Notes to Top Ten #1

by Jess Nevins

Revised 24 March 2002

Updates in blue.


Working from left to right and top to bottom, we see: Dust Devil (to the left of “Top”), Jack Phantom, Toybox, Girl One, Kemlo Caesar, King Peacock, Peregrine. John Dorrian notes that Smax and Wolfspider are both there, but are somewhat obscured by the Top Ten logo. (For somewhat more information on them, see my Who’s Who page) Brian Robison says, "On the far left, Shock-Headed Peter's left hand is visible. On the far right, one of Wolfspider's exoskeleton right hands is visible. Ergo, the exoskeleton partially obscured by the Top Ten logo would seem to be Irma Geddon's, not Wolfspider's."

Note Toy Box’s shirt riding up on her and Jack Phantom’s salacious look at same. As we see on page 30, panel 3, she’s a lesbian and quite out.

Page 1

Panel 1. This is our first real look at what life would be like (or what Moore thinks life would be like) in a world in which everyone had superpowers.

The billboard:

“Latest S.T.O.R.M. statistics in Neopolis Newsday.”
S.T.O.R.M., as we’ll learn in issue #2, is “Sexually Transmitted Organic Rapid Mutation,” the Top Ten version of AIDS. Neopolis, as we’ll learn at the end of this issue, is the home city of Top Ten.

“Time for a change of outfit? Stop in at the Phone Booth!”
This is a reference to the comic book cliché of the superhero running into the phone booth to change from his civilian clothing into his or her superhero costume. I know that this cliché was played upon in the first Superman movie, but I cannot recall actually seeing it in a comic book.

“1 Million Cured! Logan’s DNA Dietary Supplement. With Extra Adamantium!”
“Logan” is the first/last/only name of Wolverine of Marvel’s X-Men. Logan is a mutant with the ability to heal from almost any wound. His skeleton was, for years, lined with the fictional, super-hard metal “adamantium.” It makes sense that a superhero universe would not advertise iron supplements but another, super-metal.

“Hold it! Better call Action Insurance!”
This ad is a reference to the famous cover of Action #1 (go here to see the original). A city such as Neopolis, where everyone had superpowers, would of course require exceptional, even “super,” property and automobile insurance, especially when characters could easily use automobiles as weapons as Superman did on the cover of Action #1.

“Nikee–the Speedster’s Choice!”
Nike, here on Earth-Prime, is the copyrighted and trademarked name of a sneaker company. Nike is also the winged Greek goddess of victory. Superspeedsters would, naturally, need super-tough sneakers.

Ronald Byrd sees a similarity between the woman in the "Blast Brew" ad and DC's Big Barda.

“Injured? Call...Legion of Super-Lawyers”
This is a reference to DC’s Legion of Superheroes, the heroes operating a millennium from the present. The Legion has, in its past, had two dozen and more active members, which is why you’d want to call the “Legion of Super-Lawyers.” Strength in numbers, and all that.

The woman sitting in the middle of the panel is Toy Box, also seen on the cover.

Panel 3. Alberto Pacios notes that "the girl has a violet Robin outfit... with its "R" design, in fact."

Panel 4. A leveret is “a hare in its first year of life.”

Just a guess, mind you, but given his appearance might the older man on the far end of the bench be Aleister Crowley? He has what looks like an upside-down star (the symbol of Satan, don’t you know) on the top of his staff, an A on his chest, a wizardly look, and the general appearance of Crowley.

Page 2.

Panel 1. As we’ll see in the essay at the end of this issue, Neopolis is more-or-less the result of many different fictional styles coming together, everything from science to magic, which is reflected in many ways throughout this series. One of them is the architecture of Neopolis, vividly displayed here. There’s everything from very futuristic constructions to a floating, turreted (minareted?) House.

Panel 2. If “Bronzeman” is a joke, pun, or reference, I don’t get it. Several people have mentioned that it might be a reference to Doc Savage, aka the "Man of Bronze," but I tend to think that that's a reach. Marcelo de Castro Bastos adds,

Besides being a rather obvious reference to all the superbeings associated with metals (Marvel's "Iron Man" and "Titanium Man", DC's Metal Men, Superman's "Man of Steel" moniker), it might also be a reference to Doc Savage, the "Man of Bronze." Also, the masked chauffeur is a reference to a number of rich crimefighters with chauffeur sidekicks, from DC's Crimson Avenger to the Green Hornet.
Astrocitizen says, of the chauffeur, that
My idea on the chauffeur -- his facemask resembles many of the kind seen in Eric Larsen’s The Savage Dragon, plus "Bronzeman” was the original name for the Dragon’s archenemy OverLord back when the Dragon was still a back-up feature in Megaton and other indie comic books.
Astrocitizen also notes the presence of Reynard, speaking on the cell phone, who we'll see later, in issue #2 (page 13) and issue #9 (page 14).

