Providence 9

Providence 9 regular cover, art by Jacen Burrows
Providence 9 regular cover, art by Jacen Burrows

Below are annotations for Providence, No. 9 “Outsiders”  (40 pages, cover date May 2016, released 1 June 2016)
Writer: Alan Moore, Artist: Jacen Burrows, based on works of H.P. Lovecraft

>Go to Moore Lovecraft annotations index

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

General: In early November 1919, Robert Black arrives at Providence, R.I. to pay a call of Henry Annesley of the Order of the Stella Sapiente. After an excursion to St. John’s Church with young Howard Charles, Black pays a visit to H. P. Lovecraft, who helps Black get situated with some rooms and then the pair visit Lovecraft’s mother at Butler Hospital.

Cover

Page 1

The panels are drawn from Black’s point of view, complete with the uncomfortable stares from passers-by. This is to contrast with the viewpoint of Henry Annesley on subsequent pages.

panel 1

  • The setting is a train interior at Union Station, Providence, Rhode Island. The date is November 14, 1919.
  • Robert Black’s reflection is in the middle of the train window. His image is ghostly, translucent, in contrast to the people on the platform. This foreshadows visually how he will be treated as an outsider, and how he isn’t necessarily entirely in the same reality as the rest of Providence.
  • Black seeing his own reflection also contrasts with Henry Annesley’s extra-perceptive glasses. Black sees his reflection dimly, while Annesley sees an invisible world teeming with creatures.
  • The sign reads “Providence” for Providence, RI. Or, as commenter cent points out, not exactly: “the ID is missing (significantly for Robert, cut off from true familiarity with his own cavernous depths), leaving PROV-ENCE… which is to say, Robert is “en provence”, out in the provinces – and attracting all sorts of unwelcome attention with his big-city attire and demeanor. An outsider, for sure.”

panel 2

  • Most of the trees are bare, suggesting late fall or early winter.
  • The setting is Waterman Street at Benefit Street, looking east; compare to contemporary street view.

panel 3

  • First appearance of Henry Annesley. Annesley was first mentioned in Providence #7 P11,p1, and is Providence‘s analogue for Crawford Tillinghast in Lovecraft’s “From Beyond“. Commenter Vlado points out that, according to “An H. P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia”, Henry Annesley was the name for the protagonist in “From Beyond” in Lovecraft’s first draft of the story.
  • “Randall” is Randall Carver, from Providence #8.
  • “Wallace Tillinghast” – see annotations for Providence #8, P1,p1.
  • The setting is George Street at Brown Street, looking east; compare to contemporary street view.

panel 4

  • Annesley is wearing old-fashioned, colored spectacles. These are very unusual for the period.
  • “How has Providence been treating you so far?” is a line that can be read many different ways. (Thanks to commenters Vlado and Whitney.)
    • “How has Providence (the city) been treating you (Robert Black) so far?”
    • “How has Providence (the philosophical concept) been treating you (Robert Black) so far?” Ironic, since Black doesn’t believe in the concept, yet it is clearly true within his world.
    • How has Providence (Alan Moore’s graphic novel) been treating you (Robert Black) so far?”
    • How has Providence (this graphic novel) been treating you (the reader!) so far?” Is the book living up to your expectations, now that you’ve read the first two thirds of it, and we are just starting the final third?
  • The street setting is the same as panel 3 above.

Page 2

panel 1

  • The full-page panel is from Annesley’s perspective.
  • The tint of the color shows the world through Annesly’s glasses. This is a reference to Lovecraft’s story “From Beyond,” where the scientist Crawford Tillinghast built a resonator that enhanced human perceptions to the point that they could perceive strange, otherwordly creatures:

    Suddenly I myself became possessed of a kind of augmented sight. Over and above the luminous and shadowy chaos arose a picture which, though vague, held the elements of consistency and permanence. It was indeed somewhat familiar, for the unusual part was superimposed upon the usual terrestrial scene much as a cinema view may be thrown upon the painted curtain of a theatre. I saw the attic laboratory, the electrical machine, and the unsightly form of Tillinghast opposite me; but of all the space unoccupied by familiar material objects not one particle was vacant. Indescribable shapes both alive and otherwise were mixed in disgusting disarray, and close to every known thing were whole worlds of alien, unknown entities. It likewise seemed that all the known things entered into the composition of other unknown things, and vice versa. Foremost among the living objects were great inky, jellyish monstrosities which flabbily quivered in harmony with the vibrations from the machine. They were present in loathsome profusion, and I saw to my horror that they overlapped; that they were semi-fluid and capable of passing through one another and through what we know as solids. These things were never still, but seemed ever floating about with some malignant purpose. Sometimes they appeared to devour one another, the attacker launching itself at its victim and instantaneously obliterating the latter from sight.

  • The appearance of the creatures jives with Lovecraft’s story, but also appear to be at least a slight homage to the film it inspired, From Beyond (1986).

    Still from "From Beyond" (1986)
    Still from “From Beyond” (1986)
  • The chapter name “Outsiders” is a reference to H. P. Lovecraft’s famous story “The Outsider“; several critics, such as Michel Houellebecq have characterized Lovecraft himself as an outsider, though Moore postulated just the opposite in his introduction to Leslie Klinger’s The New Annotated Lovecraft. It being a plural is due to many outsider figures in this story: certainly Black, and both Howard and Susie Lovecraft, arguably Annesley and Charles, and, in a different sense of ‘outside’, the purple creatures.
  • The use of the unusual wording “from beyond the eighteenth century” (emphasis added) is probably a nod to the title of the Lovecraft story. (Thanks to commenter MS for pointing this out.)
  • “The stranger or intruder, I’m afraid, is just one more thing to mistrust or even fear.” refers to Lovecraft’s xenophobia, which was quite prevalent during that time.
  • The view is on George Street looking westward toward Magee Street. Compare to contemporary street view. Brown University is on the right; the building to the right of Black is Rhode Island Hall.
  • Panelwise, the border, normally rough, is here ruler-straight. From Neonomicon (beginning #3 P5,p1) and various instances throughout Providence (beginning #2 P15,p3) the straight panel borders indicate a heightened perception of paranormal activity.

Page 3

panel 1

  • “Roulet and Colwen” are Etienne Roulet and Japheth Colwen, first mentioned in Providence #2: P12,p1 and p2 respectively.
  • “Our fraternity” is the Stella Sapiente, or more fully the Worshipful Order of the Stella Sapiente. They are the American coven associated with Liber Stella Sapiente book. See Suydam pamphlet pages at end of Providence #2 for extensive background.
  • “Brown’s University” is Brown University. Wikipedia says “It is sometimes erroneously supposed that Brown University was “named after” John Brown, whose commercial activity included the transportation of African slaves. In fact, Brown University was named for Nicholas Brown, Jr—philanthropist, founder of the Providence Athenaeum, co-founder of Butler Hospital, and, crucially, an abolitionist.” All three of these linked details resonate with the themes of Providence, of course.
  • The location is George Street at Brown Street; the 1812 in the fence is visible in this contemporary street view. According to Brown, the numbers on the fence correspond to class years that donated to install the fence in 1903.

panel 2

  • The creature passes without comment through Black’s head, recalling in “From Beyond” how the creatures were seen “occasionally walking or drifting through my supposedly solid body.”
    • There may also be an encoded joke here: The creature is not impeded because Black’s head is is, in some senses “empty”.
  • “Light from the far violet frequencies and further still.” – Ultraviolet light has a higher frequency (i.e. shorter wavelength) than light in our visible spectrum; as the frequency increases it shifts into x-rays. This is a reference again to “From Beyond” (“You thought ultra-violet was invisible, and so it is—but you can see that and many other invisible things now.”)
  • “Athol” is Athol, Massachusetts, where Black met the Wheatleys in Providence #4.
  • “Salem” is Salem, Mass, where Black met Boggs et al. in Providence #3.
  • Panelwise, the borders are again ruler-straight – see P2 above.

panel 3

  • “The worst type of inbred trash.” refers to Garland Wheatley’s grandsons having been conceived via incest with his daughter, literally inbred.
  • “The Boggs project was getting out of hand.” Presumably refers to the “plague” that swept through Salem, suggested to have actually been a massacre by the Deep Ones.
  • Shadrach Annesley was introduced in Providence #3 P7,p4.
  • The setting is Benevolent Street looking east toward Brown Street; compare to contemporary street view.

panel 4

  • “So my great… my uncle is still with us, then?” confirms a relation between Henry and Shadrach, though whether Shadrach is his great-uncle or a more distant relation is unclear – though possible, given Shadrach is apparently more than 250 years old.
  • “We’d, uh, we’d heard there’d been an accident. A lightning-bolt or something.” refers to the events in Lovecraft’s “The Picture in the House,” as reflected in Shadrach Annesley’s story in Providence #3. Given the sort of “accident” that befell Garland Wheatley’s wife (as told in Providence #4), it may have been no accident.
  • “He was always a man with a tremendous appetite for life” alludes to Shadrach Annesley being a cannibal.
  • Annesley’s house is at 22 Benevolent Street; compare to contemporary street view. In “From Beyond” it is described as an “ancient, lonely house set back from Benevolent Street.”

Page 4

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  • “The Babbitt House on Benefit Street” is the house which inspired Lovecraft’s poem “The House” and his short story “The Shunned House.”
  • “The occult is that which is hidden. Through our science we hope to reveal it” is reminiscent of Lovecraft’s fiction. His early stories were marked by a greater reliance on the occult (which literally means “hidden” in Latin), but, as he progressed, he focused more on science fiction, though never surrendering either. One of the hallmarks of weird fiction is occupying the grey area between the more well-defined genres of fantasy and science fiction.
  • Diagrams on the wall appear to be studies of some of the creatures visible through Annesley’s specs.

panel 2

  • “The Kitab” is the Kitab Al-Hikmah Al-Najmiyya or Hali’s Booke of the Wisdom from the Stars in English; Providence‘s analogue of the Necronomicon.
  • “The Saint Anselm copy” is the copy of Hali’s Booke held at St. Anselm’s college, which Black viewed in Providence #6.

