Top 10: The Annotations
Issue 1: Top 10
(May contain spoilers)
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For the uninitiated, these are annotations to the Alan Moore
, Gene Ha and Zander Cannon
comic book Top 10
, published by America's Best Comics
. It's an imaginative look at a city populated entirely by superheroes and the difficulties that the (equally superpowered) police have in maintaining order. Each issue is full of references to comic books and popular culture and this series of annotations hopes to capture them all.
Given the level of detail that Alan Moore, Gene Ha and Zander Cannon put into this comic, these annotations will probably be continually updated. If you spot anything I've missed, let me know! You'll get credit.
This page may not display properly in Opera, as some of the annotations come unstuck from the page titles. It work okay in IE though. If anyone knows a way around this please tell me.
There were two versions of this cover; one drawn by Gene Ha and Zander Cannon, and one painted by Alex Ross.
Some members of the lineup of the Ross cover are obscured by the cover text: top left (partially obscured by the ABC logo), Dust Devil; top middle (completely obscured by the "TOP" text), Smax; top left (partially obscured by the "10" text), Wolfspider. The hand to the left is Shockheaded Peter's and the hand to the right belongs to Wolfspider. Noticeable absence: Irma Geddon.
You may notice that Jack Phantom in the top right of the Ross cover is taking a sneaky peek at Robin's breasts.
Walter points out that you can see one of Robyn's nipples just above Corbeau's hand. It's a good job nobody noticed that at the time because there would have been hell to pay; the (very subtle) appearance of a nipple or two on the cover of one issue of The Intimates caused a bit of a stir in some circles. Of course, there's no problem with showing Corbeau's nipples, because he's a guy. Sad, really.
The tagline ("The power, the training, the badge. Are they enough for her first day on the job?") will be mirrored on the cover of issue 11.
The girl holding the "Y" box is Officer Robyn "Toybox" Slinger, one of the stars of Top 10, and the character who will introduce us to Precinct 10. She has control over a group of toy soldiers and odd mechanical creatures which somehow fit into that one box. Perhaps it has some TARDIS qualities?
Note the adverts at the top of the panel. From left to right: 1- S.T.O.R.M.S. stands for Sexually Transmitted Organic Rapid Mutation Syndrome; this is the Precinct 10 equivalent of AIDS and we'll learn more about it in later issues.
2- The Phone Booth clothing shop is a reference to Superman, who infamously relied on public call boxes as last-minute changing rooms when putting on his costume.
3- The Logan mentioned in the dietary supplement may be a relative of James "Wolverine" Logan, an X-Man with the mutant ability to rapidly heal any wound. The supplement has added adamantine; this is a variation on adamantium, the unbreakable metal which covers Wolverine's bones and covers his trademark claws (thanks to VorpalSword for pointing out that Wolverine's claws are part of his mutation and not purely metal).
4- Action insurance; the first example of the more mundane side to superhero work that Moore plays around with in this series. "Action" presumably comes from Action Comics, the comic book that spawned Superman.
5- "Nikee" is a reference to the Nike shoe company; it's a phoenetic spelling of the company's name. "Speedster" is a term for super-fast suprheroes.
6- Presumably this means kids ride free, although you have to wonder if characters like The Atom or Top Ten's own Micro Maid would take advantage of their shrinking powers.
7- Blast Brew. Just a generic advert.
8- The Legion of Super-Lawyers; we'll be meeting a super-lawyer later this issue. The group's name is inspired by DC's Legion of Superheroes. On a related note, Pixar's The Incredibles would later explore the legal ramifications of superhero work
Note clever use of train sound effects in the gutters of the page and musical sound effects following the man with the headphones around. Moore doesn't usually use sound effects in his work since they detract from the realism of the action. Obviously that's not a concern with Top Ten.
Neopolis presumably takes the latter part of its name from Metropolis, the city Superman chose to call home. Or possibly it was inspired by the Fritz Lang film; Lang gets a namecheck in the Moore-penned essay found in this issue and the TPB. The Neo part may be a reference to Neo-Tokyo from the manga/anime Akira.
Walter quite rightly says that the etymology of Neopolis is "New City" (neo- new, polis- city).
