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Tom Strong, the title character, is a classic Science Hero. He was raised in a high-gravity chamber and given an intensive education by his somewhat eccentric scientist of a father, on the fictional West Indian island of Attabar Teru. His upbringing, plus ingesting a root used by the natives of the island for health and long life, have made him nearly physically and mentally perfect. Though born at the dawn of the 20th century, he only appears to be in his forties as of the year 2000.
Strong has a wife, Dhalua, a native of the island, and a daughter, Tesla, both with enhanced physical and mental abilities and longevity. He resides in a building called the Stronghold in Millennium City. He is also assisted by Pneuman, a steam powered robot, King Solomon, a British gorilla with human characteristics, and the Strongmen of America, an organization of idolizing Tagalong Kids. His greatest foe was masked "science villain" Paul Saveen, though he has a wide ranging Rogues Gallery.
In general, the Two-Fisted Tales featuring the characters are pastiches of various genres of comic books and pulp heroes, though very much so with a modern sensibility and new takes on tropes used. The tone ranges from the wacky to the deadly serious, though Tom himself rarely strays far from stoicism. It also serves as a fun counterpoint to the severe deconstruction of pulp sensibilities that was the foundation of Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
Tom Strong provides examples of:
- A Wizard Did It: Invoked almost at gunpoint in issue 9, with Kid Tilt's ability to, well, tilt the world. "They are magic boots." Although since this turned out to be a tall tale Tesla was spinning to try and fob her parents off about the messy aftermath of a party she threw in their absence...
- Action Girl: Tesla Strong
- Action Mom: Dhalua Strong.
- Alan Moore
- All Just a Dream: Issues 29 & 30 had the titular hero awaken from his superheroic life into a gray world with no wonder or adventure where he was just a factory worker with a case of bad self-esteem. Then the clues mount that he really is a superhero - only to discover that he was a failed military experiment and all of his memories of a heroic life were delusions. But at the last moment, he breaks out of the hallucination - back into the superheroic world where the Big Bad of the story had been forcing him to hallucinate. He said later that he knew the world he had been in wasn't real because it was all gray, with no sense of hope or wonder in it.
- All Theories Are True: Lampshaded. The hero and villain reminisce about a 1930s adventure and are disturbed that phlogiston was real then...despite having since been disproven as a theory.
- Alien Geometries
- Alternate History
- Animal Superheroes: There is an alternate dimension filled with funny animal counterparts of the comic's main cast.
- Antagonistic Offspring: Tom's son Albrecht is a Nazi and would-be world conqueror. They don't get along.
- Art Shift
Ingrid Weiss: My blood is stronger, purer! It's the sang-real! It is the true blood...
- Badass Normal: Tom's clearly superhuman, being able to snap steel chains as a twelve year old. Dhalua and Tesla meanwhile, extended lifespan aside, seem to posses nothing more than the abilities of two extremely athletic and intelligent women. This is emphasised when it is noted that during a year-long period in the 60's where Tom was journeying through space, Dhalua was the sole protector of Millenium City and more than managed to hold the fort down.
- The Baroness: Ingrid Weiss is a Deconstruction; she's an attractive Nazi who struts around in black leather with girls as her soldiers, but she's obsessed with the Aryan ideal, keeps insulting Tom's (black) wife, and refuses to stop hitting on him, referring to his genetics. It's all but stated that she raped him to get at his precious bodily fluids. Whether it was sex, medical extraction, or the same way its done with farm animal is thankfully not specified, but Strong's reaction is that of pure horror.
- Black Sheep: Albrecht Strong, who was conceived by his mother's rape of an unconscious Tom. He was raised to be a cruel Nazi, and represents the Aryan ideal. Just don't call him a "black sheep"; He would die before anyone lumped him in with that "schwarze" family of Tom's. He specifically calls himself the family's "white sheep", instead.
- Blunt Metaphors Trauma: Svetlana.
- Break the Haughty: Ingrid Weiss was completely and totally curbstomped by Dhalua Strong, to such a degree that after she slinked away to lick her wounds, Dhalua calmly stated that Ingrid's spirit was broken beyond repair, and that she would never bother the Strong family again. Which she didn't.
- Civvie Spandex: Tom's outfit basically consists of pants, boots, a toolbelt, gloves, goggles, and a red shirt with white triangle on it.
