Providence 12

Providence 12 regular cover - art by Jacen Burrows
Providence 12 regular cover – art by Jacen Burrows

Below are annotations for Providence, No. 12 “The Book” (32 pages, cover date March 2017, released 5 April 2017)
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 is anything we missed or got wrong, let us know in comments.

General: This is the final issue of Providence. Basic annotation are up, comments are open now.

Cover

  • The bridge is a hybrid of two bridges that span Bridge Street in Manchester, NH. The railing belongs to the 1888 MacGregor Bridge (or Bridge Street Bridge) seen in Providence #5 and #6. The supports appear to belong to the present day highway bridge that occupies the same site today

Page 1

panel 1

  • The speaker is FBI director Carl Perlman, from #11, Neonomicon, and The Courtyard.
  • “They’re like spores” echoes Lovecraft’s sonnets Fungi from Yuggoth, the actual fungal entities in his fiction from Yuggoth, and Moore’s early efforts like The Courtyard which sprang from Lovecraft’s sonnets, which were to be titled Yuggoth Cultures (eventually the name of a separate series from Avatar Press).
  • The books:
    • On the right: Three Tales of Terror (1967, Arkham House), with cover art by Lee Brown Coye; a collection of Lovecraft’s fiction in hardcover.
    • Bottom Left: Leaves (Summer 1937, Dragon Fly Press), by Lovecraft’s friend R. H. Barlow and containing tributes to him.
    • Top Left: Lovecraft at Last (1975, Carrolton-Clark) by Lovecraft’s friend Willis Conover, the first edition; a biography/memoir of Lovecraft.
  • Panelwise, the “camera” movement on this page is odd. Panels 1-3 form a gradual, slowing zoom sequence. Panel 4 shifts the frame to the right.

panel 2

  • Any effective narrative acts as a contagion” is Perlman is discussing the Cthulhu Mythos as a kind of meme or infohazard.
    • It is perhaps relevant that, shortly before this issue came out, the notion of “weaponized narrative” began to spread through the press.
  • The books:

panel 3

  • “If half of this is true, then Lovecraft and his stories were engineered to cause what’s happening now.” – Perlman is recapping Providence #1-11, basically.
  • Sax” is FBI Special Agent Aldo Sax, protagonist of The Courtyard and supporting character in Neonomicon.
  • Brears” is FBI Special Agent Merril Brears, protagonist of Neonomicon.

panel 4

  • “An imaginary volume that’s generated several real ones, along with a bunch of screwball occultists insisting it’s all true.” refers to, as touched on briefly in Providence #11, Lovecraft’s fictional Necronomicon generated many allegedly real versions, and some occultists do take it seriously, as discussed by Harms & Gonce in The Necronomicon Files.
  • Perlman’s right hand is prosthetic; his original was cut off by Sax in between The Courtyard and Neonomicon.
  • Robert Black’s Commonplace Book, which ran in Providence #1-10.

Page 2

panel 1

  • “The Book” refers to the first sonnet in H. P. Lovecraft’s Fungi from Yuggoth cycle, and can be taken as well to refer to the Necronomicon, Black’s Commonplace Book, and/or Hali’s Booke. One particular section that resonates:

    Trembling at curious words that seemed to keep
    Some secret, monstrous if one only knew.

    • Commenter Lalartu also draws a connection with Lovecraft’s unfinished short story of the same name, which contains the following passage:

      Nor could I ever after see the world as I had known it. Mixed with the present scene was always a little of the past and a little of the future, and every once-familiar object loomed alien in the new perspective brought by my widened sight. From then on I walked in a fantastic dream of unknown and half-known shapes; and with each new gateway crossed, the less plainly could I recognise the things of the narrow sphere to which I had so long been bound

  • Carl Perlman is front right. On the left is Agent Barstow. In the rear, looking out the window at the silhouettes of nightgaunts is Agent Fuller.
  • On the television screen is Yog-Sothoth manifest as the Quabbalistic Tree of Life above Club Zothique in Red Hook, borrowed from Providence #11, P29, p1.
  • Saint Anselm College Library, in Manchester, NH, is Providence‘s analogue to Miskatonic University Library in Arkham, where a copy of the Necronomicon was kept.
  • “You think that could be where we find Merril?” shows that Perlman is still focused on Merril Brears, possibly because she engineered the escape of Aldo Sax, or out of sense of responsibility since she was captured and raped under his command, but also possibly because he still has romantic feelings for her.

Page 3

panel 1

  • “Or Salem where Merril was held captive” refers to Merril Brears held captive by a Dagon cult in Salem in Neonomicon #3-4.
  • “But this cult” is Perlman using the typical Mythos nomenclature for any group that worships or interacts with the Mythos, made popular through the Call of Cthulhu Roleplaying Game; it may show that he is unconsciously perpetuating the meme.
  • “The church in Brooklyn” is now Club Zothique, which featured in Providence #2, The Courtyard, Neonomicon, and Lovecraft’s “The Horror at Red Hook.”
  • “Rubber bat things” are Nightguants. Lovecraft described them as:

    But every night I see the rubbery things,
    Black, horned, and slender, with membraneous wings,
    And tails that bear the bifid barb of hell.

panel 2

  • Since Perlman only has one flesh-and-blood hand, he puts the jacket on his right arm first.

panel 3

  • “Besides, when she sprung Sax” was shown in Providence #11, P28, p3-4.
  • “One of the witnesses said she looked pregnant.” refers to Brear’s pregnancy after being raped by a Deep One, as revealed at the end of Neonomicon #4.

panel 4

  • Commenter Charles points out that this panel and the following page are very similar to the ending of the Alfred Hitchcock film The Birds (1963), where the protagonists

    are slowly and carefully trying to reach their car and pull it out and drive off in it without attracting the attention of the birds that are on roofs and trees and phone poles looking down at the puny human’s little car and ready to attack it at any moment.

Page 4

panel 1

  • Nightguants visible on the roofs.

panel 2

  • “invasive species” normally refers to an organism from another part of the Earth, “invading” a new habitat that has no defenses against it. While technically still true here, this is closer to a case of “alien invasion”, where the Earth itself is under deliberate attack by creatures from another planet. Or, as here, another kind of reality.

panel 3

panel 4

Page 5

panel 1

panel 2

  • “This…it all feels like I’m dreaming.” is a possible reference to the prophecies in Hali’s Booke, that the Stella Sapiente and Wheatleys were trying to bring about.
  • “Dreams and our world are two extremes of a bi-polar reality, that can flip from one state to another.” – More insight than Perlman might otherwise be credited for. This interpretation contrasts with, for example, that of Grant Morrison’s overlapping realities in The Invisibles.

panel 3

  • “It shifted in our favor aeons ago, commencing human history.” – This is similar to the conceit of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman story “A Dream of a Thousand Cats“.
  • “A propaganda weapon…” refers to propaganda as media content designed to sway opinion towards a certain point of view.

panel 4

Page 6

panels 1-3

  • The spread with page 7 shows the city of Pittsburgh. As spotted by commenter FRITZSTRIKER the view is downtown Pittsburgh as seen from the I-579 southbound lane, specifically the Convention Center off-ramp.
  • Perlman is providing exposition explaining the events of Providence #1-11. The cityscape in the back shifts to being covered in strange growths, much of it underneath the protective dome. Ironically, one of the intended functions of these domes was to protect from “invasive species” such as those in HPL’s “The Color Out of Space” (see P9, p1), which they have manifestly failed to do.
  • The anti-pollution domes covering the major urban areas are depicted in Neonomicon and mentioned in The Courtyard. See explanation in Neonomicon #1 annotations P9, p4. They are mentioned in #5 P14, p3 and shown under construction in #11 P23, p1.
  • These two pages form a comics polyptych.

panel 1

panel 2

panel 3

  • Note the first turquoise growths on the roof air conditioner unit.

Page 7

panel 1

  • “Has that ever happened before, with any work of fiction?” refers to Lovecraft’s Mythos forming one of the earliest shared universes, one in which he encouraged others to borrow and expand upon. While many works of fiction had inspired sequels by subsequent writers and even led to their fictionalization (Virgil, for example, appears in Dante Alligheri’s Inferno; the various stories of Atlantis all derive from Plato’s accounts, etc.), in terms of contemporary commercial and popular fiction, the Cthulhu Mythos was essentially unique in its appeal and accessibility right at the beginning of organized fandom and pulp magazine production.
  • “Well, probably not since the first Christians didn’t realise the Gnostics were being symbolic.” references the Gnostics, a group of interrelated belief systems that emerged from Judaism which coincided with (and to a degree were influenced by and may have influenced) early Christianity. Much of Gnosticism was concerned with possessing a special knowledge (gnosis) known only to the initiated, and their writings and beliefs were often ensconced in symbolism. Gnostics in general became heretics to the early Church, their writings destroyed and followers prosecuted. It has been claimed that the story of Jesus Christ originated as a Gnostic parable that was not intended to be taken literally.

panel 2

  • “It changes as you look at it” touches on ideas that reality is all essentially a matter of perception, such as Plato’s allegory of the cave. In a more contemporary context, compare it to Schrödinger’s cat, where the reality is determined be perceiving it. This could imply that the more aware one is of the Dreamworld, the more aware one becomes, a kind of feedback loop. This also echoes a comment made by Randall Carver in Providence #8, P13, p1: “Reality might be in a different state where it is unobserved”

panel 3

  • “This feels more Dreamlike all the time. There’s that acceptance, like everything that’s happening is somehow normal.” – A phenomenon usually called “dream logic.”
  • “The world inside us… that’s changing too. Maybe that’s the only world that’s changing.” – Suggesting that the Dreamworld and the “real world” coexisted all along, it was (and is) only human perception that shifts.