Note “Super-Elvis” next to the super-chauffeur, what what looks like an overweight Batwoman (from the grade-Z stinker “Wild Wild World of Batwoman") in the lower right. Astrocitizen disagrees with my identification of this character as an overweight Batwoman and instead sees her as an older version of DC's Black Canary.

Page 3.

Panel 1. The woman is bearing a Maltese Cross, which has traditionally been used by the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, otherwise known as the “Knights Hospitaller,” one of the more militant and formidable Orders of the Church. Which brings me no closer to figuring out who this woman is meant to be, but maybe one of you will get it.

Astrocitizen says

To the left of the Maltese Cross woman is a man who resembles Albert Einstein; a  reference to First Comics’ run of E-Man? Also, the guy at the bottom of the panel looks like he’s wearing The Thinker’s thinking cap but I’m sure that’s just me.
Panel 2. More stylistic variety, this time in vehicles. (Last time I’ll point this sort of thing out, I swear)

Panel 6. Rob Means asks, "Isn't that the Batmobile (Neal Adams or Jim Aparo era)?"

Page 4.

Panel 1. The billboard ad, “Red K Kola...His Secret Weakness,” is a reference to Superman’s main weakness, Kryptonite. (That is, Superman before his origins and abilities were revised in “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” but never mind that for now). Kryptonite, in case you don’t know, is an element from Superman’s home planet of “Krypton.” There were several different varieties of Kryptonite, and each had different effects. Gold Kryptonite would rob Superman (or any other Kryptonian) of all of their powers. Green Kryptonite caused Kryptonians great pain, weakened, and would eventually kill them if they were exposed to it for long enough. Red Kryptonite would cause a specific, usually bizarre, effect of limited duration to occur in each Kryptonian; Red Kryptonite was the variety responsible for giving Superman the ant-head, turning him into a gorilla, etc. It is Red Kryptonite, or “Red K,” which is being referred to here. (For the incurably curious, Anti-Kryptonite affects non-super-powered Kryptonians the way Green K affected super-powered Kryptonians. X-Kryptonite gives Earth cats Kryptonian superpowers for a short while. White Kryptonite kills plant matter. Blue Kryptonite affects Bizarros [odd and imperfect duplicates of Superman and other Earth figures] the way that Green K affects Kryptonians. Jewel Kryptonite allows residents of the other-dimensional Phantom Zone to cause explosions in this dimension.)

Ronald Byrd adds,

It may be too obvious to have mentioned, but the precinct's exterior bears a striking resemblance to the Hall of Justice from Super Friends.  The two smaller, male statues appear to be holding Phantom Zone Projectors; since the Phantom Zone served as a prison for Krypton's criminals, that motif seems quite appropriate for a police station.
Nick Ford sees a resemblance between Top Ten's precinct building and the Ministry of Information in Terry Gilliam's Brazil.

Panel 2. The woman’s comment about her son, that he has to be “immersed in sea water every twelve hours, or...that’s it!” is a reference to the clichéd weakness of heroes from the sea, which I believe was a limitation of both Marvel’s Namor and DC’s Aquaman at one time or another. Both were said to be weakened by separation from the sea, and would have to be immersed in salt water by a certain time or they would die.

Page 5.

Panel 1. “Angus” is, of course, a Scottish name (the character’s full name is “Aberdeen Angus”), and there is such a thing as Angus beef, so....Steven E. McDonald adds that "this is a somewhat English in-joke, referring to a comic Scottish stereotype.  Sideways reference to "Black Angus" beef." CleV adds that "there is a chain of steakhouses called Aberdeen Angus in the UK." Paul Duggan adds, "Aberdeen Angus cattle are a black breed of beef cattle, first bred in Scotland."

Shock-Headed Peter (at the desk) seems to be using a manual typewriter that’s been forcibly joined with a word-processor. Much of Neopolis’ technology seems to be a kludge of different styles and eras. tphile points out that the typewriter has the head of Robby the Robot, from Forbidden Planet.

Panel 3. “Lilliput” was the land in Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels which was full of the tiny beings.

