Below are annotations for Providence, No. 7 “The Picture” (40 pages, cover date January 2016, released 3 February 2016)
Writer: Alan Moore, Artist: Jacen Burrows (with Michael DiPascale), based on works of H.P. Lovecraft
>Go to Moore Lovecraft annotations index
Note: Some of this is obvious, but you never know who’s reading and what their exposure is. If there’s anything we missed or got wrong, let us know in comments.
General: Robert Black travels to Boston, arriving the midst of a police strike. He meets with painter Ronald Pitman, then has a conversation with the ghoul King George, before heading to the home of Randall Carver.
- The scene depicted appears to be the Boston studio of Ronald Underwood Pitman who is the Providence analogue for Lovecraft’s Richard Upton Pickman from “Pickman’s Model” and other stories.
- Black encountered Pitman’s photo of the Wheatley sons in Providence #4 P21,p3. In Providence #6, Black sees Pitman’s photo of the Stella Sapiente (P10,p1) and states he “should carry on to Boston, find this photographer Pitman” (P18,p2).
- Pickman/Pitman is also the subject of Providence #7 Portrait variant cover.
- There are a number of items portrayed that relate to Lovecraft’s descriptions of Pickman. Pickman does both painting and photography. Pickman also thumbtacks smaller images to his larger canvases.
- Here is a description from Lovecraft’s“Pickman’s Model”: “My host was now leading the way down cellar to his actual studio, and I braced myself for some hellish effects among the unfinished canvases. As we reached the bottom of the damp stairs he turned his flashlight to a corner of the large open space at hand, revealing the circular brick curb of what was evidently a great well in the earthen floor. We walked nearer, and I saw that it must be five feet across, with walls a good foot thick and some six inches above the ground level—solid work of the seventeenth century, or I was much mistaken. … [That was] an aperture of the network of tunnels that used to undermine the hill. I noticed idly that it did not seem to be bricked up, and that a heavy disc of wood formed the apparent cover. Thinking of the things this well must have been connected with if Pickman’s wild hints had not been mere rhetoric, I shivered slightly; then turned to follow him up a step and through a narrow door into a room of fair size, provided with a wooden floor and furnished as a studio.”
- In the credits, it states that “weird pulp, ghoul covers” are penciled by Jacen Burrows and painted by Michael DiPascale, though it appears that Pitman’s ghoul paintings are also by Burrows/DiPascale. (See Weird Pulp variant covers here.)
- Left is Providence protagonist Robert Black. The date is 10 September, 1919, the location is Boston.
- Right is the first appearance of policeman Éamon O’Brien (named on P5,p2.)
- Panels 1-4 constitute a fixed-camera sequence.
- “Governor Coolidge” is then-Governor of Massachusetts Calvin Coolidge (later U.S. President).
- “I-I think I might have raped a young girl” is Black referring to the events of Providence #6. Faced with the impossible, Black appears to be trying to make sense of his experiences.
- The melee occurring is the Boston Police Strike of 1919.
- “Well, you wouldn’t be the first.” There is a rape happening in the street right now (left of page, about 1/3 of the way up).
- Commenter Rhandhali corrects the earlier mistaken note about the make of the rifle: “The rifles carried and shown on page 2 panel 1, and on subsequent pages are not M1903 Springfield rifles. They are M1917 Enfield rifles, also known as Eddystone rifles, which are easily distinguished by the shape of the stock, the shape of the rear sight and the distinctive curvature of the bolt.”
- “Shell-shocked, like the fellers who were abroad” refers to traumatized veterans returning from World War I.
- “Flatties” is from the slang term “flat-foot” for a policeman.
- “Red scare” refers to how, following World War I, the United States became obsessed with the spread of communism from Russia; Lovecraft himself was vehemently opposed to the spread of communism.
- “Bolshevik” is Russian for “one of the majority,” the term used for Russian communists.
- “The very start of America” and “It’s seen one revolution” refer to the American Revolution, which began in Boston in 1776.
- “I-it’s like underneath everything, there’s just… just this chaos…” may be a reference to Azathoth, who is associated with chaos, and with being either at the center of, or completely outside of, the universe.
- “Last January, when we had the old molasses tank explode” refers to the Great Molasses Flood.
- The sign in the window is for “Shawls and Cloaks,” which with the coathooks suggests a looted clothing store.
- “Letts” was a term for ethnic Latvians, who as immigrants faced persecution in Boston. “The Letts Protests” refer to a particular arrest and abuse of police power with regard to the arrest of certain Letts led to protests. Commenter Sithoid offers more information.
- “Mr. Curtis” is Boston Police Commissioner Edwin Upton Curtis.
- “Mr. Wilson” is President Woodrow Wilson.
- O’Brien is predicting Coolidge’s 1923 ascent to the presidency, in part due to his handling of the 1919 police strike.
- “The man’s a ghoul, if you want my opinion.” O’Brien is speaking metaphorically, but we will soon meet some actual ghouls. This subtly sets up a major theme of this issue: Black’s confusion between metaphor and (occult) reality. Note too that the word “ghoul” appears nowhere else in the dialogue of this issue.
- Henchman Street is an actual North End Boston street, mentioned in Lovecraft’s “Pickman’s Model.” Black noted Pitman’s address from earlier photos in Providence #4 P21,p3 and Providence #6 (P10,p1).