Page 8

panel 1

  • The plethora of cats suggest a connection with Lovecraft’s “The Cats of Ulthar”; noticeably they are all white, similar to those Black and Carver encountered in Providence #8. It is possible that the lack of people is due to the cats having killed them, as happened in “The Cats of Ulthar”.
  • “I-I think this is what they call Lovecraft county.” should probably be “Lovecraft Country“: a term used by many for the fictional geography described in Lovecraft’s fiction (Dunwich, Kingsport, Innsmouth, Arkham, and the Miskatonic River Valley), and by some readers to refer to the state of mind that is Lovecraftian fiction.

panel 2

  • “I can’t remember if I have a boyfriend” is possibly a reference to Agent Barstow becoming aware of her own fictional nature. She’s never mentioned a boyfriend before, so does she have one or not? The readers don’t know, and now neither does she.

panel 3

  • Panels 2-3 show form a fixed-camera sequence showing the car has become Jenkins’ car from Providence #5 & #6
  • “So I’m thinking Beeks or one of the cultists, but then why wouldn’t Merril tell us?” shows that Perlman has yet to put two-and-two together that the Deep One (killed by the FBI in the raid in Neonomicon #4) had raped Merril Brears.

panel 4

  • This panel echoes the “Welcome to Manchester” panel from Providence #5, P1,p1. Except now, they are in Arkham, Lovecraft’s fictional city.
  • “Why did I say Manchester? Is that even a real place?” shows that the agents are already having trouble discerning the waking world from the dream world, so that even their memories are affected. Their “real” world is now that of Lovecraft’s fiction.
  • “M-maybe in England.” – Manchester is also a city in England; ironically, Lovecraft’s Dunwich also has a British echo in a sunken town in England.

Page 9

panel 1

  • “Roulet, Japheth Colwen, the witch-woman Massey” are the founders of the Stella Sapiente, first described in Providence #2, and encountered by Black throughout his journey.
  • “This is where the meteorite fell that prompted us to build our city-domes.” is the Providence version of “The Colour Out of Space,” described in Providence #5.

panel 2

  • “I’m assuming that’s was what’s called a Deep One” again refers to the events of Neonomicon #4, where the Deep One was shot by Barstow.
  • “Even in Lovecraft, it only works human male to marine female” is true insofar as “The Shadow over Innsmouth” goes. Though in Lovecraft’s notes he implies that male Deep Ones may have also raped human females: “All opponents killed off—many women commit suicide or vanish.” (Collected Essays 5.249)

panel 3

  • “Is it…is it Merrimack” refers to the Merrimack River which flows from New Hampshire to Massachusetts, and flows through Manchester, NH.
  • This view is comparable to issue #5 P1, p4.

panel 4

  • The agents have arrived at Saint Anselm College‘s Alumni Hall, as shown in issues #4-5. (Though it is now named Miskatonic.)
  • In the sky is what appears to be the Northern Lights, but actually the first sign of Azathoth (see P18, p1).

Page 10

panels 1-2

  • “Students dancing. Didn’t I hear Miskatonic was a Catholic university?” references how, before Vatican II, dancing was considered an opportunity for sin among Catholics, and is still regarded as such by some traditionalists.
  • “Guess that would explain its professors chanting incantations in Lovecraft’s Dunwich story.” refers to “The Dunwich Horror” though Perlman’s logic is getting confused: “The chanting of the men from Arkham now became unmistakable, and Wheeler saw through the glass that they were all raising their arms in the rhythmic incantation.”
  • “It sounds like the Stella Sapiente were on good terms with the Catholic church” was mentioned in Providence #9, P6, p3: “We’ve always enjoyed a close relationship with the Catholic Church.”
  • Borrowing a law enforcement agent’s gun, would, of course, never happen in real life. This reinforces the dream state setting.

panel 3

  • “The ‘Haunter of the Dark’ Church in Providence, wasn’t that Catholic too?” refers to St. John’s Church in Providence, RI, which served as the inspiration for the church in Lovecraft’s “The Haunter of the Dark,” as detailed in Providence #9.
  • “His Festival, it’s hard to untangle that from Christmas” refers to Lovecraft’s “The Festival”. The second paragraph of “The Festival” begins:

     It was the Yuletide, that men call Christmas though they know in their hearts it is older than Bethlehem and Babylon, older than Memphis and mankind.

    Christmas celebrates the nativity of Jesus, so Perlman might be having a subconscious preconception of what is to come.

Stephen from The Courtyard #1 P10,p2 – art by Jacen Burrows

Page 11

panel 1

  • Playing the guitar is Stephen, one of the people Sax was investigating in The Courtyard where he is also pictured playing a guitar. He is wearing his orange inmate’s uniform from the Haven Secure Psychiatric Institute, and surrounded by a circle of heads and hands. In The Courtyard, it was noted that the serial killers cut off their victims’ heads and hands.
    • Commenter Sharkophagus points out that two of the heads here appear to belong to fellow escapees from Haven (just behind Stephen and one head to the left of him). This leaves only Aldo Sax unaccounted for (so far).
  • Stephen’s guitar has no strings. This does not seem to stop him producing music, however, as Pearlman seems to have heard some on P10, p3. Alternatively, it may be “soundless”; see notes to P12, p1.

panel 2

  • “Aldo and the Dho-Hna lady” are Aldo Sax and Merril Brears. “Dho-hna” is an Aklo term given in The Courtyard: “There lies our dho-hna: a meaning bestowed retroactively by forms as yet unachieved but implicit” and “a force which defines; lends significance to its receptacle as with the hand in the glove; wind in mill-vanes, the guest or the trespasser crossing a threshold and giving it meaning.” In Neonomicon #3, P22, p3, it is used by the Deep One to refer to Brears’ pregnancy. In Hali’s Book, as seen in Providence #6, P37, it is defined as “That intrusive force whose entry inflicts a new significance.”
    • Commenter BillMessick points out that, phonetically, “dho-na” is similar to “madonna”. Commenter Sharkophagus adds that the missing syllable is “ma” (or “mother”).

panels 3-4

  • These panel sets up a page-turn reveal. The agents “just go” but the reader is not allowed to.

Page 12

panel 1

  • The remains of his victims have had their chests splayed open in a star-like configuration, as was shown in The Courtyard. Interestingly, there is little blood, so they were presumably butchered elsewhere. Their mutilated state does not seem to prevent their dancing.
  • Lovecraft’s Fungi from Yuggoth poetry cycle, poem “IX. The Courtyard” concludes as follows:

    […] swarmed with dancing men:
    Mad, soundless revels of the dragging dead—
    And not a corpse had either hands or head!

    (Thanks to commenter Lalartu for pointing this out.)

panel 2

  • “Kinda made me wish I’d married and had children” shows that Fuller has already forgotten his wife and children.

panel 3

  • “Did we arrive here on foot?” shows memory loss getting exponentially worse. The sunken front hub of the car can be seen just on the bottom left corner of the panel.

Page 13

panel 1

  • The car has become overwhelmed with the verdant growth.
  • “The woman who wrote Peyton Place came from? Grace Something?” refers to the 1956 novel Peyton Place by Grace Metalious, who was born in Manchester, NH.

panel 2

  • David Lynch” is a famous American film director, especially known for Twin Peaks, another town with secrets. Lynch is not from Manchester, however.

panel 3

  • “I mean, it kinda makes sense that people used to burn so many of them.” references how, historically, book-burning has been a method of suppressing certain narratives that opposed that of those in power.

panel 4

Page 14

panel 1

  • Left to right: Increase Orne, Etienne Roulet possessing a young host, and Shadrach Annesley.
    • Annesley’s bag may perhaps contain “eating utensils”.

panel 2

  • “Both of them are my juniors…” refers to Etienne Roulet’s consciousness being several hundred years old.
  • Orne takes Agent Barstow’s hand, in a gentlemanly gesture, appropriate to his upbringing.
  • This panel marks the beginning of a “divide and conquer” routine, where each of the three newcomers leads one of the FBI agents away from the others.

panel 3

  • “I’m the last senior of the order that’s left. The twentieth century, it was very… demanding” suggests that neither Hekeziah Massey nor Japheth Colwen survived.
  • “Naow” is pastiching Lovecraft’s rural New England dialect in stories like “The Dunwich Horror” and “The Shadow over Innsmouth.”
  • “Dutchy” possibly means either German (Deutsch) or Netherlands Dutch.
  • Increase Orne takes Agent Barstow by the arm, another gentlemanly gesture.

