the creator best known for deconstructing the superhero archetype in Watchmen - the Tom Strong comic books actually read like a love letter to comic books and the superhero genre.
The series ran as several limited series over the last 18 years since its creation. The first few volumes of the book were created by Moore and Sprouse, while later editions featured Peter Hogan working with Sprouse.
The comic book's story was centered on the heroic Tom Strong, who'd been raised by his parents on a remote island in a manner designed to scientifically achieve the ultimate in strength, intelligence and longevity.
Often described as a sort of amalgam of several pre-Superman pulp heroes such as Doc Savage, Tom Strong starred in all-ages, fun-filled adventures complete with a universe of innovative surprises and a cast of allies and family. The characters visited different timelines and universes, which often paid homage to different comic book genres.
What's the Significance?
The first Tom Strong comic book title was launched in 1999 as part of the Moore's "America's Best Comics" imprint - a series of titles released by Jim Lee's WildStorm studio. Every title in the imprint was overseen by Moore, if not written - consider it a predeccessor of DC's current curated imprints like Young Animal, WildStorm, and Sandman Universe.
And as we mentioned, Moore is the same writer who penned Watchmen. That title and other work Moore did for DC spawned several disagreements between the writer and the company about creator's writes and merchandising. Eventually, in the late 1980's, Moore parted ways with DC and began sticking to independent comic books, including – eventually - WildStorm.
But soon after the introduction of Tom Strong, Lee sold WildStorm to DC Comics, returning the writer to the DC fold even though he'd sworn to never work with them again. And although DC claimed they wouldn't interfere with Moore's work, disagreements about some League of Extraordinary Gentlemen content emerged and Moore eventually backed away from the ABC properties - and DC, once again.
The writer has been vocal about his dislike for the way the characters he created have been utilized by DC, including specific disagreements about ownership of the Watchmen and how his other works have been adapted and re-used.
However, DC just recently introduced the Watchmen characters into their main DC Universe for the first time. And now - with this week's The Terrifics #1 - Tom Strong and his universe of characters will also be joining the DCU.
What's To Come?
Announcements by DC indicate that Tom Strong and his family will be joining the cast of The Terrifics in the next few issues. Art for the first issue's cover indicates that the introductory story will include Tom's wife Dhalua, daughter Tesla, their steam-powered robot friend Pneuman and another ally, the genius gorilla King Solomon.
According to The Terrifics writer Jeff Lemire, the incorporation Tom Strong is not only a way for Lemire to get his hands on a favorite character, but the adventure hero is what Lemire calls "tonally a perfect match for The Terrifics."
"He's not the first storyline, although he appears in the first storyline. I don't want to spoil that. He's a big part of the book," Lemire explained. "The adventure with Tom Strong and his family will be something we build toward and something I'm really looking forward to. That's a character I love, and I have a lot of affection for."