Page 5

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  • “My own mental condition” again shows that Black is in denial over some of the things he has seen and experienced.
  • “I lost a loved one recently” refers to Black’s lover Lily, who committed suicide in Providence #1.

panel 2

  • “The Redeemer Prophecy” foretells that a Redeemer will come to “set things right,” as related in Hali’s Booke. It appears that H.P. Lovecraft is the Redeemer, so here Annesley is downplaying the prophecy, apparently misleading Black. The prophecy is first mentioned in Providence #2 P39 (Suydam’s pamphlet page [10]), then explained in Providence #4 (beginning P9,p4) by Garland Wheatley, and then detailed in Hali’s Booke in Providence #6 P34-35.
  • “Garland Wheatley was obsessed by it.” refers to Wheatley’s attempt to fulfill the prophecy, as told in Providence #4; the Stella Sapiente are hinted at trying to fulfill it in this own manner.

panel 3

  • “Well, it’s this sense that there’s more to everything than I perceive… not getting the whole picture” is ironic, given Annesley’s current viewpoint of the invisible world around Black, but also perhaps a suggestion that Black knows he has missed out on a great deal of the subtext of things in his journeys so far.
  • Panelwise, the borders are again ruler-straight – see P2 above.

panel 4

  • “Optics and metaphysics” recalls the proverb “The eyes are the window of the soul.”
  • “With our view of time, in a sense it’s already fulfilled” recalls Moore’s sense of time as 4-dimensional solid echoed in the Kitab (see Providence #2 P31) and the ending of Neonomicon #4: from outside of time, all the events of time have already happened. In “From Beyond” Tillinghast references non-linear time: “you were afraid of the cosmic truth, you damned coward, but now I’ve got you! […] do you suppose there are really any such things as time and magnitude? Do you fancy there are such things as form or matter? I tell you, I have struck depths that your little brain can’t picture!”
  • The board between Black and Annesley appears to contain more of the studies of the creatures.

Page 6

panel 1

  • “A rank within our order, like a Tyler in freemasonry.” refers to, in Freemasonry, the “Tyler” or “tiler” is the office of the guard of the outer door, acting as gatekeeper. In this context, it resembles the purpose of Yog-Sothoth in “The Dunwich Horror” (“Yog-Sothoth knows the gate. Yog-Sothoth is the gate. Yog-Sothoth is the key and guardian of the gate. Past, present, future, all are one in Yog-Sothoth.”)
  • “Yokel” is a slur for an uneducated country person.
  • “In 1889 there was an arranged marriage” refers to H.P. Lovecraft’s parents; Winfield Scott Lovecraft married Sarah Susan Phillips on 12 June 1889.
  • “European monarchs do it all the time.” Monarchy was on the wane after World War I, but arranged marriages were historically common.

panel 2

  • Small images of the otherworldly creatures are visible through Annesley’s spectacles.
  • “Our Order-head’s daughter” refers to Stella Sapiente order-head Whipple Van Buren Phillips, H.P. Lovecraft’s maternal grandfather. Phillips appeared in Providence #8, P6,p4 and P10,p2. He had three daughters, one of which was Sarah Susan Phillips.
  • “A novitiate member whose work involved metals” refers to H.P. Lovecraft’s father, Winfield Scott Lovecraft, who was a travelling salesman for the Gorham Silver Company. W.S. Lovecraft first appeared in a flashback in Providence #5 P13,p3, then in the Stella Sapiente photo shown in Providence #6 P10,p1 and Providence #7 P11,P1.
  • “Happily, they produced offspring almost immediately.” refers to H.P. Lovecraft was born 20 August 1890, which would put his conception about 8-10 weeks after the marriage took place.
  • “Sounds almost… dull.” makes the reader wonder if Annesley is feeding Black a careful line of half-truths. Here we have another “layer” – what is the truth? The embittered but darkly fantastic stories of the almost primitive Boggs and Wheatley’s, or Annesley’s prosaic, mundane version? The contrast appears deliberate, echoing Lovecraft’s transition from fantasy to science fiction.

panel 3

  • “By 1899 we had other editions” suggests that the order had either better or more complete translations, or perhaps original editions, and echoing the many editions of the Necronomicon in various expurgated editions and foreign languages. In “The Haunter of the Dark,” the Church of the Starry Wisdom had an admirable occult library – so impressive, in fact, that an entire book has been written about the volumes in its collection: The Starry Wisdom Library.
  • “We’ve always enjoyed a close relationship with the Catholic Church” is rather odd, as the Catholic church has been traditionally opposed to some fraternal organizations like Freemasonry. On the other hand, anti-Catholic sentiment has often suggested shadowy conspiracies within Catholicism.
  • First appearance of Howard Charles, Providence‘s analogue of Charles Dexter Ward from Lovecraft’s “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward.”

panel 4

  • Howard Charles’ green tie, and his eagerness to hear about New York, may both be coded signs of his homosexuality.

Page 7

panel 1

  • “A direct descendant of Japheth Colwen” echoes “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward,” where Ward was a descendant of Joseph Curwen; the Stella Sapiente would be a natural start for genealogical research if this is the case.

panel 2

  • The segmented worm moving invisibly through Black and Charles’ crotches suggests the homosexual attraction which is implicit in the subtext between the two.
  • Panelwise, the borders are again ruler-straight – see P2 above.

panel 3

  • Picking off a (possibly nonexistent) piece of lint from someone’s clothes is sometimes used an excuse to observe their reaction to your physical closeness, preparatory to more overt flirtation. See also Providence #1, P30, where Black describes Prissy Turner “standing picking pieces of imaginary lint off of my shoulder”.

panel 4

  • “Did I tell you his name was Howard too?” refers to Howard Phillips Lovecraft, whom Black met last issue. Why does Moore give this character the first name Howard? Possibly to emphasize the links between Howard Phillips Lovecraft and Charles Dexter Ward (the model for Howard Charles). Both are Providence residents, and both are obsessed with antiquarianism, old architecture, and old books. See also note for P8,p2.
  • “St. John’s Church” is a former Catholic church which served as the inspiration for the Church of the Starry Wisdom in Lovecraft’s “The Haunter of the Dark.” This church appears on the cover of Providence #10. The name is also reminiscent of St. John-Divine, from Providence #4.
  • “It’s been a privilege, Mr. Black.” is, again, Black failing to notice the importance which Stella Sapiente members (former and current) impart to having met him.

Page 8

Japheth Colwen, from Suydam's pamplet in Providence #2 - art by Jacen Burrows
Japheth Colwen, from Suydam’s pamplet in Providence #2 – art by Jacen Burrows

panel 1

  • “You look a little like woodcuts of Colwen I’ve seen” refers to Colwen’s portrait on Suydam’s pamphlet page [5] in Providence #2, P34. In “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward,” Ward bore an uncanny resemblance to a portrait of his ancestor.
  • The setting appears to be just outside Annesly’s house (though Black and Charles appear to be walking east when they should probably go west – perhaps they are going to the corner to cross); compare to contemporary street view.

panel 2

  • “I’ve had a sheltered upbringing. Hardly been outside Rhode Island my whole life” recalls how Ward is considered by many critics to be based in part on Lovecraft himself, who had something of a sheltered upbringing.
  • The setting appears to be on Benevolent Street looking east toward Benefit Street; compare to contemporary street view.
  • Panelwise, the borders are again ruler-straight – see P2 above.

panel 3

  • The location is the corner of Benefit and Benevolent Streets.
  • “He moved to Providence around the time of the witch-trials” is a detail is borrowed from Curwen’s biography in “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward”:

    Joseph Curwen, as revealed by the rambling legends embodied in what Ward heard and unearthed, was a very astonishing, enigmatic, and obscurely horrible individual. He had fled from Salem to Providence—that universal haven of the odd, the free, and the dissenting—at the beginning of the great witchcraft panic; being in fear of accusation because of his solitary ways and queer chemical or alchemical experiments.

  • “Well, as a scientist… or an alchemist… he’d be suspect.” – The pre-science practice of alchemy eventually developed into the scientific discipline of chemistry; presenting alchemy as misunderstood science reflects something of how Lovecraft combined the occult with science fiction – or as Arthur C. Clarke would later put it, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
  • “H-he worked with Jacques Roulet at Roulet’s house” is perhaps an error, since the house here belonged to Etienne Roulet, who we know Colwen to have worked with. The error may be Moore’s, or may be Charles’, as he has only recently learned some of this information, and may not have all the details clear.
    • Commenter keshavkrishnamurty points out that there is some evidence Colwen did work with Jacques Roulet back in Europe:

      Suydam’s pamphlet gives a clear hint that Japheth Colwen, who is infamous for not aging, had been present on the Mayflower voyage of 1620 [Issue #2 P39]. Hekeziah Massey was born in 1613 [#2 P36], and Etienne Roulet’s mother was born in 1616 [#2 P35], making Colwen by far the eldest of the three senior Stella Sapiente members. Now, Jacques Roulet was charged with lycanthropy (werewolf-ism) in 1598 and he was alleged to have possessed a copy of the Liber Stella Sapiente from 1498 [#2 P35], [a latin version, possibly] the very incunabula found in the Steeple on Page 10, panel 3. Etienne Roulet is known to have brought Hali’s Booke, the *English* translation of the Latin version [#2 P33]. With all this data about dates given in Suydam’s pamphlet, the only person who could conceivably have associated with Jacques Roulet at the end of the 16th/start of the 17th century and brought the Liber Stella Sapiente to America would have been Japheth Colwen, in 1620.

      While it is by no means certain that the book seen on P10,p3 is the same copy Jacques Roulet possessed, Occam’s Razor does tend to suggest it.

panel 4

  • “Nowadays it’s mostly called the Babbitt House, after the people living there.” refers to 135 Benefit Street, the titular “The Shunned House“; see contemporary street view. In 1919, the Babbits were living in 135 Benefit Street. Lovecraft’s aunt and mother lived there very briefly in 1919 as well.

Page 9

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panel 3

  • This view does not really correspond to any present day route along Providence’s rivers, though it could perhaps be the historic Cove Basin at the location of the present day Rhode Island State House.

panel 4

  • The “Moses Brown School” is a private Providence college preparatory school.
  • “I thought that was real exciting” and “With the uniforms and everything? I’ll bet” again, again appears to be plausibly-deniable flirtation on, at least, Black’s part.
  • “If I’d passed my medical” follows on what Black said in Providence #8, P7,p3 he was rejected for enlistment during World War I for unstated medical reasons.
  • “Saint John’s Church” was initially mentioned P7,p4 above – see P10,p1 below for description.
  • This panel sets up a page-turn reveal.