- “Boys in the gaiters” are the U. S. Army, which wore gaiters (a kind of legging that covered the top of the shoe) as part of their uniform. A soldier’s gaiter is visible on P2, on the right leg of the soldier in the center of the page that’s butting a man in the head with his rifle.
- This location is the intersection of Henchman Street and Charter Street – see contemporary Google street view.
- “Federated Labour” refers to the American Federation of Labor, the policeman’s union at the time. The British spelling and Irish name suggest O’Brien is an Irish immigrant, much like Detective Malone from Providence #2.
- “I can’t see either of us has much of future” is, as commenter Paul points out, foreshadowing. Although the AFL continues, in altered form, to this day, Eamon himself has little time remaining.
- This is the first appearance of Ronald Underwood Pitman who is the Providence analogue for Lovecraft’s Richard Upton Pickman from “Pickman’s Model” and other stories.
- Black refers to the photograph of the Wheatley boys in Providence #4, P21,p3, and the group photo of the Stella Sapiente in Providence #6, P10,p1.
- The painting O’Brien is looking at appears in full on P12,p2.
- The encounter with Elspeth Wade also occurred in Providence #6.
- “Boylston Street Subway” is one of the oldest subway stations in Boston; Pickman painted a picture of it mentioned in “Pickman’s Model.” “There was a study called “Subway Accident”, in which a flock of the vile things were clambering up from some unknown catacomb through a crack in the floor of the Boylston Street subway and attacking a crowd of people on the platform.”
- “It’s one of several versions” appears to Moore and Burrows covering their tracks, as a different version of the “Subway Accident” painting appeared in The Courtyard. Aldo Sax’s description of it in the original prose story called it “rather witty” and went on “It borrows from Brueghel and Bosch but transposes their horrors to Boylston Street subway. In style he resembles Rousseau.”
- Scollay Square was a central Boston square, later redeveloped. It was the central site of the violence around the police strike. Here we see that by the morning of September 11, things have calmed down, and cleanup progresses under the eyes of the army.
- In a letter to Frank Belknap Long, speaking of his inspiration for “The Street“, Lovecraft writes about the Boston police strike:
The Boston police mutiny of last year is what prompted that attempt–the magnitude and significance of such an act appalled me. Last fall it was grimly impressive to see Boston without bluecoats, and to watch the musket-bearing State Guardsmen patrolling the streets as though military occupation were in force. They went in pairs, determined-looking and khaki-clad, as if symbols of the strife that lies ahead in civilisation’s struggle with the monster of unrest and bolshevism.
(Thanks to commenter MS for pointing this out.)
- As a nice touch, the normally cleanshaven Black has a bit of stubble.
- “Stella Sapiente” are the Worshipful Order of the Stella Sapiente, the American coven associated with Liber Stella Sapiente (aka Hali’s Booke or the Kitab), Providence’s Necronomicon analog. See Suydam pamphlet in Providence #2 for background.
- “Little Elspeth Wade” is another reference to the events of last issue.
- “What they want is to exchange dreams and reality…” echoes the comments made by Suydam in Providence #2 P13,p1 “Older Kabbalistic traditions, after all, insist that dream and reality are part of the same sphere.”
- “I think I’ve got an idea who you must be…” – Pitman obviously isn’t “in the loop,” but is familiar enough with Hali’s Booke or the beliefs of the Stella Sapiente to guess Black is the Herald.
- “A body of work needs attending to” – Commenter Paul points out that this is likely literally referring to Eamon’s now-dead body.
- Note that Black’s glasses are on his face – and there’s also a pair on the table beside him! Error?
- Pitman paints realistic images of ghouls, as Pickman does in “Pickman’s Model.”
- The Pitman ghoul painting is somewhat similar to Goya’s Saturn Devouring His Son. Goya is mentioned in the Commonplace Book (see P36 below) and in “Pickman’s Model.” (Thanks commenter Ross)
- Note the extreme size of the ghoul, its hand surrounds the entire torso of the (presumably) adult human victim.
- Commenter Alequivel suggests that the victim may in fact be Lillian, Robert’s lover, as they are wearing identical clothing and shoes. The clothes are hardly unique enough to make this a certainty, but it’s certainly possible.
- The ghoul in the painting appears to be staring directly at Black. Black himself would no doubt call this another “illusion”, which tends to suggest that it isn’t.
- It is now September 20th, according to the Commonplace Book entry on P38.
- “Christ Church” is more popularly known as the Old North Church; a Christchurch cemetery (set in Arkham) features in “Herbert West—Reanimator“:”West was then a small, slender, spectacled youth with delicate features, yellow hair, pale blue eyes, and a soft voice, and it was uncanny to hear him dwelling on the relative merits of Christchurch Cemetery and the potter’s field. We finally decided on the potter’s field, because practically every body in Christchurch was embalmed; a thing of course ruinous to West’s researches.”
- “Tunnels” refer to Boston’s tunnel-network features as a plot-point in “Pickman’s Model”: “That, Pickman said, was the kind of thing he had been talking about—an aperture of the network of tunnels that used to undermine the hill.” It is interesting that the tunnels originate from the crypt of Christ Church, reminiscent of the tunnels beneath the church crypt in Lovecraft’s “The Festival.”
- “Freemasons, like Revere and Jackson” are presumably patriot Paul Revere and president Andrew Jackson. Rumors and legends of Masonic conspiracies were very current in American history, aided by the fact that some politicians, like Andrew Jackson, were high-ranking masons. Freemasons were often said to be involved in the design of cities and monuments, which incorporated secret features or Masonic symbolism, as popularly noted in the film National Treasure (2004).