Page 15

panel 1

  • “After our great success in 1919” refers to the events of Providence, with Robert Black as the Herald meeting H. P. Lovecraft as the Redeemer.
  • Panels 1-4 form a gradual zoom. The characters are walking east on Armory Street, compare to present day street view.

panel 2

  • “Japheth, we lost him in 1927 when his reinstatement was interrupted. We couldn’t even recover the salts.” refers to Providence‘s analogue of Joseph Curwen, who reconstituted himself with “essential saltes.” This follows the events of Lovecraft’s The Case of Charles Dexter Ward (written in 1927), see Providence #11, P19, p1.
  • “Then in ’28 there was the business at Saint Anselm with that retarded half-god of the Wheatleys.” refers to Wilfred Wheatley and his brother, and the events of “The Dunwich Horror” (written in 1928), see Providence #11, P19, p3.

panel 3

  • “First dear Hekeziah perished and her house was pulled down.” refers to Hekeziah Massey, the Providence analogue for Keziah Mason, referencing the events of “The Dreams in the Witch House” (written in 1932), see Providence #11, P21, p1.
  • “Pauvre Heki!” is “Poor Heki” in French; Etienne Roulet’s native language and presumably a pet name for Hekeziah.
  • “Soon after that, I myself had a close call” refers to the events of “The Thing on the Doorstep” (written in 1933), see Providence #11, P21, p2.
  • “And in 1937 when the Redeemer died, he was almost unknown.” references how H. P. Lovecraft died in 1937, in relative obscurity.

panel 4

  • “There are others gathered at the manger” is another reference to the Nativity of Christ.
  • This panel sets up a page-turn reveal.

Page 16

panel 1

  • Left to right:
    – a Mi-go (aka fungi from Yuggoth, from Lovecraft’s story “The Whisperer in Darkness”) holding the Shining Trapezohedron (from “The Haunter in the Dark” and issue #9)
    Aldo Sax wearing his Haven inmate uniform
    – a heavily pregnant Merril Brears holding Hali’s Booke
    – first appearance of S. T. Joshi, a renowned Lovecraft critic and biographer
    – a woman inhabited by a member of the Great Race of Yith (from Lovecraft’s story “The Shadow Out of Time”)
    – the brain of Ambrose Bierce in a cylinder held by another Mi-go.
  • The corrupted traffic light is green, while the uncorrupted one is red. This perhaps symbolizes that the changed reality wants our viewpoint characters to go forward, while the original reality is (futilely) signaling them to stop.
  • The setting is the eastern approach to the Bridge Street Bridge in Manchester, NH. Compare to present day street view.
  • Panelwise, from here through the end of the issue, the panel borders are ruler-straight, indicating paranormal perception.

panel 2

  • “Carl? Fuller? Where am I?” is Agent Barstow having suffered the same fate as others that crossed Increase Orne, following Lovecraft’s “The Terrible Old Man,” her spirit trapped in a “vital-jar.” See Providence #3, P7, p4.
  • Shadrach Annesley, the cannibal, is wiping blood from the corner of his mouth, implying he’s killed and/or eaten Agent Fuller.
  • “The moment of the Dho-Hna.” – See annotation for P11, p2.
  • “Come, monsieur” is Roulet’s French slipping in again.
  • “She looks…well, radiant” – “Radiant” is a common term to describe someone who is pregnant.

Page 17

panel 1

  • “Aldo Sax… who invented anomaly theory.” is from The Courtyard. Perlman’s memory lapses are starting to feel like progressive dementia.

panel 2

  • “Carl, that was all just a dream, everything in Salem.” is technically true, from a certain perspective.
  • Merril Brears’ nipples have darkened, as is typical for pregnancy, and she has let her hair grow out since Neonomicon.
  • “About me cutting off your hand.” happened between The Courtyard and Neonomicon.

panel 3

  • “Perlman, I’m still somehow fully conscious. I’m in a hell of melting facts. There’s no way out.” is Sax apparently fully aware of everything, unlike the dreamlike state that Perlman is in. This might be what the Stella Sapiente had intended, or it could be because the swastika Sax carved into his head is somehow warding off the dreaming influence. Commenter matthewkirshenblatt points out the irony that a madman like Sax is arguably the only sane human being left.

panel 4

  • “Our three wise men” recalls the three Magi of Jesus’ Nativity; the magi were followers of Zoroaster, and helped give rise to the image of the magician. Commenter Seigor points out that, traditionally, the three consist of an old man, a middle-aged man, and a young black man – matching (at least visually) the trio shown here.
  • “carrying important dignitaries” – The copper cylinder’s contents are discussed on P20. The other dignitary is the Shining Trapezohedron, which Johnny Carcosa identified as “an abstraction” of Hastur (#10, P23, p1). (Thanks to commenter MS for noting the Hastur connection.)

Page 18

  • Azathoth” is Lovecraft’s Daemon Sultan, the nuclear chaos at the heart of the universe.
  • The bridge is transforming, with both railing and supports changing. On the left is the present day highway bridge (apparently the second Notre Dame Bridge – built c. 1988.) On the right is the 1888 MacGregor (or Bridge Street) Bridge where Black met Elspeth Wade (possessed by Etienne Roulet) in Providence #5.

Page 19

panel 1

  • “Although I’d note an abscence of piping” is from The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath:

    There were, in such voyages, incalculable local dangers; as well as that shocking final peril which gibbers unmentionably outside the ordered universe, where no dreams reach; that last amorphous blight of nethermost confusion which blasphemes and bubbles at the centre of all infinity—the boundless daemon-sultan Azathoth, whose name no lips dare speak aloud, and who gnaws hungrily in inconceivable, unlighted chambers beyond time amidst the muffled, maddening beating of vile drums and the thin, monotonous whine of accursed flutes; to which detestable pounding and piping dance slowly, awkwardly, and absurdly the gigantic ultimate gods, the blind, voiceless, tenebrous, mindless Other Gods whose soul and messenger is the crawling chaos Nyarlathotep.

panel 2

  • The Aklo reads IA’Y-AZU. This appears in Hali’s Booke (#6, P37) as “IA’Y-AZV, which is said WZA Y’EI, is THE VAST UNSPOKEN NEGTION THAT WORDS BRING, AS THOUGH AN ABSENT SHADOW.” In “The Courtyard”, “Wza-y’ei is a word for the negative conceptual space left surrounding a positive concept, the class of things larger than thought, being what thought excludes.” (Thanks to commenter Valdo for noticing the mirror-reversal here.)
    • The fact that this appears in its written form, rather than its spoken form, may be of some significance.

panel 3

panel 4

Page 20

panel 1

panel 2

  • “Tzzertainly” includes the zz’s representing the mechanical buzzing of the speaker, mentioned in “The Whisperer in Darkness” where human souls are carved onto cylinders.
  • “But as Marcuzz Aureliuzz izz my father” is a reference to Marcus Aurelius Bierce, the father of Ambrose Bierce, noted journalist and inventor of Hali and Carcosa.

panel 3

  • “O-on the contraty. I-I believe I know precisely who that was.” refers to how, in addition to being the foremost Lovecraft scholar, S. T. Joshi is also a leading scholar on Ambrose Bierce.

panel 4

Page 21

panel 1

  • “In our species, the male has the gene for limiting growth. In theirs, it’s the female. It’s like with ligers.” – Ligers are the offspring between a male lion and a female tigress; they grow substantially larger than either parent species, as female tigers do not have the gene that limits growth.
  • Panels 1-4 form a zoom sequence, gradually isolating the focus on Brears and Perlman.

panel 2

  • “Izz it the one who mockzz?” – The one approaching is Johnny Carcosa, an avatar of Nyarlathotep, who is associated with mockery. From The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath:

    Only to taunt had Nyarlathotep marked out the way to safety and the marvellous sunset city; only to mock had that black messenger revealed the secret of those truant gods

  • “You know, of all the pantheon, I’d always wondered why he was most humanoid.” refers to how Cthulhu is often depicted as humanoid.

panel 3

  • “Jesus, Merril…” “Y-yeah, but more extreme.” is another Nativity reference.
  • “He’s going to be their hierophant, dreaming a new planet…” references how, in “The Call of Cthulhu,” Cthulhu is referred to as “great priest”, literally a hierophant.

panel 4

  • “Yeth. Exithtenth ith a thingle thtep from the thublime.” – “Yes. Existence is a single step from the sublime.” Spoken by Johnny Carcosa, avatar of Nyarlathotep.