Page 10

St. John's Church. Image via Flickr user Will Hart
St. John’s Church. Image via Flickr user Will Hart

panel 1

  • “The Stella Sapiente were given space in the steeple for their meetings” recalls the use of the steeple by the Church of the Starry Wisdom in “The Haunter of the Dark.”
  • “Right to the church’s biblical foundation, he says” could possibly refer to the Redeemer prophecy as an analogue to the Christian messiah, as told in the gospels of the New Testament and the person of Jesus Christ. Critics, particularly Donald Burleson in Disturbing the Universe and Robert M. Price have noted the parallels between “The Dunwich Horror” and the conception, life, and death of Jesus (deliberate, as “The Dunwich Horror” was based in part on Arthur Machen’s “The Great God Pan”); Moore also drew a deliberate parallel between the events of Neonomicon and the Annunciation of Mary.
  • “Like the Freemasons claiming ancient origins” refers to how Freemasons assert that their order goes back to the construction of the First Temple in Jerusalem.
  • The church is Saint John’s Roman Catholic Church, on Atwells Avenue in Federal Hill in Providence, RI. The church building is now demolished; the site is today Saint John’s Park. The church was Lovecraft’s inspiration for the Starry Wisdom church in “The Haunter of the Dark

panel 2

  • Entering the church through a gap in the fence recalls “The Haunter of the Dark“: “The fence had no opening near the steps, but around on the north side were some missing bars.”

Page 11

panel 1

  • “Held each other tight or something?” is Black still being deliberately suggestive.

panel 2

  • “Just old books” are the Stella Sapiente’s “other editions” and occult library. These are described in “The Haunter of the Dark“:

    “Blake found a rotting desk and ceiling-high shelves of mildewed, disintegrating books. Here for the first time he received a positive shock of objective horror, for the titles of those books told him much. They were the black, forbidden things which most sane people have never even heard of, or have heard of only in furtive, timorous whispers; the banned and dreaded repositories of equivocal secrets and immemorial formulae which have trickled down the stream of time from the days of man’s youth, and the dim, fabulous days before man was. He had himself read many of them—a Latin version of the abhorred Necronomicon, the sinister Liber Ivonis, the infamous Cultes des Goules of Comte d’Erlette, the Unaussprechlichen Kulten of von Junzt, and old Ludvig Prinn’s hellish De Vermis Mysteriis. But there were others he had known merely by reputation or not at all—the Pnakotic Manuscripts, the Book of Dzyan, and a crumbling volume in wholly unidentifiable characters yet with certain symbols and diagrams shudderingly recognisable to the occult student.”

  • The “stone from Manchester” – see p12,p1 below.

panel 3

panel 4

  • “The Stella Sapiente’s inner head. It’s secret chief.” references how many fraternal organizations, particularly occult ones, had an “inner” and an “outer” order – sometimes, multiple orders; each level of initiation brought a member deeper into the mysteries. Many occult orders like the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn based their initiations on the degrees of Freemasonry. Organizations like the Golden Dawn and Theosophy also claimed authority to found their lodges and practice their rituals by permission – just as Freemasonry lodges traditionally had done. The Golden Dawn claimed authority from the Rosicrucians (later shown to be fraudulent), while other occultists – such as H. P. Blavatsky, founder of Theosophy – claimed authority from the “secret chiefs,” transcendent spiritual authorities.

Page 12

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panel 2

  • “Meteorite that hit the farmland I saw” refers to the events of Providence #5 P12-15.
  • “Do you feel the atmosphere?” implies that the room is charged, as was the orgone chamber in Neonomicon (starting #2 P16,p1) and alluded to when Black visits the site in Providence #3 P15,p1.

panel 3

  • Liber Stella Sapiente is, as Black mentions, the original Latin edition which was translated into English as Hali’s Booke. The book’s history is detailed in Suydam’s pamphlet in Providence #2. This echoes “The Haunter of the Dark” where Blake finds “a Latin version of the abhorred Necronomicon” in the church.
  • “This can’t be real…” – For one theory of where this volume originated, see notes to P8,p3.
  • “Cornholing” is slang for anal sex, supposedly taken from the use of a dried corn cob to perform the function later filled by toilet paper.

Page 13

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  • “I haven’t done this in so long…” refers to Black not having had sex (from his perspective) since his tryst at the hotel in Athol, described in the Commonplace Book in Providence #4.

panel 3

  • “Does everything look blue?” is a reference to the “blewness of the air” described in orgone-charged spaces in Providence #2 P37 (Pamphlet page [8]) and Neonomicon #2 P23,p2.
  • “I can see things in the stone.” recalls “The Haunter of the Dark“: “Before he realised it, he was looking at the stone again, and letting its curious influence call up a nebulous pageantry in his mind.”
5-3 Trapezohedron image via Wikipedia

panel 4

  • The stone appears to be modeled on a “5-3 trapezohedron“. (Thanks to commenters Greenaum and MS for pointing this out.)
  • Panelwise, the borders are again ruler-straight – see P2 above.

Page 14

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  • Many homosexuals felt the need to move to more liberal environments, as a conservative hometown prevented them from exploring or fulfilling their sexual needs.
  • In 1919, Lovecraft lived with his elder aunt at 598 Angell Street.

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  • “Benefit” and “Meeting Street” are actual Providence Streets and good directions to the Lovecraft home, but they also, perhaps coincidentally, seem to describe Charles having been happy to have met with Black.
  • “I-if people thought I was queer, they’d stick me in Butler Hospital.” refers to how homosexuality was treated as a mental illness at the time. Butler Hospital is the sanitarium where both of Lovecraft’s parents died.
  • The site appears to be this three-arch doorway on 199 Benefit Street (at Angell Street); see contemporary street view.

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  • This site appears to be the intersection of Angell Street and Benefit Street; see contemporary street view. Black and Charles have parted quite a ways from Lovecrafts home, perhaps to protect themselves from any perception of their homosexuality.

Page 15

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  • First appearance of Annie Gamwell, Lovecraft’s younger aunt.

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  • “He’s an invalid. Has been since he was small.” echoes biographers accounts that Lovecraft was coddled by his mother and aunts, and the idea was impressed upon him that he was an invalid with nervous ailments – which he sometimes expressed in his letters to friends. After his mother’s death, Lovecraft overcame his more psychosomatic ailments.

panel 3

  • Lovecraft's Registration Card
    Lovecraft’s Registration Card

    “Why, he only went and tried to join the army! His poor mother, that’s my sister Susie, she soon put a stop to that.” corresponds to Lovecraft’s biography. Just after the United States joined World War I, Lovecraft attempted to enlist in the Rhode Island National Guard, and was accepted. However, his mother enlisted the family physician to have the enlistment annulled, and Lovecraft was deemed unfit for service. For further details, see the essay H. P. Lovecraft and the Great War.

  • “‘course, she’s in hospital with nerves herself now.” corresponds to how Sarah Susan “Susie” Phillips suffered a mental breakdown and was hospitalized on 13 March 1919.
  • “It’s a family complaint.” references Lovecraft’s assertion that nervous ailments ran through his family.

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Page 16

panel 1

  • “Robertus” demonstrates Lovecraft’s tendency to give nicknames to friends; a Latin ending to Black’s first name would be very much in character.
  • “Young granddaughter” references how Lovecraft liked to style himself as an old man, and often referred to his aunts as his granddaughters.
  • Lovecraft is wearing an older style of collar – probably one of those belonging to his father, as was his habit.
  • The small metal object on the table next to the window is probably a pocket telescope, as Lovecraft was an amateur astronomer who enjoyed such things and owned several.

panel 2

  • Lovecraft stood 5’10”; Black, by indication, is perhaps an inch or so shorter.
  • “Glass of milk” references a story told by Rheinhart Kleiner regarding visiting Lovecraft, where “‘I noticed that at every hour or so his mother appeared in the doorway with a glass of milk, and Lovecraft forthwith drank it.” (Lovecraft disliked milk.)
  • “Grandfather Theobold” is one of Lovecraft’s pseudonyms.
  • “Swell boig” is a New York accent pronunciation of “Swell ‘berg,” Lovecraft had an affection for lapsing into slang and New York dialects.

panel 3

  • “Ruinously expensive” refers to how, living most of his life in genteel poverty, Lovecraft was known to be very cost-conscious.

Page 17

The general statements of his biography as given here are essentially identical to those given by Lovecraft in his letters to friends, and accurate except where noted.

panel 1

  • Plutarch and Herodotus are well-known Classical writers, especially Plutarch’s Lives and Herodotus’ Histories. Lovecraft was a Classicist with a good grounding in such literature. More on Lovecraft’s library can be found in S.T. Joshi’s book: Lovecraft’s Library.
  • “Whipple Phillips” is Whipple Van Buren Phillips, H.P. Lovecraft’s maternal grandfather. Phillips has been mentioned as “Buren” starting in Providence #3 P11,p3 and appeared in Black’s dream in Providence #8 P10,p2. Moore has made it more difficult for Black (and readers) to make this connection, by referring to him differently: “Whipple Phillips” here, “Buren” elsewhere.
  • “After father’s death, he provided for mother and I.” recaps actual events. H.P. Lovecraft’s father, Winfield Scott Lovecraft, died in 1898; Whipple Phillips continued to support the family with his business until his death in 1904.

panel 2

  • “From fatigue aggravated by his employment as a salesman.” Winfield Scott Lovecraft actually suffered hallucinations, followed by paralysis, believed to have been brought on by syphilis. H. P. Lovecraft was apparently not aware of his father’s illness, or at least never mentioned it in his letters. For further details, see “The Shadow of Syphilis” in Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos.
  • While H. P. Lovecraft never went inside Butler Hospital, he would infrequently visit his mother on the grounds.

panel 3

  • “Old uns” echoes Lovecraft’s “Great Old Ones” or “Elder Things” – the group of alien monsters including Cthulhu.

panel 4

  • “A prominent freemason” refers to how, in real life, Whipple Van Buren Phillips was a freemason, and founded the Ionic Lodge No. 28 in Greene, Rhode Island in 1870. In the George Hay Necronomicon, writer Colin Wilson used this fact to spin a suggestion that Phillips had been the source of the Necronomicon manuscript which inspired Lovecraft’s fiction, which Moore appears to be riffing on.
  • Aunt bringing milk – see P16,p2 above

Page 18

panel 1

  •  Lovecraft and his aunt would later relocate to 66 College Street. The house was presumably also where Robert Blake stayed in “The Haunter of the Dark“: “the upper floor of a venerable dwelling in a grassy court off College Street—on the crest of the great eastward hill near the Brown University campus…”

panel 2

  • The location is indeed 598 Angell Street; compare to contemporary street view.
  • Note the black cat – little more than a shadow – off to the left; Lovecraft was inordinately fond of cats. A black cat appears in nearly every issue of Providence and Neonomicon.
Lovecraft's birth home at 454 Angell Street. Photo via hplovecraft.com
Lovecraft’s birth home at 454 Angell Street. Photo via hplovecraft.com

panel 3

  • 454 Angell Street is the house where Lovecraft was born, and his boyhood home, until the death of Whipple Phillips forced his family to downsize. The house was torn down; see contemporary street view.
  • “Zobo Kazoo” references a letter to August Derleth dated 31 December 1930, Lovecraft wrote:

    When, at the age of 11, I was a member of the Blackstone Military Band, (whose youthful members were all virtuosi on what was called the ‘zobo’–a brass horn with a membrane at one end, which would transform humming int a delightfully brassy impressiveness!) my almost unique ability to keep time was rewarded by my promotion to the past drummer. (Selected Letters 3.246)

panel 4

  • “Strive to capture certain local atmospheres” refers to Lovecraft’s writing reflecting a New England regionalism.
  • Lovecraft was experimenting with several different styles in 1919; after “Sweet Ermengarde” he chose to explore weird fiction rather than comedy.