Panel 4. I’m at a loss as to what “Kemlo” might be a reference to, unless it’s to the Kemlo series, about a group of boys living in space. There’s also this definition of the word, though I’m not sure either fit Sgt. Caesar. Steven E. McDonald adds, in re my last comment, that "Oh yeah, they do!  The Sarge lives up to his name, I think, in later issues."

Page 8.

Panel 2. Besides the flying Nazi on the right side of the panel, the only thing I recognize in this panel are Nick Park’s characters Wallace and Gromit (for more information on whom go here) in the middle of the panel. There’s also the ad, on the left side, for “Absolut Kirby,” a reference to the Absolut vodka line of ads. In this case the ad makes use of “Kirby dots,” the illustrative shorthand that comic book giant Jack Kirby used to show large amounts of energy.

Paul Duggy Duggan notes that "The car in front of Wallace and Gromit reminds me of the fighters from the 80s `Buck Rogers in the 25th Century' TV series."

Page 9.

Panel 4. The ad on the side of the truck is for “Ray Palmer Plumbing.” Ray Palmer is DC’s Atom (II), whose power is to shrink down to sub-atomic size. That ability would obviously be of great use to a plumber, and is a good illustration of Moore’s comment about Top Ten, which I’m going to paraphrase, that superpowers are all well and good, but how do they help you with your job?

CleV points out that the woman next to the police car is dressed like Zatanna, DC's spell-casting heroine.

Jason Adams notes the presence of a young Mage (from Matt Wagner's comic of the same name) in front of the police car.

Alberto Pacios says, "I find the woman looks like Julie from The Maxx..."

Pages 10-11.

Trent “Dr. Incredible” Teller, his wife Shirley “Beach Ball” Teller, their former group “The Protectors,” and Shirley’s former admirer Prince Pyron Salamander, is a reference to Marvel’s Fantastic Four. Dr. Incredible has the same stretching ability as Reed “Mr. Fantastic” Richards, and one of the basic aspects of the Fantastic Four is that Prince Namor the Sub-Mariner is in love with Susan “Invisible Girl/Woman” Richards, and she is attracted to him, but not so much as she is to Reed.

Ronald Byrd notes the presence of Galactus' helmet in the cupboard on Page 10, Panel 4. Galactus is a cosmic being who consumes the life force from planets in Marvel comics, and is traditionally opposed by the Fantastic Four. tphile, among others, notes Krypto (if that is him) on Page 11, Panel 5; Krypto was Superman's dog, during the Silver Age, and had all of Superman's powers.

s2124 says, of the dog on Page 11, Panel 5, that "this is Superman's pet Krypto (albeit with an "A" cape). There was a story in Adventure in the mid-60s where Krypto became a movie star and Superboy to teach him a lesson gave him a drug to remove his powers and Krypto was cast out into an alley looking like he does here."

Page 12.

Panel 3. Ronald Byrd notes:

One of the bystanders is apparently a cyborg or a semi-human-looking android; he looks a lot like Woody Allen disguised as a robot in Sleeper.
Page 13.

Panel 2. I might as well point this out now. King Peacock is Yazidi (or Yezidi), which is a Kurdish faith whose members worship “the devil,” the rebel angel Melek Taus. This is why King Peacock swears by the “good devil.” (For more information on the Yazidi and King Peacock, go here and here )

Panel 3. There may be another reference here, but Toybox’s toys remind me of nothing so much as the creepy amalgam toys in the movie “Toy Story.” In that movie a particularly cruel child enjoyed blowing up toys, and the toys would put themselves back together again after being blown up, to repair themselves, only the repair would be imperfect and made up of the parts of different toys. The cumulative effect was creepy.

Andrea Brockelman corrects the preceeding and says,

in the movie Toy Story Sid, the evil neighbor kid, actually does the "rearranging" of the toys. He actually decapitates one of
Janie's (his sister) dolls and puts its head on another body (haven't seen it recently but I think it was a pterodactyl). The toys do fix themselves/each other when broken, but back to the state that Sid had originally created.
Page 14.

Panel 3. “Synaesthetic” means “harmony of different or opposing impulses produced by a work of art.” How this applies to Syn is another question.

Okay, okay. As about three dozen people pointed out, I completely missed out on the point of Synaesthesia Jackson's name. To quote Ronald Byrd:

Re "synaesthetic," part of Synaesthesia's power is that she is able to perceive sensory input where it does not seem to exist and via senses not associated with such input, i.e. "smelling windchimes," "tasting bitter ashes" by touch, and, of course, the infamous distant sound of Beethoven associated with the murder of Saddles; distinctive people leave distinct audial, tactile, etc. evidence that she can detect.  Hence the "harmony of different or opposing impulses" reference.
Michael Battle points out the Synaesthesia Index. Steven E. McDonald contributes the following:
She suffers from/exists in a permanent state of synaesthesia.  As a medical condition, this means that the brain ends up cross-wired, so that sounds are perceived, for example, as smells, and colors are perceived as tastes, and so on.  There is some thought that such a condition could have benefits in terms of how we individually interpret stimuli, allowing for a finer perception of details.  The trick would then be to interpret those results for communication to others, or for practical use.

