The recent cover releases of Providence issue 10, suggesting that it is going to deal with “The Haunter of the Dark” (as opposed to the more general expectation that that would be in issue 12), combined with the events of issue 8, and a recent reread of Promethea, have sparked a new idea in my head about where this is all going.
Potential spoilers follow.
Moore has stated on multiple occasions that he wrote Neonomicon while in a “bad mood”.
One implication is that his bad mood was in the past, and he feels better now. If he does feel better, then why would he spend a year of his creative life merely laying back story that leads up to Neonomicon’s incredibly bleak ending? Well, maybe he isn’t. Maybe he’s going to end up telling us that Neonomicon’s ending didn’t mean what we thought it did.
Moore has of course built much of his career on recontextualizing the work of other artists. But he is also willing to recast works of his own. In multiple interviews about Show Pieces, his film collaboration with Mitch Jenkins, Moore has related variations of the following anecdote:
“Jimmy’s End, which was the first one that was written … [was] a short, self-contained 10 minute film. … If you just saw that on its own, then I’d think you’d be pretty clear that, oh yeah, this is God and the devil. … when the proposal was put to me to expand upon that idea, I initially said, “Well, no, I can’t, because we’ve given it all away at the end of the story; there’s nowhere you can go after that.” Then I started thinking, “Well, what if it wasn’t God and the devil? What if it was just two very naughty boys who were pretending to be God and the devil?””
I suspect Moore is building to a similar recontextualization in Providence.
Neonomicon ends with the imminent birth of Cthulhu, who, it is implied, will bring about the end of humanity, who are “pretty much vermin” (Neonomicon #4 P24,p2). But this is largely implication, not outright statement. How might it be recast to a less nihilistic interpretation?
Well, if we’re talking about Alan Moore recontextualizing the end of the world, we clearly should take another look at Promethea. For those who haven’t read it, here is an incredibly reductive summary: Sophie Bangs is the latest incarnation of Promethea, an avatar of the human imagination. Sophie learns a lot about the magical structure of the universe, including the news that her incarnation of Promethea is prophesied to oversee the Apocalypse. This Apocalypse would involve humanity moving from the physical plane (Malkuth, sephiroth 10 in Kabbalah), upwards into the plane of imagination (Yesod, sephiroth 9). When this Apocalypse transpires, it turns out to be more of a momentary enlightenment, with humanity maintaining their physical existence afterwards. The world is NOT ended, and is indeed significantly improved from what it had been.
So much for the pre-Providence background. On to theory!
Robert Black lives in a world where Lovecraftian monsters are demonstrably physically real, and have been for at least many centuries. While these monsters are in many ways more powerful than human beings, in a social sense they are weaker, and are often victims of oppression. Those monsters have been working for a very long time to manipulate the border between dreams and reality to bring about some sort of Apocalypse. Robert Black is obviously central to their plans in some fashion.
Many readers, certainly including myself, have been assuming that this desired Apocalypse is one that will overwrite ordinary reality with one controlled by the monsters. I think Moore has deliberately encouraged this assumption, and it is one that is consistent with a great deal of post-Lovecraft Lovecraftian fiction. I now strongly suspect that this is a red herring.
The monsters do not need to be made real. The monsters of Providence ARE real already. What they actually want is nearly the opposite. The Apocalypse sought by the monsters is similar to the one Moore initially seemed to be setting up in Promethea. The monsters are preparing to REMOVE themselves from reality, where they are (despite their best efforts) mortal and vulnerable, instead ascending to the immortal state of dreams and fictions.
Robert Black is their Herald precisely because of what we readers have been mocking as obliviousness. He has a firm worldview in which monsters cannot exist except as metaphors. Lovecraft, “the Redeemer”, has if anything an even harsher, more materialistic worldview. This is the world the monsters wish to bring about. A world in which the fictional monsters written of by H.P. Lovecraft can never die, and grow only stronger as time goes by. The monsters win, by creating OUR world.