Gilt by Association: More Providence Sales Numbers

Providence #3 Px,px detail, art by Jacen Burrows
Providence #3, art by Jacen Burrows

The sales figures for August 2016 are in at Comichron, and we’ve updated the Innsmouth Gold page accordingly. There are still a few things in the works here at the Facts blog, but since we have been pretty quiet lately while we wait for the next issue, we thought it might be interesting to briefly talk about the business side of things.

First off, publishing gaps between issues are routine in the comics world, especially with small press publishers. The ability to churn out multiple titles on a monthly (or weekly!) basis requires writers, artists, inkers, colorists, letterers, and editors to work very fast and with a great deal of coordination, and when some of those folks probably juggling multiple projects, sometimes they just don’t make the page per day needed – and that’s without any printer delays. The downside to these lapses is the long wait between issues, which can put off customers (especially on short-run or limited series), and these kind of gaps are usually (although not always) associated with a drop in sales. The drop between Providence #9 (June 2016) and Providence #10 (August 2016) was about 530 copies, or roughly 4% of the direct sales readership; that’s a little less but about comparable to the drop between Providence #6 (Nov 2015) and Providence #7 (Feb 2016), and we’re probably going to see a comparable drop between #10 and #11, just because of how the issues are being spaced out.

Cover for Providence Act 1 Hardcover Kickstarter Exclusive. Art by Jacen Burrows
Cover for Providence Act 1 Hardcover Kickstarter Exclusive. Art by Jacen Burrows

Other factors also come into play. The secondary market for comic books used to be a lot smaller, dominated by specialist sellers like your favorite Local Comic Book Store – the folks you would go to when you missed a back issue and wanted to read what happened. The triple revolutions of collected editions, digital editions, and the internet comics marketplace has substantially opened up the market for “back issues.” Now readers can compare prices and survey inventory from comic stores and independent sellers around the globe; put off hardcopy comics and just get digital copies of any missed issues missed on Comixology or Avatar Press’s web store; or…just wait for the collected edition to come out, so that you can sit down and read the whole thing at once.

The latter is what I suspect a lot of readers are doing. Having missed an issue due to the delays in the schedule, or unsatisfied with the pace and dropped the series, many readers are likely just waiting for it to end so that they can pick up the collected edition…of course, they may well end up paying for it.

Camel Chart for Providence Act 1 Hardcover Limited Ed.
Camel Chart for Providence Act 1 Hardcover Limited Ed.

This is the Camelcamelcamel chart for the Providence Act 1 Hardcover Limited Edition, released in May 2016, tracking the sales prices – minus the more extreme price spikes, which are caused by feedback loops in automatic pricing algorithms used by some Amazon sellers; even so, you can see how the red and blue of 3rd party sellers on Amazon reflects a fairly typical cycle of price spikes and resets. Amazon sold through their inventory around early July, leaving the market at the mercy of 3rd party sellers – which tend to spike and then drift back down, although the asking price in general has steadily risen – which is pretty typical for many out-of-print books on Amazon. The lesson being, if you want the limited edition, you should probably pick them up for cheap as they come out.  Continue reading

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Providence Character Names, Copyright, and Obscenity

Hillman confusing Robert Black's name - from Providence #3, art by Jacen Burrows
Hillman confusing Robert Black’s name – from Providence #3, art by Jacen Burrows

Some have asked why Alan Moore is changing some of the names from H. P. Lovecraft’s stories, questioning whether it has to do with copyright.

The short answer is that it has nothing to do with copyright. The copyright situation with Lovecraft’s works is complicated, as explained by Chris J. Karr over at Black Seas of Copyright, but the bottom line of it is that the original pulp versions of Lovecraft’s fiction that appeared in Weird Tales and Astounding Stories – including classics like “The Call of Cthulhu,” “The Shadow over Innsmouth,” “The Shadow Out of Time,” and At the Mountains of Madness – are all considered to be in the public domain in the United States, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and many other countries.