The protagonist of Alfred Bester's The Stars My Destination, Gulliver Foyle, undergoes massive trauma towards the end of the book, and spends a fair bit of time in a synaesthetic state.

Kelly Doran sends this:
"Synaesthesia" in this context is a neural cross-wiring in the brain that enables people to perceive in unusual ways-- seeing sounds, tasting colors, hearing smells (as Syn "hears" the scent of perfume as Beethoven's "Ode to Joy"), etc. Syn seems to have an extreme case of synaethetic perception on a number of levels, which may count as a superpower because it brings things to her attention that other folks may miss. It'd explain why she's a detective. It would also explain Irma's remark in issue 8(?)  about "those of us with the more useful...uh, *visual* powers"-- synaesthesia wouldn't seem to be much good in a flat-out fight (i.e., in the context of a video game, useless).

The current issue of Smithsonian (Feb 2001) has an article on synaesthesia, if you're interested

Panel 4. “Stochastic” means “random or involving a random variable.”

Page 15.

Panel 1. The super-fast character appearing in several places at once works for “Zip Pizza: There in 30 Seconds.” Again, Moore is showing how superpowers would be used on the job. s2124 says, "note that the pizza deliveryman's clothes follow the color scheme of the Golden Age Flash."

Tijuana Bibles Bookstore would specialize in Tijuana Bibles, that is, early underground pornographic comics starring notable figures. For more information, go here and here, and for a sample, go here (don’t look here, kids–it’s sex!)

Jeff Bar notes that the "NDARIN" sign is a reference to the Mandarin, a Marvel supervillain who is Chinese in the comics, which is why his sign is lettered in that way here. Jeff also points out that "the small cartoon on the billboard at the top looks like a character from the animated Radiohead video `Paranoid Android'." Albert Pacios adds that the character is "the the protagonist of an animated ¿Mtv? series, called Robin."

RYard notes that the "BA/Sinis" sign is probably a reference to Underdog's enemy Simon Bar Sinister.

Page 16.

Panel 1. The names of the prostitutes, as mentioned, are “Miss April” and “Miss Ophidia.” “April,” as we’ll see on page 25, stands for “April Showers,” as in “Yellow Showers,” which kind of sexual practice that I’m not interested in thinking about. (Go ask someone else about it) “Ophidia” is a reference to “ophidian,” i.e. “Of, relating to, or resembling snakes.” (See, she’s scaly...)

Panel 2. “Gorgo” was actually a screen monster, ala Godzilla. It was a 1961 film–see the IMDB entry here–that was, to be fair, really bad.

Page 17.

Panel 1. Ronald Byrd points out the presence of Captain Barbeque, the cafeteria worker; this is his first appearance.

Lieutenant Peregrine’s name for Jeff Smax, “the Giant Despair,” is a reference to the Giant Despair in John Bunyan’s A Pilgrim’s Progress. The Giant Despair is the master of Doubting Castle and is one of Great-Heart’s victims. As a few people nudged me to mention, Peregrine is, as we'll later see, a Christian, A Pilgrim's Progress being a traditionally Christian text. Brian Robison adds, "The reference to Pilgrim's Progress suggests that it's no coincidence that Peregrine is Christian: the English word 'Pilgrim' is a corruption (by way of Middle English) of the Latin 'Peregrinus.'"

Panel 4. Jeff Bar points out that among the sound effects words on Girl One's body are "Snap," "Krackle," and "Pop," the phrases of the Rice Krispies cereal elves.

Page 18.

Panel 1. “Amazo” is a DC supervillain; he is an android with the abilities of the Justice League of America, so presumably "Amazo Pills" give one the ability to mimic other people’s superpowers. “Mongoose blood” was responsible for the superpowers of the Timely/Marvel Comics character the Whizzer. In USA Comics #1, cover dated August 1941, Dr. Emil Frank was deep in the African jungles with his son Bob when Bob came down with a fever. A snake tried to bite Bob only to be killed by a mongoose (yes, there are mongooses in Africa). This gives Dr. Frank the idea to give Bob a blood transfusion from the mongoose, which results in Bob Frank getting superspeed, and so he grows up to become the Whizzer. (Yes, I know that this is ridiculous. It was 1941, though; standards were lower for origin stories back then.) “Hyperdrene” has no source that I know of, besides being the obvious reference to the stimulant benzedrine. One would guess that hyperdrene would be a superstimulant.