Page 19

panel 1

  • Black read “Beyond the Wall of Sleep” in Providence #8.
  • “My physiological frailty prevented me from doing so.” – Lovecraft suffered a nervous breakdown and subsequently failed to graduate high school, and never attended college.
  • The location is the intersection of College and Prospect Streets; compare to contemporary street view.

panel 2

  • First appearance of Mrs. Willets, presumably based on Alice Sheppard, a high-school German teacher and the downstairs tenant who rented the upstairs room at 66 College Street to Lovecraft and Annie Gamwell in 1933. In “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward,” 10 Barnes St. (a future Lovecraft address) was occupied by a Dr. Marinus Bicknell Willett.

panel 3

panel 4

  • “This western prospect of Federal Hill and the lower town is remarkable.” – When Lovecraft moved into the house in 1933, this would be where he would place his desk.

Page 20

panels 1-4

  • These form a zoom sequence. The focus is Saint John’s Roman Catholic Church – see P10,p1 above.

panel 2

  • “Unlettered autodidact” refers to Lovecraft not having attended college.

panel 3

  • “Horological” refers to horology – the art or science of measuring time.
  • “My meanderings are often nocturnal” reference’s Lovecraft’s life; he had difficulty keeping regular hours, and often was up late and night, and would walk for miles.

panel 4

  • The woman appears to be Johnny Carcosa’s mother, in the steeple of St. John’s Church on Federal Hill. This suggests that the “secret chief” of the Stella Sapiente might be Nyarlathotep – whom Johnny Carcosa claims to be an avatar of in Neonomicon. Nyarlathotep was the eponymous “Haunter of the Dark” tied to the Shining Trapezohedron in Lovecraft’s story of the same name.
    Carcosa’s mother, presumed to be a very minor character thus far, appeared very briefly in The Courtyard, Neonomicon #1 P22,p1, as well as Providence #2 P3,p4 and #8 P23,p2.

Page 21

panel 1

panel 2

  • “On which the cold does not indispose me” refers to one of Lovecraft’s real ailments: a severe physical reaction to cold, resulting in swelling extremities and great loss of bodily strength.
  • “Remission” again, refers to Lovecraft’s boyhood illnesses believed to be largely psychosomatic, or the result of overbearing parenting.
  • The location is the corner of Prospect and Waterman Streets; see contemporary street view.

panel 3

panel 4

  • “She’d apparently reported seeing hideous creatures…although not to me.” refers to Susie Lovecraft’s mental breakdown, generally believed to have been caused by looming disaster caused by the family’s precarious financial state.
  • These buildings are similar to some on Angell Street near Brown University (compare to this and this), and the fence is similar to ones along Brown University, but the view does not seem to correspond to any present day location.

Page 22

panel 1

panel 2

  • Lovecraft’s birth year “1889” is mentioned here and earlier on P6,p1 above. His father’s work with metal was mentioned P6,p2 and P22,p1. Moore has deliberately placed these references at either end of the issue to make it difficult for the reader (and Black) to make the connection that both Henry Annesley and H.P. Lovecraft are talking about the same person; that H.P. Lovecraft is the redeemer.
  • The “Seekonk” is the Seekonk River.
  • Blackstone Park” is an actual Providence RI park along the Seekonk, just south of Butler Hospital.
  • “The Munroe brothers” are Chester and Harold, Lovecraft’s boyhood friends.
  • The view is similar to this one into off of Irving Avenue (which veers off Butler Avenue just before Grotto Street.)

panel 3

  • “Were you aware that it is from the Emperor Nero’s grotto, decorated with fauns and chimeras, that we derive the word ‘grotesque’?” – Nero’s grotto, the Domus Aurea, was uncovered by accident in the 15th century, and the grottesche frescos of chimeric creatures was influential in the Italian Renaissance. The remembrance may come from an account by Lovecraft’s wife that Susie Lovecraft found her son “hideous” and “grotesque.” (see: Howard Phillips Lovecraft, or The Sex Life of a Gentleman).
  • As H.P. Lovecraft mentions in this panel, the site is the corner of Grotto Avenue and Lincoln Avenue; see contemporary street view.

panel 4

  • “Mr. Slaader” is Joe Slater or Slaader from “Beyond the Wall of Sleep.”
  • “Oh, you should read Dagon. That’s certainly sending a shudder through amateurdom” refers to Lovecraft’s story “Dagon” which was published in the amateur journal The Vagrant in November 1919.
  • From internet research, there is no clear evidence of an entrance to Butler Hospital at the east end of Lincoln Avenue, though this connection seems to be indicated on the Providence end-pages map of Providence.

Page 23

Historic postcard of Butler Hospital. Image via Providence Public Library
Historic postcard of Butler Hospital. Image via Providence Public Library

panel 1

  • “Paralysis?” was a result of paresis (partial nerve-related paralysis), a symptom of neurosyphilis.
  • The building is the actual Butler Hospital, as it appeared at the time – see postcard image.

panel 2

  • “His toil for Gorham’s the silversmiths” refers to Lovecraft’s father a travelling salesman for the Gorham Silver Company (noted in annotations for P6,p2 above.) As noted (P17,p2 above), unknown to Lovecraft, the actual cause was syphilis.
  • Commenter That Fuzzy Bastard points out “I suspect that the nurse’s line, “Why Mr. Lovecraft, are we here to visit young Miss Susan again?” is meant to imply that Howard is fudging when he claims his visits are infrequent. Both the “again” and the immediate recognition implies that he’s well known to the staff.”

panels 2 and 4

 

Page 24

panel 1

  • First appearance of Susan Lovecraft.
  • P24,p1 through P25,p4 form a fixed-camera sequence.
  • Black is clearly paying attention to the Lovecrafts’ conversation. From panel 2 through P25, p1 his eyes and ear are prominent. His gaze is depicted as averted, but on the 2-dimensional picture plane it is directly toward the Lovecrafts.

panel 2

  • “My young daughter!” is Lovecraft’s affectionate term for his mother.
  • “Do you think you can redeem yourself?” refers to Howard’s role as the Redeemer of the Stella Sapiente’s redeemer prophecy (explained in annotations for P5,p2 above.)

panel 3

  • “Are you another Englishman?” is a reference to H.P. Lovecraft’s father, Winfield Scott Lovecraft, who though born in the United States had an English accent like his father.
  • “You are hideous.” refers to how, apparently, Susie Lovecraft actually described her son as such.

panel 4

  • Their monster” presumably refers to the Stella Sapiente’s monster.
  • “When he got you on me, his head was a ball of light!” is decidedly parallel to the conception of Wilfred Wheatley and his brother in Providence #4, suggesting Howard was conceived during a similar ritual. The he/you/me/his are confused, as is Susie calling Howard Winfield in the following panel. Could they be Winfield/HPL/Susie/Winfield? or perhaps Whipple Phillips/Winfield/Susie/Winfield?
    • Commenter samthielman points out another resonance, with Providence #6 p.30: “Here were there men made in a foreign way, so they did not seem like men at all, but more like unto things that grow on stones beneath the ocean, although monstrous big and with a great air of intelligence and purpose, and their heads were stars.” Later, same page: “…men whose heads were stars…”
  • “I was given no choice…” puts the lie to Annesley’s claim (P6,p2) that it was “All perfectly consensual”.
  • Black’s eye widens and brow furrows, indicating surprise or recognition. The line of glasses becomes formally perfectly horizontal. He might have made the connection between the Lovecrafts and the Wheatleys, though he does not mention this moment in his Commonplace Book.

Page 25

panel 1

  • “Flappers and wrigglers […] I can smell their sweat on you.” has at least a double meaning. Flappers were a name for the ‘loose’ young women of the Gilded Age. To wriggle could refer to dancing and/or sexualized persons, or to insects. As Susie Lovecraft states these, given P26 below, they might mean the invisible creatures she sees. Most biographers assume her husband Winfield Lovecraft contracted syphilis from prostitutes; Moore had previously addressed this idea in the short “Recognition.”
  • “Go away Winfield” indicates that Susie Lovecraft is confusing H.P. Lovecraft with his father Winfield Lovecraft.

panels 2-3

  • “You’ve excited them! They’re all around you” and “They’re in your mouth! They’re swimming in your heart!” refers to the invisible creatures harmlessly moving through “normal” matter (shown P26 below.)

panel 4

  • “Is he the one stirring them up?” suggests that Black, as the Herald, is agitating the invisible creatures by his very presence. Alternately “them” could refer to Black stirring up the Stella Sapiente.
  • “I believe she once whitened her skin with arsenic when that was the fashion among her set” references, while there is no evidence of this, the common belief that Susie Lovecraft whitened her skin with an arsenic concoction when she was younger.
    • This also ties in with the Redeemer prophecy from Hali’s Booke (Providence #6, P34): “His Mother shall be white as chalcedony”.
  • “The smaller house” is at 598 Angell Street, shown P18,p2 above.

Page 26

panel 1

  • “When my animal preoccupations were at their regrettable pinnacle.” references how H. P. Lovecraft reported that his strongest sexual desires occurred before he was 19 years old, and thereafter diminished.
  • The image is from Susie Lovecraft’s point of view. She can – without Annesley’s spectacles – perceive the invisible creatures. The creatures do indeed seem to be swarming around Black (and perhaps H.P. Lovecraft) perhaps suggesting his (or their) capacity as a kind of catalyst. The Tillinghast Resonator in “From Beyond” was said to stimulate “unrecognised sense-organs that exist in us as atrophied or rudimentary vestiges” – which either Susie Lovecraft either has developed more fully, or have been stimulated to such degree by her experiences; this suggests that Annesley’s research is further derivative of Hali’s Booke.
  • Where most of the invisible creatures shown have resembled microscopic creatures and sea creatures, a few on this page may be noteworthy:
    – Just beyond Susan’s left hand, the creature is reminiscent of having a “squid-head with writhing feelers” as described in “The Call of Cthulhu.”
    – Through Susan’s right hand, the creature has the 5-pointed radial symmetry of the starfish-head creatures in At the Mountains of Madness.
    – To some extent the invisible creatures resemble disease microorganisms, like the syphilis that H.P. Lovecraft’s father (and possibly H.P. Lovecraft’s mother) suffered from.
  • Panelwise, the panel borders are ruler straight, indicating paranormal perception. See P2 above.