Page 22

panel 1

  • In the center is Johnny Carcosa, from The Courtyard, Neonomicon, and Providence #10.
  • “You thee how eathily it all thlips away? How it thubmitths before a thtronger ficthion?” – “You see how easily it all slips away? How it submits before a stronger fiction?”
    “Submits before a stronger fiction” suggests that the Mythos is a narrative that is replacing the “real world” narrative that we know – again, the overtones of an invasive species or conquest.
  • “Mith Brearth, pleathe be athured that thith thervith thyall not go unapprethiated.” – “Miss Brears, please be assured that this service shall not go unappreciated.” All of those who “serve” the Mythos appear to get their rewards.
  • “If you would athume your pothithion…?” – “If you would assume your position…?”
    Position meaning the birthing position, but can also mean to take on a given role (in this case, the Mary role).

panel 2

  • “Thertainly. I think that between the dignitarieth would perhapth by betht.” – “Certainly, I think that between the dignitaries would perhaps be best.”
    Perlman may be a dignitary, perhaps by setting in motion the current events. He is the person who initially assigned the case to Sax prior to The Courtyard. He somewhat resembles the biblical Joseph in that he slept with Brears before Neonomicon. Alternatively, the phrase “dignitaries” was earlier used by Brears to refer to those carried by the Mi-go (that is, Ambrose Bierce and the Shining Trapezohedron).
  • “Monthieur Roulet, do you thtand ready to pronounth the nethethary incantathionth?” – “Monsieur Roulet, do  you stand ready to pronounce the necessary incantations?”
    The whole set-up has the air of ritual; it seems that a ritual with incantations is necessary for the birth to be a success.

panel 3

  • “Oh, yeth. The world will be ath it thyould be. Now, if you pleathe…” – “Oh yes. The would will be as it should be. Now, if you please…”

panel 4

  • “Can I use your coat as a birth-rug?” – Commenter easternheath notes:

    […] this is the second time we see a publicly naked Agent Merrill ask for a coat, the first time being in Necronomicon after escaping the dungeon and emerging from the water [Neonomicon #4, P3,p1]. Her motivations have changed somewhat!

Page 23

panel 1

  • “Carl, this is all your fault.” is a bit cliche, but a common thing for mothers-to-be to say in the labors of birth.
    • Commenter Joseph Thomas points out that this resonates with

      Neonomicon issue 4, page 8, panel one, where Carl says, “And a lot of that, what youwent through, a lot that’s my fault.” She responds, aptly, “I believe in fate, Carl. I really believe in fate.” There’s a nice complexity here: if it’s Carl’s “fault” that she ends up pregnant then it wasn’t Providence; here Merril states that what’s happened is fated, but once her fate comes to pass – giving birth to Cthulhu – she briefly recants, placing blame on a freely acting human subject (Carl).

  • “And now behold, for the great sea gives up its lamps…” is very Biblical-sounding, recalling Revelations 20:13 (“The sea gave up its dead”), and recalling that famous couplet from the Necronomicon: “That is not dead which can eternal lie, And with strange aeons even death may die” from “The Nameless City” and “The Call of Cthulhu.”

panel 2

  • Increase Orne is holding up the vital-jar containing Agent Barstow.
  • “When shall the heaven know a marvellous confusion, and the old stars be returned to us.” is reminiscent of “Some day he would call, when the stars were ready, and the secret cult would always be waiting to liberate him.” from “The Call of Cthulhu.”
  • Commenter That Fuzzy Bastard notes:

    To witness the birth, along with the three wise men, there are also three helpless victims: Barstow in the Terrible Old Man’s jar, the nameless possessed woman, and the equally nameless boy whom Roulet erased. One thing that keeps this book solidly in the horror genre, even in this most cosmically accepting scene, is that it keeps those victims of awful violence prominent. And it’s in keeping with the political vision of America underlying this story that the anti-Nativity features three old white men and their black and female victims.

panel 3

  • “Pope of sleep” is Cthulhu; “Unto his mansions” recalls “In his house at R’lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.” from “The Call of Cthulhu.”

panel 4

  • “…and in great rejoicing is the world forgot.” is already happening, as shown by the memory loss plaguing Perlman, Fuller, and Barstow.

Page 24

panels 1-8

  • Panelwise, this is Providence‘s first and only use of a stacked 8-panel page. The panels alternate between the parties assembled and the newborn Cthulhu. The fast panel rhythm is perhaps meant to echo the contractions and rapid heartbeat/breath that accompany birth.
  • Note that Moore is credited with the first comics depiction of a birth, in book two of Miracleman.

panel 2

  • First appearance of Cthulhu.
  • Commenter Tom points out the newborn is folded within the “caul of Cthulhu.” Moore would be aware of the wording as one of his autobiographical works is titled “The Birth Caul.”

panel 3

  • Again Orne holds up the vital-jar containing Barstow.

panel 4

panel 5

  • “A-an octopus, a dragon, a human caricature…but it was the general outline of the whole which made it most shockingly frightful…” is from “The Call of Cthulhu.”

panel 5

panel 6

panel 7

panel 8

  • The eye, with its elongated pupil, resembles that of an octopus.

Page 25

panel 1

  • “it’s more like a folded jewel, o-or a cabbage…” – Brears is perhaps perceiving higher-dimensional fractal attributes of Cthulhu that are not apparent to the reader.
    • Commenter Brian J. Taulbee writes

      Moore in the past has expressed a great appreciation for the subtlety and skill that Lovecraft employed in “describing” Cthulhu; really, as Moore points out, Lovecraft gives you a list of things that Cthulhu is sort-of like, but not really. It’s truly indescribable. Moore has fun with that idea here, adding “a folded jewel” and “a cabbage” to the list of not-quite-accurate Cthulhu descriptors. Now Cthulhu doesn’t quite resemble things from the animal, vegetable, AND mineral groups!

  • “You thyould thupply him with thuthtenanth.” – “You should supply him with sustenance.”
    This implies Brears should breastfeed, which she does in the following panels.

panels 2-4

  • These form a fixed-camera sequence. This serves to slow the action back down after the speed of the previous page.
  • The nature of these tiny tentacles is unclear. This may be part of a deliberate attempt by Moore to give Cthulhu some physoical details which are mysterious and uncanny, while still keeping the same “general outline“.

panel 3

panel 4

Page 26

  • While there is considerable bloody fluid on the jacket, there is no obvious sign of a placenta. Not that there necessarily was a placenta involved in this pregnancy. Neonomicon, in its first and last pages, did seem to show an umbilical cord, but there was no cord-cutting depicted here.
  • Agent Barstow appears to be speaking from her vital-jar, but her dialogue is illegible, even magnified.

Page 27

panel 1

  • “It’th betht you path him to me. I mutht take him to the waterthide before he ith heavy with thleep.” – It’s best you pass him to me. I must take him to the waterside before he is heavy with sleep.”
  • “He hath many thouthanth of mileth to croth before he can retht and dream.” – “He has many thousands of miles to cross before he can rest and dream.”
    This suggests that Cthulhu must go to the Pacific Ocean coordinates specified by Lovecraft as the location of R’lyeh.
  • Shadrach Annesley is approaching from the left foreground. His fingers are bloody at the tips (thanks, commenter keshavkrishnamurty).

panel 2

  • “Shadrach, it is nothing short of certain fact that you’re a cretin to your lusts.” implies that the cannibal Annesley has killed and eaten Sax.

panel 3

  • “No. He ith barely aware of thith univerth, thave ath a dream of hith.” – “No. He is barely aware of this universe, save as a dream of his.”
  • “Tho long, Mith Brearth. Take care of yourthelf, huh?” – “So long, Miss Brears. Take care of yourself, huh?”
    This is perhaps an expression of Lovecraftian gods indifference to humanity.
  • Commenter keshavkrishnamurty points out:

    Way back in Providence #1 [P3,p1] we had ol’ Freddie Dix talking about the Jersey Devil, the tale of a woman who gave birth to a winged monster that swiftly left her and had its own existence in the world outside. Brears gives birth to the winged Cthulhu who is swiftly taken away from her and migrates to his place in the world.

panel 4

  • “New York already seems like an impossible Dunsany fantasy.” references how in Dunsany‘s “Idle Days on the Yann,” in the dreaming world the waking world seems like a fantasy.
  • “I think it’s Yuggoth now.” refers to Yuggoth as the fictional planet of the Mi-Go, or Fungi from Yuggoth, in Lovecraft’s fiction.

Page 28

  • “I think maybe it’s always been Yuggoth.” shows Perlman’s thoughts as binary: Earth and Yuggoth are the two extremes – always coexistant, but few could see it.
  • Echoing accounts of Jesus Christ, Carcosa, in the role of John the Baptist, baptizes Cthulhu. Though this is more of a release than a baptism, as Cthulhu, instead of being lifted back out of the water, will presumably swim off to R’lyeh.
  • The multiple wing/fin-like extremeties emerging from the water are presumably another attempt by Moore to make the now-familiar general shape of Cthulhu seem uncanny and disturbing.