- Commenter Pat Conolly points out that President Andrew Jackson never lived in Boston (though I did find reference to a brief visit in 1833). While there are several prominent Bostonians who have been named Jackson, I haven’t been able to find any that were identified as Freemasons. So the name may be an error on Pitman’s (or Moore’s) part.
- The location is the intersection of Salem and Charter Streets – see contemporary Google street view.
- An old-style flash photography set-up – note the flash pan (the t-shaped item on a stand) and the boxy camera on its tripod.
- This is not the same sofa that was featured in Providence #4 P21,p3; perhaps the combined weight of “the boys” proved too much for it.
- “Their church hall in Rhode Island” – Another connection to the Church of the Starry Wisdom in Lovecraft’s “The Haunter of the Dark“, based on the real St. John’s Church on Federal Hill in Providence, RI.
- This photo appeared in Providence #6 P10,p1.
- Henry Annesley is a character in an early draft of Lovecraft’s “From Beyond“, and perhaps related to (possibly the son/descendant of) Shadrach Annesley, see Providence #3 P7,p4. He later appears in Providence #9 beginning P1,p3.
- “Buren, Van Buren, something like that” is Whipple Van Buren Phillips; H. P. Lovecraft’s maternal grandfather.
- “Winston something. English fellow, traded in precious metals.” is Winfield Scott Lovecraft, who was a traveling salesman for the Gorham Silver Company. Winfield was noted (despite being born an American) for his English accent, and was often mistaken for an Englishman.
- “They can enter the dream-world while they’re conscious.” is a sort of inversion of lucid dreaming, apparently, which seems parallel to Aleister Crowley’s idea of True Will.
- “Jung” is Carl Gustav Jung, the famous and influential psychiatrist – discussed earlier in Providence #2 P5-6.
- “Prussic acid” is hydrogen cyanide, a deadly poison used in early photographic processes.
- “You’re saying occultism inspires your art?” – Occultism has been an inspiration for several artists, as Moore would know from his own occult studies, such as Austin Osman Spare.
- “Cave paintings” possibly refers to the Cave of Altimara.
- “Symbolists, the Surrealists, the Cubists” are all arts movements, largely at odds with Pitman’s realism. Lovecraft himself was critical of modernist painters, preferring realism.
- “An absolute reality that lies beneath the world” is highly reminiscent of some of Austin Osman Spare’s occult theories of art.
- “Saprovores” are animals that eat dead organic matter.
- This painting is “Subway Accident” as described in “Pickman’s Model”: “There was a study called “Subway Accident”, in which a flock of the vile things [ghouls] were clambering up from some unknown catacomb through a crack in the floor of the Boylston Street subway and attacking a crowd of people on the platform.”
- This may not be the exact same version that O’brien saw (on P7,p2). O’Brien referenced “…the little feller chewin’ the lady’s leg.”, which detail is not visible here.
- The ghouls are reminiscent of Hannes Bok’s famous illustration for “Pickman’s Model”; it’s also interesting that they are of different sizes, from shorter than human to much larger. They also recall the “monkey-things” from Pickman’s Necrotica mentioned in Neonomicon #2.
- The paintings in the background appear more clearly on P22,p1.
- “By literally going underground, we can reach the dream-world” recasts Black’s experience in Suydam’s cellar in Providence #2 into a new context; by descending underground, Black unknowingly slipped into the dream-world. The basic idea parallels some ideas from ancient religions, which depicted the underworld as a literal separate world, and many sacred spaces were located underground. It also somewhat jives with Lovecraft’s focus on underground spaces – Pickman’s tunnels and subways, the measureless caverns in “The Festival,” the fantastic underworld of “The Mound,” the extensive underworld in the Dreamlands in The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, etc.
- The coat that Pitman loans Black appears to be the one that officer O’Brien was wearing – note the stripes on the right sleeve, compare P1,p3 and P14,p1. (Thanks commenter Brian J. Taulbee.) See also note to P26, p4.
- Panelwise, as in Providence #2, when Black goes underground, the 4-horizontal panel format shifts to 3-vertical, and the panel outlines add a thin yellow line.
- “Messiah figure” refers to the popular Islamic or Christian concept of a spiritual savior.
- “The world of dreams that’s been, uhm, that’s been suppressed by our reality.” casts a very different light on Cthulhu dreaming in R’lyeh.
- “Different things can, uhm can exist.” – The idea presented here is similar to consensus reality.
- Panels 1-3 form a form a multi-pan or polyptych; the background remains continuous across multiple panels, with each panel depicting movement in motion and/or time through the space. Though Moore has used these extensively elsewhere, they are rare in Providence. See earlier polyptychs in Providence #2, Pages 17 and 20.
- “this box” looks like an inexpensive coffin.
- “Mesmerism” is an idea of “animal magnetism” created and popularized by Franz Mesmer; it was an occult force that influenced later conceptions of hypnosis, spiritualism, and psychic powers.
- All the panels on Pages 16-21 form an extended fixed-camera sequence.
- Black may have caught a glimpse of King George out of the corner of his eye.
- First appearance of a ghoul. This creature is different from those in Pitman’s painting – far less hairy, and with genitals clearly defined rather than obscured by fur. The ghoul’s eyes shine, like those of a cat or dog.
- Black is apparently responding to the smell of the ghoul.
