Tomorrow Stories 9 – Splash Brannigan
Below are annotations for Tomorrow Stories, No. 9 “Splash of Two Worlds!” (6 pages, February 2001)
Writer: Alan Moore (AM), Artist: Hilary Barta (HB)
>return to Splash Brannigan annotations index
Note: some of this stuff is obvious, some very very obvious… but you never know who’s reading this and what their exposure is to any given reference. Apologies for stuff that’s too obvious to you. If there’s stuff I missed or got wrong, let me know in comments, or email linton.joe [at] gmail.com
General notes: Overall this is just a big fight scene pitting black Splash Brannigan vs. white Splash Branningan. I am not sure that that conflict references any specific comic book battle, but there are plenty of superheroes who have extensive evenly-matched battles with similarly powered nemesis. The Hulk vs. the Abomination comes to mind, but there the story includes allusions to Superman vs. Bizarro Superman, too.
- The overall panel (as well as the title of the story, and the “watch for falling girders” sign) is a take-off on Flash No. 123 “Flash of Two Worlds” which brings together the 1960s Flash and the 1940s Flash, famous for initiating the concept of parallel earth realities. This cover (penciled by artist Carmine Infantino, inked by Murphy Anderson) is one of best, most recognizable and most parodied/swiped/homaged in comics history.
- On the left, the dinosaur lizard is Godzilla. Why is he there? Perhaps because he tears down buildings, hence he causes the sort of half-built buildings that appear in this panel, and on the original Flash cover it references.
- “Overshoe Cement Co.” is probably a reference to the practice of gangsters drowning their victims by sealing the victim’s feet in concrete, then throwing the victim off of a pier. Perhaps it’s here because the sacks of concrete are on the original Flash cover, but without their proximity to a construction worker, it’s difficult to tell what they are, hence AM and HB want to label them “concrete.”
- The three-legged creature is a Martian tripod, originally from H.G. Wells novel War of the Worlds. AM explored these in the second volume of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Like Godzilla, I think that the tripod is there because it destroys buildings. The top of the tripod looks a bit like the head of Forbush Man (image) or Fat Albert’s friend Dumb Donald, though it’s probably just a tripod drawn in a cartoony way.
- The mouse throwing the brick is Ignatz from George Herriman’s comic strip Krazy Kat. I think he’s there to tie in to the bricks in the original Flash cover. Ignatz frequently throws bricks at Krazy Kat who sees this as a loving gesture.
- The machinery here (and a lot of Hilary Barta’s style in general, I think, including his idealized women) is somewhat of a homage to comic book artist Wally Wood‘s drawings of sci-fi machinery (examples here.)
- “Dangerous untested rays, unstable chemicals, radioactive radios,” are plays on the various tropes used in superhero origin stories. Examples: Spider-man was bitten by a radioactive spider. The Fantastic Four’s costumes are made out of unstable molecules.
- Use the comments if you can identify that robot in the upper right.
- “The imperfect duplicator beam” (and indeed the entire plot of this issue) references the duplicating ray that created Bizarro. It took place in Superboy No. 68 published in 1958. Bizarro is an “imperfect duplicate” of Superman; evil where Superman is good, etc. They fight, evenly, often. (And there are other duplicator ray stories! See these covers.)
- The scientist Heinrich is staring at Miss Screensaver’s breasts.
- No references I found, but I love the “squint and rattle” approach!
- The green creature running behind Miss Screensaver and Splash looks like The Toxic Avenger, which would also explain the “fun with toxic waste” sign.
- One nice detail on, let’s call him the “Colorless Counterpart” (ie: the white Splash), is that the S on his chest is a mirror image (reversed S) of Splash’s. The Splashes are fully mirror images of each other, down to the ?!/!? word balloons (same mirroring on panel 4, 5 this page, etc.)
- “Only one sensible comic-book way to resolve this” means a fight, pretty much a mandatory feature of every mainstream superhero comic book from the 40s through the present day.
- I thought that “ABC for me, see?” was Moore’s version of “Make Mine Marvel,” (image example) a phrase which appeared in various locations (bullpen columns, letter pages) on Marvel Comics in the 1960s. ABC is America’s Best Comics, AM’s comic imprint under which all of the Splash Brannigan stories appeared. Commenter Danmark pointed out that it is a reference to the 1954 Harvey Kurtzman and Wally Wood Mad comics No.4 story Superduperman, which included a plan towing a banner that reads “E.C. FOR ME, SEE?”
- “White is the new black” (etc. panel 2 through 5) is a “snowclone” cliche phrase structure that dates to the 1960s when fashion designer is misquoted as saying that that pink was the new black. The general structure is “X is the new Y” – though AM plays around with this structure even, questioning “is,” “the,” and “new.”
- The buck-toothed character in the bathing suit and inner tube looks familiar – like something from Mad or by Basil Wolverton, but I looked around and didn’t find it. Maybe it’s just the humor of the fool rushing into the fight while other people are running away.
Page 4 (very clever, but I didn’t spot any specific references)
- “Solid citizens” is a play on the Splashes being liquid vs. people being solid, also the language that a “solid citizen” means a morally upstanding person.
- Panels 3 through 6 depict the water cycle.
- The guy in the car marked “Todd” has a haircut that looks like a number of Will Elder Mad characters: the narrator of “The Raven,” or the zoo professor in “Mickey Rodent.” The hair is similar The Spirit character Police Commissioner Eustace Dolan. But none of them answer to the name “Todd” – readers?
- Not sure about “Larry’s Guns” either. There’s a Larry’s Guns in Maine. There’s an underground comics artist named Larry Todd… but neither of those seem to fit here for any reason I can discern. Readers?
- “We could coexist, like on a piano keyboard” echoes the lyrics of the 1982 hit song ‘Ebony and Ivory’ by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder: “Ebony and ivory live together in perfect harmony / Side by side on my piano keyboard” (Thanks commenter darkmark)
- “Conflict resolution ray” reminds me a bit of Reed Richards “anti-cosmic flying wing” from Fantastic Four No. 59-60. Richards is shown working on a prototype, then the device shows up right at the end of the story to take away the cosmic powers Doctor Doom has stolen from Silver Surfer. I think there are a few other implausible quick plot-resolution devices like this in flimsy comic book plots.
- “Never bet on the white guy” is a joke about boxing – from this scene in Naked Gun 2 1/2.