Page 29

panel 1

  • “Philosophically, I can’t object to that. I don’t imagine Lovecraft would have objected either.” The idea of human history as a feeble and temporary construct on an inherently chaotic existence is very much in keeping with Lovecraft’s philosophy.
  • “Wh-where are Lovecraft’s characters left? Because that’s what we’ve ended up as…” again, mixes the real and the fictional (and the metafictional!), as Brears at least recognizes she is a character in a story, at least on some level.

panel 2

  • “Don’t think I’m not aware of the irony.” – Not that Joshi hasn’t been made a fictional character in a Lovecraftian story before, but he would be well cognizant of being dragged into one.
  • “Our principal options would seem to be madness or suicide.” refers to how many (not every) character in a Lovecraft story ends up mad (such as de la Poer in “The Rats in the Walls”) or suicidal (Arthur Jermyn in “Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jerymn and His Family.”)

panel 3

  • “No. No, there’s I can’t agree with you.” is typical of Joshi, an eternal critic.
  • “if your mind were altering, and you weren’t aware of it, that would be unspeakable.” – Brears’ mind has been altered. She does seem to be aware of it, which makes the horror less for her, but arguably more horrible for the reader.

panel 4

Page 30

panel 1

  • First appearance of Shub-Niggurath. The lower body appears as fractals of a pregnat female pelvis and upper legs.
  • The substructure of the MacGregor Bridge is visible in the upper left. The view is from the north, similar to this present day street view.

panel 2

  • “That may be Lovecraft’s Shub-Niggurath. In one of his letters, I think he described her as a kind of cloud.” refers to Lovecraft’s letter to Willis Conover, 1 September, 1936: “Yog-Sothoth’s wife is the hellish cloud-like entity Shub-Niggurath […]” (Selected Letters 5.303)

Page 31

panel 1

  • “I’ve never been convinced by the ‘Elder Sign‘ argument. It always seems like one of Derleth’s embellishments.” refers to how the Elder Sign (sometimes a swastika) features in many August Derleth’s Mythos stories, particularly in Trail of Cthulhu, as a sort of ward against Mythos creatures. The Elder Sign is mentioned by Lovecraft in “The Shadow over Innsmouth” and At the Mountains of Madness.

panel 2

  • “Carl, I… I don’t think this is that kind of story.” echoing one of the major criticisms of Derleth’s stories, where humans can (and do) fight back against the Cthulhu Mythos.
  • “I think we should learn to dwell amidst wonder and glory forever” echoes the last line of “The Shadow over Innsmouth“:
    “We shall swim out to that brooding reef in the sea and dive down through black abysses to Cyclopean and many-columned Y’ha-nthlei, and in that lair of the Deep Ones we shall dwell amidst wonder and glory for ever.”

panel 3

  • “But as a existential position, you may have a point.” points to Joshi as the consummate literary critic (choosing to stop and debate about a slightly arcane literary point-of-view), marked against Brears’ optimism and Perlman’s desire to fight.
    Taken together, Joshi, Brears, and Perlman can be seen as each representing the three major reactions to Lovecraft’s work: the literary critics who largely accept the stories and philosophy, yet analyze his life and shades of meaning (Joshi), those who wish a more proactive stance similar to the Derleth Mythos (Perlman), and those who accept Lovecraft’s stories at a more personal or spiritual level (Brears).

panel 4

  • “As far as anybody knows this is a predetermined universe, without free will.” is technically true, since their universe is a comic book script, and from a mechanistic point of view accurate as well.
  • “It’s all destiny. It’s all providence.” This is in the sense of “divine providence,” the foreordained outcome; this could refer to Alan Moore as the author, but it could also refer to Cthulhu as an idea that creates the conditions for his own existence over the course of The Courtyard, Neonomicon, and Providence. It reinforces the notion that all the moves and decisions that the characters made throughout the series were, to a large extant, already determined – a view of time where all the characters’ actions had already happened, frozen in pages that just hadn’t been read yet. The reader, then, is the one that makes this a story by reading the pages in order.
    These of course echo Moore’s predetermined eternalism theories of time, explored extensively in Jerusalem – see Providence #2 P31.

Page 32

panels 1-4

  • The page layout echoes the first page from Providence #1, similar to how Black retraced the steps of Lily in Providence #11.
    • Commenter Sharkophagus points out:

      Look at the lovely dichotomy, too – Lily as an individual actively seeking to destroy themselves, Carl as [a representative of] all of humanity passively accepting the destruction of the world around them.

  • This page differs from that opening page in that Perlman is not actually destroying pages of Black’s text, but separating and dispersing them, perhaps analogous to spores (as discussed on P1 above).
  • The page depicted is from Black’s Commonplace Book pages 32 and 33 from Providence #8.
  • The passage in panel 1 is near the end of Black’s recounting of a complex dream, which we now see to foreshadow the events of this issue. The dream is on a bridge which is “like the flat and functional affairs you’d find in somewhere like Salem or Athol.” On the way, he meets “a young man […] with a bright yellow cravat pulled up absurdly to conceal his mouth” – Johnny Carcosa. The bridge changes to resemble “the long bridge in Manchester across the Merrimack”. On the bridge, he sees Mr. Orne, Mr. Annesley, and “a small Negro child dressed up in a scaled-down tuxedo and puffing […] on a gigantic cigar.” Next, “a defeated-looking man in middle age who may have had a withered hand […] tearing a book to pieces” – Perlman. After that, he sees a crowd , including Ambrose Bierce, and “a naked woman, calm and unembarrassed by her public nudity […] appeared to be in the later stages of a very bulbous pregnancy […] had an intact copy of what looked like Hali’s Booke”. The dream is intertwined with Lily’s suicide throughout, and the image from the first page of Providence, of Lily standing on a bridge, tearing up Black’s love letters.

panel 2

panel 3

  • Another difference between this page and #1 P1 is the asymmetry of Perlman’s hands, perhaps symbolic.

panel 4

  • Nightgaunts fly in the distance.
  • Aklo: “AGNADIUORP” Taken backwards, “Prouidanga,” as close to a phonetic rendering to “Providence” as you can get in Aklo, considering that in Latin “u” and “v” were the same letter, and “g” occupies to position for “c” in the Aklo alphabet. It being recalled that Aklo in Hali’s Booke was mirror-writing, so it would have been reversed. See Providence #6.

Back Cover

This quotation from Lovecraft serves to express most of what Moore spent the issue describing, and which the series as a whole has led up to.

228 thoughts on “Providence 12

  1. p. 2: It’s a nice visual touch that as out eye moves from background to foreground, we go through different ways of framing reality: a window, a TV, and a book. And then, text. And then, a panel border. It’s representations all the way down.

    p. 14: Roulet’s reference to himself as “the last senior” may be a bit of a pun on the Catholic title “Monsignor” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monsignor

    p. 21, panel 2: The quote from Dream-Quest, with Nyarlathotep doing things “only to mock” puts me in mind of what Carcosa did to Black. There’s been a lot of interesting speculation about why Carcosa gave him that oral tribute. But perhaps the ultimate answer is that he did it “only to mock”. Throwing Black a pity fuck was just a nasty little joke all along.

    p.23-24: To witness the birth, along with the three wise men, there are also three helpless victims: Barstow in the Terrible Old Man’s jar, the nameless possessed woman, and the equally nameless boy whom Roulet erased. One thing that keeps this book solidly in the horror genre, even in this most cosmically accepting scene, is that it keeps those victims of awful violence prominent. And it’s in keeping with the political vision of America underlying this story that the anti-Nativity features three old white men and their black and female victims.

    p. 23, panel 1: What is up with the sea and its “lamps”? Trying to think of another meaning of “lamps” that this could all be referring to. But it’s certainly a reference to Revelations 20:13, “And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.”

    p.26: It’s funny and appropriate than this incarnation of Cthulhu, which has been filtered through a memetic network that includes many stuffed dolls and t-shirts, should be a weirdly adorable li’l baby

    p. 29-31: There’s a marvelous deflation here, as we go from the cosmic Nativity to a few little humans, left alone by the great ones, arguing about the end of a pulp fiction story

    Back cover: HPL’s adjectival style was often ridiculous, but every so often it’s all worth it. One can put up with a lot of “squamous” to get a word as great as “terraqueous”.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Apologies if this has been raised before – there’s a lot to keep up with here! – but has anyone noted the similarity of _Providence_’s overall theme to that of “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” by Jorge Luis Borges? A set of fictional books are written by a secret society to bring into existence a competing reality that threatens to overlay and replace that of our own?

    Borges did make a cameo in issue #11, and was enough an admirer of Lovecraft to write a story in his mythos, “There Are More Things”.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I thought the business with the dancing headless people, particularly with the stars on their chest, was Alan Moore’s way of including the Elder Things. One of them even is positioned in a way that the star appears over the decapitated neck.

    It’s particularly apt, since the last few pages have been talking about the church and dancing, and the Elder Things always seemed to be the Lovecraftian equivalent of angels.