- “King George” is a name that the ghoul has adopted or was given, much as the Native American leader Metacomet was known as ‘King Philip.’
- Moore may be imitating the naming convention for the ghouls in Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book. While it is not made explicit within that text, he has clarified in interviews that “It’s not that the ghouls actually were the people they call themselves after. Each ghoul names itself after its first meal, once it has become a ghoul, and they like to make it someone important, so they can boast about it.” (See further note to p.21, below)
- “We are boys.” is possibly a reference to the Lost Boys of Peter Pan, but it is also notable that none of the ghouls depicted in Pitman’s paintings are obviously female (and indeed, none of Lovecraft’s ghouls are explicitly female), and recall again Massey’s comment that “cunny is scarce in these accounts.”
- “Downstairs from world, upstairs from dream.” suggests that the underworld connects the Dreamworld and the connecting world, and the ghouls are interstitial creatures – not unlike Mr. Jenkins/Brown Jenkin, from Providence #5.
- Commenter Pat Conolly says: “This was one of the premises in The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath.”
- The repeated use of “more than five” suggests that 5 is as high as ghouls (or at least King George) can count. It is at least one more than rabbits can!
- “Yankees” is a name for New Englanders; suggesting King George predates them, or is from elsewhere.
- “Mr. Revere” is Paul Revere again, or one of his kin. See P10,p1 above.
- “Cold festival” is probably New Year’s Eve, rather than a reference to Lovecraft’s “The Festival.”
- “Molasses explosion” is again the Great Molasses Flood. See P3,p4 above.
- “Everywhere there is candy” refers to molasses as by-product of sugar production, and containing a considerable amount of sugar. Molasses-covered corpses would be essentially candy to a ghoul.
- “My brother George Washington” refers to the first president of the United States; though presumably King George is referring to another ghoul that has taken his name.
- “He is to us like our family, yes?” is a reference to the ghoul-changeling motif in “Pickman’s Model”:
Listen—can you fancy a squatting circle of nameless dog-like things in a churchyard teaching a small child how to feed like themselves? The price of a changeling, I suppose—you know the old myth about how the weird people leave their spawn in cradles in exchange for the human babes they steal. Pickman was shewing what happens to those stolen babes—how they grow up—and then I began to see a hideous relationship in the faces of the human and non-human figures. He was, in all his gradations of morbidity between the frankly non-human and the degradedly human, establishing a sardonic linkage and evolution. The dog-things were developed from mortals!
- “Only little boy” references how Ghoul society is apparently determined by size; if the ghouls are like Deep Ones and get larger as they get older, this would make it a sort of gerontocracy as well.
- Commenter Shecky suggests that it may also have to do with the fact that Pitman (if he follows the same path as Lovecraft’s Pickman) “eventually becomes a full ghoul, himself, but at the time of Providence is just taking his first steps into the world of devouring the dead.”
- “I like to smell him” echoes the sentiments of the cannibal Annesley in Providence #3, P9,p1.
- Black lifts his collar to cover his nose from the smell of the ghoul.
- “Brother Mary Pickford” refers to famous film actress Mary Pickford; it is perhaps notable she starred in Miss George Washington (1916).
- If the ghouls are following Gaiman’s naming convention (see note to P17,p1, above), how could one have eaten Mary Pickford’s body, when she didn’t die until 1979? One possibility is that the original Mary Pickford was replaced by a Hollywood double after her covered-up accidental death. Historically, Mary Pickford was in a boat accident while filming on location in Marblehead, MA in 1917! Given that Marblehead is generally considered to be Lovecraft’s model for Kingsport, it is likely that Moore stumbled on to the story of Pickford’s accident while doing background research.
- “Eyeburn” apparently refers to Ghouls being blinded by strong light, adapted as they are to darkness.
- “Other red and black one” is the policeman Éamon O’Brien, whose fate the reader learns in the final panel of this issue.
- Runic language, resembling that spoken from the bottles in Providence #3, P8,p1. The regularity of the characters suggests a cipher alphabet; presumably Pitman does not want Black to understand what he says.
- The painting to the lower right resembles one described in “Pickman’s Model”:
One disgusting canvas seemed to depict a vast cross-section of Beacon Hill, with ant-like armies of the mephitic monsters squeezing themselves through burrows that honeycombed the ground. Dances in the modern cemeteries were freely pictured, and another conception somehow shocked me more than all the rest—a scene in an unknown vault, where scores of the beasts crowded about one who held a well-known Boston guide-book and was evidently reading aloud. All were pointing to a certain passage, and every face seemed so distorted with epileptic and reverberant laughter that I almost thought I heard the fiendish echoes. The title of the picture was, “Holmes, Lowell, and Longfellow Lie Buried in Mount Auburn”.
- “What happened to me at Mr. Suydam’s house, in Brooklyn.” refers to events of Providence #2.
- “Well, that’s not what I, uhm… That is, I’m glad you feel better.” Pitman’s total failure to get through to Black, despite multiple attempts, is reminiscent of a classic piece of Jewish humor.
- “Carver… Randall Carver” is the Providence analogue to Lovecraft’s Randolph Carter – see P26,p3 below.
- “Ten days” would put the date about 20-21 September 1919.
- The red light tells us that this is Pitman’s dark room, used for the development of photographs.