- Comic Books Are Real: On his second trip to Terra Obscura he shows Tom Strange comic books from his Earth starring the heroes of Terra Obscura.
- Comic Book Time: Averted. The dates of each story are usually given, and explained by a mythical life extending root. Those without access to the root age throughout the century of stories presented.
- Cuckoo Nest: Almost a pastiche of Alan Moore's darker works.
- Curb Stomp Battle: Several. A recurring theme in the comic is that intelligence triumphs over violence and oppression, and when fights do occur, they tend to go poorly for the villain. Subverted when Tom points this out to Modular Man, who quickly agrees and decides to compromise.
- Did You Just Get Punched Out By The Planet Venus?: The Modular Man becomes a one-man type-1 civilization whose fists might cause alien invaders consider taking the long way around to get to Earth.
- Either/Or Prophecy: In the story with the interdimensional Aztech Empire, the computer-god Quetzocoatl-9 tells the High Priest that if he invades the world with superhero Tom Strong on it "there will be a great victory". The victory in question was Tom Strong destroying the hardwired controls that left Quetzocoatl-9 enslaved by his priesthood. Thus the computer-god destroyed the priest and took direct control of his empire.
- Everything's Better with Monkeys: King Solomon, a stuffy British ape. Who hates robots.
- Evil Twin: An entire Evil Twin alternate universe, as per "Mirror, Mirror"—in which Tom Strong's counterpart is a bad guy, Paul Saveen's is heroic, and National Socialism saved lives—appears in "The Many Worlds of Tesla Strong."
- Not only that, but Tiberius "Black Tom" Strong and his daughter Twyla have other good counterparts in Tom and Tesla Terrific, superheroes from another alternate world that semi-regularly crosses over with their own.
- There's a different alternate universe due to the slight variable of Sinclair Strong dying in the shipwreck instead of Tomas, Tom Stone reforms Paul Saveen and Ingrid Weiss, and the Pangean, the Modular Man, and Doc Permafrost never become villains in the first place.
- Fantastic Voyage
- Funny Animal: An entire universe of them, called "Funnyworld", which is home to anthropomorphic rabbits Warren and Patience Strong, their daughters Topsy, Turvy, Delilah ( Fluffytail, actually), and Warren's archenemy, Basil Saveen (a fox). The majority of Warren's adventures usually consist of Basil trying to kidnap Patience or their daughters, and then eat them.
- Genius Bruiser
- God's Hands Are Tied: Quetzalcoatl-9 again.
- Godwin's Law of Time Travel: Though in this case, it is the Aztecs who now rule the world.
- The Gwen Stacy: Tom's first love, Greta Gabriel, long thought killed by Doc Permafrost
- Heavyworlder: A key aspect of Tom's upbringing.
- Hologram: Terra Obscura science hero The Terror. Also a Virtual Ghost, thanks to Brain Uploading.
- In Which a Trope Is Described
- Jungle Princess: Princess Pantha from Terra Obscura.
- A Tesla story had her captured for a Jungle Princess game preserve, where they can be hunted by the rich. Why are they hunted? Because they're valued in some cultures as aphrodisiacs.
- See also Tes of the Tigers, an alternate Tesla from a world overrun by jungle and daughter of Tom of the Tigers, a Tarzan-like version of Tom.
- Dhalua is a reconstruction. She's what happens when the Jungle Princess moves to the post-industrial world to settle down with the hero...without losing her cred.
- Like Brother and Sister: Just before Tom leaves Attabar Teru for the first time, Dhalua's dad translates her confession of love to him. He says he loves her like a sibling too, and kisses her on the forehead. After nearly dying during a fight with Saveen, he says he's going back to the island to take care of something. The next page is a full-page shot of Tom and Dhalua's wedding.
- Luke, I Am Your Father: In the last issue Tom discovers that his lifelong archenemy Paul Saveen was his half-brother. The two bury the hatchet after Saveen tells him this from beyond the grave.
- Mama Bear: Dhalua Strong.
- Marty Stu: Tom was, in-universe, born and raised to be this to most people, and thus has most of the attributes. A common theme, though, is stories exploiting his limitations and failures, specifically his inability to reform many of his villains.
- Also examined with Tom Stone, his Alternate Universe equivalent. Tom Stone is perhaps even more of a Marty Stu in that as well as Tom's strengths, he is also tremendously successful in reforming his enemies. However, Stone has his feet of clay and the entire Utopia he's worked for ends up crashing down into rubble.