    Like

  4. Hey, wait – I just looked again and two of the heads on P. 11 appear to belong to the two other serial killers (just behind Todd and one head to the left of him). It appears he was busy…

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Realized something halfway in my sleep when it came to the birth of Cthulhu in p25-26. Way back in Providence #1 we had ol’ Freddie Dix talking about the Jersey Devil, the tale of a woman who gave birth to a winged monster that swiftly left her and had its own existence in the world outside. Brears gives birth to the winged Cthulhu who is swiftly taken away from her and migrates to his place in the world. Coincidence? I doubt it.

    Oh, and the more I think about it, I think the “Caul of Cthulhu” joke was a deliberate visual pun by Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I must admit I find Brears’s deft and cheerful avoidance of responsibility for her agency in the extermination of almost all of humanity as well as the murders of several of her closest colleagues somewhat glib. No wonder she wants to blame it all on Destiny, on Providence. And wants to look on the positive aspects of living as an insect-equivalent in Hell.
    Surprised Alan Moore didn’t have her singing Always Look On The Bright Side of Life as the curtain dropped

    Liked by 2 people

    • Brears’ contrition might be appropriate in a “them vs. us” scenario but “Providence” appears to be a “one thing or another” expression of HPL’s uncaring universe. There’s no good guy, it’s simply “meet the new boss.”

      I will go out on a meta-fictional limb and suggest that in the final panels when Carl, the one character who still harbors a burden of responsibility, destroys Black’s journal (the knowledge of the herald) he also initiates the first step in another cycle, when Yuggoth is once again forgotten and dreamt out of existence.

      Liked by 3 people

    • That’s often been a lingering question regarding Moore’s cosmically indifferent semi-humans. Like, I’ve always wondered if Dr Manhattan’s doctrine of predetermination is really the effect of quantum consciousness, or if it’s merely the reaction of a man who was always profoundly passive. Similarly, how much is Brears as predestined as she seems, and how much is her addiction rearing its ugly head, convincing her that she’s helpless.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. RE Page 7, panel 2, you write:

    ““It changes as you look at it” touches on ideas that reality is all essentially a matter of perception, such as Plato’s allegory of the cave. In a more contemporary context, compare it to Schrödinger’s cat, where the reality is determined be perceiving it. This could imply that the more aware one is of the Dreamworld, the more aware one becomes, a kind of feedback loop. This also echoes a comment made by Randall Carver in Providence #8, P13, p1: “Reality might be in a different state where it is unobserved””

    Funny thing about Schrodinger’s cat:

    Einstein and a couple other scientists published an article in 1935 discussing the weird nature of quantum superpositions, where things like photons exist in multiple states at once, with varying possible outcomes.

    The Copenhagen interpretation of this phenomenon argued that these things exist in this superposition until they are observed, at which point they collapse into a single, definite state.

    Schrodinger actually came up with his cat metaphor in attempt to make fun of the Copenhagen Interpretation! His goal was to expose how stupid he thought the Copenhagen interpretation was by using the cat-is-both-alive-and-dead example because of how absurd it was.

    Ironically, Schrodinger’s cat has become the most common way of describing the very thing Schrodinger wanted to mock haha.

    This doesn’t contradict anything you wrote above, but I think it ads a funny layer to the idea of observation (and interpretation) changing reality – as over time the public’s interpretation of Schrodinger’s cat joke elevated the joke to that of an accepted scientific principle haha – literally changing his metaphor by observation!

    Also, great point that it’s like a “feedback loop.”

    Liked by 3 people

  8. The bit about Cthulhu being “the most humanoid of all the pantheon” sounds strange. By all accounts, Nyarlathotep is very much a part of the pantheon, and his perfectly humanoid avatar is standing right there with them, all snappily dressed! How on Yuggoth can anyone consider any representation of Cthulhu to be more humanoid than Johnny Carcosa?

    OK, so JC is just an avatar – still, AFAIK all but one of Nyarlathotep’s manifestations were described as humanoid.

    Like

      • Yeah, I figured she wasn’t technically the mother of Nyarlathotep – my guess would be a cultist of some kind playing that role for whatever purpose during his stay in Red Hook?

        Though of course it’s entirely possible that baby JC did crawl out of her at some point. Wouldn’t be the first avatar born of a woman.

        Like

      • I had an entire theory pre-Providence 10 that Carcosa’s mother was in fact Roulet’s mother, since she gets a name and an unusual amount of detail surrounding her backstory in Suydam’s pamphlet. There’s far more to her than meets the eye. Given how Brown Jenkins, Massey’s familiar, describes her to Black as his mother, perhaps Carcosa was summoned by Marie Delaroche as some kind of “familiar-in-charge”. This is, of course, all speculation, but I really do wonder what’s going on here.

        I also wondered about other loose ends – for instance, while Roulet brought Hali’s Booke, the English translation of the Kitab, to America, Black finds the original incunabula of Liber Stella Sapiente in the steeple room. Jacques Roulet is known to have possessed a copy and Howard Charles says that Japheth Colwen was associated with Jacques Roulet, so who else but Colwen could have brought the Latin copy in? This is all fill-in-the-blank stuff, but I think there’s plenty here that hasn’t yet been explicitly spelled out.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Holy hell, keshavkrishnamurty. Howard Charles did say that Japheth Colwen worked with Jacques Roulet. That was Etienne Roulet’s grandfather. Of course, this is an issue that is dealt with in Facts in the Case of Alan Moore’s Providence Nitpicks: https://factsprovidence.wordpress.com/moore-lovecraft-comics-annotation-index/providence-nitpicks/

        Perhaps Howard did misspeak, especially as Jacques had been on trial for witchcraft in France. I don’t remember if he was executed or not, but I don’t think he made it to America. Of course, there is writer bias here to consider as well. For example, we only know of the possible relation between Jacques and Etienne through Robert Suydam’s Pamphlets and we know the man is not exactly unbiased himself. In addition, for all we know Jacques Roulet could have been the first person to transfer his consciousness and Etienne was just another one of *his* host bodies. It’s not the first time the entity has bred a family specifically to insure his serial immortality and it wasn’t the last. I will say that Roulet had a much better fate with his ultimate plan than Oliver Haddo did in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century as his ultimate goal did come to fruition in a way he hadn’t foreseen but still appreciated.

        Perhaps Carcosa’s mother allowed for a new avatar to be created with Nyarlathotep’s fourth dimensional essence: making a semi-third dimensional Johnny Carcosa in order to interact with his followers and “the necessary materials” more efficiently. Of course, by the time Merril and Robert are enlightened, they can see his connections to a much grander and more terrifying being not unlike I believe what the Haunter in the Dark might have resembled, which also makes sense as to why Carcosa would be the Secret Chief or Leader of the Stella Sapiente when you look at the Church and the trapezohedron.

        I wonder if Cthulhu’s growth in the water will be just literal, or if he needs to also grow in the waters of the subconscious or the Plateau of Leng much like how Carcosa’s true Nyarlathotep — or if you look at Ambrose Bierce as a Lovecraft predecessor — Hastur form, along with the others. Of course, it’s all moot now as the Dreamlands and the real world are now definitely one and the same. But Cthulhu does have some human and Deep One genetic material. I think he just needs to keep growing, as the other Great Old Ones have done before, during, and after him.

        Liked by 1 person

      • The wordpress reply system seems a little wonky – in case this doesn’t get slotted into its proper position, I’m replying to matthewkirstenblatt’s reply here – https://factsprovidence.wordpress.com/moore-lovecraft-comics-annotation-index/providence-12/comment-page-2/#comment-3381

        That’s an interesting idea, that Jacques Roulet simply possessed his grandson Etienne and continued on his way…however, in Providence #6, the entity possessing Robert’s body says “the first was my poor Mathilde”, which we know to be Etienne Roulet’s young wife. Unless he was lying about whom his first victim was, that line was a giveaway that it wasn’t Edgar or Elspeth Wade but Etienne Roulet behind the bodyswapping.

        Also, notice the hint in Suydam’s pamphlet that Japheth Colwen, who is infamous for not aging, had been present on the Mayflower voyage of 1620. Jacques Roulet was charged with lycanthropy in 1598 and he was alleged to have possessed a copy of the Liber Stella Sapiente from 1498 (the incunabula found in the Steeple). Marie Delaroche, known to have been associated with Gypsies and the Cult of Diana (notice how Carcosa’s mom as seen in Providence has somewhat Gypsy-like clothing) met Roulet’s son Guillame Roulet in 1616+33 = 1649 and Etienne Roulet(born 1650) later brought Hali’s book to America in 1686. The only person who could have been conceivably associated with Jacques Roulet in his lifetime and brought that incunabula to the steeple room was Japtheth Colwen, so rather than a nitpicky error, Howard Charles has to be right plus the one logical person for being Carcosa’s “mom” is Marie Delaroche.