Page 19.

Panel 2. Ronald Byrd notes the "I am the NRA" slogan on Irma Geddon's helmet.

Astrocitizen adds that "Dr. Decibel was also name of one of the super-villains automatically reformed in  Mark Gruenwald’s Squadron Supreme mini-series, and was responsible for the powers of their Black Canary-esque Lady Lark."

Panel 3. The graffito on the wall is a reference to the 1974 Marvel comic book Giant-Size Man-Thing. Back during the mid-1970s Marvel published a series of extra-large (giant-size, as a matter of fact) comics, similar to annuals. Marvel, at the time, was publishing Man-Thing, about a sentient, heroic man-shaped mass of swamp, so it followed that they’d have to publish a Giant-Size edition of the book. It was simply bad luck that it came out with the unfelicitous and eyebrow-raising title "Giant-Size Man-Thing."

Ronald Byrd, among others, notes the number of the shirt of the flame-throwing homeless man, and speculates that this might be "a reference to Johnny Storm, the Human Torch, perhaps re his brief period in the bowery from Fantastic Four #4?"

Nathan Alderman notes that "The lyric 'With great power comes funkability' is a nod to Stan Lee's classic motto for Spider-Man, 'With great power comes great responsibility.'"

Page 20.

Panel 1. There is such a thing as a wolf spider; go here and here and here for more information. CleV notes that there is a comedian in the UK named "Bill Bailey."

Page 21.

Panel 2. s2124 says, "would this hero be named Pink Cadillac (60's Cadillac tailfins and MOTOWN license)?" Brian Robison says, "The other adversary has a boar's head, a visible organic brain, and robotic this a Cyboarg?"

Page 22.

Panel 4. Astrocitizen says "With his `heh heh heh' laugh, thick glasses, and a few other facial features, Professor  Gromolko reminds me of Dr. Sivana or Dr. Gargunza."

Page 26.

Panel 2. I trust I don’t have to explain about a shark character being named “frenzy,” do I?

Page 29.

Panel 4. Nathan Alderman says, "'Captain Billy's' is a reference to William Fawcett, eventual publisher of Fawcett Comics, who got his start in publishing during WWI with a collection of jokes and stories called 'Captain Billy's Whiz-Bang.'"

Page 30.

Panel 1. The “All-Star” words and logo on the bar and, in Panel 2, the beer is from DC’s All-Star Comics, which in 1940 introduced the Justice Society of America, comic’s first superhero team-up. A good example of that is here.

On the far right, the “Cere Brau” is a pun on Cerebro, the mutant-detecting machine of Marvel’s X-Men. The bald gentleman below the words is a reference to Professor Xavier, the bald mentor of the X-Men.

Panel 3. Nathan Alderman says that "The guy in the background is a joke on Marvel's Daredevil, in his early and aesthetically dubious yellow costume."

Page 31.

Panel 2. Astrocitizen says,

The sleeping guy may be a visual joke reffing the Golden Age Sandman -- he’s  asleep for one thing, his costume kinda resembles the Simon/Kirby era costume, it has a large Z on it (the classic onomatopoeia for sleeping), plus there’s the oversized dispenser gun (which actually resembles more that of Alan Moore’s Sandman-analogue “Waxy” Doyle, but it still all comes back to the Sandman).
Nathan Alderman steals a march on all of us and says, "The sleeping guy on the train may be a joke on Zander Cannon--note the 'Z' on his chest and, of course, the cannon."

Thanks to Jason Adams, Nathan Alderman, Astrocitizen, Jeff Bar, Marcelo de Castro Bastos, Michael Battle, Andrea Brockelman, Ronald Byrd, Kelly Doran, John Dorrian, Paul Duggy Duggan, Philip Flores, Nick Ford, Steven E. McDonald, Rob Means, Alberto Pacios, Brian Robison, s2124, tphile, CleV, and RYard.

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Notes to Issue #2
Notes to Issue #3
Notes to Issue #4
Notes to Issue #5
Notes to Issue #6
Notes to Issue #7
Notes to Issue #8
Notes to Issue #9
Notes to Issue #10
Notes to Issue #11
Notes to Issue #12
Notes to Deadfellas
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