Page 27

Commonplace Book – October 31

  • “Vendome [Hotel]” in Boston – see Providence #8 P9,p3.
  • “Randall [Carter]” – see Providence 7-8.
  • “[Lord] Dunsany” – see Providence #8 P7,p2 and Page 18+.
  • “The Vagrant” was an actual amateur press publication where Lovecraft’s “Dagon” was first published in November 1919.
  • Black’s Halloween walk is somewhat reminiscent of Lovecraft’s poem Hallowe’en in a Suburb.
  • “Standard spooks” references the way Lovecraft’s artificial mythology is different from the familiar ghosts, werewolves, and vampires which populated pulp horror fiction at the time.

Page 28

Commonplace Book – October 31 continued

  • “Reassuring in their choice of horrors” is reminiscent of an observation made several times by different people, perhaps most affectionately by David Schow in “Monster Movies.” Famous monsters are like familiar old friends to horror aficionados, their habits and appetites well known, their appearances fixed in film or print. Lovecraft’s novel horrors, by contrast, emphasized the “fear of the unknown,” as detailed in his Supernatural Horror in Literature.
  • “Stoker’s Dracula” is the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker.
  • “Enough to drive an ordinary person into absolute and irrecoverable insanity” is a play at the common understanding of Lovecraft’s fiction, though most of his protagonists do not actually end up in the insane asylum at the end.

Page 29

Commonplace Book – October 31 continued

  • The discussion of immigrant mythologies forming an American mythos is reminiscent of themes explored in Neil Gaiman’s novel American Gods.
  • “Einstein” is scientist Albert Einstein. Lovecraft was highly influenced by Einstein’s ideas of relativity, which undermined regular notions of time and space.
  • “[Marcel] Duchamp’s nude descending a staircase” is a famous painting that relates to Moore-Lovecraft notions of time – see annotations where it was mentioned in Providence #2 P27.
  • The Gods of Pegāna is Lord Dunsany’s seminal work, detailing his own artificial mythology, which inspired the formation of Lovecraft’s own.

Page 30

Commonplace Book – November 10

  • “A fantastically obscure old book, in French, concerning legends of the South Pacific Islands” is possibly Providence’s analogue to Cultes des Goules or the Livre d’Eibon, Mythos tomes created by his friends Frank Belknap Long and Clark Ashton Smith, respectively. The South Pacific is, of course, where Lovecraft placed R’lyeh, and where Captain Marsh learned to contact the Deep Ones in “The Shadow over Innsmouth.”
  • “Some kind of grotesque aquatic deity or spirit” is possibly a reference to Father Dagon or Mother Hydra in Lovecraft’s mythology; the creature Rhan-Tegoth of “The Horror in the Museum” was also specified as sitting on a throne.
  • “The strange crown” refers to “The Shadow over Innsmouth.” The members of the Marsh family had gold jewelry and artifacts from their trade, including a tiara that the protagonist Robert Olmstead views:

    The longer I looked, the more the thing fascinated me; and in this fascination there was a curiously disturbing element hardly to be classified or accounted for. At first I decided that it was the queer other-worldly quality of the art which made me uneasy. All other art objects I had ever seen either belonged to some known racial or national stream, or else were consciously modernistic defiances of every recognised stream. This tiara was neither. It clearly belonged to some settled technique of infinite maturity and perfection, yet that technique was utterly remote from any—Eastern or Western, ancient or modern—which I had ever heard of or seen exemplified. It was as if the workmanship were that of another planet.

  • “Mr. Boggs” and “Mr. Hillman” are two of the Deep One hybrids in Providence #3.

Page 31

Commonplace Book – November 10 continued

  • “Fine stylistic points” is reminiscent of Lovecraft, well-known among his correspondents for detailed discussion of writing, providing much advice and encouragement to young writers, as Carver does here, and reviews of their work.
  • “Origins of so-called ‘magic’ may lie in the advent of language and writing” is a concept Moore has played with in other works, such as in this interview, and there is some historical basis for it, as explored by Owen Davies in Grimoires: A History of Magic Books. One of Lovecraft and his contemporary’s innovations in this regard was in an interlocking system of fictional grimoires, some with extensive publishing histories given. The idea of writing as an act of unconscious sorcery reflects later developments in chaos magick.
  • “the Bible, Torah and Koran” are the Christian Bible, the Jewish Torah (Old Testament), and Islamic Quran or Koran. These are the major holy texts of the “Peoples of the Book.” Many individuals have taken these as actual occult texts, reciting passages from them to achieve healing, exorcism, or other effect, and seeking hidden information in the texts, as well as “lost” or “hidden” books.
  • “Guillot” – Claude Guillot, author of Sous le Monde, see Providence #1.
  • “Chambers” – Robert W. Chambers, author of The King in Yellow, see Providence #1.
  • “Hali”- Khalid Ibn Yazid, author of Hali’s Booke, see Suydam pamphlet in Providence #2.
  • “Whether by employing magic or by other less contentious means, it seems that words and books, demonstrably, can change our world by changing our perception of it; can precipitate it to another state entirely” is a statement that can be read on several levels. As a fictional character subject to Moore’s script, it is a literal truth for Robert Black. For the reader of the comic, reading something can absolutely change their perception of things. Likewise, the whole of issue #9 (and arguably all of Providence) deals with the question of perception, with what Black both sees and does not see, and what the comic reader sees and does not see. This may also be a subtle reference at Grant Morrison, who famously wrote the series The Invisibles as a magickal symbol.

Page 32

Commonplace Book – November 10

November 13

  • Taliesin” is a legendary Welsh bard.
  • “Twilight Odyssey” is Randall Carver’s short story, see Providence #8 P7 and P30.
  • “Officer O’Brien” – See Providence #7 P1,p1.
  • “Governor Coolidge” is Calvin Coolidge, later president of the United States.
  • “an implication that O’Brien had jumped ship” – As we know from Providence #7 (P26,p4), O’Brien has not jumped ship, but has been eaten by ghouls.

 Page 33

Commonplace Book – November 13 continued

November 14

  • “familial responsibilities around your neck that were simply too much to handle anymore” – Moore writes of another character in such a predicament in Voice of the Fire, chapter eleven, “I Travel in Suspenders”.
  • “Transported by an H. G. Wells device into an earlier time” is a reference to “The Time Machine” by H. G. Wells. Moore repurposed Wells’ time-traveler in the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen story “Allan and the Sundered Veil.”
  • “Not quite a Connecticut Yankee in the court of King Arthur” refers to Mark Twain’s novel A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. Twain’s novel involves the transmigration of souls through time, and can be seen as a forebear of “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward,” which also features time travel of a sort.
  • “A man by the name of Tillinghast” – See Providence #8, P1.

Page 34

Commonplace Book – November 14 continued

  • Black’s guess “Providentials” is not quite right; it is actually “Providentians.”

Page 35

Commonplace Book – November 14 continued

  • [Jules] Verne” is an early writer of science fiction. Moore uses Verne’s Nemo throughout the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
  • “The ether,” also aether or æther, was believed to be the substance between the terrestrial and celestial spheres in ancient philosophy, and in early 19th century science was used in physics as the substance that allowed the transmission of light and gravity, eventually replaced by Einstein’s theory of special relativity. Lovecraft generally believed Einstein’s theories, but maintained some belief in æther, or at least made some use of it in stories including At the Mountains of Madness.

Page 36

Commonplace Book – November 14 continued

  • “Theosophists” are the Theosophical Society, an occult society founded by Helena Blavatsky in 1875 dedicated to spiritual exploration. Lovecraft had little direct knowledge of Theosophy, but received some materials concerning them from fellow pulpster E. Hoffmann Price, and mentions them in “The Call of Cthulhu.”
  • “what appeared to be a facsimile copy” may be, again, Black downplaying his actual experience in favor of what (later) seems to him to be a more plausible explanation.
  • “The Latin translation of the original Kitab made in Toledo and published in Venice in the 1490s” is in contrast with Lovecraft’s Necronomicon, which was translated into Latin by Olaus Wormius in 1228, and a version was published in Spain in the 17th century. Toledo was a center of scholarship with a reputation for occultism, associated with several real-world grimoires.

Page 37

Commonplace Book – November 14 continued

  • “Possibly the meteorite evaporated as they claimed” refers to Lovecraft’s “The Colour Out of Space,” where the “meteorite” evaporated. In Moore and Burrows’ Providence, as shown in Providence #5-6, the Stella Sapiente secreted the object away, using the “evaporation” as a cover story. The resulting object is thus equated with the Shining Trapezohedron in “The Haunter in the Dark,” which was kept in the Church of the Starry Wisdom (based on St. John’s Church).
  • “Ins and outs” and “agreeable exchange” are deliberate double entendres on Black’s part, referring to his sexual encounter.
  • “598” is 598 Angell Street, shown on P18,p2 above.
  • “Mrs. Gamwell” is Annie Gamwell, Lovecraft’s younger aunt – see P15,p1 above.

Page 38

Commonplace Book – November 14 continued

  • “Aladdin’s Cave” is the Cave of Treasures in the 1,001 Nights.
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne” is the famous American writer of the early 19th century, most known for The Scarlet Letter, The House of the Seven Gables, and The Marble Faun. Black was reading Hawthorne in Providence #3.

Page 39

Commonplace Book – November 14 continued

  • “He’d be happy to loan me his contributor’s copy” corresponds to Lovecraft often having loaned out his stories to friends and correspondents.
  • [Edgar Allen] Poe” is the famous American poet and short story writer; in his early stories Lovecraft copied Poe’s style.
  • “Sargasso” is the Sargasso Sea, a region in the Atlantic named after its seaweed, which is the subject of several weird stories of ships getting lost or stuck, especially in the works of William Hope Hodgson.

Page 40

Commonplace Book – November 14 continued

  • “so full of tactile and olfactory revulsions that the reader cannot help but think that these uncomfortably visceral reactions had been brought forth from the very centre of the author’s self and sensibilities” refers to how Lovecraft very famously was nauseated by the smell of seafood.

