Below are annotations for “Zaman’s Hill” from Alan Moore’s Yuggoth Cultures and Other Growths #1 (12 pages, July 2003)
Writer: Alan Moore (AM), adapted by Antony Johnston (AJ), Artist: Juan Jose Rip (JJR), Based on works of H.P. Lovecraft (HPL)
>Go to Moore Lovecraft annotations index
Note: some of this stuff is obvious, but you never know who’s reading this and what their exposure is. If there’s stuff we missed or got wrong, let us know in comments.
General: “Zaman’s Hill,” like “Recognition” and “The Courtyard,” began as a project by Moore to develop an episodic novel called Yuggoth Cultures based on Lovecraft’s sonnet-cycle Fungi from Yuggoth. Unfortunately, most of the episodes were lost in a taxi cab in London, as revealed in an interview (“The Story Behind the Stories,” by William Christensen, Yuggoth Cultures #3). Moore’s story “Zaman’s Hill” was first published in 1995 in Dust: A Creation Books Reader. The 2003 comics adaptation includes all of Moore’s original text (and no new non-Moore text), though in all capital letters – as was customary for comics at the time.
In form, “Zaman’s Hill” takes the shape of an illustrated prose-poem, with small illustrations on every text page (which occur on the left), and a larger full-page illustration (which occurs on the right). The full-page illustrations represent the adaptations of the prose-poem, while the smaller illustrations on the text page appear to be incidental.
The title and text pages are framed by an outside border along the top and towards the spine of the book, displaying a number of Lovecraftian beastiers – a ghoul in a graveyard, the Mi-Go or Fungi from Yuggoth, what is probably the head of a Deep One, a typical Cthulhu-esque character in what appears to be an underground setting, and a nude woman in the thrall of groping tentacles. Most of the imagery appears to be relatively standard; the Mi-Go in particular resemble the art depicting such creatures in the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game. The background for the title and text pages
The title itself is underneath a triangular slab featuring a Cthulhu-like visage with broken tentacles; a smaller version of this figure occupies the bottom of each text page, and tends to direct the reader’s attention to the text.
- The art panel appears to depict Yog-Sothoth, as described in “The Horror in the Museum,” albeit on a more cosmic scale:
Imagination called up the shocking form of fabulous Yog-Sothoth—only a congeries of iridescent globes, yet stupendous in its malign suggestiveness.
- The “drowned hamlets” recall the original of Lovecraft’s Dunwich; the town of Dunwich in Suffolk, England, which was swallowed by coastal erosion.
- “Thatcher-year” refers to Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister for the United Kingdom from 1979-1990. Moore has previously been highly critical of Thatcher’s governance and government, whose conservative and anti-homosexual policies were a seminal influence on such works V for Vendetta and The Mirror of Love (for more on which, see Sean Carney’s “The Tides of History: Alan Moore’s Historiographic Vision.“)
- The facing page shows smoke and light rising from near the top of the hill, leading in to the next full-page illustration.
- The nude woman in chains has no obvious Lovecraftian parallel, though the general form of the cuffs and links recalls the magician Harry Houdini’s efforts as an escape artist. Houdini and Lovecraft had collaborated on the story “Under the Pyramids” (also titled “Imprisoned with the Pharoahs”) and had planned to collaborate on a non-fiction work denouncing superstition and spiritualism, to be titled The Cancer of Superstition.
- On the facing page, the action has zoomed in to the bonfire on the hill. The revel around the bonfire appears to be convivial, compared to Lovecraft’s description of such rites; the celebrants are notably fully clothed and jacketed against the cold.
- “These are Machen-Hills,” – a reference to Arthur Machen, the Welsh mystic who was an important influence on Lovecraft and those of his circle. Machen’s hilly Welsh countryside was the setting for stories like “The Shining Pyramid,” as well as the early novel The Hill of Dreams.
- The art on the facing page is shows a bisection of the ground, the feet of the revelers visible above, down through the layers of soil and rock, to a cavern with dangling stalactites.
- “Dan yr Ogof” is a large cave system in Wales, known for its stalactites; “Llynfell” is a river in Wales.
- “[A] tectonic syphilis birthing slow, massive hallucinations” recalls the fact that H. P. Lovecraft’s father Winfield Scott Lovecraft suffered from neurosyphilis and experienced hallucinations, and for a time it was thought HPL himself might have had congenital syphilis. This is a theme Moore would explore more thoroughly in “Recognition,” and suggests that at the time Moore was probably reading either de Camp’s Lovecraft: A Biography or Kenneth W. Faig Jr.’s “The Parents of Howard Phillips Lovecraft” in An Epicure in the Terrible.
- “The Michelin Man” is the mascot of the Michelin Tire Company.
- The art on the facing page shows us the massive, stalactite and stalagmite-filled cavern, with an underground stream leading further into the hill, along with what might be fossilized remnants of some ancient creature.
- The top image shows a palm scarred with the Yellow Sign, as depicted in the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game.
- The gigantic column – described by the text as a femur, which is further suggested by the reflection showing the joint – is carved with Lovecraft’s Elder Sign.
- “The cold, pregnant message of R’lyeh” – Though obviously written long before Neonomicon was conceived, an interesting reference nevertheless, showing that even back then Moore conceived of the Mythos as a sort of dark promise.
The final page, without text, shows a ghoul in a cemetery holding a woman’s severed head. Taken with the title page, it serves to bookend the text at an even number of pages.