Welcome to Neopolis! Note the statue on the left-hand side that seems to be a combination of the Statue of Liberty and Justice from the British Old Bailey. Also note the flying Arabian castle amongst the techno-wizardry; Neopolis counts magicians and mystics amonst its superheroes, as well as more traditional science fiction types.
The title of the comic is a nickname given to Precinct 10; other precincts have their own nicknames; for example, "Lucky 7". We'll get a glimpse of one of the other precincts in issue 9.
Note super Elvis in the background.
The lightning bolt on the old man's chest looks to be a variation on the one beloning to Captain Marvel.
The superhero on the mobile phone gives us a good idea of super-real estate. The most famous owner of a secret cave is, of course, Batman.
The woman to the left of Robyn has the German Iron Cross on her cloak. Who reckons her superhero name is The Red Baroness?
The man at the bottom of the panel has a helmet very similar to the Golden Age Flash, Jay Garrick.
Bob "Blindshot" Booker will play an important part in the next issue.
According to the essay in the back of the first issue (and reprinted in the front of the first TPB), Pike Street was named after soldier, occultist, seer and 33rd degree Mason Albert Pike. Being a magician himself, it would be interesting to hear Moore's views on Pike. On a probably unrelated note, a different Pike was a supervillain in the comic WildC.A.T.S, which was written briefly by Moore. It would have been funnier to situate the precinct house on Lois Lane. Or Timbrad Street.
Zen is impossible to describe, which saves me a job. Oh, okay then - as far as I can tell, it's the pursuit of a state in which concepts of "self" and "not self" are annihilated and everything is divorced of meaning. Presumably Bob divorces himself from the meaning of "Road safety" whilst at work.
Walter points out that Douglas Adams had a similar idea (even called zen navigation) in his novel The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, in which holistic detective Dirk Gently follows cars in front of him at random until he arrives where he needs to be.
The driver's exclamation raises an interesting point - what if Jesus was just a superhero? Actually, in the ABC universe he more than likely was a god; we'll meet a few more deities in issues six and seven.
Bob's remark about "all distance being as one to the Buddha" is reminiscent of one of the teachings of Dogen, a Buddhist teacher who asked his assembly "what is the distance between two stalks of grass?" The answer was, apparently, "that of a single stalk of grass."
"Red K Kola" is a reference to red kryptonite, a rock from Superman's home planet of Krypton that has unpredictable effects (ie: whatever the writer wants it to do) on him. It is, of course, Superman's "secret weakness". The Top 10 equivalent of kryptonite will be introduced in issue 12.
The fish woman's son has the same weakness as Aquaman; the need to be immersed in sea water.
The desk sergeant is Hector "Monsoon" Lopez, a minor supporting character. As his somewhat garish costume implies, he has control over the weather - rather like Storm of the X-Men.
The mural on the roof is of one of the original officers in Precinct 10; their story is told in the OGN Top 10: The Forty-Niners. The mural seems to be drawn in the style of comic book legend Jack Kirby.
Glimpsed in the previous panel, this is Sergeant Jackie "Jack Phantom" Kowalski. Her power is to phase in and out of reality, allowing her to pass through solid objects. He speech pubble reflects this. There is another, entirely unrelated, comic book named Phantom Jack, about a guy who goes invisible.
We'll meet "Peregrine" on the next page.
The cow, in case you're wondering, is Scottish. Angus is something of a stereotypical Scottish name. His full name is Aberdeen Angus, Aberdeen being a place in Scotland.
Those police officers, from left to right: 1. Lieutenant Cathy "Peregrine" Colby - has extendable wings in her suit that give her the power of flight and takes her name from the peregrine falcon. She's partenered with Jack - professionally, not romantically.
2. Officer Duane "Dust Devil" Bodine - lightning fast at drawing his twelve-shooters (inspired by the classic cowboy six-shooter. He takes his name from the micro-whirlwinds that can be seen in deserts and dry plains. He's partnered with...
