Providence 1

Providence No.1, cover by Jacen Burrows
Providence No.1, cover by Jacen Burrows

Below are annotations for Providence, No. 1 “The Yellow Sign” (32 pages plus covers, May 27 2015)
Writer: Alan Moore, Artist: Jacen Burrows, based on works of H.P. Lovecraft

>Go to Moore Lovecraft annotations index

Note: some of this is obvious, but you never know who’s reading and what their exposure is. If there’s anything we missed or got wrong, let us know in comments.

WARNING: SPOILERS!

General: This issue takes place on June 5, 1919. Robert Black walks back and forth from the Herald offices, through Manhattan, and interviews Dr. Alvarez, Providence‘s analog for Dr. Muñoz of Lovecraft’s short story “Cool Air.” At the same time, Black’s lover, Jonathan (Lillian) Russell commits suicide. The issue concludes with Black’s written account of the day’s events in his Commonplace Book.

Cover

  • Thanks to Alan Moore World and their reader Flavio Pessanha for basically annotating this.
  • The building depicted is 317 W 14th St, New York, NY 10014.
  • The site is that of Lovecraft’s story “Cool Air.” Read “Cool Air” (text available in its entirety online, also in audiobook version) as it is referenced throughout Providence #1.
  • According to Wikipedia, Lovecraft wrote “Cool Air” during his unhappy stay in New York City, during which he wrote three horror stories with a New York setting. The building that is the story’s main setting is based on a townhouse at 317 West 14th Street where George Kirk, one of Lovecraft’s few New York friends, lived briefly in 1925.
  • The light on, on the fourth floor, is Dr. Muñoz room from “Cool Air”: (excerpt from Dagonbytes via Alan Moore World)

[A]fter a time I came upon a house in West Fourteenth Street which disgusted me much less than the others I had sampled. […] in my third-floor front hall room […] One evening at about eight I heard a spattering on the floor and became suddenly aware that I had been smelling the pungent odour of ammonia for some time. Looking about, I saw that the ceiling was wet and dripping; the soaking apparently proceeding from a corner on the side toward the street. […] Mrs. Herrero disappeared up the staircase to the fourth floor, and I returned to my room. The ammonia ceased to drip, and as I cleaned up what had spilled and opened the window for air, I heard the landlady’s heavy footsteps above me. Dr. Muñoz I had never heard, save for certain sounds as of some gasoline-driven mechanism; since his step was soft and gentle.

Inside Cover

A map of Providence, Rhode Island, where H. P. Lovecraft was born and lived most of his life. Prominent at the top is Swan Point Cemetery, where Lovecraft is buried. Commenter Sithoid found the source: Cram’s Atlas Of The World (1901)

Page 1

panel 1

  • The letter is to Jonathan Russell, also known as Lillian “Lily” Russell, whose hands first appear in panel 2. The letter is from Robert Black, who first appears on Page 2.
    • Jonathan may have taken the name Lillian Russell as a reference to the famous late 19th/early 20th century actress and singer. Commenter keshavkrishnamurty points out that ““Mr. Lillian Russell” was a nickname for another Broadway star and legendary cross-dresser and female impersonator Julian Eltinge, who may or may not have been homosexual himself” which adds yet another layer of reference.
  • Though the letter is dated April 1919, Providence #1 takes place on June 5, 1919 (see P30 below.)
  • “Huysmans” refers to Joris-Karl Huysmans, a famous French Decadent writer whose works include À rebours (1884) and Bas (1891), which influenced weird fiction.

panels 1-4

  • The page is constructed to focus the reader’s eyes towards the center of each panel. The view faces the same direction, and zooms slowly outward (back toward the reader.) Moore uses zoom sequences frequently, including on P1 of Watchmen #1.
  • This is the first instance of a motif that appears a few times: layers are peeled back to reveal what is beneath. On this page, the words are peeled/discarded to reveal the reality of the city (or, in truth, a picture of the city.) These theme is alluded to in the written word here “you seemed to break through the mere words to the reality lying beyond them.” (Thanks commenter cent.)
  • Panelwise, Providence, same as Neonomicon, features black comics gutters (the space between panels.) These interact with the black shadowed areas to create areas where the panel border is implied but missing – for example see Russell’s black coat at the bottom right corner of panel 3.
  • Panelwise, Providence follows the four horizontal panels stacked on top of each other page format established on P3 of Neonomicon. This gives an almost cinematic feel, the eyes – and often the characters – typically drawn toward the center of each panel. It’s an effective trick of perspective, framing the reader’s attention.
  • Panelwise, the edges of the gutter are hand-drawn, slightly irregular.
Fountain in Bryant Park. 2013 photo by John Wisniewski via Flickr
Fountain in Bryant Park. 2013 photo by John Wisniewski via Flickr

panels 2-3

  • The appearance of the fountain reveals this to be Bryant Park, in New York City. Russell appears to be very near the library, facing west toward 6th Avenue. The gap between the buildings in the center of the panel appears to be 41st Street. According to Black’s Commonplace Book (see P32 below), Russell and Black frequented this library, park, and stream.
  • Readers with a better grasp of NYC history and geography, please comment. This appears to be a Bryant Park slightly different that what actually existed in 1919.
    There does not appear to have ever been an east-west water feature running through Bryant Park, as depicted (and mentioned on P32 below “that little stream that they put in that’s fed from the old reservoir before the library was there.”) Moore and Burrows show the fountain in the west end of the park, where it exists today. According to Wikipedia, the fountain was initially installed in 1913 in the east end of the park (basically very near where Russell is standing), and it was moved to its present location in 1936.The explanation for this difference is not entirely clear. It appears that Providence‘s 1919 is similar to The Courtyard‘s 2004 and Neonomicon‘s 2006. Those settings very much resembled the present day, but feature slightly futuristic devices, including city domes (see some further explanation in annotations for Neonomicon #1 P3,p3 and P9,p4.) Perhaps analogous to those futuristic devices, Providence‘s 1919 features a then-futuristic suicide chamber, shown on P6 and P15 below.
Bryant Park 1931 photograph showing what the park layout was in 1919. The library building at the east edge of the park is in the bottom left. The fountain (appears as a disk casting a shadow) is in the middle of eastern edge of the park. Russell is apparently standing along the eastern edge of the park (roughly at the fountain) with his back to the library, facing west - which would be diagonally toward to the upper right corner of the photo. Image via NYC Parks Dept.
1931 Bryant Park photograph apparently showing what the park layout was in 1919.  Russell is apparently standing along the eastern edge of the park (roughly at the fountain) with his back to the library, facing west. Base photo via NYC Parks Dept

panel 4

  • The captions are the voice of Ephraim Posey, leading into his word balloon on P2. In a transition often used by Alan Moore (especially throughout Watchmen, for example #1, P3,p5) the text has a dual meaning. Though it is the off-panel Posey describing the press’ relationship with the public, the words also apply to Russell’s situation depicted in the panel. Russell is in despair over the end of his relationship with his boyfriend/lover Robert Black (the dispute is shown in the flashback sequence below on P22 panels 2 and 4.) Black has figuratively “thrown away” his relationship with Russell, and Russell has literally “thrown away” Black’s letter. He and Black “were in a position of trust” but have “let all that go.”

Page 2

panel 1

  • The setting is the offices of the New York Herald, an actual newspaper published 1835-1924.
  • First appearance of Ephraim Posey (left), Prissy Turner (center), Freddy Dix (center-right) and Robert Black (right).
  • There appears to be a love triangle with Dix interested in Turner, and Turner interested in Black.
  • The headline on the typewriter page reads “Will Treaty Spell Trouble,” and the text specifies the subject is the Treaty of Versailles (signed 28 June 1919), marking the end of World War I.
  • The byline on the typewriter page is “Robert Black.” According to an Alan Moore interview, Robert Black is the protagonist of the series, and a homosexual Jewish male. Robert Black appears to be based on a few characters (read Phil Smith comment) including Lovecraft’s fictional Robert Blake (who’s based the real writer Robert Bloch) and Lovecraft’s friend Samuel Loveman. (We’ll add more detail on this as Providence progresses and we get to know Black better.)
  • “Hearst” is William Randolph Hearst, an American newspaper magnate renowned for his “yellow journalism,” marked by lurid ledes and exaggeration to grab the readers’ attention and sell papers instead of researched or unbiased reporting.
  • Dime novels were a popular form of literary entertainment in the United States in the late 1800s, and were the immediate precursors to the pulp magazines.
  • Blue Label Ketchup advertisement
    Blue Label Ketchup advertisement

    The advertisements outside the window for Blue Label Ketchup, Packard’s Black D Shoe Polish, etc. are authentic period advertisements.

  • Commenter Legion of Andy points out:

    Next to the black shoe polish ad — carrying Robert’s surname (And I’m sure he keeps his shoes well polished, like the rest of well-groomed surface) — is an ad for Lowney’s Cocoa. All we see of it is Lowne Coc. The N is quite large giving an impression of Low NE Coc. Robert has come to the North East — NE — (NYC) in search of cock in low places.

    Lowney's logo - Providence
    Providence version
    Lowney's Cocoa logo
    Actual Lowney’s Cocoa logo

    While this may seem like a stretch, a Google images search for ads for Lowney’s Cocoa in fact tends to support this theory. The lettering on the ads falls into a few standard arrangements, one of which is quite similar to the one depicted here, but with the letters noticeably compressed and shifted.

  • The issue’s title “The Yellow Sign” refers to the mythos created by Robert W. Chambers in his book The King in Yellow (1895), later adapted as part of the Cthulhu Mythos by H. P. Lovecraft and others. Per Wikipedia, The Yellow Sign itself is a glyph symbol that anyone who has one is susceptible to some form of insidious mind control by the King in Yellow. Chambers’ stories suggest that the sign came from an alternate dimension’s ancient city known as Carcosa (see Johnny Carcosa in Neonomicon and The Courtyard.)
The Yellow Sign
The Yellow Sign, interpretation by Kevin Ross
  • Commenter Pádraig Ó Méalóid points out the preponderance of references to colors: The Yellow Sign, yellow journalism, Blue Label Ketchup, Black D Shoe Polish, Robert Black, and even implied a red badge of courage.