Moore is free to use and refer to Lovecraft’s creations—but he is being careful about doing so in Providence for literary reasons.  Continue reading

Read Before Providence #4: Meet the Wheatleys

Only a couple days before Providence #4 is out, and all signs point to Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows tackling one of the major building blocks of Lovecraft’s Mythos, “The Dunwich Horror.”

Providence #4, Portrait cover, by Jacen Burrows
Providence #4, Portrait cover, by Jacen Burrows

In the last comic pages of Providence #3, Robert Black was on the bus from Salem to Athol, Massachusetts, the real-life inspiration for the fictional town of Dunwich, with its looming Sentinel Hill, crowned with ancient megaliths and hose to strange rites. Black is on the trail of an English translation of Hali’s Booke of the Wisdom of the Stars, the central text of the Stella Sapiente cult and its various fractions, said to be held by the Wheatley family, who had provided a copy of the text to Robert Suydam, who ultimately sold it to Dr. Alvarez in Providence #1. This parallels Lovecraft’s own artificial mythology, where the degenerate Whateley family of Dunwich own a rare English language translation of the fabled Necronomicon, as translated by Dr. John Dee – a figure Moore has something of an affinity for in several of his works, as touched on briefly in Road to Providence.

Dee, from League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier, art by Kevin O'Neill
Dee, from League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier, art by Kevin O’Neill

In his recent interview ‘Lovecraft Never Said That His Entities Were Evil’ – Alan Moore On Myth, Magic, And The Elder Gods, Moore expands on his approach to Lovecraft and the occult in Providence:

I asked myself, “If that was true, how would it all link up?” Then, I started a process, tracing back to Lovecraft’s Necronomicon, to some of the early New England wizards in Lovecraft’s fiction who must have known each other. Who were living in such a relatively small area at more or less exactly the same time, so that I thought it would do no violence to Lovecraft’s work if you said, “Yes, these three people, they knew each other”. […]

The magic that appears in Providence is that which appeared in Lovecraft’s stories. There were some very dodgy occult incantations mentioned in, I think, “Horror at Red Hook”, cribbed from Encyclopedia Britannica without really understanding them, and it showed. And, of course, there are references to Cabbalists in a few Lovecraft stories. This is not a book about magic. This is a book about Lovecraft. Without going too far into it, I’ve made sure that those references in Providence are credible and realistic.

Moore’s efforts so far have tied together Lovecraft’s various witches and wizards with a credible work of medieval Arabic, the aforementioned Hali’s Booke, which appears to be effectively equivalent to real-world manuscripts like the Picatrix. While the details are still maddeningly vague, so far the works of the group combine invocation of Lovecraftian entities with Wilhelm Reich’s concept of orgone (most prominent in the chamber in Salem that links Providence #3 and Neonomicon) and some allusions to Qabbalah and Hermeticism in Suydam’s mystical paraphernalia in Providence #2. Where all this will lead in Providence #4 remains to be seen, but we can make three reasonable guesses.

First, the translation of the Necronomicon by John Dee; the Wheatley’s English translation may also be by Dee, in which case it could connect to or reference Dee’s work with Enochian magic. Second, there is a connection with Arthur Machen – Lovecraft’s “The Dunwich Horror” is essentially a pastiche of Machen’s “The Great God Pan,” and Lovecraft placed considerable emphasis on Machen’s stories of strange, non-human aboriginal races surviving to the modern day and intimations of witchcraft, tying those into Margaret Murray’s theories on the survival of a great European witch-cult; Machen was also, briefly, a member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Finally, the act of magic which resulted in the conception of William Whateley in “The Dunwich Horror” has parallels with another magical conception, a sort of planetary magic described by Aleister Crowley in his novel Moonchild, a parallel briefly explored by Robert M. Price in his story “Wilbur Whateley Waiting.”