        I also have the impression – shared by someone else, I don’t remember who mentioned it – that Carcosa’s mom is the secret chief of the Stella Sapiente. That same person mentioned that women have played a tremendous role in cults and religions, hidden away from the sight of men, which would appear to apply very well here.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Occam’s Razor aside, it’s difficult to argue with that since Jacques’s wife is never named. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was never actually married, since the historical Jacques Roulet claimed that he, his brother Jean and cousin Julien went about hunting women and children in wolf form!

        Like

    • Except for “The Three-Lobed Burning Eye”, of course (see also the the ‘Weird Pulp’ variant of Providence #10, the final pages of that issue, and the final pages of “LOEG: The Black Dossier” if you put on the 3D glasses and close one eye). If Moore does not think of Nyarlathotep as humanoid then presumably he thinks that it’s this dark monster with the red burning stare that is its’ truest form, rather than the dark Pharoah, Johnny Carcosa, etc.

      Liked by 1 person

      • All true, though Moore’s perspective shouldn’t impinge on Brears’s – she’s met Carcosa a couple of times, and we’ve not seen any revelations of his “truest form” in those scenes. Or maybe their interactions have made him seem just too real for her to take into consideration as part of the pantheon?

        Like

      • Welllll take into consideration: she was a Lovecraft scholar herself (not at Joshi level, but she did her homework), and Carcosa specifically told her he was an *avatar* of Nyarlathotep rather than the thing itself. So your suggestion is probably correct – she’s compartmentalised him as a separate entity.

        Like

  9. Regarding page 20 panel 4, I noticed that this is the second time we see a publicly naked Agent Merrill ask for a coat, the first time being in Necronomicon after escaping the dungeon and emerging from the water.
    Her motivations have changed somewhat!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I just realized that the dreamlike acceptance of events beginning in page 5 of this issue isn’t the first time that normal human characters – quite specifically, law enforcement officers – have reacted to shocking, horrific, or worldview-shattering events with nonchalance. Officer O’Brien’s entrance in Providence #7 has him sitting at a bar drinking and treating the shocking violence, mayhem and depravity outside with untroubled acceptance. Of course, it might be because he’s drunk, but from his dialogue it’s plain that he wouldn’t have bothered even if he were stone cold sober.

    Liked by 3 people

    • True! And in an issue that functions are a kind of premonition of the chaos that is bubbling beneath the surface. Perhaps one of the signs of the apocalypse is law enforcement grown passive.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I was thinking about why Orne and Annesley were brought back in the last issue of Providence aside from theirs and Roulet’s anti-Nativity resonance.

    And I realized they are a lot like … cleaners for the reality of Yuggoth. They almost remind me of Mr. Croup and Mr Vandemar from Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere: in that Croup eats only the finest of obscure artifacts not unlike how Orne gathers extremely intelligent people’s souls into bottles like Agent Barstow’s and Annesley is like Vandemar who is a brutish being that eats live beings: animals in the case of Vandemar of course.

    Orne and Annesley take care of the loose-ends of superfluous characters in Yuggoth. Orne might keep their knowledge for another time but Annesley literally consumes the unnecessary: including Sax the one man who is not getting affected by reality being retroactively rewritten.

    In fact, you can see all of the beings in the emerging Yuggoth as functioning to perpetuate the ecosystem: Azathoth creating the new sky and atmosphere, Yog-Sothoth making the gate to allow them all through, the Mi-Go taking and maintaining key intelligences like Orne does, the Yith transferring new consciousnesses and awareness to the Earth, the colour out of space meteorite as perhaps Hastur spreading the biological component of Yuggoth, Shub-niggurath generating new monsters to live in Yuggoth, and Cthulhu dreaming it all into existence with human ancestry of the old and alien mind of the old and new with Johnny Carcosa baptising him into the water of Yuggoth’s subconscious.

    You see: everything has its function in the new old ecosystem that is Yuggoth.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hi, I’m new here but have been following the annotations from the beginning. May I add my thanks for the detailed and complex work done by everyone.

      One question that may not have been answered is the reason for Johnny Carcosa’s mother being murdered or committing suicide. Was her role just completed so there was no reason to hang around? If Carcosa was the “John the Baptist” figure (rather than JC!) was there some biblical reference to the mother of the Baptist (named Elizabeth, she bore her child very late in life, and Carcosa’s mum looks pretty ancient)?

      I’m not sure how much of a biblical parallel to the second coming Moore intended, but he usually puts in more references than I can follow.

      Allan

      Like

      • Well, remember that that happened in Neonomicon, which was much less dense / carefully-thought-out than Providence. From a narrative POV, Moore probably didn’t want the FBI able to question her, and decided to give her a disturbing death to het her off-stage.

        Like

      • Seeing her in almost the exact same state in Providence, almost a hundred years prior to her appearance in Neonomicon and The Courtyard, it’s clear she’s not aging significantly between series either. Maybe she’s not entirely human. With Providence’s focus on the paths to immortality for humans, I find it strange that she(an immortal?) “dies” in Neonomicon so arbitrarily. Was it her imminent capture? Johnny has no problem eluding the FBI, and they weren’t specifically looking for her.

        What was her purpose in Providence other than a reference to the other books? I guess the mystery of Johnny’s mom remains unsolved or at least unexplained.

        Like

      • Given Carcosa’s status as “the one who mocks”, I wouldn’t necessarily take his talk about “the old country” seriously. She may have been a necessary sacrifice for Johnny’s escape, esp now that the StellSap’s plan is well underway.

        Like

      • There may have been an element of despair, as well. The Herald, Messenger, and the bulk of the Stell Saps were all dead by then, with no obvious sign that the prophecy was still on course.

        Liked by 2 people

  12. The comparison of the pages of Black’s book to spores is a nice callback to #6 – the warning that rather than anyone trying to break in to get at Hali’s book, the book itself might have tried to “break out” – the double meaning implying a disease

    Liked by 1 person

  13. With all of the Catholic parallels going on, I’m wondering if S.T. Joshi’s presence might’ve been a conscious pun on his initialized name.
    St. Joshi of the Church of Yuggoth?

    Like

  14. Not to whine, but…slightly disappointed my observation about the straight-edged panels possibly being the shape of Cthulhu’s rectangular pupil as he dreams the events of Providence and the world in which it’s set. I think it’s a viable theory!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Very thorough annotations indeed. Very well done to all concerned.

    I wonder if the following line from the disembodied Ambrose Bierce, as well as being a reference to Nyarlathotep, is also a sly nod to Breaking Bad?

    Page 21, panel 2
    “Izz it the one who mockzz?”

    Like

  16. I know this is anathema but rereading today I was again struck by the banality of the ending and especially Briers’s attempts to stay resolutely cheerful as homo sapiens is extinguished forever.
    The Final Apocalypse should never be shown otherwise it loses its sublime horror. A few survivors sitting around in the ruins discussing metafictional narratives? Gimme a break

    This is the way the world ends / not with a bang / nor with a wimper / but with a postgrad seminar

    Liked by 3 people

    • Spot on. Providence really should’ve ended with Bloch’s suicide in issue #11.

      But hey, it could’ve been worse – it could’ve all ended in an action-packed fight against a giant Harry-Potter-Cthulhu amalgam.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Or an inaction-packed one, where it’s all sorted out in one frame. Well, in-between 2 frames actually. By a Deus Ex Machina. Making the previous Century’s events completely irrelevant.

        Still, far as I know, HPL’s stories aren’t known for the heroes snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, in a last minute display of cunning / courage / ingenuity / just-plain-Americanness. Aren’t all HPL’s disasters planned out aeons in advance, before even the Universe, on such a scale as makes human schemes, and humanity itself, irrelevant?

        So Robert was doomed before the first page of his story was ever written, the world in Providence also. As soon as Merril figured out why the Deep One was so interested in her piss (I’d just figured it for being a bit of a perv), we knew Humanity’s days were numbered.

        Issue 12 needed to be made. Certainly things looked bad at the end of #11, but the specific way it was all going to happen was not yet obvious. And it gave Alan an excuse to write some real far-out weirdness, like whatsisname’s impromptu dance circle. Gave all the characters an ending. And it wasn’t even all that sad, seemed like humanity wasn’t entirely doomed, we’d just have to get used to doing more swimming in our daily lives.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, I was a bit disappointed to have followed Robert Black’s journey through 11 issues of Providence only to have the final issue be the conclusion of Neonomicon instead. Even if the macro-narrative was leading to this end all along, it feels like a bait-and-switch for Pearlman and Brears to suddenly be the viewpoint characters rather than Black.

        Liked by 1 person

    • I agree the ending climaxes with Robert’s departure, but I was on the edge of my seat to see the ramifications of his odyssey. The denouement was less emotional, but as they said, “it wasn’t that kind of story”. I’d of felt cheated without the wrap up.