Page 3

panels 1-4

  • Burrows and Moore employ “rotating shots,” with the perspective shifting as each panel is from a different part of the room, framing the characters movements and body language relevant to each other.
The Jersey Devil, depiction from 1909 Philadelphia newspaper, via Wikipedia
The Jersey Devil, depiction from 1909 Philadelphia newspaper, via Wikipedia

panel 1

  • The Jersey Devil” is an American folktale with obscure origins. It first achieved widespread popularity in the early 20th century, where hundreds of sightings were reported in newspapers in 1909.
  • “That book sent everybody crazy” – A popular misconception of the Cthulhu Mythos is that the books send the readers mad; an idea fostered by pasticheurs and especially the Call of Cthulhu Roleplaying Game, where because of the Sanity mechanics reading Mythos tomes will render your character temporarily or permanently insane. It also describes Chambers’ eponymous play The King in Yellow referenced in the story collection of the same name. The play induces madness in those who read it.

panel 2

  • “Sous le Monde” is French for “Under the World.” This is a fictitious book that Moore invented as Providence‘s analog for the Chambers’ fictional play The King in Yellow, which, in Chambers’ mythos, causes its readers to go mad. The phrase may be taken from Victor Hugo‘s preface to Odes et Ballades (1822): “Sous le monde réel, il existe un monde idéal, qui se montre resplendissant à l’œil de ceux que des méditations graves ont accoutumés à voir dans les choses plus que les choses.” (Under the real world, there is an ideal world, which shows resplendent to the eye of those in serious meditation accustomed to see in things more than things.)
  • The Yellow Book spine designs, from P33 of Alan Moore's 25,000 Years of Erotic Freedom
    The Yellow Book spine designs by Aubrey Beardsley, from P33 of Alan Moore’s 25,000 Years of Erotic Freedom

    “Back in the ‘eighties” apparently refers to the 1880s and 1890s marked by the Decadent movement in art and literature, particularly in France and England, where the exploits of Oscar Wilde and The Yellow Book gave rise to the term “Yellow Nineties.” Moore wrote about Decadence, the Yellow Nineties, and The Yellow Book previously in 25,000 Years of Erotic Freedom.

  • “It was a real title” reveals some xenophobia on Turner’s part, in that she apparently only considers things written in English to be real. Commenter Raúl Moreno aptly points out that there’s a meta-reference here: Moore is hinting at Sous le Monde not being the real title – because it’s a stand in for The King in Yellow.
  • Just to the left of Robert Black’s shoulder, the pneumatic message tube system is visible (shown more fully on P5,p1.)

panel 3

  • The King in Yellow (1895) is the weird masterpiece of American writer Robert W. Chambers. It is a series of interconnected short stories which combine fantasy, science fiction, experimental fiction, and realistic works based in part on Chambers’ experiences in Paris. Highlights include the eponymous play The King in Yellow, the Yellow Sign, and the locations of Carcosa and the Lake of Hali that are all associated with the macabre, unseen figure of the King in Yellow entity. In writing the book, Chambers drew on the creations of Hastur, Carcosa, and Hali from fellow American writer Ambrose Bierce. Chambers’ work inspired H. P. Lovecraft and others to include references to Chambers’ mythology in their own fiction. Today, the subset of fiction centered around The King in Yellow is known as the Yellow Mythos, and has recently seen a resurgence in interest due to its adoption in the first series of True Detective.

Page 4

panel 1

  • “Doctor Alvarez” is Providence‘s equivalent to Dr. Muñoz of Lovecraft’s story “Cool Air“. If you haven’t read “Cool Air” (text available in its entirety online, also in audiobook version) you should do so, as it forms the primary Lovecraft influence on Providence #1.
  • West 14th Street was was Dr. Muñoz’ address in “Cool Air”. Alvarez first appears on P12,p1 below.

panel 2

  • “If providence allows” – Possibly a pun on Moore’s part, referring in-character to divine providence, and out-of-character to the Providence series. Notably, H. P. Lovecraft himself never completed and published a novel during his lifetime (the closest being The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath), though he planned one or two.

panel 3

  • “Apparently, some readers went insane and even committed suicide” – A reference to the first story of The King in Yellow, “The Repairer of Reputations.”

It is well known how the book spread like an infectious disease, from city to city, from continent to continent, barred out here, confiscated there, denounced by Press and pulpit, censured even by the most advanced of literary anarchists. No definite principles had been violated in those wicked pages, no doctrine promulgated, no convictions outraged. It could not be judged by any known standard, yet, although it was acknowledged that the supreme note of art had been struck in The King in Yellow, all felt that human nature could not bear the strain, nor thrive on words in which the essence of purest poison lurked. The very banality and innocence of the first act only allowed the blow to fall afterward with more awful effect.”

panel 4

  • “Ghoulish,” “[inducing] goose-bumps” and “a real stiff” are all apt descriptions for the eerie Dr. Muñoz in “Cool Air”. As with a number of things in Providence, there is ambiguity with double meanings. Goose bumps could be from cold air, or the eerieness of an animated corpse. A real stiff could be a dead person, or someone live who’s really dull.

Page 5

panel 1

  • The setting returns to Bryant Park; floating on the water are the ripped pages of the letter from Page 1.

panel 2

  • The white things on Johnathan’s shoes are spats, now rarely seen; they were designed to protect the ankle, shoes, and socks from water and mud.
  • The building on the right, later called an “exit garden” (see P25,p1) is a chamber for committing suicide. The exit garden references the Lethal Chamber in Robert W. Chambers’ story “The Repairer of Reputations” which is described as follows:

It was, I remember, the 13th day of April, 1920, that the first Government Lethal Chamber was established on the south side of Washington Square, between Wooster Street and South Fifth Avenue. […] In the centre of the garden stood a small, white building, severely classical in architecture, and surrounded by thickets of flowers. Six Ionic columns supported the roof, and the single door was of bronze. A splendid marble group of the “Fates” stood before the door, the work of a young American sculptor, Boris Yvain, who had died in Paris when only twenty-three years old.

panels 2-4

panels 3-4

  • Commenter E.A.Buck notes “the Spanish word for butterfly is “mariposa” which is Mexican slang for a gay guy. It certainly is a poignant metaphor for Jonathan/Lillian’s death.”

Page 6

panel 1

  • Many streets of New York were still unpaved in 1919, and you can see both a horse-drawn cart and a streetcar.
  • Behind Black is the southwest corner of the Herald Building, shown more fully on P23,p1 below. In the upper right is the 6th Avenue elevated railway tracks.

panels 1-4

  • The transitions from panel 1 to 2 is similar to that from panel 3 to 4. In each, the younger Robert Black is just to the below right of the contemporary (1919) Robert Black.

panel 2

  • Sepia toned panels are flashbacks.
  • The setting is Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The boy depicted is a young Robert Black, seated at a table with his parents.
    • Commenter Mateusz Kopacz notes “Robert Bloch was also from Milwaukee, just like Robert Black and Robert Blake.”
  • “Married to some pretty girl” shows his parents assume (incorrectly) that Black is heterosexual.
  • The emphasis on being a doctor, speech patterns, and cheek-pinching are suggestive of Jewish-American immigrant stereotypes.
  • On the left-hand side, you can just make out a framed silhouette, formerly a popular form of art. Lovecraft had his silhouette cut by E. J. Perry.

panel 3

  • Horn & Hardart was an actual food services company with multiple automat restaurants in NYC.
  • This street view should be easy to nail down (hardware, hat shop, H&H, hotel – all Hs?), but we haven’t been able to find it. It should be between Herald Square and Madison Square which are connected by Broadway… but the scale looks more like an east-west street, than Broadway?

panel 4

  • Again the sepia tone indicates a flashback. The young man is Robert Black, speaking with his father.
  • Black, who is gay, is following a common migration pattern still practiced today. Closeted homosexuals depart from their smaller hometowns and go to big cities where homosexuality is tolerated to a greater extent.

Page 7

panel 1

  • First appearance of Charles.
  • The automat is a now mostly defunct style of fast-food eatery. Meal items were located in slots in the wall, dishes and all, and were paid for using a coin slot.
  • Oddly, Charles is wearing a plain band on his left middle finger, perhaps to emphasize he is unmarried.

panel 2

  • Charles, like Black, is gay (or at least travels in gay circles), otherwise he would not know about Black’s closeted homosexual relationship with Lillian (Johnathan) Russell.

panel 3

  • Vera is apparently Charles’ lover/boyfriend.
  • “Wearing her hair up” was then gay slang for not being openly gay. Thanks commenter Nate.
  • Dropping hairpins” is gay slang for dropping hints that one is gay, perhaps as a precursor to flirting.
  • Charles wears a red (bow) tie which was a covert homosexual sign, per commenter Nate according to the book Gay New York.

panel 4

  • “The city of bachelors” may also be gay slang. Please comment.

Page 8

panel 1

  • The New York Times frontpage sets the date at June 17, 1919, although this may be an error (see Page 30 below) or one of the subtle differences between Providence‘s 1919 and earth’s (see P1, panels 2-3 above.)

panels 1-4

  • Similar to Page 6, there are some parallels in the transitions from panel 1 to 2 and 3 to 4. The newspaper on the left in panel 1 becomes the newspaper boss Posey in panel 2. The (questionable) vice of alcohol on the left in panel 3 becomes the (questionable) vice of gay pick-up coupling in panel 4.

panel 2

  • Again the sepia tone indicates a flashback. The young man is Robert Black, being hired by his now-boss Ephraim Posey.
  • Posey, as Black’s father had above (P7,p2), assumes Black is straight and warns him that “women are an awful temptation.”

panel 3

  • On the left, you can see a Temperance Movement sign – “Drink The Demon That Is Haunting America” – part of the campaign for national prohibition.
  • The “D” in “DRINK” is hollowed out, and the “R” is partially obscured by bunting. This leads to a second reading, that “KINK” is the demon haunting America. And the very next panel is our first strong hint that Black is a gay man.
  • Black is walking south on 5th Avenue. The building on the right is the Flatiron Building; the trees behind (left of) it are in Madison Square Park. The view is roughly the same as this present day Google street view.

panel 4

  • Again the sepia tone indicates a flashback.
  • Robert Black is apparently cruising a gay pick-up area. His back to the reader may indicate symbolize his lack of openness, his closetedness.
  • The sailor is wearing the traditional “dixie cup” hat.