3. Officer Pete "Shockheaded Peter" Cheney - can generate electricity and direct it through the goofy antennae on his head. His name comes from a translation of the cautionary German childrens' book Struwwelpeter. He is racist against robots and living machinery; this somewhat conservative side makes me wonder if Moore named him after American Republican Dick Cheney.
4. Finally, we have Alexei "Spaceman" Glushko, who is able to psychically read and transmit thoughts. He's Precinct 10's special interrogator. Note that he's filling up his glass from a hipflask; he's an alcoholic, in keeping with Russian stereotypes. The reason for his Spaceman moniker will be explained in issue three; he shares his title with a soldier from the comic book Preacher, who was called Spaceman because he wanted to be an astronaut. His suit is identical to that worn by cosmonauts in the 50s.
The police computer/typewriters are variations on the head of Robbie the Robot from the 1960s movie Forbidden Planet. Forbidden Planet is also the name of a chain of comic shops across the UK.
The Libra killer is one of the ongoing story arcs in Top 10. The name of the serial killer - who plots his/her murders by calendar date - seems to be inspired by Scorpio, a murderer in the classic movie Dirty Harry. Alternately, as Jet-Poop points out, Libra could be based on the Zodiac Killer who terrorised New York in the 1960s and was the inspiration for Dirty Harry's antagonist.
The officer to the left is Captain Steve "Jetlad/Jetman" Traynor, who has no superpowers but in his day was a talented pilot along the lines of the heroes from the Blackhawk comic. His past as a pilot will be elaborated on slightly in issue four. His surname may be borrowed from Larry Traynor of the Doom Patrol, a space pilot who was imbued with strange powers.
The officer to the right is Sergeant Kemlo "Hyperdog" Caesar. He's actually a talking dog in a robotic body. The body gives him super strength and the ability to conduct electric shocks at close range. No idea what "Kemlo" comes from, but Caesar is a brand of dog food in the UK. The most famous super-dog is, er, Superdog (street-name Krypto).
Robyn's dad gets his first mention. Lilliput was the name of the first land visited by the titular Lemuel Gulliver in Gulliver's Travels, in which all of the residents were only a few inches high. Presumably he took the title because hanging around his toy soldiers made him feel like Gulliver all the time.
The ninth parallel is one of the parallel worlds, of which Precinct 10 is on the tenth. The concept of parallel dimensions and worlds is popular in comics. The most notable example being DC's Crisis on Infinite Earths.
Jack isn't just being friendly by inviting Robyn out for a drink - as she finds out at the end of the issue.
The remaining officers, from left to right: 1. The purple woman covered in ever-shifting blobs is Officer Sung "Girl One" Li. She has unusually high strength, speed and athletic abilities, and is actually nude under those swirls.
2. Below her is an older gentleman with glasses - he is Officer Bill "Wolfspider" Bailey, Precinct 10's SWAT team commander and one of the minor supporting characters. The lower half of his body is cybernetic and he wears a protective robotic suit over his human torso, which allows him to handle nuclear materials. His superhero name comes from his many-limbed suit, which makes him look like a wolf spider. His real name is presumably inspired by the comedian of the same monicker. Walter suggests that Moore may actually have taken the name from the ancient and much covered song "Won't You Come Home Bill Bailey". This is entirely possible - and since this is where the comedian got his name from (he was born Mark Bailey), this is the original source in either case.
3. To the left of Sung Li is Officer Irma "Irma Geddon" Wornow, who has a suit packing everything from guns to tactical nuclear weapons. She's partnered with Sung Li. Her name is obviously a play on Armageddon.
4. To the immediate right of Duane is Detective Synaesthesia "Syn" Jackson. Like all synaesthetes, Detective Jackson is not so much super-powered as disabled; a quirk of the brain means that when one sense is triggered, she picks things up with her other senses too - so she can hear colours, smell sounds and taste shapes. Note that the spelling of her disease is the English, not the American one (which is the slightly less elegant Synesthesia).
5. To Syn's right is her partner in crime-busting, John "King Peacock" Corbeau. He is of the Yezidi faith, whose people worship Satan, but never speak his name - instead calling him Melek Ta'us or Peacock King. He can speak to Satan, which gives him the ability to locate the weak point on anything so that he can shatter it. He is extremely strong and physically able though this seems to be due to working out rather than an inherent trait.