- Commenter Sithoid points out that Black doesn’t take any notice of the ““oxblood Buick roadster”. “Could be a coincidence (the driver seems to be wearing a hat unlike Jenkins), but so could be the Buick in [Providence #11, P8], which didn’t save Robert from a panic attack.” Of course, right now, Robert is feeling (falsely) reassured that he’s just had some hallucinations.
- This setting appears to be the South Boston intersection of Tudor and F Streets – see contemporary Google street view. Carver’s house is located at 58 F Street (mentioned later – see P40 below.)
- Black notices a black cat. Black cats have cameos in Providence #3 (P3,p4) and #4 (P4,p3), also three of four Neonomicon issues, and may tie in to Lovecraft’s life and works. See annotations for Neonomicon #1 P17,p4. (Thanks commenter Lalartu)
- This is the first appearance of Randall Carver, Providence‘s analogue for Lovecraft’s character Randolph Carter who appears in multiple stories including “The Statement of Randolph Carter,” “The Silver Key,” “The Unnameable,” “The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath,” and “Through the Gates of the Silver Key” (a collaboration with E. Hoffmann Price) and is mentioned in “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward.” Carver/Carter appears on the Portrait variant cover for Providence #8.
- Moore featured H.P. Lovecraft’s Randolph Carter in “Alan and the Sundered Veil,” a text story serialized in the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume 1. In The Courtyard and Neonomicon Moore included a minor character (a singer) who also calls herself Randolph Carter.
- The panel reveals a red-lit photograph of ghouls with the unfortunate Éamon O’Brien. There is a pun here, as this is an actual photograph, not an artistic drawing of the same, and thus echoes the final line of “Pickman’s Model”: “But by God, Eliot, it was a photograph from life.”
- Presumably, Pitman killed O’Brien, possibly by poisoning him with Prussic acid (see P11, p3-4). It is possible that he is culpable in many of the other (human) deaths depicted in his paintings.
- John Higgs mentioned that Alan Moore has, possibly jokingly, called this “the most expensive panel in comic history.” The photograph was taken by frequent Moore collaborator Mitch Jenkins; additional related photos appear on Jenkins’ website. The make-up and prostheses were created by Susanna Peretz of SusannaPeretzFx.
Commonplace Book – September 10
- The shaky writing perhaps represents the shaking of the bus, and perhaps also Black’s shaken mental state.
“I saw myself in the car”– Providence #6, P25,p4.
- The fully blacked out phrase appears to read “rape a little girl.”
Commonplace Book – September 11
- While readers may be frustrated at Black’s apparent obliviousness, it is important to realize that these pages represent his attempt to rationally understand the very irrational experiences he has recently have; the act of writing is Black literally working through his own narrative of events, much as any of us do. If anything, it is a demonstration of how humans will attempt to view the world through a relatively narrow lens of understanding, with Black’s “retreat” from the unpleasant reality mirrors Pitman’s comments about how the world of dreams has been “suppressed.”
- “Ronald Underwood Pitman” – see P6,p1 above.
- “So that’s good” is Black reassuring himself that he is no longer in the nestled time loop he encountered in Manchester, NH – see Providence #5–#6.
- Black’s strikeouts are when he tries to recount being raped in Providence #6.
- Black hasn’t written anything for several days. He is finally ready to start processing at least some of what happened in Manchester, but proves unable (yet) to speak of his traumatic rape experience with Elspeth.
- “Saint Anselm College” – see Providence #5 starting P1,p4.
- Hali’s Booke of the Wisdom of the Stars – see Providence #6 P1,p1.
- Dr. Wantage – see see Providence #6 P8,p3.
- Father Race – see Providence #5 P2.
Commonplace Book – September 16 continued
- “some supernaturally-inflicted madness brought on by merely reading this cursed volume” is Black deliberately calling out the popular trope of Lovecraftian fiction, so popular in pastiche and the Call of Cthulhu Roleplaying Game, though in the work of Lovecraft and his contemporaries reading a mere book by itself is rarely a cause for mental collapse; Moore is thus consciously calling this out to the readers’ attention, to move past it.
- “Robert W. Chambers” – see Providence #1 P2.
- “Sous le Monde” – see Providence #1 p3,p2.
- “[The] King in Yellow” – see Providence #1 P2.
- “Stella Sapiente” – see P8,p3 above.
- “…reversing the polarity of the human mind…” Moore uses this common trope to help indicate that, while Black is attempting to rationalize what happened to him, his “explanation” is only meaningless technobabble.
- “Professor [Carl Gustav] Jung” – see P11,p3 above.
- “Passages about how the waking world will be subjugated to the world of dreams” – see Providence #6 P39 “The histories of man shall be collapsed to naught save dreams…”
- “Talking about the whole world when what they really meant was the psychological world of one individual” compares to the mental inversion of Aldo Sax in The Courtyard and Merril Brears in Neonomicon; both individuals whose exposure to the mythos led to a significant change in their consciousness and understanding of the world. Similar transformations occur in numerous Lovecraft protagonists.
Commonplace Book – September 16 continued
- “Mr Jenkins” – see Providence #5 P17,p3.
- “Mrs. Macey” [Hekeziah Massey] – see Providence #5 P8,p1.
- “Dr. [Hector] North – see Providence #5 P3,p3.
- “That would imply Mrs. Macey was Mr. Jenkins mother” is somewhat reminiscent of a fragment by Lovecraft, incorporated by August Derleth in the novel The Lurker at the Threshold, includes the passage: “But in respect of generall Infamy, no Report more terrible hath come to Notice, than of what Goodwife Doten, Relict of John Doten of Duxbury in the Old Colonie, brought out of the Woods near Candlemas of 1683. She affirmed, and her good neighbours likewise, that it had been borne that which was neither Beast nor Man, but like to a monstrous Bat with human Face.”