Page 9

panel 1

  • Sepia tone indicates a flashback.
  • Lillian Russell is also known as Johnathan Russell, who tore up the letter on the first page. At this point, Moore and Burrows haven’t made it clear to the reader that Lillian Russell is actually a male, and that she’s the male who we saw on P1.
  • “The Ariston when they got raided in 1903” – The Ariston Baths, beneath the Ariston Hotel in New York City, were a historical meeting place for homosexuals. It was famed for a police raid in 1903, categorized as the first anti-gay raid in New York history.
Building on the southwest corner of 5th Avenue and 14th Street - via Google street view
Building on the southwest corner of 5th Avenue and 14th Street – via Google street view

panel 2

  • The intersection is 5th Avenue and 14th Street. The view is facing south. The building depicted is still there, visible on Google street view.
  • The area, at the border of NYC’s Greenwich Village neighborhood, is apparently some kind of homosexual cruising area, as Black later (P30) writes “I’m down on W. 14th Street, which is obviously a part of town that I’m not unfamiliar with. The gay girls down there weighed me up with practiced gazes and dismissed me as at best a bad investment and at worst as competition. I think one or two of them I recognized.” There are probably more details in the book Gay New York (a book Moore mentions as part of his background research for Providence – see this lecture – starting minute 23) but here is a line from the 2014 Alan Moore forward to The New Annotated H.P. Lovecraft: “[Circa 1920] On the streets of Harlem, Greenwich Village, Times Square, and the Bowery in New York [City], a novel populace of highly visible and unapologetically flamboyant homosexual men (and women, albeit less noticeably) were establishing themselves, much to the consternation of the city’s moral arbiters.”

panel 3

  • Sepia tone indicates a flashback.
  • “Gautier” is Théophile Gautier, French Romantic writer
  • “Swinburne” is Algernon Charles Swinburne, English poet
  • “De l’Isle Adam” is Auguste Villiers de l’Isle-Adam, a French symbolist writer whose collection Contes cruels (1883) gave name to an entire genre of horror fiction.
  • “I’ll be Venus, you be Tannhäuser” – Almost certainly a reference to Aubrey Beardsley‘s erotic novel The Story of Venus and Tannhäuser (1907), originally published as Under the Hill. Beardsley was an infamous artist of the Yellow Nineties, associated with Oscar Wilde, The Yellow Book, and Arthur Machen’s The Great God Pan (1890). Venusberg, the site of the legend of Venus and Tannhäuser, appeared in Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier.

panel 4

  • Black has arrived at 317 W 14th St, the “Cool Air” building shown on the cover. The buildings behind him are more-or-less the same as the present day Google street view.
  • The transition from p9,p4 to P10,p1 is a (somewhat mild) page-turn reveal.

Page 10

panel 1

  • The building depicted is 317 W 14th St, New York, NY 10014, shown on the cover. See cover notes above. (Commenter Seigor Bolskan notes that the fire escape and balconies on the building to the left are inconsistent between this panel and the cover. Could be a mistake or intentional.)

panel 2

  • P10,p2 through P11,p2 are a fixed-camera sequence. Moore and Burrows show the passing of time through the progress of the cart and the people walking.

Page 11

panel 2

  • First appearance of Mrs. Ortega, Providence‘s equivalent for the Spanish landlady Mrs. Herrero of Lovecraft’s story “Cool Air.”
  • Mrs. Ortega answers the door after a pause in a housecoat; this is a foreshadowing of her relationship with Dr. Alvarez, made clear below on P13,p2.
  • “Sí?” is Spanish for “yes?”

Page 12

Detail panels from Cool Air art by Wally Wood. Image via Notes from Pellucidar
Detail panels from 1975 “Cool Air” adaptation – art by Bernie Wrightson. Image via Notes from Pellucidar

panel 1

  • First appearance of Dr. AlvarezProvidence‘s equivalent for the Dr. Muñoz of Lovecraft’s story “Cool Air.”
  • It’s probably just faithfulness to the original text, but Burrows’ Alvarez bears some resemblance to Bernie Wrightston’s Muñoz in the 1975 adaptation of “Cool Air” published in Eerie #62.
  • “¿Señor Alvarez? Este caballero es del periódico. Como siempre le digo, todos deberían saber de usted. Mr. Alvarez?”
    Translation: This gentleman is with the newspaper. As I always say, everyone should know about you.
  • “Oh, muy bien. Puede pasar. Espero verla más tarde, querida señorita Ortega.”
    Translation: Oh, very good. He can come in. I hope to see you later, dear Mrs. Ortega.
  • Doctor Alvarez is also in his housecoat – probably for the same reason as Mrs. Ortega – made clear below on P13,p2.

panel 2

  • “Lo veré esta noche… y háblele bien de usted a este joven.”
    Translation: I’ll see to it tonight… and speak well of yourself to this young man.
  • There is quite a contrast between Black’s and Alvarez’ complexions. Black, who appears pale compared to his newspaper co-workers, has a much warmer complexion than Alvarez’ cool (nearly blue-green) pale complexion.

panel 3

  • The cold, Alverez’ illness, and the ammonia-fueled cooling system are further references to Lovecraft’s “Cool Air.”
  • You can first see Black’s breath misting in the cold air. In contrast, Alvarez’ breath does not mist. (Thanks commenter Ken Langfield)

Page 13

panel 1

  • “Claude Guillot” is apparently a fictitious original author Moore invented. Guillot is perhaps a play on the word guillotine.
  • To the left is a framed picture of a human heart. These and other medical diagrams reinforce Alvarez’ medical background.

panel 2

  • The item Alvarez picks up appears to be a pair of underpants. Coupled with Alvarez’ comments, the implication is that he and Mrs. Ortega are lovers, and that Black interrupted them during sex. Moore has invented the sexual relationship between Muñoz (Alvarez) and Herrero (Ortega) which is neither mentioned nor implied in Lovecraft’s story “Cool Air.”
  • To the left of Black, you can see the bottles and Alvarez’ cooling equipment.

panel 3

  • “Sfarda” is a reference to the Sephardic Jews of Spanish ancestry, subtly hinting at Black’s closeted Jewish ancestry.
  • Since Black in no significant way appears Jewish, this foreshadows the fact that Alvarez knows more about Black than we would expect, as made more blatant below at P17.p3 and P31.
    • Commenter Mr Nobody points out that red hair (which Alvarez has just commented upon) was associated with Jews in Medieval Spain.

Page 14

panel 1

  • Picking back up from Page 5 above, the setting is inside the suicide chamber in Bryant Park. The hand on the right belongs to Jonathan/Lillian Russell.
  • A few years from now, young people may not recognize this as a phonograph record. In this period, phonographs and even recording were often mechanical as they were electric, and would run at 78 RPM. Implicitly, the suicide picks the music to listen to as they await death to claim them.
  • The record is Pullman Porter’s Parade, sung by Al Jolson. (Thanks to commenter ccsbn for pointing this out.)
    • Commenter skeletonpete adds:

      The song choice seems a strange one at first. Jolson, who sings it in “minstrel” style, was still wearing black face in 1913 when it was recorded.

      Further investigation shows a link to the underlying social themes  (worker’s rights, unionization) that Moore has been documenting throughout the series. As you likely know the porter’s were predominantly black men working service jobs in the sleeping cars of railway trains.
      They attempted to organize/unionize, even boycott the Pullman company, as far back as the 1880’s, but were disallowed entry into the railway workers union based on race. Perhaps the “parade” was a show of solidarity as these workers continued to consolidate their brotherhood through the 1920’s and their actions are seen as a harbinger of the civil rights movement.

panels 2-4

Page 15

panel 3

  • “Cool Air” mentions Muñoz’ interest in precious books: “the unconventional and astonishingly ancient volumes on his [Dr. Muñoz’] shelves.”
  • “Kitab Al-Hikmah Al-Najmiyya” is Arabic for “Book of the Wisdom of the Stars.” This book is Providence‘s analogue for Lovecraft’s Necronomicon. Many Arabian texts on alchemy, philosophy, medicine, and the occult filtered into Europe during the Middle Ages and later, forming an important part of the corpus of European knowledge. This book is Providence‘s analog for Lovecraft’s Necronomicon. In Lovecraft’s The History of the Necronomicon, his famous grimoire is given a similar origin in the Arabic Al Azif (sometimes rendered by other writers as the Kitab Al-Azif or similar).
  • Commenter David Milne points out that “Book of the Wisdom of the Stars” sounds like The Starry Wisdom, the name of the Lovecraft-inspired compilation where Alan Moore’s story The Courtyard first appeared. That book title referenced a fictional cult of worshipers of Nyarlathotep, the “Church of Starry Wisdom” which appears in Lovecraft’s story “The Haunter of the Dark.” More generally, the title would also apply to real-world Arabic works of astrology like the Picatrix, which may have inspired Lovecraft’s Necronomicon.

panel 4

  • “For many years it was believed a joke to be, a fiction.” – Again, Moore is re-fictionalizing the Cthulhu Mythos – instead of the King in Yellow, the Sous le Monde; instead of Dr. Muñoz, Dr. Alvarez; instead of the Al Azif, the Kitab Al-Hikmah Al-Najmiyya and so on.
  • “Khalid Ibn Yazid” is Moore’s invention, not to be confused with Khalid ibn Yazid al-Shaybani who would have lived a century later. As becomes clearer in later issues, Khalid Ibn Yazid is Providence’s analogue for Lovecraft’s “mad Arab” Abdul Alhazred author of the dreaded  Necronomicon.

Page 16

panel 1

  • “Dr. Estes” is the counterpart to Dr. Torres in “Cool Air”
  • “The Reviving of Cadavers” is a reference to Lovecraft’s “Herbert West—Reanimator” and similar stories, including perhaps the reanimated “y’m-bhi” of “The Mound.”
  • “The Transplanting of Souls” refers to Lovecraft’s “The Thing on the Doorstep,” and possibly “The Shadow Out of Time.”
  • The other two methods are not named here, but it willbe no surprise that one of them turns out to be preservation through cold – as in “Cool Air”. The methods are explained a bit more fully in Providence #2, P11.p4, and we see some of what the Kitab has to say about them in Providence #6, P38.

panel 2

panel 3

  • “The Repairer of Reputations” in The King in Yellow is set in an alternate future New York in the 1920s, which featured legalized suicide chambers (see Pages 5 and 14 above) and a concluded European war with an American victory; this further reinforces the layered fictionality of Providence, where the reality of the comic book is not our reality, nor even Lovecraft’s. See P1,p2-3 above for further exploration of this alternate reality.
  • The armless statue on the left seems referenced from the Venus di Milo.

panel 4

  • The New York Herald sent reporter Henry Morton Stanley on a harrowing quest into Africa to find Dr. David Livingstone in 1869; in 1871, Stanley succeeded, famously supposed to have greeted the ailing explorer with the phrase “Dr. Livingstone I presume?” This dated reference – some forty years before the time of the comic – gives an indication of Dr. Alvarez’ true age.

Page 17

panel 1

  • The statue of Athena and the brass owls with electric flashing eyes are true details of the Herald building, as revealed in the Bleeding Cool interview. They are depicted on P22.

panel 2-3

  • These form a fixed-camera sequence, perhaps showcasing Black’s perking up when he hears about the “concealed country.”

panel 2

  • Commenter Mr Nobody points out that Alvarez’s statement “Life does not trouble me” is certainly true, since he is technically not alive.

panel 3

  • Dr. Alvarez’ veiled threat “you have your secret” suggests he knows more about Black than he should. The “concealed country… hidden below the society we show the world” sounds similar to “Sous le Monde” (Under the World) though it may describe either the “underground” society of homosexual romance the Robert Black is part of, or his heritage as Jew.

panel 4

  • “…is is a land sunken beneath many fathoms. Were it one day to rise and confront us all…” – Another double reference; both to the sunken island of R’lyeh, where Cthulhu sleeps, and to Blake’s “secret” – being outed.