Back Cover

  • Probably taken from Lord of a Visible World 190-191; else Selected Letters 2.46-47. Recounts Lovecraft’s return home to Providence after living in New York.

199 thoughts on “Providence 9

  1. It’s probably just an artifact of how Google generates Street Views by patchworking together separate photos, but I kind of love that the Street View of 598 Angell seems to have some non-Euclidean geometry going on 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Finally got around to a re-read! More thoughts coming, but the first thing that really struck me was that although issue #4, “White Apes”, was the most explicit about the prejudiced world that produced H.P. Lovecraft, this issue might be the most powerful exploration of how Lovecraft’s bigotry both nourished and shrank his imagination.

    p.2: Like page two of the last issue, a title page that sums up the whole story: the words “The stranger, or intruder, I’m afraid, is just one more thing to mistrust or even fear.” followed by the title, “OUTSIDERS”. In the Bleeding Cool interview, Moore said that he wanted to “examine the idea of the outsider. Who is the real outsider?” Here, Annesley says that it’s small-minded to fear strangers, but that sentiment is juxtaposed with a picture of, not to mince words, fucked-up scary-lookin’ space monsters! As “outsider”, inhuman, and fearsome as it gets.
    But the real irony of the juxtaposition is that those freaky critters are mostly harmless; like Black himself, they’re strangers, looked on with suspicion, but not inherently dangerous. The real monster in this panel is the insider, the pleasant, innocuous-looking Henry Annesley.

    p.31: “I’m sure all races naturally tend towards exaggerated versions of themselves when they create their deities”: This is the moment when Moore quietly pulls the pin on the grenade he’s placed under HPL’s racism. Lovecraft’s writing is full of monsters that represent exaggerated– that is to say, appallingly racist– stereotypes of other races. But Moore here suggests that Lovecraft’s monstrosities from the South Seas are really straight outta Providence; his monstrous outsiders are sock puppets for his own society’s monstrous insiders. This is in keeping with the way Providence’s mythology critiques Lovecraft’s racism: there are outsiders, and they can be scary, but the real evil comes from a bunch of patrician old families manipulating the fear around them, which insiders-who-think-they’re-outsiders like HPL and Black keep failing to see. It’s the ones who “drew no attention whatsoever” (p.32) that you really have to watch out for.

    p. 40: It’s a nice bit of literary commentary (in a Commonplace entry all about literary qualities) to talk about HPL’s “tactile and olfactory revulsion” being “the very center of the author’s self and sensibilities”. So much of what Lovecraft did was imagine fascinating worlds and then present them through the scrim of his profoundly personal sense of disgust. Moore sometimes peels back the revulsion and sometimes doubles down, but he always understands how that instinctive shudder being central to what’s great and what’s problematic about Lovecraft. It’s neat how this book, and particularly this issue, really walks the line between fiction and criticism.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Interesting! I have a sensory disorder, and your comment in the last paragraph makes me wonder now if part of HPL’s “infirmity” may also have been a sensory disorder! He certainly not only notes horrific odors, etc., but he also wants to transfer humans from their own bodies to apparently “superior” bodies!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m not sure this is appropriate to ask it here, so please forgive me if I ask offtopic.

    Does any of you readers have a special personal soundtrack you have in your head when you think of\read “Providence”? A song, a particular piece of music?

    As for me, I (for some reason) strongly associate “Providence” with “Star Sky” by Two Steps From Hell, though it would seem a thing of a totally different style and mood whatsoever. I start suspecting that I see “Providence” as an epic and romantic story and read too much drama into it.

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    • Good question, by the way. I don’t have any special soundtrack for the whole “Providence” (at least yet), but I do associate some particular issues with some particular music. Mainly with songs in my native language, so I’m afraid their names will tell English speakers nothing. But #5, for example, in my mind has definite connection with “Dreams in the Witch House” from the Lovecraftian rock-opera of the same name (mainly because of the text, not music, though).

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  4. I do love the character of Lovecraft that Moore has created for this issue, very different from the hollow-eyed neurasthenic we usually get. This Lovecraft is outgoing, likable, and equal parts charming and overwhelming in the way I’ve often found writers to be. He often seems to be playing with words more than making conversation, and it’s kind of irresistible. But because this is Providence, there’s a fearsome conspiracy lurking behind this clever boy.

    p.17, panel 3: There’s a nice parallel here between Lovecraft, whose mind was molded by Whipple Phillips, and Howard Charles, whose head is being filled with Annesley’s lore. They’re both creations of the Stella Sapiente, and their genial personalities make their terrible destiny all the sadder. The twin reference to “atmosphere” on p.18, panel 4 (“I strive to capture certain local atmospheres”), and p.12, panel 1 (“Do you feel the atmosphere?”), is another nice parallel moment between them, made all the more ominous now that Annesley has shown us what’s really in the “local atmosphere.”

    p.18, panel 3: “You clearly love this city…” I recently re-read The Case Of… in preparation for this issue, and I found the story’s digressionary odes to Providence, which give us a look at the writer behind the curtain, quite moving. You could really see the paths of Lovecraft’s nocturnal walks, and the bookish, hapless, dedicated scholar is pretty clearly a wishful self-portrait of who he could have been if the money hadn’t vanished with his grandfather’s death.

    p.23, panel 1-2: This little sequence almost makes me feel bad for Winfield Scott Lovecraft, who seemed so contemptible back in “Recognition”. Winfield seems to have joined the organization, been promptly hustled into marriage, and quite possibly bumped off once he’d done the necessary. And then, either deliberately poisoned by Boggs or just full of syphillis, he was shunted off to a hospital where they knew he couldn’t be treated. I wonder if it was Buren himself who decided to put the paralyzed man in an asylum, either as a bit of gratuitous sadism or as a cover-up in case he was ever able to talk

    p.26: Like the title page, this is a long, sad story boiled down to a single panel. HPL walks away from his mother, who was traumatized by the sexual encounter of his conception, recalling a time when he couldn’t help inflicting his monstrous (to her, and therefore to him) sexuality on her. It’s a glum, sordid domestic story, given a terrible context when you imagine the “flappers and wrigglers” surrounding them the whole time.

    p. 38: “though he talks about nervous afflictions I doubt that he’s ever been in the condition that I was in, a month or two ago in Manchester”: Given how often Black’s diary entries tell us things that are the opposite of the truth, I wonder about this. HPL alludes to a physiological ailment, but was there a breakdown, or is that still to come, perhaps (given HPL’s biography) in Red Hook?

    p.39: It’s interesting how HPL’s “extraordinary imagination” is inventing what we know to actually be the case. As though it’s part of the Redeemer’s destiny to instinctively know the secrets of the universe, or perhaps (given where HPL says his inspiration comes from), to be connected to other dimension through dreams

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    • I imagine that the role of the redeemer will be to disseminate truth as tales, thus fashioning the beginning of “a uniquely American mythology” (pg. 39?), and that he’d do this by crafting stories out of the scraps of truth and imagination that he’ll find in Black’s notebook. Truth, fiction, and mythology all becoming one, in this universe. And this will be a catalyst for something long foretold and secretly worked toward. And, of course, it is how the notebook comes into HPL’s possession, as much as how it is written by Black, that is the story of Providence. But, we will see what plays out.

      I am SO enjoying this series. As well as the comments here.

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  5. Okay, last notes before I settle into waiting for #10 with everyone else.

    p.1-2: It’s a neat touch how most of p.1, from Black’s point of view, is rendered with an extreme vanishing point, like it’s being viewed through a short camera lens. Then when we switch to Annesley’s p.o.v., it’s the kind of flattened perspective that you’d see through a long lens.

    p,2-8: I love how much of Annesley’s character we get in a handful of pages where he’s mostly dissembling. The smug little grin on p.5, panel 2, as he watches Black talk himself out of every suspicion, is a great villain moment. Then on p.6, panel 2, we have the only panel where we get to see Annesley looking at the floaters, and the hint of rapture in his expression tells us a great deal. In p.7, panel 2, when he sees the floater connecting Black’s and Charles’ crotches, and says “Well it looks like you two youngsters are hitting it off,” he’s clearly playing avuncular to advance his plan, with the calculated deployment of the word “youngster”, which sets us up for the later appearance of H.P. Lovecraft, another Providence native who is pretending (maybe) to be a dotty old man.
    And finally, on p.8, panel 1-2, we have a last pov adjustment as Annesley leaves the scene: at the top, we see him adjusting his glasses, and then we get a last look at the placid, sinister world Annesley sees, with poor Charles talking about how Annesley has made him feel special. Knowing Charles’ fate, it suggests the terrible grooming of a child abuser. So much character, backstory, and foreshadowing in such a short time!

    p.8, panel 3: The train in the background for this transition is a nice symbol of modernity, which is coming to transform even insular Providence. Especially interesting to have it linked to Black’s and Charles’ hook-up, a moment which is both very modern and, in its clandestineness, very of its time.

    p.12: Poor Robert Black. Just when he’s actually starting to pay attention and ask the right questions, Charles decides to get flirty. If Howard isn’t deliberately keeping Robert from noticing how he’s been led here through “a maze you can’t see,” then he’s sure having some lucky accidents. It’s interesting to note, too, how the orgone-summoning incident in Neonomicon is a scene of utter horror, while here it’s the most wholesome sex we’ve had in some time.

    p.14, panel 4: It’s lovely how this sequence, in which both Charles and Black renounce themselves to preserve appearances, is closed with a shot of Black with his features almost completely abstracted. The faceless, solitary trenchcoat beneath a streetlamp is a perfect little icon of 20th century alienation

    p.17, panel 1: I find it a rather sweet character touch that Black always notices a person’s library. All the way back to issue 1, when he’s distracted from high-quality sex by Lily’s wonderful books.

    p.24, panel 2: “Do you think you can redeem *yourself*?” This is a helpfully specific use of comics’ usual boldface lettering. “Do you think you can redeem *yourself*?” is a very different line from the more expected “Do you think you can *redeem* yourself?”

    p.24, panel 4: Once you put together the significance of Susan’s marriage and HPL’s conception, her cry “I had no choice” is a grim contrast with Annesley’s assurance that it was “ All perfectly consensual, of course.”

    p. 35: “some of our most cherished scientific notions– like ether, for example– also turned out to be nonsense, so perhaps its best to keep an open mind”: This phrase nicely connects the two big themes of this Commonplace Book entry: the way the Cthulhu mythos represent a distinctly modern mythology, and the idea that this mythology was a sort of malicious meme. The culture-wide mental break that happened with Einstein’s theory created an opening for a gang of sinister opportunists who seek to make people’s mind’s unstable, the better to impose their own vision.