Commonplace Book – September 16 continued
- Again strikeouts show Black’s reluctance to refer to Elspeth Wade and the rape in Providence #6.
- “Elspeth Wade” – see Providence #5 P6,p1.
Commonplace Book – September 16 continued
- More strikeouts showing Black’s reluctance to refer to Elspeth Wade and the rape in Providence #6.
- “Beelzebub” is an appellation of the devil, literally “Lord of the Flies.”
- “I thought I saw myself” – Providence #6, P25,p4.
Commonplace Book – September 16 continued
- “Our desperate attempts to impose a sane and reasonable narrative” is what Black is currently doing in these pages. The innate chaos and meaningless of life and human existence was also one of the prevailing aspects of Lovecraft’s own cosmic philosophy.
- “Manchester as the very heart of madness and mental darkness” is perhaps a reference to Manchester’s analog Arkham as Lovecraft’s setting for so many horrific tales.
- Black’s “personal madness” and “mental breakdown” of course mirror the fate of numerous Lovecraftian protagonists.
Commonplace Book – September 16 continued
- Hieronymus Bosch is a 15th-16th century painter known for chaotic fantastic hellscapes. He was mentioned earlier – see Providence #4 P38.
- Scollay Square – see P8,p1 above.
Commonplace Book – September 16 continued
- “Boston’s governor Mr. [Calvin] Coolidge” – see P1,p3 above. Black is apparently confused, Coolidge is then the Governor of the state of Massachussets, not the city of Boston.
- “The Wheatleys” – see Providence #4.
- It may not be coincidence that Pitman’s deliberation and slowness with speaking is reminiscent of the stilted speech of King George, reinforcing Pitman’s connection with the ghouls.
Commonplace Book – September 16 continued
- “[Aubrey] Beardsley” was an English artist; he illustrated books for Arthur Machen, Oscar Wilde, and others.
- “Sidney Sime” was an English artist; he illustrated books for Lord Dunsany. Sime is mentioned in both “Pickman’s Model” and “The Call of Cthulhu.” (Thanks commenters Ross and Leslie S. Klinger)
- “[Francisco] Goya” was a Spanish painter, famed for his more macabre works. See P9,p4 above.
- “Recurring figures… in every [Pitman] painting” are the ghouls of Richard Upton Pickman’s paintings described in “Pickman’s Model.” Black goes so far as to call them “partaking in … ghoulish activities.” Lovecraft describes Pickman’s ghouls as “roughly bipedal, had a forward slumping, and a vaguely canine cast.” The “hyena” comment also suggests the ultimate origin of Lovecraft’s ghouls in the ghūl of Arabic folklore, which Lovecraft absorbed through the 1,001 Nights.
- “Professor [Sigmund] Freud” was a highly influential Austrian neurologist, who speculated on dreams and the division of the mind into three parts: id, ego, and superego. Lovecraft was not terribly fond of Freud’s psychosexual theories.
Commonplace Book – September 16 continued
- “[James] Gilray” was a British caricaturist.
- “[William] Hogarth” was a British artist, generally considered to be one of the forefathers of comics.
- Black’s story idea is similar to “The Thing on the Doorstep” and The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. He is fictionalizing the events of Providence #6.
Commonplace Book – September 17 continued
- “There. I don’t know if that’s a good story idea or not, but I certainly feel a lot better for having written it down.” Black remains unable to speak coherently about his experience with Elspeth Wade in direct terms. Nonetheless, he has begun the process of emotionally coming to terms with the trauma by writing down an account as if it were a mere fiction.
- “Boston’s Vendome Hotel” was an actual hotel; it burned down in 1972.
Commonplace Book – September 20 continued
- “Lillian” is Jonathan/Lillian Russell – see Providence #1 P1,p1.
Commonplace Book – September 20 continued
- “Randall Carver” – see P26,p3 above
- “Lilly” is also Jonathan/Lillian Russell – see Providence #1 P1,p1.
- Taken from Lovecraft’s Selected Letters 4.385-386.
153 thoughts on “Providence 7”
“I-it’s like underneath everything, there’s just… just this chaos…” may be a reference to Azathoth, who is associated with chaos, and with being either at the center of, or completely outside of, the universe.”
It may also be a reference to Nyarlathotep, ie the crawling chaos, ie the messenger of the other gods (messenger or herald as well)
Hi all – please accept my grateful thanks for such a wonderful job ! Can some of you explain what the ghoul means concerning the Wheatley on P18p2 ?
Wow forget – it concerns the Wade (shame on me)
He’s referring to Robert’s encounter in the previous issue. Robert’s having trouble understanding what happened to him, since a centuries-old man, who was inhabiting a teenage girl’s body, switched bodies with Rob, put Rob into her, then raped him.
Even for someone who isn’t as dim as Robert, you’d find that confusing.
Forgive me if I’m stating the extremely obvious her but only on the second readthrough did it became suddenly clear to me that Pitman was a serial killer and had dispatched O’Brien with a drink poisoned with Prussic acid on page 9. Maybe a little less obvious: O’Brien won’t leave, notably, because he’s struck by the realism of the painting of the disaster in the subway, which he’d thought was fault of government incompetence and now suspects (rightly) was Pitman’s doing. The government didn’t hush it up; the Stell Saps probably did. Pitman has to killer to lure his necrophage subjects to a place where he can see them in action.