Page 18

panel 1

  • Back at the Bryant Park suicide chamber, continuing from P14 above. The attendant presumably waits to see that the suicide is complete.
  • On the left-hand side, a device for pumping gas into the chamber; on the left a selection of records.

panels 1-2

panel 4

  • Panel 4 reproduces the view of the suicide chamber shown on P5, panels 2-4. The light shows that it is later in the day. The white butterfly (or moth) that flew past on P5, is now dead on the ground on the left, apparently a victim of the deadly gases from the chamber.

Page 19

panel 2

  • Dr. Alvarez offers a wholly un-supernatural explanation for the deaths associated with Sous Le Mond.

panel 3-4

  • Black is thinking about “hidden America” (P17,p3) but Dr. Alvarez is thinking about love (perhaps sexual love with Mrs. Ortega.)
  • Alvarez’ statement “We must never discard those we are loved by. Lacking them, we are cursed” is alarmingly apposite. The reader learns on P22 below that Black has just discarded Russell who loved him. If Alvarez is correct, Black is cursed. (Thanks commenter Raúl Moreno)

panel 4

  • “Fall to pieces” describes Dr. Muñoz’ fate at the end of “Cool Air.”
  • “A lively one” is ironic, because Alvarez (“Cool Air”‘s Dr. Muñoz) is dead.

Page 20

panel 1

  • Black looks at his hand, apparently cold from shaking Alvarez’ hand.

panel 4

  • “The day I am knowingly dishonest with a feature is the day I quit journalism” foreshadows P25 where Black will be dishonest about Russell’s suicide. (Thanks commenter Raúl Moreno)

Page 21

panel 2

  • The sepia flashback depicts the recent past, Black breaking up with Jonathan/Lillian Russell.

panel 3

  • On the left, the old-style double-decker bus.
  • The street sign says W. 19th Street. The view is looking south on 5th Avenue at 19th Street, similar to this contemporary Google street view.

panel 4

  • The sepia flashback depicts the recent past, Black walking out on Jonathan/Lillian Russell.
  • “You hide your religion, you hide the truth about us” refers to Black’s passing as a non-Jew, and his closeted homosexuality.
  • Commenter Dave Judgment notes: “It is clear that Lillian wears nail varnish in her room in panel 4, but in the public panel 2 she keeps her nails clean (as a gentleman would).”

Page 22

1891 photo of the NY Herald Building via Wikipedia
1891 photo of the NY Herald Building via Wikipedia

panel 1

  • First full look at the outside of the Herald building, statue of Minerva and owls with electric eyes and all (mentioned on P17,p1 above.) The building (demolished in 1921) was located at 6th Avenue and Broadway, which today still called Herald Square.
  • Note that the text “The New York Herald” is conspicuously missing. (It can be seen, slightly shadowed, in the photograph above.) This may be an oversight, though commenter Legion of Andy points out that it may be symbolic of Black’s status as “The Herald” being hidden information at this point in the story.

Page 23

panel 1

  • Dix and Posey appear to be discussing the Temperance Movement, also mentioned on P8 above.
  • On the sauce” is a euphemism for drinking alcohol regularly.

panel 2

  • The Bowery is an historic neighborhood in south Manhattan, somewhat associated with urban decline. Alvarez’s W 14th Street residence is not actually in the Bowery, so Posey may be generalizing – stereotyping immigrants as living in undesirable neighborhoods.
  • “Out with some woman” is Turner incorrectly assuming Black is heterosexual, and reemphasizing that he is in the closet.
  • As mentioned above (P3,p2) the pneumatic message tube system apparatus is visible between Dix and Turner.

Page 24

Exit gardens mentioned in The Ballad of Halo Jones, Book Two Prologue. Written by Alan Moore, art by Ian Gibson
Exit gardens mentioned in The Ballad of Halo Jones, Book Two Prologue. Written by Alan Moore, art by Ian Gibson

panel 1

  • This is the first mention of the suicide chamber as an “exit garden.” Commenter Phil Smith noted that Moore has used this terminology before for a nearly identical suicide chamber in the 1980s sci-fi comic The Ballad of Halo Jones. In prog #406 “Book Two Prologue” on Page 3 panel 4 the lecturer states “If the poverty and riots got too depressing, you could visit one of the hoop’s exit gardens… sniff the flowers… listen to the music… and be put quietly to sleep with a lethal injection.”
  • As mentioned above (P3,p2) the pneumatic message tube system apparatus is visible in panels 1, 3, and 4 on this page.

panel 3

  • Odd that Dix, who has just written an article about Russell, mistakes the name as Brussell.

panels 3-4

Page 25

panel 1

  • “I know him a little, sure” is a very closeted understatement. Black and Russell were lovers, for at least a few months.
  • “He didn’t have woman problems” again shows Posey’s incorrect assumption of Russell’s heterosexuality. He made a similar statement about Black on P8,p2.

panels 2-4

  • These three panels form a fixed-camera sequence, highlighting Black’s realization that the Sous Le Monde book could have caused Russell’s suicide. Though the rest of the Herald staff love this lurid explanation, there’s clearly a more mundane explanation: that Russell was distraught over Black breaking up with him. Commenter Raúl Moreno has a better explanation: Black is lying quickly to shake Herald staff from digging deeper into a motive for suicide, which could reveal Black’s closeted homosexuality. Black lies, despite just having told Mrs. Ortega (P21,p4) that he would quit journalism if he is ever “knowingly dishonest.”

panel 4

  • Similar to the transition from P1 to P2 above, to some extent, Posey’s words “It looks like there is someone watching out for us after all. Even in a town like this, there is sometimes great mercy” could refer to the scene on the next page. Mrs. Ortega watches out for Dr. Alvarez, bestows mercy on him, in the form of sex. Commenter Raúl Moreno points out a third meaning: Posey’s words can refer to Black and Russell. Black is hurting, as he probably feels he had no mercy for Russell, nor will Russell be watching over him anymore.

Page 26

panel 1

  • Mrs Ortega returns to Dr. Alvarez that evening, as requested by Alvarez on P15,p1.

panel 2-3

  • These form a fixed-camera sequence. Clearly Ortega opens her coat (for Alvarez and the reader), but also Alvarez’ gaze correspondingly shifts slightly downward.
  • The opening of Mrs. Ortega’s coat is perhaps visually similar to Russell’s tearing of Black’s letters on P1 above. Both draw readers’ attention to the middle of the panel.

panel 4

  • The comics portion of the issue ends with an image that could be seen as a lead-in to the cover.

Page 27

  • Lovecraft kept several notes and story ideas in his “Commonplace Book.” These were later mined by other authors like August Derleth after Lovecraft’s death, and were the basis for several “posthumous collaborations.”

Page 28

  • The art deco bookplate features the figure of the Greek god Hermes, in front of a winged staff or caduceus. Hermes was the messenger of the gods – fitting for a journalist – and was later made the patron of Western magic when he was syncretized with the Egyptian god Thoth as Hermes Trismegistus.
  • The Latin numerals “MCMXIX” translate to the Arabic numerals “1919.”
  • There are symbols or letters worked into the design along the bottom of the bookplate that are ambiguous: A? N? +? R? M? F?

Page 29

(Annotations note: Some of the text back matter below refers directly to stuff we’ve already covered in the comics annotations above. In these case, we try not to repeat ourselves, but just briefly refer to the details above.)

  • The style of the Commonplace Book entries reads almost like a fictionalization of (or perhaps the notes that could precede and inspire) Moore’s script for the issue.
  • Moore previously used journals as storytelling devices: see Rorschach’s journal in Watchmen, and Future Taylor’s journal in Crossed Plus One Hundred. The use of text back-matter is reminiscent of Watchmen.
  • The handwriting appears to be the same as Black’s note to Russell on P1.
  • The date, June 5, 1919, would sets these journal pages weeks prior to the start of the story (see P8,p1 above), and may be an error. Or maybe Black wrote the date, set the book down, and didn’t pick it up again until the events of the story.
  • The “their” in “Today my lover took their own life” is oddly gender-less. Commenter Raúl Moreno suggests that “their” hints at Russell’s two personas: Jonathan and Lillian. Commenter DCo points out that Robert Black (or perhaps Alan Moore) goes to great length to avoid writing Lily Russell’s gender.
  • “Lily” is Lillian Russell, publicly known as Jonathan Russell.
  • Herald” – see P2,p1 above.
  • Times Square” is a bustling major destination intersection in mid-Manhattan – and, at the time, a neighborhood where homosexuals lived openly – see P9,p2 Moore quote above.
  • “Doctor living down on 14th Street … Dr. Alvarez” – see P12,p1 above.
  • “Guillot” – see P13,p1 above.
  • “Sous le Monde” – see P3,p2 above.
  • “Towering eminences like the great Jack London” refers to Jack London, the famous American writer, whose weird work influenced writers including H. P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard.
  • Commenter Mateusz Kopacz notes:

    Black’s description of the Commonplace Book (“It’s apparently a volume in which one can jot down fragments or ideas, character’s names, or dreams, or lines of dialogue one may have overheard that might be useful in some future literary endeavour”) looks very similar to Lovecraft’s description of his book (“This book consists of ideas, images, and quotations hastily jotted down for possible future use in weird fiction. Very few are actually developed plots — for the most part they are merely suggestions or random impressions designed to set the memory or imagination working. Their sources are various — dreams, things read, casual incidents, idle conceptions, and so on.”)

Page 30

  • Ephraim Posey first appears on P2 above.
  • “Our Lords & Masters” is a saying for someone/s who have power over another.
  • “The Versailles piece” is the article Black is writing on P2 above.
  •  Freddy Dix first appears on P2 above.
  • “Jersey Devil” – see P3,p1 above.
  • The Titanic was an ocean liner that sunk in 1912.
  • Prissy Turner first appears on P2 above.
  • “Chambers’ King in Yellow” – see P3 panels 2-3 above.
  • “Guillot” – see P13,p1 above.
  • “Sous le Monde” – see P3,p2 above.
  • “…all this after I happened to have casually mentioned both books to her some time back in Spring while she was … pretending she was listening to what I was saying.” Black’s hostility towards Turner masks his own self-contradiction here. Given how much she remembered, and for how long, she was certainly more than “pretending” to listen. This is perhaps the first time we see what will be a recurring theme: Black’s extraordinary ability to fail to think through the implications of what he is writing.
  • “Dr. Alvarez” – see P12,p1 above.
  •  “Part of town [where] gay girls … weighed me up” – apparently the part of town (it’s on the edge of the West Village and Chelsea) where Alvarez lives is frequented by homosexual men in drag – see also P9,p2 above.
  • Mrs. Ortega first appears on P11,p2.