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    • Your comment re: wholesome sex p. 12–yes, everything but Charles’ gaze into the Shining Trapezohedron! What did he SEE? It torments me…not knowing!

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  6. It occured to me: do you think Robert and HPL making acquaintance is pulled right from Robert Bloch’s “The Shadow from the Steeple”?

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  7. I’m re-re-reading this issue again, to pass the time til 10 comes out. Any idea on the exact date? And I’ve just noticed a few things for the first time, this is the first time I’m analysing it, looking for the many hundreds of little tips Alan’s hidden in there. He does like a pun, that bloke. All sorts of stuff’s popping up, and I’m just a bit disappointed this page got them first! I thought the “tremendous appetite for life” was a great one.

    Re page 3, why DID Colwen and Roulet choose Providence? I wasn’t aware they’d actually CHOSEN it til now. Doubtless there’s some horrible soul-devouring reason, but I didn’t even think of it. The aetheric thingy passes “in one ear and out the other” of Robert, just like everything else has done.

    Page 4, I wonder what those machines all are? I suspect pretty strongly that Alan described how each one looks, probably with little pictures, and possibly even what each one does and how. Any hints they might be something from Lovecraft’s stories?

    I’m a bit disadvantaged here in only having read a few of HP’s stories (from links here, of course). They’re OK, and I like to read, but they haven’t compelled me like some stories do. I think I might enjoy Providence more if I had, but I’m not gonna bother just for that, quite yet. Still if I read more HP in future I can come back to Providence. Does reading HP add much extra to the experience, or is it just reference-spotting? I don’t suppose Alan and HP’s ways of writing have much in common? Particularly Alan’s way with meta-stories and engaging the reader’s awareness. Actually reading-wise I enjoyed the Reanimator stories, since I loved the film, and of course zombies (Dawn of the Dead, from 1978, one of my favourite films). Charles Stross’s A Colder War (IIRC) is a good one too.

    I wonder what the SS’s official headquarters are like? The Stell Saps aren’t in Lovecraft are they?

    I think Annesley’s specs are rectangular, btw, simply because it’s an easy shape to cut glass (or whatever it is) into. Since he presumably made them himself. There’s also the bit at the side too, so maybe full coverage is important.

    I think that’s about long enough for a post for now, I might add more later, as I read on again.

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    • I cannot recommend “At the Mountains of Madness” and “…Charles Dexter Ward” highly enough. I enjoy them every time I read them, and find little nuggets of fun each time, too! Probably one of the few who loves “…Kadath” except for those darn ghouls, who seem obtrusive. “Pickman’s Model” is a short stunner. I’d say they add more to the stories, as Moore’s going toward them, and HP after them, if that makes any sense–(“…Innsmouth”–HP obviously finds them repellent, but Moore humanizes these terrible terrible people for us). (Yes, they’re terrible. I do not approve of cannibalism.)

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    • > I wonder what those machines all are? I suspect pretty strongly that Alan described how each one looks, probably with little pictures, and possibly even what each one does and how. Any hints they might be something from Lovecraft’s stories?
      At least one of them, presumably, is an apparate for making all this invisible creatures, errr, visible – just look into “From Beyond”. The difference from the spactacles, shown in this issue, is that using this machine not only makes us to see those creatures, but also makes at least some of them to see us. Can be pretty dangerous.

      > Does reading HP add much extra to the experience, or is it just reference-spotting?
      Hmm. Well, for me, a Lovecraftian fan since eleven, reading “Providence” is total pleasure, and numerous references and brilliant reconstructions of HPL’s works just make me scream of joy, literally. Goddamn, I still remember my reaction when saw this page from #4, where Wheatly commences the twins, and Yog-Sothoth is depicted as the Tree of Life – that was such a strike! 😀 The whole conception of “Dunwich Horror” shifted just then. And that’s only one example.

      > I don’t suppose Alan and HP’s ways of writing have much in common? Particularly Alan’s way with meta-stories and engaging the reader’s awareness.
      Well, Lovecraft wasn’t as insidious in meta-storytelling as Moore is, but he played this games, too. He used an extensive network of references to plenty of books, both real and fictional (e.g. famous Necronomicon), with quotations and cross-references, and this way created a stunning illusion of documental work. Or, for example, the hints in “At the Mountains of Madness” that Poe used some occult sources while writing Arthur Gordon Pym story – when heroes hear words “Tekeli-li! Tekeli-li!”, mentioned by him, in the wild Antarctic regions.

      > The Stell Saps aren’t in Lovecraft are they?
      Surprisingly they’re. Or, to be correct, their prototype – occult society “Starry Wisdom”, mentioned in story “The Haunter in the Dark”, whose headquaters were in the very church depicted in this issue and on the #10’s cover. Alan Moore has just extended it’s role and moulded it into the main linkage of separated Mythos elements.

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    • There are a lot of things in Providence that are somewhat hard to understand without knowing the Lovecraft story they’re based on. For example, North’s hurried departure in #6 seems kind of inexplicable unless you’ve read the Herbert West, Re-Animator stories, and know what a military man from Canada signifies.

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    • Rectangular lenses and side panels are both features found on _some_ vintage eyeware, but I think you are right about Annesley making them himself and wanting coverage in all directions.

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  8. #10 is out on the 3rd of August. unfortunately it seems we’ll have to wait until at least november for #11, october solicitations came out with no providence in sight

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      • No commonplace book, because Robert’s not in a condition to write it?

        Frankly, good, still can’t be bothered reading purple scrawl. Give him a fucking typewriter! A minor aesthetic difference, that would significantly decrease the annoyance of not being able to read something properly. Having to constantly try interpret what letter is which, slows down one’s reading speed and takes one out of being absorbed in the story. And bloody PURPLE!

        Is it just me, child of the 20th Century (1977 to be exact), who has so little experience reading handwriting? Everything’s been on computer most of my life.

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      • To Greenaum.
        I don’t know. I’m not a native speaker, but I have no problem with reading the Commonplace Book. Maybe it’s because we were all taught oldschool joined-up handwriting at school. And I frequently use purple ink when writing letters, it’s classy.

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      • I have a feeling that there won’t be a Commonplace Book entry at the end of Issue #10 – something in the tone of Black writing about having supper and calling it a night at the end of the Commonplace Book entry of Issue #9 suggested finality to me. I can imagine #10 ending with an obituary to Black by Freddie Dix or Prissy Turner in the Herald, or maybe an article from a Providence-based newspaper noting the mysterious circumstances of his death/disappearance. May be wrong about this, we’ll see in a few days. And if he really does transform into something that isn’t human, #11 and #12 would have nobody to put down Commonplace Book entries, unless there’s some other back matter.

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      • Personally, I believe that #10 _will_ have Commonplace Book – and it will end with words “Three-lobed burning eye…” or, even better, some AKLO gibberish – additional points if AKLO is written in characters from Kitab.

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      • We learned joined-up writing, though I never use it, because after a while it degenerates past the point even I can read my own writing. Sure, it had a purpose back before we had machines to write for us. But I really can’t read it smoothly, it takes one out of being absorbed into the writing. Spoils it. A journalist would surely have a travel typewriter!

        Maybe Jess Nevins fancies transcribing them all one day, here’s hoping. Robert pretty much just goes over the day’s events in each one though right? I’m not missing much in being unwilling to put the effort in.

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      • What you’re missing by not reading the back matter is, admittedly a subtle thing, but i’ve found it worth it in the end. At the beginning of the series I too was frustrated by the pages upon pages of scrawl that, on the surface, is just rehashing exactly what we just saw. I had a similar experience the first time I read Watchmen, and that stuff was typed. But I’ve since found the commonplace book entries to be indispensable. Their purpose isn’t always (in fact hardly ever) to give us additional story (although we do often learn what Black was doing in between issues and in between scenes), it’s more about fleshing out Robert Black as a character. In the main book, Black is a bit of a blank, and we rarely get moments of truthful self-reflection from him as he travels from one interview-subject to the next. In the back matter, we get to hear HIS perspective on everything, and in the process we find out he’s a bit of a petty, narcissistic person. It helps to back up and provide context for his strange denial, and often provides an interesting perspective on the issue. And hey, in #6 the back matter is mostly fascinating transcripts from Hali’s Booke, so it’s not always the same. I got hooked on them by #3, I just wish they continued to include artifacts from the issue, like Suydam’s pamphlet, Jode’s Codes, and Leticia’s drawings. 5-9 have just been straight journals (with special allowance for #6’s necronomicon transcripts)

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  9. After re-reading I noticed a flashlight in Lovecraft’s room. Perhaps it means that that there were recent power outages. And we know what that means.

    Plus I really think that Carcosa’s Mom is the Bloated Woman, an avatar of Nyarlathotep, so technically she is not his mom, she is him.

    That would totally explain why she is on the “Women of HPL” cover – the Bloated Woman is actually mentioned by HPL, which makes her canon.

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    • The Bloated Woman was mentioned by Himself?! *___* Don’t remember such a thing, though there’re still some stories I haven’t read yet. Where was she mentioned?

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      • Crap, I think I was wrong and he didn’t.

        Please don’t tell me she was invented for the Call of Cthulhu RPG? She was, wasn’t she.
        What gaming does to a brain. Oh well.

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      • But if not her, what exact “woman of HPL” is she? Every other lady on the covers is mentioned in his stories, however briefly.

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      • Well, the best guess so far is that she’s the old woman from Red Hook who taught children some black magic (see the last paragraphs of “The Horror in Red Hook”). Hm, if in #10 she chants something about Gorgo and Mormo, we will be more certain…

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      • Yeah, you are probably right… A flashlight would have been drawn in a more obvious manner.
        Or it might be his pocket spectroscope, the one that “goes into the vest pocket without making much of a bulge”! I don’t know which letter this phrase is from, I heard it quoted on H.P.Podcraft while discussing “The Colour Out of Space”.

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  10. My opinion on the commonplace book stuff is that you aren’t really reading Providence if you’re not reading that. Not only is there SORT OF a rehash of the book’s events but many interesting story ideas that Black toys with and his observation of the strange trick-or-treater in issue 9 is just an awesome creepy little aside. The back matter is there for a reason.

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    • There is a lot in the back matter – but it’s probably not everyone’s cup of tea. If you want the full picture, you gotta read it. If you don’t, then you can probably still really enjoy Providence. (A note on the handwriting: I think that it gets somewhat [like 10%] clearer after the first couple issues… so if you couldn’t deal with issue #1 and gave up, try starting up again in a later issue.)