6. Below Syn and John, it is possible to see the white/pale blue sleeve of Officer Jaafs "Smax" Macksun, or Jeff Smax to his friends. He's an introverted grump who has indestructibility coupled with the power to create a powerful blast from a white palm-print on his chest. He is partnered with Robyn; his old partner was killed (we'll learn more about him later).
The Ghostly Goose is another ongoing plot in Top 10. Moore is using the old-fashioned meaning of "goosing", which is to unexpectedly grab someone's buttocks.
Large Marge is a madam and will appear later this issue. She lives up to her name.
It makes a kind of sense that Precinct 10's cop cars should have a Batmobile aesthetic.
The perspective on Smax's car seems to be a bit off here...
Note the "Absolut Kirby" sign in the background. A long-running ad campaign for the Swedish Absolut company showed bottles of its vodka in unusual situations or arrangements, or sometimes transforming the mundane into something bizarre. They would have two-word taglines like "ABSOLUT TRADITION" or "ABSOLUT WINTER". The Kirby part of the poster is a reference to Jack Kirby, the much celebrated comic book artist.
The woman flying through the air seems to be wearing a Power Girl costume.
That car behind the chariot reminds me of something, but I can't put my finger on it... anyone got any ideas?
Jet-Poop pointed out that in the original "floppy" issues, Wallace and Gromit can be seen on their motorbike and side car, just in front of Smax's cop car. This was removed for the TPB and replaced with a blank road. Presumably this was for legal reasons...
Not sure where "Diesel Street" comes from...
The woman to the far left looks like Julie from The Maxx.
The woman to the right of Julie is dressed like Zatanna, a magical DC heroine.
The dog with a cape might be inspired by Superman's mutt Krypto, although the colourist has made him entirely brown.
The kid with the lightning bolt and baseball bat is a young version of Kevin from Matt Wagner's Mage.
The green trophy on the t-shirt of the kid shouting into the camera looks a little like the Green Lantern insignia.
The truck in the background is presumably owned by the science fiction author Ray Palmer. Not sure why he's selling flowers though.
Who is the bald guy with the giant spanner?
The Incredibles - presumably no relation to the 2005 Pixar movie of the same name. But who knows? Maybe screenwriter Brad Bird took the title from this comic?
In Neopolis nobody is racist, since they pick on different species or weird traits instead. This is our first glimpse of such prejudices.
Doctor Incredible has the same stretching powers as Mr Fantastic of the Fantastic Four.
"We'll be okay." That would be foreshadowing, then.
That dog is presumably the same one from the previous page.
The robot on the far left is a reference to the classic Woody Allen movie Sleeper, in which Allen disguises himself as an android and ends up looking exactly like that.
"Ferro-Americans" - since robots are the ghettoised minority of choice in Neopolis, this is a variation of African American. Ferro- is a prefix meaning that the item contains ferrous iron.
The doll-headed thing reminds me of a similar creation in the movie Toy Story. There appears to be a fly-headed toy - a reference to the movie The Fly?
Willie "Stochastic Fats" Beaumont will make an appearance of sorts in issue six - he also appears in the essay by Moore at the back of this first issue (included in the front of the TPB). His power was to guess the truth completely at random, hence the Stochastic part of his name. He takes his appearance and the second half of his name from Fats Waller, a jazz musician of the 1920s
The guy who's repeated a good sixteen times in this panel is a le parkour runner with super-speed along the lines of The Flash. A human le parkour runner was featured in the comic Global Frequency. The kid in this issue works for Zip pizzas, who promise your meal in 30 seconds rather than the half hour suggested by most real-life pizza takeaways. Zip Comics existed in real life.
The logo on the van behind Smax's car reads: "Crimson Cape Catering. Let us cater for your Crisis or Crossover!" In comic book terms, a crossover is when a storyline affects two or more comics. For example, if Spider-man visits the Daredevil and it affects both their comics, they have participated in a crossover. Some people include guest appearances which only affect one comic as crossovers, but that's not strictly true. The mention of a Crisis is a reference to DC's Crisis on Infinite Earths, which is known in abbreviated form as "the Crisis".