Page 31

  • “Dr. Alvarez” – see P12,p1 above.
  • “Poe’s Mr. Valdemar” refers to Edgar Allan Poe’s 1845 short story “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar” involved a man who was hypnotized into surviving after he was dead; it was an obvious influence on Lovecraft’s “Cool Air.”
  • Alvarez has “a perspective that’s outside of everything” refers to Alvarez actually being dead, as told in the conclusion of H.P. Lovecraft’s “Cool Air.”
  • “he sees things very clearly.” – The writing here somewhat merges the “c” and “l”, so that “clearly” can also be read as “dearly”. And Alvarez does see things that way as well. (This was probably accidental, but, as Moore’s influence Brian Eno famously said: “Honour thy accident as your hidden intention.”)
  • “[Robert W.] Chambers’ King in Yellow” – see P3 panels 2-3 above.
  • “Sous le Monde” – see P3,p2 above.
  • “Kitab Al-Hikmah Al-Najmiyya’ or ‘Book of the Wisdom of the Stars’ – see P15,p3 above.
  • “Khalid Yazid” – see P15,p4.
  • “Robert Suydam” is a character in Lovecraft’s short story The Horror at Red Hook – see P16,p2 above and this background blog post.

Page 32

  • “Dr. Estes” – see P16,p1.
  • “Alvarez” – see P12,p1 above.
  • “fancy metaphor for what I really want to talk about” – Moore here is, perhaps, describing his own creative process.  He wants to write about religious and sexual prejudice, but can more easily accomplish that under the guise of a Lovecraft homage.
  • “The hidden world that people like me and my friends inhabit” refers to the Black’s closeted homosexuality.
  • “their own private practices and way of talking, almost their own language” – as noted above, this can be seen to apply to Black’s identities as Jewish (P6,p2, p4) and as homosexual (P7,p3-4, P9,p1, P30).
  • “Mr Suydam” refers to Robert Suydam of Lovecraft’s short story The Horror at Red Hook – see P16,p2 above and this background blog post.
  • “So much of this is made of books” – True on more levels than those Black is aware of. Providence as a whole is “made of” the books of H.P. Lovecraft and those who influenced him. See also the note on stories, below.
  • “Guillot” – see P13,p1 above.
  • “Sous le Monde” – see P3,p2 above.
  • “The King in Yellow… [Robert W.] Chambers ” – see P3 panels 2-3 above.
  • “lethal chambers in public parks” – see P5,p2 above.
  • “Visits to the library… the park there, by that little stream… fed from the old reservoir before the library was there” refer to Bryant Park, shown on P1 and annotated there. Moore thereby opens and closes Providence #1 with Bryant Park.
  • “Our lives, the world, it’s all just lies, it’s all a story that we’re making up until a more compelling story comes along.” – This ties in to a frequent Moore theme that “stories are real”. Within the context of Providence, it may also be foreshadowing of the exchange between dreams and reality.
  • “I never want to dream again” probably doesn’t refer to this 1964 pop song.

Back Cover

  • The letter quoted on the back cover is from the Selected Letters of H. P. Lovecraft volume 1.

>Go to Providence #2
>Go to Moore Lovecraft Annotations Index

 

139 thoughts on “Providence 1

  1. Moore’s used the euphemism ‘exit gardens’ before, for pretty much the same thing, in ‘The Ballad of Halo Jones’, one of the series he wrote for 2000AD, back in the eighties. That series was set in New York too, or, more accurately, ‘The Hoop’, a floating conurbation set in roughly the same area, in the 49th century. Given the endemic employment, violence etc, citizens who’d had enough had the option of visiting said gardens and being gently gassed to death.

    I don’t know if ‘exit garden’ is a contemporary euphemism from this period. Its meaning is pretty obvious (obviously!) and if nothing else it surely stayed in Alan Moore’s commonplace book for 30-something years.

    Fantastic annotations as always; looking forward to seeing how they develop.

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  2. I feel like I’m making an over-obvious statement regarding Robert Black, but what the Hell. I’ll make it anyway, and hopefully dig up something a little more interesting afterwards.

    First, a brief résumé. Lovecraft largely based Robert Blake on Robert Bloch, giving him a similar name, and the same hometown (Milwaukee). While Lovecraft was anti-semitic, Bloch was one of the exceptions HPL made.

    Here, Alan Moore seems to be setting up a possible fictional inspiration for the character of Robert Blake. We have the same basic setup, someone with a similar name from the same place, albeit created deliberately to play against HPL’s prejudices. Like Black, Bloch is Jewish, although Black is rather older than Bloch (Bloch would be in his terrible twos by the time of Providence). However, the question of who Robert Black is, isn’t as simple as it appears.

    Looking at Black, it’s impossible for me not to think of HPL’s friend and correspondent Samuel Loveman: a dream of whom inspired the story ‘Nyarlathotep’ (HPL dreamed he wrote the ‘Don’t fail to see Nyarlathotep’ letter) and also ‘The Statement of Randolph Carter’ (“You fool! Loveman is dead!”). Loveman was gay and Jewish, although HPL seems to have laboured in ignorance of this while he was alive. According to Wikipedia, Loveman had no idea about Lovecraft’s anti-semitism until Sonia Greene told him about it, causing him to disown that friendship and burn most of his correspondence. This note of bitterness has a peculiar resonance, especially with his destruction of Lily’s letters at the beginning of the issue.

    I daresay Moore considered other people when creating Black, but he does seem to be an amalgam of Bloch and Loveman. And if Loveman’s repudiation of HPL after the man’;s death, and Blake’s sticky end after ‘The Haunter of the Dark’ are any clue, I rather suspect Black’s story won’t end well.

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    • Another great comment – thank you. I think that Moore is going to load a lot more of Bloch, Loveman (and perhaps others) onto Black as Providence progresses… We’ll add some of this – probably on page 2 where Black is introduced.

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    • I didn’t thought of the Robert Blake ”trilogy”! What fun ^^ But I don’t even need any monsters if the plot keeps this level of quality.

      By the way, in case someone gets confused, the character breaking the letters is Lily/Jonhatan Russell himself, so the letters are from Robert Black. One can see the writing is exactly the same as the appendix commonplace book.
      I imagine your memory failed you 🙂

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  3. Thanks for all of the annotations; I didn’t get many things in Neonomicon, and much less the artistic approaches.

    I apologise in advance for my non-native English.

    I understand the annotations are ongoing but in case some of these are useful for anyone:

    Page 2, panel 1
    Though probably unimportant, right in this first appearance one can imagine Dix likes Prissy by how he looks at her (and in every other panel), and Prissy likes Black (later praises and defends him, and the comment in the appendix). I think this will bring some trouble…

    Page 3, panel 2
    Probably also a meta-reference play hinting ”Sous le monde” is not a real title for the reader, while The King in Yellow is.

    Page 18, panel 4, I didn’t get the butterfly was dead because of the gases, but I saw it as a beautiful metaphor and a hint at Jonathan’s death. When I first read it I didn’t know what that place was.

    Page 20
    panel 3
    Dr. Álvarez tells him ”We must never discard those we are loved by. Without them, we are cursed”. If he was talking literally, this may hint a dark future for Black. Anyway, adds pain when he learns about Russell’s death in page 26.

    panel 4
    ”Our conversation has been a lively one” may be a pun because he’s dead?

    P21, panel 4
    Black says “The day I’m knowingly dishonest (…) is the day quit journalism”.
    He’ll be dishonest in page 26, lying no less than about his lover’s death.

    P26, p2-4
    I think Black is afraid of the Herald ”digging around to find some motive” (Posey suggests) so he rapidly uses the same lie the publishers of ”Sous le monde” used so they leave it alone.

    Moreover, he told Mrs. Ortega in page 21, panel 4 he’ll quit the day he was dishonest, so it should hurt him he just lied as he seemed to have honor.

    panel 4
    I think the sentence ”(…) there is someone watching over us (…) there is mercy (…)” also refers to Black and Russell, hurting Black as he probably feels he had no mercy and did not care for Russell, nor will Russell be watching over him anymore.
    Maybe he even recalls Dr. Álvarez words: ”Without them, we are cursed”.

    P 30
    Black despises Prissy even knowing she loves him, apparently considering her intellectually inferior, but it seems to hint some misogyny and the cold and in this case cruel character Russell thought he had.

    I don’t know if this use of ”their” is accepted but I think it’s a play and hint on the two personalities/lives of Russell, both lost with his death.

    Does anyone get the kind of Poesque relation between Dr. Álvarez and the landlady Mrs. Ortega that Black suggests? Dr. Álvarez said ”I think without Mrs. Ortega I should fall in pieces”…

    Liked by 2 people

    • These are great points – I am adding most of them.

      For right now, though there’s a lot foreshadowed, we’re deliberately avoiding too much in the way of speculating what’s coming (like where the Dix-Turner-Black love triangle is headed.)

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    • Regarding the white butterfly in Providence 1 page 5 panels 2 and 3; and page 18 panel 4:
      the Spanish word for butterfly is “mariposa” which is Mexican slang for a gay guy.
      It certainly is a poignant metaphor for Jonathan/Lillian’s death.

      Also, page 21 panel 1 clearly shows that entering the Dr. Alvarez requires descending some stairs;
      but on page 15 panel 1 the view from above does not show the stairs.

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  4. Forgive me if I am stating the very obvious but on page 15, the “Book of the Wisdom of the Stars” references the compendium of modern, Lovecraft-inspired stories “The Starry Wisdom” in which the text version of Alan Moore’s “The Courtyard” first appeared. The book title itself referenced a fictional cult of worshipers of Nyarlathotep, the “Church of Starry Wisdom” which appears in Lovecraft’s story “The Haunter of the Dark”.

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  5. Great stuff. Probably pointing out the obvious, but you can see the vapour of Black’s breath in the “cool air”, but Dr Alvarez appears not to be breathing! Having not read the HP Lovecraft stories, I was unaware of the state of Dr Alvarez’s health, but this is a clue

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    • I haven’t read «cool air» yet, so maybe I’m trying to explain the obvious here. Sorry if I am. The fact that there’s no breath mist escaping Dr Alvarez’s mouth is maybe hinting at the possibility that Dr Alvarez is physically dead (not breathing). And in order to escape, or slow down, the decomposition process, refrigeration is the technological solution for the poor doctor «secret».

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      • That is one of the key plot points of “Cool Air“. Although it should be noted that Dr. Alvarez must be breathing, because he’s talking, but the lack of mist indicates that his body temperature is much lower than Robert Black’s.

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      • Can I also point out the visual similarities between the death chamber mechanism and the good doctor’s cooling contraption?