Sorry: dispatches him after the cut-away on on page 7 with the acid described on page 11. And has to “kill” not “killer.”
perhaps obvious, yes, but you’re on the money and that’s the important part. The one thing I’d disagree with is that O’Brien’s suspicious of Pitman. He’s drunk and bemusedly checked-out of his job as a cop thanks to the strike. I always read him as just being genuinely intrigued by Pitman’s weird painting, and looking for an excuse not to go back out into the chaos.
Note added to P26.
The moment I saw the little silver bottle the Ghoul was holding I took it as confirmation that Pitman used Prussic Acid to poison O’Brien – it looks just about the right size and color to be the bottle of Prussic Acid that Robert picked up.
But how could O’Brien possibly think Pittman could have commited a mass murder alone?
Well, it was an explosion, right? One guy can set a bomb. MS above thinks I’m reading in too much but IMHO O’Brien describing the killing – which he thought was a gas explosion – and then saying “it’s very real, isn’t it?” and ignoring Pitman’s hints to leave is suggestive to me that he’s at least beginning to suspect.
He’s an old-fashioned Columbo-style policeman. He didn’t like the cover-up in the first place, he’s never trusted the official “explanation” or lack of. Although I doubt he’d jump to the conclusion “ah, it was probably monsters”, the realism shows that Pitman has at least visited the station. Depending on Pitman’s talent / craftiness, perhaps some of the people look like the victims O’Brien might have seen. They were painted from photographs.
I don’t think he knows what actually happened, just his ears have pricked up that Pitman knows something about this annoying mystery.
I don’t think Pitman generally kills people, the cyanide has legitimate photographic uses. I commented earlier about the “body of work that needs attending” being a little hint, there’s a couple more amusing murder puns that Pitman dropped. You know murderers, they can’t resist a joke. I think generally the ghouls get by on normal death by natural causes, otherwise there’d be mysterious disappearances everywhere the ghouls live. Which is everywhere!
Since Pitman’s part-ghoul, we think, and seems to spend a lot of time with them, he’d be more comfortable with death and corpses than most people. Eerily so!
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I like the Columbo theory. I cling tenaciously to my repeat offender theory, though. Pitman’s subjects of choice are saprovores; saprovores (trash-eaters) show up when there’s, er, sapro to vore. As the catfish of the afterlife, they can only be relied upon to appear when there’s something dead to eat, ergo the only way for Pitman to be assured of a good day’s work is to make something dead, QED.
Nah, Pitman is family. The ghouls will tell him when they’re off out apple-picking, and take him with them. Not like it takes the element of surprise to sneak up on a corpse. They’ve got plenty of time, they can take it easy.
In the case of disasters, the tunnels are all through the town, and Pitman has access to a main one. So the ghouls probably send a small one off to Ronnie to give him the news, tell him to pick up his camera and come running. Even if the ghouls were planning a disaster of their own, rather than just taking advantage as they come, they’d let Ronnie know about it.
So Ronnie doesn’t need to keep staging disasters to get the ghouls to turn up for him. He’s only a little boy. He’s not in charge.
i’m not trashing the theory, but I do think you’re reaching to put a bow on it! We first meet O’Brien sitting getting drunk as hell in a looted bar as rape, assault and murder occur a mere ten feet from him. He doesn’t care, he’s on strike and he’s letting the city burn. He even says to Black that he doubts he or any of his colleagues will remain policemen after the strike. So I do have my doubts that he’s choosing this bizarre night to investigate someone. Richard Upton Pickman’s paintings, and thus Pitman’s paintings as well, are supposed to be captivatingly lifelike and strange, so O’Brien’s stopping to marvel at one isn’t so weird. When Pitman offers O’Brien another drink (he’s already been drinking a bunch), O’Brien happily agrees. If the suggestion was that he’s suspicious and investigating, you’d think he’d say something like “No…but I’ll have some tea” or something, as he suspiciously furrows his brow at the painting. His comments to Pitman aren’t really suspicious sounding, more like conversational. I guess you could read “we thought it was the city’s liability” as meaning “now that i’m looking at this painting, I suddenly think it was monsters or you responsible”, but his expressions and general convivial attitude suggest otherwise to me personally. When Pitman offers him a drink, it’s just another excuse not to go back out into the madness
I agree, MS. The cop just wants to keep drinking!
Perhaps it’s a little column A, a little column B. So much of it is ambiguous, which of course is why I’m enjoying the series so much.
I do like to picture the short story of their conversation, post-offer of the drink. you could easily see him putting the pieces together just moments too late.
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It may be a coincidence, but on page 13 panel 1 the policeman´s coat hanging on the door is suspiciously similar to Magritte´s The Unexpected Anwser.
Do you think King George ended up ‘enjoying’ Robert in the end? Or some locale equivalent?
Page 20, panel 1
“Only little boy” may also reference how Pickman eventually becomes a full ghoul, himself, but at the time of Providence is just taking his first steps into the world of devouring the dead.
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Added. Thanks for the great comments, Shecky!
I’m sorry but in page 27 it doesn’t say “I say myself in the car” it says “I SAW myself in the car”. Which he did when leaving manchester city on foot while Jenkin’s car was driving in and Robert Black was in the companions seat.
Thanks – fixed
So did John Divine go to Boston?
