Portrait Variant Covers

Avatar Press likes to use variant covers to promote its series, particularly short-run limited series like Moore’s. Besides their artistic merit, several of these covers have more to say about the contents of the book than readers might think.

Providence #1

Providence #1 portrait cover, by Jason Burrows
Providence #1 portrait cover, by Jason Burrows

This is a portrait of Dr. Alvarez from Providence #1, based on Dr. Muñoz from H. P. Lovecraft’s story “Cool Air“:

A rush of cool air greeted me; and though the day was one of the hottest of late June, I shivered as I crossed the threshold into a large apartment whose rich and tasteful decoration surprised me in this nest of squalor and seediness. A folding couch now filled its diurnal role of sofa, and the mahogany furniture, sumptuous hangings, old paintings, and mellow bookshelves all bespoke a gentleman’s study rather than a boarding-house bedroom.  […] The figure before me was short but exquisitely proportioned, and clad in somewhat formal dress of perfect cut and fit. A high-bred face of masterful though not arrogant expression was adorned by a short iron-grey full beard, and an old-fashioned pince-nez shielded the full, dark eyes and surmounted an aquiline nose which gave a Moorish touch to a physiognomy otherwise dominantly Celtiberian. Thick, well-trimmed hair that argued the punctual calls of a barber was parted gracefully above a high forehead; and the whole picture was one of striking intelligence and superior blood and breeding.

Providence #2

Providence #2, portrait cover by Jacen Burrows
Providence #2, portrait cover by Jacen Burrows

The figure at the top of the stairs is Robert Suydam, who first appeared in Providence #2based on Lovecraft’s character in “The Horror at Red Hook.” The door Suydam is looking through resembles the one to his cellar, though it may be a different door.

Providence #3

Providence #3, Portrait cover, by Jacen Burrows
Providence #3, Portrait cover, by Jacen Burrows

Probably Increase Orne, seen in Providence #3. Obviously meant to evoke the eponymous ‘Terrible Old Man’ from Lovecraft’s story of the same name:

These folk say that on a table in a bare room on the ground floor are many peculiar bottles, in each a small piece of lead suspended pendulum-wise from a string. And they say that the Terrible Old Man talks to these bottles, addressing them by such names as Jack, Scar-Face, Long Tom, Spanish Joe, Peters, and Mate Ellis, and that whenever he speaks to a bottle the little lead pendulum within makes certain definite vibrations as if in answer. Those who have watched the tall, lean, Terrible Old Man in these peculiar conversations, do not watch him again.

Providence #4

Providence #4, Portrait cover, by Jacen Burrows
Providence #4, Portrait cover, by Jacen Burrows

The cover appears to depict Wilbur Whateley at the Miskatonic University Library, looking at the Necronomicon on display under glass (which likely owes itself more to the 1970 film The Dunwich Horror than Lovecraft’s short story).

Providence #5

Providence #5, portrait variant, art by Jacen Burrows
Providence #5, Portrait cover, art by Jacen Burrows

The cover depicts the human form of Brown Jenkin from “The Dreams in the Witch House.”

Providence #6

Providence #6 Portrait cover, by Jacen Burrows
Providence #6 Portrait cover, by Jacen Burrows

The cover depicts Dr. Hector North, the equivalent to Herbert West from Lovecraft’s story “Herbert West-Reanimator.”

Providence #7

Providence #7, Portrait variant cover, art by Jacen Burrows
Providence #7, Portrait variant cover, art by Jacen Burrows

Ronald Underwood Pitman, the Providence analogue for Lovecraft’s Richard Upton Pickman, here shown painting a ghoul from life, based on the story “Pickman’s Model.”

Providence #8

Providence #8, Portrait variant cover, art by Jacen Burrows

It should be clearer when issue #8 comes out (likely April 2016) but this is perhaps Randolph Carter – see preview post.

Providence #9

Providence #9, Portrait variant cover, art by Jacen Burrows

The cover depicts Etienne Roulet who appears in Lovecraft’s “The Shunned House.” Roulet appears in Suydam’s pamphlet in Providence #2, as well as appearing in a portrait image on the wall during the Providence #6 rape scene, during which Roulet alternately possesses Elspeth Wade and Robert Black.

The book depicted is Hali’s Booke of the Wisdom of the Stars, the English translation version of Providence‘s Necronomicon analogue. According to Suydam’s pamphlet, Roulet was the first person to bring Hali’s Booke to America.