Note that the seedy side of Neopolis sells Tijuana Bibles, erotic comic books from the 1920s onward starring popular characters and celebrities of the age. It makes sense that they would be big business in a "real" comic book world. Moore also featured Tijuana Bibles in his classic comic Watchmen.
The two characters inbetween Duane and Cheney are Ophelia and April Showers, two superpowered prostitutes. April obviously takes her name from the periods of rain usually experienced in April in the US and northern Europe. Ophidia is an order of reptiles.
A Walkman is a brand type of portable cassette player made by Sony. It came into common parlance as a synonym for portable cassette player and, later, CD player. It has since been surpassed by the iPod a brand name that has become a synonym for portable mp3 player.
First appearance of Ernesto Gograh, whose father - a riff on Godzilla - will be making an appearance later on. Irma mispronouncing Gograh's name is a reference to the original Godzilla movie; its Japanese title was Gojira, but a misunderstanding about the pronunciation of the phrase led to it being called Godzilla. Godzilla had his own son, the rubbishly-named Godzuki.
Gorgo, the name Irma accidentally gives Ernesto, is a reference to a British attempt at filming a rival to Godzilla.
Cracker is a racist anti-white term. It's interesting that Ernesto is clearly supposed to be Hispanic despite not even being human.
Ernesto was "Che" Guevara's first name.
Gojira was filmed in the fifties, in the same period that Gograh was causing problems.
The League of Evil sounds like a generic supervillan group name to me. Shades of The Brotherhood of Evil from Doom Patrol and Moore's own League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
The Giant Despair is from The Pilgrim's Progress, a Christian allegory by John Bunyan. The Giant Despair owns the Doubting Castle in which Christians are murdered. Peregrine is a devout Christian so it makes sense for her to have read it. Much of Pilgrim's Progress can be found on e2, but irritatingly it runs out just a few chapters before Giant Despair makes his appearance and nobody's updated it since. I should probably get around to it sometime. If you want to read the chapters featuring the Giant, check out the sources at the bottom of this writeup.
The guy with the heat vision is Captain BBQ. Good for him.
Li's body appears to be saying "Snap! Krackle! Pop!". Snap, Crackle and Pop are the names of the three gnome things that act as mascots for Kellogg's Rice Krispies.
We'll be seeing the effects of Neopolis drugs in issue four. 1. Mongoose Blood is a drug which causes its users to move so fast that they aren't visible to the naked eye. It's a reference to Golden Age hero The Whizzer who, after an infusion of Mongoose blood, gained the ability to move super fast. Because Mongooses (mongeese?) move fast, see? So... er... yes.
2. Hyperdrene causes weird nonsense-speaking pixies to appear in the air. I don't know where Moore got the name from, although Walter /msged me to say: "hyper is the same as super, and 'drene' is from adrenal, which means 'near the kidneys'".
3. Amazo Pills don't actually appear in the rest of Top 10, but presumably they take their name from Amazo, the robot with superpower-stealing abilities. If so, the pills presumably allow people to share each others' abilities.
The person on the screen is Commander Ultima of Grand Central; she's the ultimate authority in the police department. Her superpowers are near-invulnerability and the ability to fire phenomenally powerful laser blasts from her hands. She's not just worried about departmental budgets - her real reason for not wanting them to raid the address will be explained in issue 10.
Marta "Boots" Wesson is a recurring character in Top 10. She has no inherent superpowers, but her boots give her the ability to fly. Her name was presumably chosen because of the popularity of Smith & Wesson guns in the old West.
The district that the team raid seems to be a robot-heavy area. Presumably, then, Lanchester is a combination of the acronym LAN (Local Area Network) and the English city of Manchester, which had a massive drugs 'n' clubbing scene in the early-to-mid 1990s.
Note the "I am the NRA" slogan on Irma's helmet. She has a few of these during the course of the series. They disappear inbetween panels.
The homeless guy on the left seems to be wearing a Fantastic Four uniform. Is he supposed to be an older Johnny Storm?