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  6. Thank you for these annotations. After reading the issue (several times and having the spoiler-type material sloowly make itself evident to me, b/c I don’t know those Poe or HPL stories) I couldn’t find anywhere people were discussing it like it IMO deserves. I look forward to more right here – hurry up issue two!

    I think it’s worth noting, in the commonplace book, the almost-tortuous extent to which Black goes in his writing to avoid making Russell’s gender. Not only the numerous “their”s but later on, “that hair, that chin” – not his or her or even their; and after admitting he didn’t know what the book (that Lily gave him) was for “…I had it patiently explained to me…” – he can’t just say “she or he explained.” Still holding back… even though by the end of the pages we see him facing up to it more authentically (then crossing it out)

    And then there’s the excellent (on Moore’s part) “I can’t go to the funeral…” – double meaning b/c he’s too hearbroken (not mention guilty) to face the event (he had to get drunk and even then it takes him hours to declare it in this writing) but also b/c their true relationship was secret. So much in just those few words…

    Finally, I don’t think Black is lying about Russell having read Sous Le Monde – it’s a convenient thing to say instead of what he’s feeling (responsible), sure, but it’s likely true as well: as Black says “Lily… that was all books as well, the reason we were attracted to each other” (plus the flashback with all the literary drops), so it’s reasonable Gillot’s book was among those.

    Liked by 1 person

    • re: Black lying or not… It’s a nice ambiguity on Moore’s part… everything about this entire issue (except maybe the tree shadows on the cover) could be explained in wholly mundane, wholly un-supernatural ways.

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  7. I feel certain Moore is familiar with the book “Gay New York,” which discuses the history of gay identity in New York. In this time period, gay men would often wear red ties, the yesteryear equivalent of the handkerchief in the back pocket. You’ll notice Robert’s friend in the automat had a red bow tie on.

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    • In fact, from Gay New York:

      Many gay men, for instance, described negotiating their presence in
      an often hostile world as living a double life, or wearing a mask and
      taking it off.8 Each image has a valence different from “closet,” for each
      suggests not gay men’s isolation, but their ability-as well as their
      need-to move between different personas and different lives, one
      straight, the other gay, to wear their hair up, as another common phrase
      put it, or let their hair down.9 Many men kept their gay lives hidden from potentially hostile straight observers (by “putting their hair up”),
      in other words, but that did not mean they were hidden or isolated from
      each other-they often, as they said, “dropped hairpins” that only other
      gay men would notice.

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  8. I think we’re going to see Jonathan/Lilly and Johnny Carcosa being one and the same. Both hang around in hedonistic, decadent and somewhat underground circles. Both have had their apparent youthful visage noticed.

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    • I was going to point this article out to you… but you’re the author! Great article, by the way! “Well we’ve met another Jonathan before haven’t we? Someone who is also associated with Chamber’s work, hedonism, decadent aesthetics and delights? Note also upon their first meeting that Black points out how young Lilly looks when considering her life events. Also Sax and Joey Face discuss the contradiction between Johnny Carcosa’s appearance and age in The Courtyard.”

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  9. Just nitpicking here:

    Page 18, Panel 2 – 3:
    Outside the lethal chamber we see the door handle on the right and on the interior, the handle is still on the right when it should be on the left.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I’ll try to collaborate with my poor english.

    – We can see balconies and a ladder on the cover but on page 10 they have disappeared. I think it calls attention and maybe it’s not a mistake. What do you think?

    – The uncommon name Ephraim appears in “The Thing on the Doorstep” (Ephraim Waite).

    One tiny correction, although it’s not important to the story: New York Herald was published between 1835 and 1924 according to wikipedia.

    Thanks for your great analysis. I love this first issue.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for catching my error on the Herald dates. It’s fixed.

      We noted the balcony/fire escape inconsistency… difficult to tell if it’s intentional or not.

      The two Ephraims could mean something – we’ll see in later issues.

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  11. The cover of Black’s common place book looks like yellow wallpaper, possibly a subtle reference to Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story of the same name. Lovecraft mentions her story in his essay “Supernatural Horror in Literature,” it fits the yellow theme of this issue, and was published during the “Yellow Nineties.”

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    • While possible, I think it unlikely – Moore wrote about the “Yellow Nineties” in 25,000 Years of Erotic Freedom, and if he had intended any reference it probably would have been to The Yellow Book rather than Gilman’s story.

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  12. Thank you for these annotations.

    P. 24, panel 1.

    Are Dix and Posey not rather discussing prohibition (which could be used as a “sop” towards women by senators who are “on the sob” and which will, in their opinion, never be enforced) rather than women’s suffrage itself?

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  13. Greetings from Berlin, just read your terrific comments.
    Two things that came to my mind:
    A “Book that makes people go crazy” can be seen in the John Carpenter movie “In the Mouth of Madness”, and a wonderful (well…) view of a suicide chamber can be seen in “Soylent Green”, with Beethoven playing.
    Looking forward for more.
    (Thunderstorm going on outside, perfect conditions for reading)

    Liked by 1 person

  14. excellent stuff – thanks!

    i would echo mike’s comment from 7th june – dix and posey are discussing (the possibilty of) prohibition, not female suffrage. posey’s comment about senators being “on the sauce” makes this clear i think.

    this will sound like nitpicking now, but it’s worth pointing out that your page numbers are wrong after p18; your p20 is actually p19, and so on. p26 (on the left and therefore an even number) is the last page of “actual comic”.

    panel 4 on p21 – robert is “cold… really cold”: not chronologically of course, but in linear terms within the comic, black has been to see alvarez and is now “cold” as if infected by him. this is a little example of the sort of stuff which become much clearer when we are all re-reading the book after it’s finished – ! (or so prior familiarity with moore would suggest to me.) same panel – lily’s twisted handkerchief recalls for me the “weird pulp” cover of #1: http://tinyurl.com/pzwrdxb (which itself reminds me of the m.r.james story “oh whistle and i’ll come to you, my lad”) – again, i’m rather assuming this will become much more obvious later on…

    the whole *peeling back* trope is explicit from the second panel on the very first page, echoed on p26 of course, and elsewhere (e.g. framed picture on alvarez’ wall, p13 panel 4): peeling back the surface to reveal layers beneath or within. this sort of thing is absolutely typical of moore.

    i’m really, really looking forward to the next issue now – !

    Liked by 1 person

  15. one more thing – p18 panel 4 – the butterfly: your reading of this seems to make sense in principle (and it’s a very good spot – i hadn’t noticed it!), but if the exit chambers work by lethal gases – and these leak out of the chamber… why is the attendant not wearing a mask? (i don’t have an answer to this; i had remembered p14 showing the attendant handing jonathan/lily a drink, but when i checked back, that turned out to be wrong.)

    hmmm…

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    • My theory/guess – the lethal gas fills the room – then once the suicide has died – there’s a roof vent that lets the gas off up into the atmosphere somewhere. This off-gassing was deemed harmless, but it was concentrated enough to kill a butterfly in this case.

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      • The gas leak theory is interesting Joe, I haven’t thought of that.

        When I first noticed the butterfly hovering around Jonathan I thought that It symbolically represented Lily (the blossoming side of Jonathan personality). So later on, after the suicide, I simply thought that the butterflys death was used to mirror Jonathan’s physical death in the outside world (chamber).

        I think that our two interpretations are far from invalidating the other.

        Thanks

        Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I agree with you John, there seems to be a strong correlation between these two scenes (settings). One to remain alive, the other to die. Same interior color, same exterior color. Both scenes have a farewell handshake shot, not a greeting one.
      I’ve noticed the almost identical sitting position of Dr Alvarez and Jonathan (hands resting on knees/thighs/chair arms, I don’t remember the panels numbers).
      Really eerie.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. I agree with most of yourpl points, but I feel that Robert Black is based on Lovecraft himself rather than Bloch or Loveman. When talking to Charles about his book he mentions he has no subject. He then proceeds to say, “I want something big, something that cuts to the heart of this country and these times. That talks about things nobody’s dared talk about before.” It is obvious with the release of the four covers that he will be visiting areas that have a place in Lovecraft’s fiction. Black will have gotten inspiration for his book from the people he has met and situations he has experienced. Moore is bring Lovecrafts fiction into a more realistic invironment and a greater sense of belief.

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  17. On page 2, we do seem to have a number of references to colours – The Yellow Sign, yellow journalism, Blue Label Ketchup, Black D Shoe Polish, and Robert Black himself. And another possible interpretation of The Yellow Sign, although still off in the future at the time this is set, is the yellow star that Jewish people were forced to wear under the Nazis in Germany during WWII. Of course Black would have also been forced to wear a different coloured sign, a Pink Triangle, because of his homosexuality. Both these last items fit in nicely with Posey’s mention of ‘a badge of shame,’ too. I have a bit more to say about yellow books in particular, but will have to wait until tomorrow for that…

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Plus, we have Black’s red hair, itself once thought to be a mark of the devil, or more specifically the biblical Mark of Cain, so that the world would know his shame.

    And, on the colour red, Posey says ‘journalism was known for its courage, but look at it now. It’s a badge of shame.’ Which brings to mind Stephen Crane’s Red Badge of Courage, although probably purely coincidentally…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Also, in the dream sequence in issue #3, the letter ‘A’ appears on the back of Mr. Black’s coat as he’s standing under the ‘SARLEM, Nathachusetts’ sign. A reference to the Scarlet Letter?

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  19. Just a quick question. On Page 20, panel 3, Black is addressing Mrs. Ortega’s concern that the New York Herald “do not make lies” about Dr. Alvarez. Black replies “Us reporters pride ourselves on our accuracy”. Shouldn’t the sentence begin with “We”? Or is this just Moore being clever?

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    • You’re right – it should properly be “we”… and Black is an educated writer/reader, so he should know proper grammar, and Moore does… might be kind of spoken “Us [slight pause] reporters pride ourselves on our accuracy” – or maybe he’s somehow speaking down to the Spanish-speaker?? I will add it to our nitpicks page.

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  20. I think it’s noteworthy in the graphics arts realm that it is a copyright battle between Joseph Pulitzer (New York World) and William Randolph Hearst (New York Journal) over early comic strip character “The Yellow Kid,” from which the term “yellow journalism” was coined. More of the interesting facts can be found here. http://mentalfloss.com/article/48736/innocent-origin-yellow-journalism-how-yellow-kid-fueled-pulitzerhearst-rivalry

    The New York Herald itself was the home of Windsor McCay during his “Little Nemo in Slumberland” period. By 1919 McCay had already well established himself in the production of animated films. His cartoon film version of the sinking of the Lusitania would have been concurrent with the time period of this story.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. IMHO, the connections are already there in real world historical subtext that I doubt the authors are unaware of.