Providence #10

Providence #9, Portrait variant cover, art by Jacen Burrows
Providence #10, Portrait variant cover, art by Jacen Burrows

A scene from Japheth Colwen’s subterranean chambers, based on Lovecraft’s The Case of Charles Dexter Ward.

Providence #11

Providence #11, Portrait variant cover, art by Jacen Burrows

The subject is, of course, Providence protagonist Robert Black. The location looks like New York City, so it is likely a flashback to before issue #1. The hands in the foreground likely belong to Jonathan/Lillian “Lily” Russell, who appears in Providence #1, P1,p1. The book Sous Le Monde is Providence’s invented analogue for the fictional play The King in Yellow – see issue #1 annotations P3,p2.

Providence #12

Providence #12, Portrait variant cover, art by Jacen Burrows
Del Toro's statue
Del Toro’s statue

The cover depicts H.P. Lovecraft, in front of his books. Commenter Sharkophagus suggests that this Lovecraft may be based upon a statue owned by Guillermo Del Toro.

The books depicted, where completely identifiable, are all known to have been in Lovecraft’s personal library, and published before 1919. In several cases, it is known when he acquired them, and this too is before 1919. Many of the volumes are listed in Lovecraft’s Library by S. T. Joshi. Titles include (thanks to many commenters for helping with this):

  • Top shelf:
    • “…gone … Tales” by ???
    • “Gods of Pegana” by Lord Dunsany
    • “Mary Shelley / Frankenstein”
    • “The Last D…” (Possibly The Last Devil by Signe Toksvig?)
    • “From the Earth to the Moon” by Jules Verne
    • “The First Men in the Moon” – H.G. Wells
    • “Ghost Stories of an Antiquary” – M.R. James
    • “Oscar Wilde” (Title doesn’t seem to match any of his books that Lovecraft owned.)
    • “The Y… of America” by Oglethorpe???
  • Second Shelf:
    • “The House of the Black Ring” by Fred Lewis Pattee
    • something by Poe (Title doesn’t seem to match any of his books that Lovecraft owned.)
    • “An Exchange of Souls” by Barry Pain
    • “The Beetle” by Richard Marsh
    • “Those Who Return” by Maurice Level
    • “The Phantom Ship” by Captain Frederick Marryat
    • “Lilith” by George MacDonald
    • “The Old English Baron” by Clara Reeve
    • “Beyond the Great South Wall” by Frank Savile
  • Third Shelf:
    • “The Fate of the [C…???]” by ???
    • “The Grip of Fear” by Maurice Level
    • “The Bright ???” by ???
    • “The Human Chord” by Algernon Blackwood
    • “The Star Rover” by Jack London
  • Fourth Shelf:
    • “Ghost Stories” by ???
    • Two volumes of “[Colonial?] Rhode Island” by ???
    • “In the Midst of Life” by Ambrose Bierce
  • Bottom Shelf:
    • something by Leonid Andreyev (Probably “The Seven That Were Hanged”)
    • something by “Hawthorne”? (Probably “The House of the Seven Gables”)
    • something by “Chambers”? (Probably “The King in Yellow”)
    • “Vathek” by William Beckford
    • “Visible and Invisible” by E.F. Benson

> Go to Moore Lovecraft Annotations Index

30 thoughts on “Portrait Variant Covers

  1. On the right of Providence #1 it seems to be a picture of Christ resurrection on the 3rd day (the cave blocked with the big slab being removed and he already out…).


    • It’s definitely an homage of some sort, but we haven’t been able to place the original work yet. We’re holding off because it looks less like the resurrection of Christ than possible the raising of Lazarus, or possibly Dante’s descent into the underworld.


      • It is a painting called “Jesus Raising Lazarus from the Dead” and is painted by Carl Heinrich Bloch. Perhaps it was chosen since the painters name is an homage to Robert Bloch.


  2. You’re right in saying that on the cover of Providence # 3 we see the ‘Terrible Old Man’. But Alan Moore calls him Increase Orne, not Etienne Roulet (who does not play any role in issue # 3).


  3. this comment really belongs on #8 main page, but of course that won’t be open for weeks yet – how was the carpet added to that regular cover? i mean the rug in carter’s sitting room/library/study -it doesn’t seem likely that JB drew that freehand, nor does it look like it – so how was it done, added in digitally..? it’s very well achieved in any case :-O


    • Based on the hair, sideburns, cravat, Roulet being the first to bring Hali’s booke to America, I have to agree with Facts in the Case of Providence on this one. Comparing to the portraits in Suydam’s pamphlet definitely leans towards Roulet.