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      • I initially found reading the “journal” irritating in Issue 1, but soon found it sheds more light on Robert’s character, blindness, and confusion. His entries after the bodyswap rape were truly unnerving and very realistic (really for all we deride his obliviousness, we, too, may have trouble believing we were actually switched out of our bodies and raped, or that people can be a little too fishy, or that some…woman thing chased us in an underground cavern). And I loved Joad’s Codes!

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      • I first reacted very badly to Robert’s character when reading the Commonplace Book, but I’ve softened. I think it’s not so much that Black is a jerk as it is that he hasn’t really found his voice, and like a lot of aspiring writers (especially young gay writers), he’s doing an Oscar Wilde impression. The nastiness of the journal just doesn’t fit with the oblivious, but basically kind person we see.

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  11. This “inner head”, “secret chief”, that’s going to be someone who’s not known as what he is. Somebody claiming to be an ordinary person, a passer-by…

    It’s Howard, isn’t it? Howard Charles, AKA Japheth Colwen, who looks mysteriously like him. Another old ‘un, who’s survived all this time. Either he’s soul-jumped into his sons and their sons, or he’s been on the Annesley Diet and looks pretty good for his age. He knows exactly what he’s doing, some old Crowley-style bumsex in front of the Trapezohedron.

    Just seems like a bit of a hint.

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    • Greenaum, you really need to read Charles Dexter Ward. The connection between Howard Charles and Japheth Colwen is neither soul-jumping nor diet, but something quite stranger.

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      • Oh okay, since there’s no bloody Providence this week muttermutter. I read Herbert West, back when he was in Prov. I’ll give it a read.

        I do like his stories, and I read around 50 pages a night of the books I’m currently reading in bed. I think I’ll enjoy that. So, Howard is Charles D Ward’s analogue then?

        REALLY looking forward to issue 10!

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      • Ah, Ye Saltes. So he COULD still be Colwen. Although they share a resemblance even if he’s not, Colwen was known for getting up to scampish shenanigans of a Stell Sap sort.

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  12. I say again, Alan Moore didn’t write all the “back matter” just for fun or to make the reader “work” by forcing them to (ugh) … actually read something with no pictures! — or so that you could either read it or not depending on how much you want to bother… It’s part of the book. If you aren’t reading it- you aren’t reading Providence. Period. On the other hand, if you haven’t read LOVECRAFT I can’t imagine quite what you are getting out of Providence. So it’s not for everyone maybe, not the full experience anyway. Of course you don’t HAVE to read anything – but I suggest you are missing something important in the book if you skip over all that stuff.

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    • Yeah, but it’s like when he writes in German (bad German) on purpose and doesn’t translate. The comic requires either bilingualism or you to look it up on Google. What’s the point? What’s wrong with “foreign quotes” or a little translation box?

      Alan’s comics offer a lot to understand and take in, repeated readings offer new stuff each time. But a language I don’t speak offers nothing. Same for writing I can’t read. I can not read 10 pages of writing a letter at a time. It’s just annoying. It’s like having to read a story in, say, German, with a dictionary to one side. Stories are supposed to flow into your mind, to construct themselves as you read them. That’s only possible if it’s legible.

      The use of handwriting is a little aesthetic conceit, that unfortunately makes the actual text he went to the effort of writing difficult to comprehend. It would have been a better decision to just give the guy a typewriter.

      As for Lovecraft, Alan’s stories stand on their own, and I’ve picked up enough Lovecraft references just from the large amount that’s soaked into culture. I’ve read a few of HP’s stories and they’re OK and everything, but I think his ideas are better than his writing. I’d just as soon pick up summaries to get it all.

      I haven’t studied Kabbalah either, but I loved Promethea.

      I’m gonna have a go at reading some of the Commonplace Book later on, so I can say I tried. I already have tried, but I’ll try again.

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  13. I guess my confusion is mainly because I don’t have any trouble reading it.

    (But I totally agree with you on the German stuff in LOEG for sure- that’s just not fair!). Fortunately there are websites like this to help us!

    But knowing who the characters are that Black has immeasurably enhanced Providence for me.

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  14. So I was just at the Museum of Modern Art, seeing the show “Imponderables: The Archives of Tony Oursler”. It’s a huge collection of newspaper clippings, photos, and other materials relating to illusion, vision, spiritualism, and photography. While there, I came across this newspaper clipping from the 1910 London Times, which may have been an inspiration for From Beyond, and thus for Annesley’s spectacles: http://imgur.com/LDIhRrH

    The picture at the link is pretty delightful, but if you can’t follow the link, the text reads:
    “PROOF THAT WE DO NOT SEE THINGS AS THEY ARE:
    “Professor Robert Williams Wood, the well-known Professor of Experimental Physics in the Johns Hopkins University, recently announced a new departure in photography. He has been taking photographs with light that is invisible to man; that is to say, by ultra-violet rays. He points out that those whose eyes are normal are apt to flatter themselves that they see things as they are; whereas, in point of fact, they do not do so. As he says, “the appearance of the world at large is merely the result of the circumstance that the human eye perceives only a comparatively small part of the total radiation which comes from the sun or is given out by a lamp. He shows that although the old physicists were won’t to chronicle seven colors of the spectrum (because those were the only ones the eye could see), there are, in fact, other colors in the spectrum. For instance, there is a region beyond the violet which the eye cannot see, but which still leaves an impression on a photographic plate; this is the ultra-violet region.””

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  15. One of the purposes of the Common Place book is (I think) to undermine the idea that ‘reality’ is a text that we write or contribute to, On the contrary our destinies are already written. This is why the comic begins with ‘Lily’ tearing up Robert’s letters. They have turned out to be false and Black’s Common Place entries are similarly self serving and blithely (if not wilfully) ignorant of what is actually going on around him. Black thinks he has agency over his actions but he is being manipulated towards his inevitable end.
    The Necronomicon is a text that has the power to warp and (re)create reality. HPL and the Stel Sap crew may be knowingly or unknowingly applying the knowledge of the Book to awaken/incarnate Cthulhu.

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  16. Page 22, panel 3, one for the nitpicks page:
    HPL: “As men reckon such things, perhaps, though so *infirm* is he that your grandfather Theobaldus demands the respect due to the elderly,” rather than “inform,” as printed.

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  17. Also p24, panel 4, Mrs L: “His head was a ball of light!”
    Not to gainsay at all the clear parallel with the Wheatley redeemer experiment, but worth noting #6 p.30, commonplace book entry, third graf: “Here were there men made in a foreign way, so they did not seem like men at all, but more like unto things that grow on stones beneath the ocean, although monstrous big and with a great air of intelligence and purpose, and their heads were stars.” Later, same page: “…men whose heads were stars…”

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  18. I was rereading this issue the other day and noticed that HP mentions moving into a smaller, more cramp home with his mother at the same time that his sexual urges were at their greatest and of course his mother himself confuses him with his father. Do you think this was AMs way of suggesting something untoward happened?? Something slightly oedipal?

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    • While some folks have tried to read an Oedipus Complex into the Susan/Howard Phillips Lovecraft mother/son relationship, none of the facts really bear out. Lovecraft said that his sexual peak was 19, while they moved into more cramped quarters when he was 14, after the death of his grandfather Whipple Phillips in 1904.

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      • Oedipal issues aren’t entirely sexual in nature and can encompass unhealthy relationships with a parent that precludes other relationships with the opposite sex. Howard’s lack of social interaction and hypochondria enforced by his female family members aren’t exactly a healthy relationship. Moore’s fictional addition of a Lovecraftian element to HPL’s inception and his parents mental health issues adds to the facts that his home life was a little odd.

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      • Do we know what HPL’s “sexual peak” actually was? Odd duck like him, doesn’t necessarily mean actually having sex with anybody. From his portrait in Providence, he’s got more than a few eccentricities.

        I dunno that he’s quite strange enough to have shagged his mum, he’s an old-fashioned, very reserved chap. Being dressed like a girl as a small child isn’t THAT unusual for the times. The Victorians, which I think HPL was in attitude, were really weird about sex anyway, though they managed to carry on the human race for the duration.

        Sure he doesn’t seem to have much of a fatherly influence in his life, but I think his squeamishness and staunchness would keep him on the straight and narrow.

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    • I don’t have the issue at hand, but iirc HPL says something about that being the time when his “animal urges” were at their peak. But I don’t think Susan’s confusing Howard with his father is meant to imply incest. Rather, it implies profound sexual shaming. HPL’s father seemingly died of syphillis, probably contracted from a prostitute. Susan found his sexuality disgusting, all the more so because it was forced on her in some kind of twisted ritual. That’s what’s being passed on to Howard: the idea that sexual activity and sexual urges are awful, disgusting, hurtful things, best avoided for the sake of everyone’s sanity.

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  19. A possibly relevant or interesting fact: The trapezohedron on P13, p4 belongs to the family of self-intersecting or star trapezohedra, which evokes both the sense of otherworldly geometries (although the figure itself is an ordinary three-dimensional solid) and the overall star-related themes of the story.

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  20. I’d like to toss this in, having discussed this point in the discussion section of Providence #12 as well – https://factsprovidence.wordpress.com/moore-lovecraft-comics-annotation-index/providence-12/comment-page-2/#comment-3384

    On Page 8, panel 3, Howard Charles’ claim that Japheth Colwen knew Jacques Roulet is treated as an error, either on Charles’ part in-story or Alan Moore’s part outside of it, to the point of being listed on the nitpicks page for this issue.

    Suydam’s pamphlet gives a clear hint that Japheth Colwen, who is infamous for not aging, had been present on the Mayflower voyage of 1620. Hekeziah Massey was born in 1613, and Etienne Roulet’s mother was born in 1616, making Colwen by far the eldest of the three senior Stella Sapiente members. Now, Jacques Roulet was charged with lycanthropy (werewolf-ism) in 1598 and he was alleged to have possessed a copy of the Liber Stella Sapiente from 1498, a version that had passages detailing human-animal transformation, and the very incunabula found in the Steeple on Page 10, panel 3. Etienne Roulet is known to have brought Hali’s Booke, the *English* translation of the Latin version,

    With all this data about dates given in Suydam’s pamphlet, the only person who could conceivably have associated with Jacques Roulet at the end of the 16th/start of the 17th century and brought the Liber Stella Sapiente to America would have been Japheth Colwen, in 1620. This means that Howard Charles saying “Jacques” rather than “Etienne” Roulet is completely accurate and not an error on anyone’s part.

    Liked by 2 people

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