The graffiti is part of a long-running joke in comic book circles. In the 1970s, Marvel published a comic called Man Thing, about a sentient plant creature whose touch burned the fearful. This sounds similar to Swamp Thing, which Alan Moore eventually wrote for, but Man Thing actually preceded that comic by a month (and they were both based on The Heap anyway). Another habit of Marvel's was putting out comics on extra large paper as a gimmick. These comics were given the "Giant Size" prefix. You can see where this is going, can't you? Giant-Size Man-Thing debuted in 1974. The graffiti in this issue of Top 10 is obviously mimicking the kind of sexual propositions that people scrawl on toilet cubicles.
The song lyric "With great power, you see/Comes Funkability" is a reference to Spider-man's mantra of "With great power comes great responsibility".
The Green Lantern has a "magic" ring that allows him to exert his will to create anything he wants.
I love Bill. Although he could probably be sued for not giving the real police warning. You know what super-lawyers are like.
The NRA slogan has vanisished from Irma's helmet.
That pig thing freaks me out. And the "sniff my exhaust" line pisses me off, for reasons I can't explain. Not a good panel for me, this one, despite that gorgeous pink robot.
The pink robot is based on one of the old 1950s pink Cadillacs, specifically the Coupe deVille (although it should have two red lights on each fin, not one). There's actually a Clint Eastwood movie called Pink Cadillac. No idea if this is a reference. Walter points out that Pink Cadillac is also a Bruce Springsteen song.
Correction: Walter says that the licence plate on the robot's back is not a reference to Motown Records, but to the place in Detriot where Cadillacs and most other American cars are made.
"Clicker" is the robotic equivalent of - if you'll excuse the use of the word - "nigger", in keeping with the robots' persecuted minority role.
The pig is holding an M3A1 "Grease Gun", as featured in the excellent Fallout 2 and good warzones everywhere.
Seriously, that pig thing. What the fuck?
That gun looks like a LEGO piece.
The Hueys are named after a type of helicopter.
Page Twenty-fivePanel One
That's Large Marge. Possibly related to the Large Marge from Pee Wee's Big Adventure.
Yes, how did he know they were coming? The answer is in issue 10.
The shark is Larry "Frenzy" Fischmann, a lawyer. Rather fitting, of course, since the word shark comes from the German schurke; meaning "scoundrel". Rather fitting for a lawyer. The word shark in English can refer to a swindler, particularly one who preys on the weak ("pool shark"). Sharks, of course, go into frenzies when they find something to eat, hence the lawyer's name. Fischmann is pronounced "Fish Man".
Miss Miracle may be inspired by Mister Miracle. She also looks a bit like Mary Marvel. Both are characters belonging to DC comics.
Captain Billy's takes its name from the magazine Captain Billy's Whiz Bang, which was itself named after its creator, Captain Wilford H Fawcett. The magazine included comic strips.
AllStar Beer reminds me of All-Star comics from DC.
On the far right, next to the bar, is a picture with the words "Cere Brau" on it. X-Men fans will recognise this as a reference to Cerebro, Professor X's computer. The bald head undreneath is the Professor himself. Brau is German for "brew" and is used as a suffix in many German beer titles.
Anyone got any ideas about the origins of Rainbow (picture on the wall next to the steps) or the demon head above the bar on the far right?
The yellow guy seems to be wearing the original Daredevil costume.
Pig iron is unrefined iron. The barman is made out of girders. He's an iron bar man. Possibly also a reference to Iron Man. See? It works on so many levels.
That's some pretty cynical advertising from TV3.
This took me a while: the sleeping guy has a cannon for an arm, right? And a Z on his chest? And one of the artists is Zander Cannon... (not sure why he's wearing Cyclops' eyeguards though).
This is Colonel Lilliput. As we'll learn next issue, he has Alzheimer's disease.
Main Menu | Next Issue
http://www.dccomics.com - DC Comics
http://www.compedit.com/whiz_bang.htm - Captain Billy's Whiz Bang
http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/bunyan/pp20.htm - Pilgrim's Progress: The Giant Despair
http://www.alexrossart.com/archives.html - Alex Ross art, inc. the unsullied cover to issue one.