I know almost nothing about Top 10. I know it’s a comic that exists and was part of Moore’s ABC line alongside titles like Tom Strong and Promethea (I love both of them). I know Alan Moore wrote it and I know Gene Ha and Zander Cannon drew it. I know it’s about 12 issues long and it has 2 spin offs written by Moore: Smax drawn by Cannon and Forty Niners drawn by Ha. I know it has another spin off that wasn’t written by Moore, and this one I don’t care about to be honest (please tell me if I’m wrong and I should give it a chance sometime in the future).
I know it’s about superheroes? And a police precinct? So maybe the superheroes are also cops? Is Alan Moore going to talk about the inherent fascist nature of super heroes? What does super heroes as cops looks like in 2020? How do we defund the police when they have super powers? How does Top 10 informs Zander Cannon’s KAIJUMAX? How does this fare against Morrison’s The Green Lantern? Will I dare compare it to HBO’s WATCHMEN? Is this Alan Moore’s My Hero Academia? I honestly have no idea. But I’ll read one issue and report here my thoughts on it while I try to make sense of it all. If I’ll love this as much as I love Tom Strong is hard to say, but I’m excited to read it.
“There’ll be no mob justice today! trust in the Law!” – Alan Moore, probably.
Top 10 #1 (1999)
First things first: the covers. Alex Ross did the main cover just like he did for Tom Strong and Promethea’s first issues. It’s a nice cover but not quite as good as the other two, even if it fits well with the tone of the book overall. Here justice rains from above, with the characters themselves crashing down, not on the reader since they’re not coming directly at us, but maybe at the citizens of Neopolis. It makes us complicit. Ha and Cannon did a variant cover, which is good but not particularly great. It looks like a poster for a procedural cop show, like CSI:NEOPOLIS. Now that I think about it that actually is a great cover.
The first page is striking, a 4 panel page showing the interiors of a subway car where, at first, everything seems normal, just a few normal people talking about normal things. Eventually these people get off the car and new people get in. They look like super heroes.
Now, they don’t exactly look like super heroes as much as they’re just dressed as super heroes. They’re normal people, they’re just the new normal.
The art by Ha and Cannon is gorgeous here, it puts you in the mood for this story. What that means is, it’s dirty, it’s oppressive and it’s claustrophobic. The pages are so clustered with information, ads, people, garbage. The City looks like a violent, oppressive place by its architecture alone. It doesn’t look like something built for “normal people”, everything is huge, it looks like it was made for Giants or Gods. The city does not care for its citizens, it only cares for itself.
When we compare Neopolis to Tom Strong’s Millennium City the difference is pretty clear. Neopolis, the city where a story about super powered cops takes place, was literally built by nazis after WW2. It’s a hateful place. Millennium City as drawn by Chris Sprouse on the other hand looks like a place built to suit its citizens needs, after all Tom Strong may be a science hero but his emblem was made to evoke that of certain Superhero, and his city was made to reflect that.
So why does a city with such a strong police force feels so decadent? Why does it look so violent, so hateful? Is it not the police’s job to protect and serve its citizens? Much like the city itself, Top 10 does not care.
We see these characters, these men and women working the force, being at best indifferent to those they should be helping. Sometimes they’re outright offensive and dismissive.
If every citizen in Neopolis is supposedly a science hero much like Tom Strong himself, is Top 10 necessary? If super heroes are the new normal does that make the presence of the police force necessary? If the person making coffee and hotdogs has heat vision is the police necessary?
Top 10 has the budget of a Multiverse, perhaps that’d be better off spent somewhere else.
This one issue raises a lot of questions and I’m excited to see where this goes.
Where Tom Strong is a love letter to pulp heroes and 60s comics, Top 10 depicts Moore’s frustration with what the thing he loved has become, or at least with how it treated him as a creator. At least a couple of Tom Strong’s covers are homages to Fantastic Four where in Top 10 a Mr Fantastic pastiche is a decrepit old man trying to beat his wife.
Top 10 being a comic as much about superheroes as it is about the police, I couldn’t not talk about everything going on in 2020, namely Black Lives Matter. Now, being a white cis male from Brazil I don’t think I have anything of value to add to the conversation, so I asked for help. I asked my friend Gabriel Cunha, a 22 year old black man (from Brazil like myself) some questions about super powers and the police.
My first question was what’d be his reaction to a super powered police force. Here’s a translation of what he said to me: “I’d fear them even more, this super powered police, cause I see that the police behavior is so related to intimidation and power over the population, and if that already happens with normal cops in uniforms carrying weapons, a super powered cop would only make things worse. I think I’d be more apprehensive and always vigilant, cause the police already treat me and my peers as suspects at first sight and everything I hear from people close to me are complaints in that regard. Police brutality would only grow and the vulnerable black community would be targeted even more. This would be completely dystopic, we don’t need to go far to find cases of police brutality where people end up dead, this happens all over the world, and that’s why a movement like BLACK LIVES MATTER is important and is being adhered basically everywhere. Another question is the relation between the Police and the State and how the police force represents the control over the population, and in the world we live in that means the constant need to violently punish marginalized people.” That’s painful to hear, specially from someone you love. I then asked him a quick follow up question: “Do you think that if everyone had powers the police force would make itself necessary?”
His answer was: “I don’t think the police would make itself necessary in this case, as it isn’t in the world we live in today. I think that would only escalate the oppression, nothing would be solved through diplomacy but over a constant fight for power.”
As Columbo would say “One more thing”. The main character is named Robyn and she’s, basically, a sidekick for Smax. Smax is a big, strong, individualistic hero. Is Robyn going to show that being a lone wolf and a lose cannon does not pay? If Tom Strong represents a Super Man, and Promethea is a Woman of Legend, can Smax represent a man that, much like a Bat, thinks of himself as an apex predator but in reality works better as part of a team? Since all my knowledge comes from comic books that’s what I think bats are like but I might be wrong. I’ve only read the first issue so I honestly have no idea. But as Grant Morrison said in SUPERGODS, their book about super heroes: “Superman is a Socialist hero, Batman is a Capitalist hero”, or something like that.. All I know is, Sargent Ceasar is an anthropomorphic Dog, he’s polite and dresses somewhat elegantly, and is also in a position of authority much like Principal Nezu. This is just the first proof that Top 10 is Alan Moore’s My Hero Academia.
“The other guys are mostly dogs, lesbians and devil worshippers. They seem okay.”