    Even if we assume the release of “Providence” #1 in the centennial month of the sinking of the Lusitania is pure coincidence, the event itself – like the destruction of the Maine years before – was the focal point of prolonged sword rattling and “yellow journalistic” propaganda that roused American public opinion in favor of declaring war on Germany.

    We find The New York Herald to be a more moderate voice, as our Mr. Black is writing a questioning article on the future outcomes of the “punitive” nature of the Versailles Treaty. He appears to have an understanding, if not some precognition, that the “severe economic” retribution forced on the German populace may lead to the kind of nationalist push-back that indeed allowed the Nazi party to gain power. It’s a “seeds of evil” moment.

    Sandy Pearlman’s “Imaginos” mythos deals in part with this same historic and literary (“king in yellow, queen in red”) landscape but is unfortunately damaged by its protracted and disjointed role as the lyrical content of Blue Oyster Cult songs. Pearlman’s liner notes for the band’s 1974 “Secret Treaties” album (originally to be titled “Power in the Hands of Fools”) give a hint at what might have been.

    “Rossignol’s curious, albeit simply titled book, ‘The Origins of a World War’, spoke in terms of ‘secret treaties’, drawn up between the Ambassadors from Plutonia and Desdinova the foreign minister. These treaties founded a secret science from the stars. Astronomy. The career of evil.”

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  22. I’ve just been reading a book called BLACK & WHITE: A PORTRAIT OF AUBREY BEARDSLEY by Brigid Brophy, and in the timeline at the back there’s this…

    ‘1895: The year of the Wilde disaster
    At the time of his arrest Wilde was carrying a copy of Pierre Louÿs’s APHRODITE bound, in the tradition of French novels, in yellow. The newspapers misreported it as a copy of the YELLOW BOOK. Although Wilde had never contributed to the periodical ([John] Lane had deliberately excluded him), a crowd mobbed Vigo Street and broke the Bodley Head [who had published the book] windows. Although A.B.’s only collaboration with Wilde was the English SALOME edition, several Bodley Head authors threatened to withdraw their work unless Lane dismissed A.B.’

    All of which led to Beardsley being dismissed from his position as art editor of the YELLOW BOOK. A man called Leonard Charles Smithers scooped up AB, and set up a new magazine called SAVOY with AB as art editor. None the less, AB found himself being censored a few times here: he had included an image of John Bull, the archetypal Englishman, on the title page, but had sneaked a tine erection into his linework of Bull’s trousers, which Smithers forced him to alter. And his cover design for the first issue of SAVOY had originally showed, as Brophy says, ‘a cherub pissing on a copy of the YELLOW BOOK.’

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, hence part of the reason they called it “The Yellow Nineties.” Arthur Machen’s early books published by John Lane had a similar reputation, reportedly being sold under-the-counter in places. Moore was quite aware of this aspect of Victorian erotica, and discusses it a bit in his essay (eventually published on its own as 25,000 Years of Erotic Freedom).

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  23. If not already familiar with the site, readers might consider availing themselves of the public domain materials at Project Gutenberg (www.projectgutenberg.org) which include at least two copies of “The Yellow Book,” (circa 1894) as well as works by many of the authors sited in Lovecraft’s literary overview.

    It’s a brilliant repository for many of the source materials discussed here.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. I don’t have my copy of this to hand, but I had wanted to comment on one thing that I don’t think has been annotated so far: On page 7 charles mentions Sunken Gardens. This is, apparently, gay slang for the men’s washrooms at Times Square subway station, and subsequently used more generally for men’s toilets. One source for this is through that link, but there’s undoubtedly more to be found. It says:

    As the city’s subway system expanded in the early years of the century, its washrooms also became major sexual centers. Men who had met on the subway could retire to them easily, and men who wanted a quick sexual release on the way home from work learned that there were men at certain subway washrooms who would readily accommodate them. Encounters could take place at almost any station, but certain washrooms developed reputations for such activity. By the 1930s, the men’s washroom in the Times Square subway station and the comfort station [public bathroom] at Times Square were used so frequently for sexual encounters that they became widely known among gay men as the “Sunken Gardens”… Gay men dubbed all the restrooms (often called “t-rooms,” short for “toilet-rooms,” in early-twentieth-century slang) “tearooms,” which allowed them to discuss their adventures surreptitiously in mixed company…

    —George Chauncey, Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World 1890-1940, p. 197.

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  25. Joe:
    Here’s a few things from Providence #1 that I think are worth drawing further attention to.

    Page 3, Panel 1 – As well as all the other advertising signs outside that window, is that an ad for the New York Tribune, up in the top left-hand corner?

    Page 3, Panel 1 – Freddy Dix’s mention of the Jersey Devil is interesting here in that 1919, the year that this is set, was the year of publication of Charles Fort’s The Book of the Damned (Boni and Liveright, New York, 1919), the first of Fort’s four books of what would become known as Fortean phenomena – the other three are New Lands (1925), Lo! (1931), and Wild Talents (1932). According to the Wikipaedia page forThe Book of the Damned the book ‘sums up with a mention of the famous “Devil’s Footprints” mystery in England in 1855, also citing a number of similar cases.’ It’s entirely possible, although I can’t guarantee this, not having read the book, that one of those cases is the Jersey Devil. According to the Wikipedia page for the Jersey Devil ‘Other reports initially concerned unidentified footprints in the snow…,’ which Freddie is referring to in panel 4, and which is very similar to the Devil’s Footprints case as mentioned above, which took place in February 1855 in Devon in England – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devil%27s_Footprints

    HPL was definitely aware of the work of Fort. According to L. Sprague de Camp’s Lovecraft: A Biography (Doubleday, New York, 1975):

    ‘He [HPL] spoke highly of two recent non-fiction books: Charles Fort’s The Book of the Damned (1919) and Margaret Alice Murray’s The Witch Cult in Western Europe (1921). His appreciation, however, was not what the authors would have hoped for. He admired the books as stimuli for the writing of weird fiction, not as statements of fact. From a scientific point of view, he considered Fort’s eccentric cosmological ideas as nonsense.’

    And HPL mentions Fort in his 1931 short story, The Whisperer in Darkness. In the last paragraph on this page – http://www.sacred-texts.com/nec/hpl/hpl35.htm – it says,

    ‘Two or three fanatical extremists went so far as to hint at possible meanings in the ancient Indian tales which gave the hidden beings a nonterrestrial origin; citing the extravagant books of Charles Fort with their claims that voyagers from other worlds and outer space have often visited the earth.’

    So, I think it might just be worth bearing in mind the notion of HPL getting ideas for his stories from locally reported strange phenomena…

    Page 7, Panel 3 – Is it possible that Vera, rather than being Charles’s inamorato, is instead Charles’s alter ego?

    Page 8 (and Page 6) – Has anyone commented on how closely Black’s life resembles Clark Kent’s? Not that I’m suggesting Superman is a great gay parable, mind. But that whole ‘Small Town Boy goes to the Big City to be a Newspaperman, and to be their Real Self’ thing is very much to the fore here. And our Alan doesn’t do things by accident.

    Page 8, Panel 4 – I’m surprised nobody else has mentioned this – I presume that the lady being harassed by the sailor here is none other than Lillian / Jonathan Russell? I mean, in terms of the story, that would make sense, and lead directly from this panel to the next one, at Page 9, Panel 1. And, speaking of which…

    Page 9, Panel 1 – The reason that Black is laughing here on being told the name of the person he’s just met, and asking about her ‘glamourous showbiz stories’ is because there was a real Lillian Russell, who was an actress. According to here Wikipedia page – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lillian_Russell

    ‘Lillian Russell (December 4, 1860 – June 6, 1922), born Helen Louise Leonard, was an American actress and singer. She became one of the most famous actresses and singers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, known for her beauty and style, as well as for her voice and stage presence.’

    By June 1919 she would have been 58 years old, which explains why Black says ‘You’re a lot younger than I expected.’

    Also – ‘Didn’t I hear you were living up above the Ariston when they got raided in 1903?’ – Yes, apparently she was. According to this website – http://gayhistory.wikidot.com/ariston-baths

    ‘The Ariston Baths were located in the basement of the Ariston Hotel at the corner Broadway and 55th Street in New York City. It was in operation as early as 1897. In mid-February of 1903, particularly by Valentines Day, the police started infiltrating the establishment in secret. On February 21st a large number of police stood by while a half dozen undercover policemen spent several hours observing the inside and keeping track of the “crimes” taking place.’

    – So that’s the specific raid in 1903 that Black is referring to. Further down that webpage there’s a piece from a news story in the New York Tribune,/b> on May 2nd, 1903:

    LILLIAN RUSSELL BUYS HOME
    It Is in West Fifty-Seventh-St., and Cost $60,000, It Is Said
    .

    Miss Lillian Russell has bought No. 161 West Fifty-Seventh-St., a four story and basement dwelling house, on a lot 18 by 100 feet. It is said that the purchase price was $60,000. Miss Russell has been living for a long time at the Ariston apartment house, No. 1730 Broadway.’

    … which would lead one to believe that the real Lillian Russell was actually moving out, after all that fuss. Although she was apparently no stranger to controversy of various kinds, in her own life, it would appear.

    I may have more to say yet, but must away now!

    Liked by 3 people

    • page 7 panel 3 – i don’t think so, although that’s a very interesting idea: charles goes “from one sunken garden to the next” – he’s a top, not a bottom…

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    • totally… when i first read that comment i thought “oh yes! of course” until i thought it through a bit…it has the feel of sudden inspiration about it..!

      some of your other additions are great too btw. (all too often i have this unfortunate tendency to single out the bits i don’t agree with…) the clark kent spot – like you say if this were anyone else’s work it might just be a (pointless) in-joke but with AM – no chance. i really hadn’t thought about it at all but i shall ponder on it a bit now! there will turn out to be a good reason for it after all

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    • I too was wondering if anyone else had thought that the woman, with the sailor, was actually Lily. I remember this annotation. It was applied by the Facts annotators for 9:2 and it was from page 30? of the Commonplace Book:

      “I’m down on W. 14th Street, which is obviously a part of town that I’m not unfamiliar with. The gay girls down there weighed me up with practiced gazes and dismissed me as at best a bad investment and at worst as competition. I think one or two of them I recognized.”

      The reason I mention this is that I have a question. I know that many gay men in this period, at least in the narrative of Providence, “bearded” language about their partners in mainstream public by calling them “ladies” or “their wives” and such. I guess it confuses me because of Lily’s gender. Basically, does Lily actually identify as Jonathan Russell (as Robert calls Lily in the letter that gets torn up at the beginning of Issue #1), and is possibly a transvestite when not being a lawyer? Or do you think Lily is transgender, but like Robert Lily has to be closeted and, in Lily’s case, pass herself off as her birth name Jonathan in this 1919 American society, while identifying as the gender she prefers in other avenues?