      Like

      • I agree
        I actually think 11 was excellent on Black but the recap on the 20th century was rather banal and foolish. Why include eg Borges but not even mention the world war, the Shoah (alluded to in 3) or nuclear weapons?
        I know we all now know that Evil is Banal but Horror (as a genre) ought to be Sublime

        Like

      • I dunno, WW2 and nuclear weapons are quite big things in themselves. You could go down the Eldritch Deities as Weapons Of Mass Destruction angle, or nuclear explosions cracking the cosmos and letting Elder Things through. But a couple of pages in the final issue isn’t really the place to bring that up from nowhere, then deal with and finish it.

        WW2 too. Could maybe’ve been something to do with Cthulhu and the Sapientaes, but again a bit late to shoehorn all of that in, in a story that was mostly finished by 1920. It’s all fresh territory, a different story to tell, not part of this one. There’s so many ways WW2 and HPL-stuff could go together, they’re both giant subjects. Trying to cover the whole of it would seem rushed and half-done. Just picking out one element would seem weird and shuttered.

        Basically there’s no room for WW2 and nukes right at the denouement of a story set almost entirely in 1919 USA.

        It’d either need a huge number of pages to bring the subjects together, wasting those pages on an irrelevance, or to just skip along the subject like skimming a stone across water. The comic, and the War; you’d end up ignoring one for the sake of the other.

        Besides all that, there are no original HPL stories set during WW2, and all Providence’s stories so far have been linked to HPL’s originals.

        Like

  17. My views expressed above may be affected by the fact that I’ve just finished THE THREE BODY PROBLEM trilogy by Cixin Liu
    Even though he also shows too much that is still how you do the extermination of mankind by incomprehensible, indifferent, ancient alien forces

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Considering Howard Phillips’ own penchant for Greek myth now and again, does anyone suddenly see the parallel between Brears and Pandora – having opened the box, looking for that spark of hope at the bottom of it?

    Liked by 2 people

    • That is sort of an interesting parallel, but what hope would Cthulhu give us? Everything is changing/reverting before the actual birth, but once he reaches Ry’Leh and starts dreaming will that help humanity? Is there any humanity left to be helped? Moore brings us a solid view of what’s next after a lovecraftian ending. I guess the lack of actual horror is a bit disappointing. As Moore often does, the ending is more contemplative than final.

      Like

    • I think Merrill’s “box” is a different sort of thing to the one Pandora had. Or the one we heard about in the story at least.

      Like

  19. As for the title – there is also unfinished short story of the same name, where the narrator experiences peculiar perception change:

    “Nor could I ever after see the world as I had known it. Mixed with the present scene was always a little of the past and a little of the future, and every once-familiar object loomed alien in the new perspective brought by my widened sight. From then on I walked in a fantastic dream of unknown and half-known shapes; and with each new gateway crossed, the less plainly could I recognise the things of the narrow sphere to which I had so long been bound”

    Quite Lengish and Yuggotish, isn’t it?

    Another thing for consideration. Can’t help noticing Carcosa is still blue-eyed in “Providence”, though previously depicted as brown-eyed, That’s probably mere coincidence, but anyway: is it possible that Alan Moore is familiar with modern Russian literature? You see, in the novels by H.L. Oldie (Gromov and Ladyzhenskiy) one can notice exactly the same incoherence in description of _Hermes_, who is brown-eyed in “Hero Must Be Alone” but blue-eyed in later works concerning Greek mythology. As far as I know, these novels haven’t been translated into English, but looks interesting anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Does anyone else think of the last three pages as a remix of the Watchmen ending? There’s a now-deceased major character’s journal that might have the keys to unravel the new status quo, but this time there is no ambiguity about what happens next.

    Like

    • This also evokes yet another document seen in Watchmen, having the potential to unravel the new status quo…Hira Manish’s sketch, in issue 10, page 18, panel 7, showing the Giant Squid but dated before the supposed Attack Of The Giant Squid. (A better view of the sketch is in issue 8, page 11, panel 6.) Hauntingly, it also is last seen floating on water…….

      Liked by 2 people

    • What a gloomy transition! Where Moore was once happy to “leave [the ending] entirely in your hands”, now we are left without even that hope – and our avatar doesn’t even have both hands…

      Like

  21. I have the Dreamscape wrap cover, which doesn’t have the Lovecraft quote on the back cover. Can someone tell me what the quote is, please?

    Like

    • We may guess that in dreams life, matter, and vitality, as the earth knows such things, are not necessarily constant; and that time and space do not exist as our waking selves comprehend them. Sometimes I believe that this less material life is our truer life, and that our vain presence on the terraqueous globe is itself the secondary or merely virtual phenomenon.

      – “Beyond the Wall of Sleep”,
      Spring 1919.

      May I ask you to tell in response what is the quote from #2 backcover? I can’t find it.

      Like

      • ‘An ancient Dutch cemetery in Flatbush, where mouldering gravestones bearing early eighteenth-century inscriptions might still be seen, was frequently visited. Lovecraft was delighted with the ‘Hier Lydt’ or “Hier leght begraaven” still plainly discernible on the pieces of scaling red slate’

        – Rheinhart Kleiner, “Bards and Bibliophiles”, Aonian 2, No. 4 (Winter 1944)

        Like

  22. “Stephen’s guitar has no strings. This does not seem to stop him producing music . . .”

    There are two panels in The Courtyard where the Ulthar Cats’ instruments are shown. They appear to be playing stringless guitars as well.

    Like

    • Surely that’s just a drawing error, or an art style choice? You can explain Stephen’s guitar by him being completely cuckoo at this point, but even a band, half of whom’s lyrics sound like a cat throwing up a hairball, wouldn’t go on stage with no strings in their guitar.

      The Ulthar Cats can’t be that nutty, if they can keep their shit together enough to go touring, with all the organisation that requires.

      Like

  23. For me Providence was in essence the Blackest of dark comedies and the parts that worked best were the parts where the comedic was most obvious. I think particularly of the Fish People of 3 and the Ghouls of 7.
    Sorry but 12 didn’t do it. This Apocalypse was at once brutal and banal. Human history is over so let’s hold a seminar about it.

    Like

    • I don’t think it was meant as a comedy, though Alan has a black sense of humour, and likes to slip jokes in now and then as a treat for an observant reader.

      Or sometimes he writes Splash Brannigan, where the “jokes” are, well…

      Like

  24. (… much reflection later:)

    I am just grateful to be alive at a time when such stuff is being published – and I would have to add at this point that it gives me a particular glow to know that so many of us will be re-reading and re-re-reading this masterpiece for (predestination permitting) years to come… I certainly don’t count myself among the readers disappointed by this beautiful, hallucinatory “ending” (strikethrough to be visualised..!)

    Guys, what a great job you made of these annotations and co-ordinations. My belated thanks added again to everyone else’s. (And yes, thanks too to everyone who has commented for adding to the study of these timeless frames.)

    As regards (the ultimate fate befalling) the Herald: well, for a start, I am pleased enough in the event to have been proven quite wrong on this count. [AM seems in retrospect to have laid all manner of false clues or “indirect” signage… maybe he just likes toying with his readers, now that he is assured of our minute attention…] For all RB’s dishonesty towards himself, I was not untouched by sympathy for him well before the end, and –

    – well, there’s the rub. As has been picked up on by numerous people already, we aren’t yet quite sure *what* happens to RB, though I daresay the indicators will be there (when we eventually all figure out precisely where to look). I still think that the confession to Freddy and the (mainly) merciful and dignified exit is something RB experiences from within the depths of a completely shattered consciousness, but not in body (cf Charles Burns’ recent trilogy), and that the “repaired” lens in #11 is put there specifcally to imply this. But then again… perhaps not. Maybe it really is simple and symmetrical (in which case the lens is a rare mistake on the part of the artist and editors).

    Sharkophagus’s hypothesis about part of RB’s spirit (etc) being somehow embedded within the commonplace book has a (sort-of) precedent within AM’s work, by the way: in Supreme: Story of the Year, the terminally-ill Darius Dax encodes his consciousness into thousands of micro-bots, which then conceal themselves as a layer of dust within the pages of a book (which he then sends to Judy, Ethan Crane’s old flame)! Ok so it’s not the same at all, just… anyway. (I think AM’s work on Supreme is far cleverer than most readers seem to consider it.)

    As for panels where characters break the fourth wall… wow, we could do a whole thesis on that between us, I am sure! There is a particularly disquieting one in Promethea, though I can’t remember in which issue; and I came across another recently which will nag away at me now until I retrace it – !

    Like

      • You’re right, although that’s not the one I meant. I think it’s when Mercury.Hermes makes an appearance..? He looks directly at the reader in a manner quite discomfiting…

        … Hermes also makes an appearance in Judgement Day, of course. But I’m not sure whether… well, I have been planning to re-read that one so I should know soon enough 🙂

        Like

    • I like the idea of Robert’s commonplace book as seeds in the river. Also Etienne Roulet is still totting the original Hali’s book around with him. With reality now the dream state, the reversal of Yuggoth seems inevitable, though maybe eternally distant, but as Dr. Manhattan sums up, nothing ever ends.

      Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s