Seems like he would have for that ‘family photo’. ‘Course, he were a mite smaller back then…
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Also to note that Page 5 Panel 4 “I can’t see either of us has got much of a future” and Page 9 Panel 3 “There’s a body of work needs attending to” foreshadow/reference O’Brien’s murder.
P25: “Black notices a black cat…” What he doesn’t notice is an “oxblood Buick roadster” on panel 2. Could be a coincidence (the driver seems to be wearing a hat unlike Jenkins), but so could be the Buick in Chapter 11, which didn’t save Robert from a panic attack.
Thanks! Noted with credit.
Also, re: “letts protests” – there seems to be a broader context than just a couple of discontent immigrants. O’Brien mentions a deceased police captain and places this event in May, which corresponds to a mass protest described here:
TL;DR: It was once again about the Red Scare, this time probably quite justified. May Day (1st of May) is a Soviet holiday, so in 1919 there were a lot of Socialist marches and demonstrations by those who were inspired with the Russian Revolution (so-called “May Day Riots”). In Boston, 1500 people went out and were attacked by both the police AND citizens. 1 policeman and 1 citizen died, and the mob proceeded to trash & destroy the Socialist headquarters. It must’ve been almost as bad as the strike depicted here.
Even if there were other protests that May, the “dead captain” seems to indicate it’s that one. Here’s another link I saved, detailing why O’Brien was talking about “Letts”. Turns out Latvians were the ones who organized the trade union which was behind the aforementioned march of protest:
For some further context, I found the statement of an arrested Socialist (although I’m not quite sure if he attended the same riot described above), where he clearly states his political views: https://www.sidis.net/herald1919.htm
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Page 9 panel 4. the ghoul in the picture is devouring Lillian’s (Black’s ex partner) corpse.
You can tell by the distinctive shoes.
Spats were fairly common in this period, as is the black suit. That said, it’s an intriguing possibility, and I have noted it as such.
it may be worth of note that save this issue and issues #8 and #12 – all issues have depictions of a house or a building from the outside (usually singular, save for issue #3 depicting the entire shoreline).
this is the first issue to have a depiction of a house from the inside, as well as the following issue.
i’m not certain about the significance of this (I can only think that it is the official half-way point of the story, as well as the first issue after Blacks’ interaction with the book, and this may be indicative of the changes in the story and\or Black).
issue #12 has on it’s cover a bridge and not a house, which is fitting for the bridge being finally established between the worlds.
I don’t know if anyone else has pointed this out, but the saprovores are probably also connected to the ghouls in The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath. If I remember correctly, those ghouls are monstrous but benevolent or at least friendly to the narrator, and also make a meal of the dead. They also particularly live in that liminal place between ‘normal’ dreams, and the deeper world of Kadath. (Again, if my memory serves.)
(Also, Pickman is referred to as a painter from Boston in the Kadath story.)
Still more great annotations. In fact, I hadn’t realized that the dead man at the end was O’Brien.
Page 6, panel 2.
‘the Wheately boys’ s/b/ ‘the Wheatley boys’
Page 10, panel 1.
I don’t think Andrew Jackson ever lived in Boston, and therefore wouldn’t have used those tunnels. General Henry Jackson or Jonathan Jackson, the first Marshal of Massachusetts, were prominent Boston Jacksons in those days, but as far as I know they weren’t Freemasons. Maybe just a slip on Pitman’s part.
Page 11, panel 1.
‘Henry Annesley is a character in Lovecraft’s “From Beyond“’. Well, in the first draft; not in the published story.
Winfield Scott Lovecraft – Might want to mention that he appeared to be mentioned in Providence #2 page 12,panel 3.
Page 13, panel 1.
Actually, both those paintings are seen more clearly on page 22, panel 1. There are no paintings on page 24.
page 17, panel 4.
Ghouls are ‘“Downstairs from world, upstairs from dream.”’ This was one of the premises in The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath.
Page 18, panel 3.
“Mr. Revere” is mentioned in panel 4, not panel 3.
Page 25, panel 2.
‘the Buick in Chapter 11’. What is Chapter 11? I see Sithoid mentioned that. Is it something seen in Providence #11, which I haven’t got to? Or is it the empty Buick seen in Providence #5, page 24, which adds to Black’s panic at that time.
Page 26, panel 3.
‘Randolf Carter’ s/b ‘Randolph Carter’, at least for the Lovecraft character. Don’t know about the singer.
‘Beadsley’ s/b/ ‘Beardsley’
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The rifles carried and shown on page 2 panel 1, and on subsequent pages are not M1903 Springfield rifles. They are M1917 Enfield rifles, also known as Eddystone rifles, which are easily distinguished by the shape of the stock, the shape of the rear sight and the distinctive curvature of the bolt. These rifles are of a British design based off the Model III Enfield rifle. They were initially produced for sale to the British Army and chambered in the .303 cartridge.
When the US entered WWI the factories switched to producing them in the American .30-06 cartridge, and they represented something around 75% of US arms issued in the first world war with total production numbers over twice that of the 1903 Springfield. They’re still in service today among some Arctic units due to their high reliability in those conditions.
Right you are! Corrected, with credit.
If Pitman follows the same fate as HPL’d Pickman and turns into a ghoul himself (but as one commenter has noted, is only at the beginning of this transition), it would make sense that Burrows has depicted Pitman as obviously hairy. See his sideburns and visible chest and arm hair.