      I don’t actually know. There is also the matter of Lily condemning Robert for ending their relationship because he believes they are in danger of being “caught” by his boss and telling him that he hides his religion and who he is. It’d be awfully hypocritical if Lily were also hiding who he/she is too, but is Lily less concerned about his/her legal reputation being destroyed or compromised if outed?

      This is only a question or two that has occurred to me now. I was just wondering if anyone would like to weigh in on it. I suspect a lot of this is going to remain speculation either way.

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      • while it IS firmly established that Lily wears women’s clothing in this issue, i don’t think we know enough about him to say with any conviction that he would have identified specifically as trans by way of today’s wider vocabulary. I think it’s fair to say that Robert’s use of “Jonathan” in the personal letters that he tears up (which also contain the phrases ‘naughty boy’ and ‘wild animal’, implying these are not coded like the CPB) indicate that he may have preferred that name. I think we all have just come to think of him more as “Lily” through reading the CPB for so long.

        I think Jonathan/Lily’s definitely implied to be a bit more free about his sexuality than Robert, but for a lawyer in 1920’s America that certainly doesn’t mean living out of the closet or walking around just any neighborhood at any time of day dressed as a woman. I don’t think he wants Robert to be outed (or to not care if he is), he just doesn’t want Robert to break up with him. As the more experienced of the two, Lily is less concerned about (what he sees as) a fleeting thing like he and Robert’s boss interacting, but for Robert, who is fresh off the bus from Wisconsin, this is a bigger deal. You can get a sense of their dynamic in the #3 dream sequence, when Jonathan/Lily mentions maybe he’ll try wearing his hair down, and Robert snaps ‘Don’t you dare!’, even subconsciously Robert’s afraid of being outed.

        And I’d say the woman with the sailor is NOT Lily, rather just two characters in search of similar things as Robert, and Robert’s gawping like the yokel he is. More of an establishing shot so you get the whole picture of where Black is and what he’s doing. You can tell pretty clearly from the difference in sleeves between panels, but i think from the motif of the issue (flashbacks where Lily is off-panel, other than his hand) it seems like a weird and awkward way to introduce Lily, who then isn’t shown fully when in women’s clothes or even close up again. Besides, I tend to think Lily would make a more attractive lady anyway!

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      • I was looking at the sleeves too and, honestly, I am inclined to agree with you. It did like the dock was just to set the scene and Lily/Jonathan has their own bad ass introduction and time with Robert.

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    • By the way, it turns out that “Mr. Lillian Russell” was a nickname for another Broadway star and legendary cross-dresser and female impersonator Julian Eltinge, who may or may not have been homosexual himself. When not on stage as a perfectly convincing woman, Eltinge put on a tough-guy image with cigar-smoking, bar fights, thumping people who questioned his sexuality, et cetera, et cetera, and a had a number of drawn-out relationships with women, but never landed up marrying. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Lily’s choice of name is a reference to Eltinge rather than the real Lillian Russell. Either way, it shows that Alan Moore is incredibly thorough about his source material.

      Liked by 2 people

  26. Also: Black uses the term ‘showbiz’ on Page 9/Panel 1, but my Oxford English Dictionary suggests that this expression wasn’t in use until much later, the first citation being from Variety in 1945, where it was apparently coined by Jack Pulatski, one of their writers. Of course, it could have been in common parlance before that, but stretching it back by twenty-five years and more seems a bit unlikely.

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  27. just looking back at the first few pages of #1 now, in the light of #3 in particular… some of it is already becoming clear: the preponderance of **bent arms** n black’s presence, for example (as RB will turn out to be inextrocably linked with the (nazi version of the) swastika); and the characters’ relative positions in panel layouts giving clear indications as to their sexual proclivities and (potential) relationships, etc – some of this stuff, especially the latter, i was already on the lookout for on first reading (*lost girls* in particular is a primer for this, as well as *neonomicon* of course; moore’s expertise at it is refined by deep study of tarot as well as all the comics he’s written!) – but it’s always the case that you just can’t fully make sense of it until you know how it’s going to end up. *the yellow sign* – “it’s a badge of shame” – ! – we now already can see what this means… other things will only become clear later; the **boots** – which i noticed on first reading of #1 but couldn’t understand at all at the time – will “soon enough” be linked up with jackboots… and i’m not sure that’s the whole of it but it will turn out to be one of the most emblematic and powerful/disturbing symbols in the comic.

    this is all a bit weird for me, i normally read things once they are already completed…!

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  28. Page 21 / Panel 1: What we couldn’t see clearly before, on Page 11, is that there are a few steps down off the street to the front door of Dr Alvarez’s house. I would go so far as to say that there are downward steps leading to a lot of the particularly Lovecraftian elements in the story so far – there are in Providence #2 & #3, too, as well as here. It all ties in with the general theme of the underground, of course.

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  29. On Page 13, Panel 2 Alvarez states

    “Mrs. Ortega is a very kind woman. I think I do not deserve her, you know, her husband also is dead a long time now.”

    Is the “husband also is dead”, a hint about his condition or is it just a turn of phrase from the time period?

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    • I think it’s probably just a slightly awkward turn of phrase to show that English isn’t his first language. With, of course, the subtext that she’s not married so Ortega isn’t cheating on anyone.

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    • Yeah, he was mentioned in the Cthulhu Mythos Encyclopedia / Encyclopedia Cthulhiana, which goes on to suggest that Bierce may have known of him when he first referred to Hali in ‘An Inhabitant of Carcosa’. I think it’s reasonable to suggest that Moore may have come across the name in his research.

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  30. Sorry if my English is a little bit odd – it’s not my native language.

    Hermes on the cover of the Commonplace book may be connected not only with a journalism, but also with the name of newspaper (Herald) and with the fact that Black is thought _to be_ a herald, probably a Massanger from Hali’s book (see what Willard says in issue #4 and some hints later).

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    • If anything’s going to teach you more English words, it’s reading Alan Moore. Not ordinary words, of course!

      My Aklo is coming on in leaps and bounds.

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    • I like that one, Alexx.
      Take it a bit further, and you could have this:
      Blake is The Herald.
      What or whom is he heralding?
      The return of the World Below to the places Above, yes.
      But in quasi-Bibical terms…
      Is he heralding the coming of a messiah?
      If Blake is John the Baptist crossed with St Peter…
      And if Jonathan/Lily really is going to be Johnny Carcosa…
      Initials JC…

      Well, you see where I am going with this.

      Blake heralds Johnny…
      Johnny is a figure who heralds and helps bring about the Apocalypse,
      The return of God to Earth

      Liked by 1 person

  31. In “The Repairer of Reputations” the first government lethal chamber is established on the south side of Washington Square on April 13th 1920. This is connected to the date given in the letter on page one panel one of Providence #1 April 12th, 1919. Both the day and year are only off by one number. Moore is giving a direct nod to Chambers straight away.

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  32. Page 16 panel 1 may also refer to the infamous Johann Conrad Dippel’s (1673-1734) dissertation Maladies and Remedies of the Life of the Flesh in which he claims to have discovered the elixir of life and the means to transplant souls from one corpse to another using a funnel. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johann_Conrad_Dippel
    The relevant theme from Shelley’s Frankenstein being the attempt to prolong life or dodge death as is the case with the methods of The Book of the Wisdom of the Stars.

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    • Nah, their relationship doesn’t seem right, she doesn’t talk about him in that way. She respects him a lot, and also feels sorry for his situation. She likes him. But she doesn’t have the familiarity or sense of possession that you’d have from being married to someone. In her conversation, she and he are separate.

      It’s a sort-of tragic relationship, since he’s undead and cold. It’s also nice, that in their own way they’ve found a nice way to live. Something that works, for however long. Just keep that air conditioner fixed.

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  33. Page 1:
    Jonathan is peeling back the letter to show the reality of the city, yes, but simultaneously a symbolic scene is being opened up to us.
    The vertical and symmetric view is almost kabbalistic.
    We see sky (air) buildings/”mountains” (earth) and water.
    We see a bridge, leading from one side to the other, as they do.
    Finally we see that Jonathan himself is standing on a bridge.
    He is in the midst of going from one side to the other.
    And he is throwing away his past, his connection to human love, to humanity itself.

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    • On my recent reread it struck me that this was very much like a curtain parting to start the story, which fits in with the many metatextual games of Providence. And the entire tale begins with Robert’s handwriting – and since his writing and Commonplace Book eventually create the reality of this particular world, this is foreshadowing from the get-go. And one more: Mrs. Orgtega refers to Robert as being a ‘good boy’ just like King George does in #8.

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  34. Page 2:
    Next to the black shoe polish ad — carrying Robert’s surname
    (And I’m sure he keeps his shoes well polished, like the rest of well-groomed surface) —
    is an ad for Lowney’s Cocoa.
    All we see of it is Lowne Coc.
    The N is quite large giving an impression of Low NE Coc.
    Robert has come to the North East — NE — (NYC) in search of cock in low places.
    (He will also visit New England, also in the North East.)

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  35. On page 21, panels 2 & 4 show flashbacks to the recent past, with Black breaking up with Jonathan/Lillian Russell. In each, Jonathan/Lillian’s hands are seen.
    Panel 2 is in a public space having dinner, whilst panel 4 appears to be back in Jonathan/Lillian’s rooms.
    It is clear that Lillian wears nail varnish in her room in panel 4, but in the public panel 2 she keeps her nails clean (as a gentleman would).

    Liked by 1 person

  36. I noticed something, I think. I read over the comments and annotations and it hasn’t been mentioned(if it has, please forgive me), but the panel where it shows the exterior of the suicide chamber with the dead butterfly, after Johnathan/Lillian’s suicide, that panel has the straight borders that indicate supernatural perception. Can’t believe I missed it for so long.

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  37. No-one seems to have pointed it out anywhere, but the record that is played in the exit garden in this issue is ‘Pullman Porter’s Parade’, sung by Al Jolson.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for that. How did you figure it out? I spent a lot of time with a magnifying glass on that panel. I even tried to read the disc # and match it to a listing of early Columbia Records releases going, but the print version did not yield its secret.

      The song choice seems a strange one at first. Jolson, who sings it in “minstrel” style, was still wearing black face in 1913 when it was recorded.

      Further investigation shows a link to the underlying social themes (worker’s rights, unionization) that Moore has been documenting throughout the series. As you likely know the porter’s were predominantly black men working service jobs in the sleeping cars of railway trains.

      They attempted to organize/unionize, even boycott the Pullman company, as far back as the 1880’s, but were disallowed entry into the railway workers union based on race. Perhaps the “parade” was a show of solidarity as these workers continued to consolidate their brotherhood through the 1920’s and their actions are seen as a harbinger of the civil rights movement.

      It’s this kind of attention to detail that I find has made Providence a great experience outside it’s outre content.

      Liked by 1 person

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