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
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.
- 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
- 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.
- “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:
- “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.
- “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.
- “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
- Commenter Lalartu also draws a connection with Lovecraft’s unfinished short story of the same name, which contains the following passage:
- 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.
- “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.
- Since Perlman only has one flesh-and-blood hand, he puts the jacket on his right arm first.
- “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.
- 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.
- Nightguants visible on the roofs.
- “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.
- “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.
- “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.
- 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.
- Note the first turquoise growths on the roof air conditioner unit.
- “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.
- “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”
- “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.
- 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. This was fixed in the hardcover trade collection.
- “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.
- 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.
- 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.
- “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.
- “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)
- “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.
- 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).
- “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.
- “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.
- 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.
- “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”).
- These panel sets up a page-turn reveal. The agents “just go” but the reader is not allowed to.
- 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.)
- “Kinda made me wish I’d married and had children” shows that Fuller has already forgotten his wife and children.
- “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.
- 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.
- “David Lynch” is a famous American film director, especially known for Twin Peaks, another town with secrets. Lynch is not from Manchester, however.
- Commenter Malcolm Greenberger points out:
This is in reference to the fact that the primary and strongest influence on Lynch’s “Twin Peaks” was Peyton Place- not so much the novel, but the little-remembered 1957 film, and, more importantly, the popular soap opera of the same name that ran for 5 seasons in the mid-1960’s. Twin Peaks was a post-modern take (and slight parody) of the soap opera, which is considered the first American prime-time soap opera in TV history, and which also was about the dark secrets that lie beneath your average American town.
Point being, if stories are spores that infiltrate our world via culture, Arkham is an uncanny epicenter of these spores: Lovecraft -> Metalious -> Lynch. Here we are in 2017 and Twin Peaks has returned, stronger and eerier than ever, carrying on the Lovecraftian tradition of detailing the horror that lies beneath our small-town American sheen to a new generation of viewers. The original Twin Peaks itself irrevocably altered the way television was made and consumed, so in a very real and tangible manner, Arkham has reshaped our notion of reality.
- In a 2016 interview, Twin Peaks co-creator Mark Frost denied much Peyton Place influence, but it’s possible that on a subconscious level there was more. Certainly the critical media widely perceived such an influence.
- Commenter Malcolm Greenberger points out:
- “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.
- The hand belongs to Increase Orne, first seen in Providence #3. Orne is introduced via a page-turn reveal.
- Left to right: Increase Orne, Etienne Roulet possessing a young host, and Shadrach Annesley.
- Annesley’s bag may perhaps contain “eating utensils”.
- “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.
- “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.
- “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.
- “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.
- “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.
- “There are others gathered at the manger” is another reference to the Nativity of Christ.
- This panel sets up a page-turn reveal.
- 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.
- “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.
- “Aldo Sax… who invented anomaly theory.” is from The Courtyard. Perlman’s memory lapses are starting to feel like progressive dementia.
- “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.
- “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.
- “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.)
- “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.
- “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.
- 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.
- “Dr. Strangelove thing” is from the film Doctor Strangelove: or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), referring to Dr. Strangelove’s diseased arm which frequently twitches upward.
- “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.
- “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.
- On Brears request to “use your coat as a birth-rug” commenter easternheath notes that this is the second time the reader sees a publicly naked Brears utilize a coat from older gentleman bystander. The first time was in Neonomicon #4 P3, after she emerged from the sea.
- “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.
- “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.
- “Jesus, Merril…” and “Y-yeah, but more extreme [than Jesus’ birth]” comprise 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.
For what it is worth, Moore refers to himself as Glycon’s “surly hierophant” in his God Is Dead one-shot P10,p3.
- “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.
- 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).
- “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.
- “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…”
- “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 #4 P8,p1, where Carl says, “And a lot of that, what you went 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.”
- 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.
- “Pope of sleep” is Cthulhu; “Unto his mansions” recalls “In his house at R’lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.” from “The Call of Cthulhu.”
- “…and in great rejoicing is the world forgot.” is already happening, as shown by the memory loss plaguing Perlman, Fuller, and Barstow.
- 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 sometimes credited with the first comics depiction of a birth, in book two of Miracleman. Commenter “t” points out that “While the birth in Miracleman was certainly more graphic, the first comics birth award should probably go to Sabre #7, December 1983.”
- 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.”
- Again Orne holds up the vital-jar containing Barstow.
- “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.”
- The eye, with its elongated pupil, resembles that of an octopus.
- “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!
- Commenter Brian J. Taulbee writes
- “You thyould thupply him with thuthtenanth.” – “You should supply him with sustenance.”
This implies Brears should breastfeed, which she does in the following panels.
- 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“.
- 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.
- “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).
- “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.
- “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.
- “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.
- “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.
- “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.
- “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.”)
- “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.
- This panel sets up another page-turn reveal.
- 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.
- “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)
- “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.
- “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.”
- “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).
- “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.
- 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.
- Commenter Sharkophagus points out:
- 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.
- Another difference between this page and #1 P1 is the asymmetry of Perlman’s hands, perhaps symbolic.
- 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.
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.