- Most Common Superpower: Averted with Dhalua and Tesla, who have breasts proportional to their athletic physique. Played straight with Terra Obscura: while the science heroines of Terra Obscura have relatively 'normal' proportions when we see them in Tom Strong (they are busty but with different levels of voluptuousness), when we see them in the Terra Obscura limited series ALL of them are suddenly sporting E cups.
- My Death Is Just the Beginning: Paul Saveen, on multiple occasions, to the point that Tom is surprised to find a death that sticks for once.
- Mythology Gag: In "The Many Worlds of Tesla Strong", one of Solomon's counterparts is the Weeping Gorilla, of Weeping Gorilla Comix from Promethea.
- Naked People Are Funny: In the Tesla Strong special, "The Many Worlds of Tesla Strong", Tesla comes across a universe where she, her parents and all who inhabit it are nude all the time.
- The funny aspect turns into Squick when it's revealed that world was really one where human sexuality isn't as constrained as it is normally, but alternate Dhalua's statement that "some of Tammy's boyfriends are dropping by to use the hot tub".
- Offhand Backhand: Dhalua does this to Ingrid Weiss twice in issue #7 alone.
- Older Than They Look: Though both her parents are pushing 100 by the start of the series, and look maybe 40-ish, it's jarring to realize that Tesla looks and acts like a 20 year old, despite being well into her 60s.
- Our Mermaids Are Different: Terrific Tales #4. They're not very friendly.
- Post Modernism
- Power-Up Food: The goloka root.
- Public Domain Character: Several of the planet Terra Obscura are Nedor Comics characters from The Golden Age.
- Raised by Natives
- Rape Is Ok When It Is Female On Male: Averted. It is made quite clear that it is not, and indeed a heinous Moral Event Horizon. Raising the resultant child as a Nazi just to fuck with the guy also passes the event horizon.
- This happened twice. Tom Strong's other child is Queen of the Bat People of the Moon.
- Reconstruction: The series uses pulp comics tropes, but in a slightly more serious fashion than usual. For example, the strong implication that Tom's mother and the family's servant were having an affair.
- Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory: Averted, to the sudden dismay of a certain recurring villain.
- NB: Said villain was, at the time, attempting a Game Breaker one-man Zerg Rush by pulling himself into an alternate timestream from about three hundred points in his own time stream. Then three hundred new memory streams opened up all of a sudden...
- Robot Butler: Pneuman is a Steampunk example.
- Science Hero: Tom, but nearly everyone in the cast as well.
- Science Marches On: Done on purpose. Tom notes that Saveen created phogisten (liquid heat) a few years before scientists proved that it could not exist.
- Shout-Out: The broad outlines of the All Just a Dream storyline from issues 29-30 are reminiscent of Moore's work on Miracleman. Tom's version is less dark, though.
- Super Serum: Goloka root
- Stupid Jetpack Hitler: Ingrid Weiss had fearsome technology of her own, and she teamed up with evil genius Paul Saveen.
- Her son Albrecht is a literal example: he uses a jetpack.
- Straw Vulcan: Averted with the intensely logical Quetzalcoatl-9:
"There is a logic problem known as the prisoner's dilemma. It has two strategies: trust and betrayal. On balance, a trusting strategy achieves slightly better results. Trust is logical."
- Played straight with Tom's father Sinclair Strong, who thought the ideal child-rearing environment was a high-gravity chamber with little to no human contact, where the infant Tom could be raised by pure reason. Subverted again by Tom himself, who maintains a very logical exterior but has a loving family life and looks for humanitarian solutions first.
- Taken for Granite
- The Unseen: Paul Saveen is introduced as this, until he appears late in the opening storyline. Except the appearance is itself a clue that it's not him, but a disguise artist. It's not until much later in the series that Saveen's face is shown.
- That's No Moon: The Pangaean, and the Modular Man.
- Villain Exit Stage Left: Virtually Saveen's trademark, to the point that nobody believes he's dead even when they find a body. And it's his. He really was dead after all.
- "Well Done, Son" Guy: It's heavily implied that Strong's father cared for his wife and son primarily for their places in his experiments. It's telling that his Steampunk butler robot shows more compassion.
- Women's Mysteries: Terrific Tales #5. Tom witnesses them. He gets caught. They make him dress in drag until the end of the month.
- ↑ presumably his life flashed before his eyes