      I gotta admit I’m surprised it’s Roulet and NOT Japeth, I kind of thought we had seen the last of Roulet in #6 since he did sort of show up, but what with covering The Shunned House being inevitable, I guess it’s not all that surprising that he’s back in some form be it flashback or whatever. Maybe we’ll even get another appearance of Mrs. Massey at some point (one of my faves)!


    • Yah – I compared to the portraits in Providence #2 – and it looks more like Roulet than Colwyn… but we’ll see when Providence #9 comes out. We’ve been wrong before!


  4. i’d say that’s japheth colwyn. calls to mind joseph curwen’s underground chambers in The Case of Charles Dexter Ward and the weird deformed creature that the narrator find there.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Providence #10 is probably that story where a guy goes to Egypt and he gets thrown into a tomb, full of creatures compiled of animal and human limbs. Imprisoned with the Pharaohs it was called.


  6. I think issue 10 is from the case of Charles Dexter Ward because there are half formed creatures in that story created when they try to raise people with incomplete slates, also the man has a whip, they had to torture the newly risen in order to get knowledge from them in the story, also there is a trapdoor on the ground, the half formed creatures were stored in pits if I recall the story correctly.


  7. #12:

    Top shelf: I believe there’re “Gods of Pegana” by Lord Dunsany.
    Bottom shelf, 4th from the right – “Vathek”?


  8. Yes. Beckford’s Vathek on the bottom shelf, from which HPL took the Arabic title of the Necronomicon Al Azif. Above there’s also a work by Jack London, and James’s Ghost Stories of an Antiquary on the top shelf.


  9. top shelf – definitely a dunsany, lalartu’s title looks to be a good shout; also verne’s *from the earth to the moon* (purple spine above HPL’s head); h.g.wells – *the first men in the moon* (two to the left of the m.r.james as noted by ross); the single word or name on the book to the right of the oscar wilde volume appears to read “oglethorpe”, which is a (british) surname all right, but i can’t trace an author of that name (? must be something properly obscure!)

    second shelf – the first volume completely visible would appear to be called *the xxx of the black ring*, and the author’s name begins with “p”, that one should be traceable; there’s a poe two along from that, then *an exchange of souls* (which is apparently by the wonderfully-named barry pain, 1911); at the other end of the shelf there is *lilith* by george macdonald, that one jumped out at me i must admit (the title! had to look the author up)

    third shelf – *the fate of the xxxx*; *the grip of fear* by maurice level (again – 1911); next one totally illegible, then *the bright xxxx*, then *the human chord* as mentioned (which is by algernon blackwood and which i have actually read… a very odd book!); the jack london title is *the star rover* (1915).

    (can’t add to the fourth shelf at all)

    bottom shelf begins with a volume of leonid andreyev (d. 1919) and it’s tempting to see the one nextto it as a nietzsche, but… not very clear..!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. One of the titles on the second shelf is an exchange of souls which I believe ST Joshua cites as an inspiration for hovercraft, it is between a book reading marsh and another that I can only make out poe, another is lilith, it is located on the opposite side, past overdrafts shadow.


  11. On the top shelf next to the Oscar Wilde book is MR James Ghost stories of Antiquity, on the other side top left is a book by Lord Dunsay, can’t read it fully but title is three words, the first two are short andthe third part of the title begins with a p so it is probably The Gods of Pegana.
    On the third shelf, it looks like the grip of fear, the star rover by Jack London is the book closest to HP. The book by overdrafts elbow is by Ambrose Bierce in the — of life = in the midst of life from Tales of soldiers and Civilians.


  12. Lowest shelf book in corner looks like visible and invisible, seen a couple of things online but all are from the 60s so unlikely something that lovecraft read. Next is something that looks like watwek, maybe vatwek, I checked and its probably something called Vathek which ST says was an inspiration for Dream Quest. Sorry that I’ve repeated you guys above.


  13. In the #12 cover, the book on the second shelf next to MacDonald’s Lilith, currently listed as ““The Old Duguch? [xxx]ion???” by Doeve???” would appear to be The Old English Baron, by Clara Reeve, an early and influential gothic novel.


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