The Necronomicon Files
The Necronomicon Files

Whether any or all of these make it into the following product, we’ll find out in a few more days. Readers interested in some of the background research by Moore, the recent interview references a number of works, from hoax Necronomicons, Satanic murders, and chaos magicians using Lovecraftian entities in their workings to the essays of Lovecraft scholar Dirk W. Mosig. While Moore doesn’t mention them by name, the two works that would cover most of the material he discusses would include The Necronomicon Files: The Truth Behind the Legend by Daniel Harms and John William Gonce III, and Mosig at Last: A Psychologist Looks at Lovecraft by Dirk W. Mosig.

Read Before Providence #3: Intro to Jack Boggs, Obed Marsh of Innsmouth, and Etienne Roulet of Shunned House

There’s still a week before the August 12 release of Providence #3, so we figured it might be a good time to do some more background (like the earlier post for #2) to prepare readers for the next issue. Below is a spoiler-free explanation of some of the underlying Lovecraft stories that seem like they may well inform Providence #3.

From Providence #2, at the end of the Commonplace Book (P30), Robert Black is recapping the issue’s events and writes “Suydam mentioned the Boggs Gold Refinery in Massachusetts, and I’m serious thinking about handing in my notice at the Herald, giving up on this apartment and just going there.”

Boggs mention in Neonomicon - detail from Pxxx,p2 of Neonomicon No.2 - art by Jacen Burrows
Boggs mention in Neonomicon – detail from P15,p2 of Neonomicon No.2 – art by Jacen Burrows

Boggs was mentioned in Moore and Burrows earlier Neonomicon, where Boggs’ tunnels are shown and Leonard Beeks states “Jack Boggs was who Ech-pi-el [H.P.L. – Lovecraft] based Obed Marsh on” (see Neonomicon #2, P15,p2.) Boggs/Marsh is connected with the Deep Ones – the race of sea-monster-fish-men, one of which appears in Neonomicon #2-4.

The sinister Obed Marsh features prominently in the narrative background of Lovecraft’s short story “The Shadow over Innsmouth” which is probably worth a read (or listen) before Providence #3 comes out. Obed Marsh is a sea captain who takes on a “south sea islands” wife, and makes a pact with the Deep Ones, bringing the Esoteric Order of Dagon to Innsmouth, and receiving from them abundant fishing and gold – the latter of which is smelted at the Marsh Refinery located in a former mill on the lower falls of the fictional Manuxet River, as described in “The Shadow over Innsmouth”:

Things went on that way fer years, an’ Obed got enough o’ that gold-like stuff to make him start the refinery in Waite’s old run-daown fullin’ mill. He didn’t dass sell the pieces like they was, fer folks ud be all the time askin’ questions. All the same his crews ud git a piece an’ dispose of it naow and then, even though they was swore to keep quiet; an’ he let his women-folks wear some o’ the pieces as was more human-like than most.

On Neonomicon #3 P3,p3, the tunnels show a hand-carved “Jack Boggs 1787” so the patriarch Jack Boggs is likely long dead in Providence’s 1919 (as was Obed Marsh in Lovecraft’s 1931 “Innsmouth” story.) It is perhaps more likely that Boggs’/Marsh’s interbred human-Deep-One descendants will be featured in Providence #3.

Continue reading

Providence 2 Questions

Two mysteries in one panel - what art is that? what statue is that? Detail of Providence #2 P11,p1 - art by Jacen Burrows
Two mysteries in one panel – what art is that? what statue is that? Detail of Providence #2 P11,p1 – art by Jacen Burrows

Our Providence #2 annotations are published. We’ll keep editing and improving them, but at this point, we think they’re more-or-less thorough, with tons of Lovecraft, plus Poe, Chambers, Duchamp, Huxley, demons, witches, werewolves, polyptychs, slow zooms, Yazidi, Neonomicon, a family tree, and even some minor nitpicks.

But, a few things have still eluded even our obsessive review.

Can you help figure out any of these details that we couldn’t quite solve? Click on images to enlarge. A few of these may become clearer as subsequent issues come out. We’ll see.

Is this framed land/sea image based on something specific? Detail of Providence #2 P9,p4 - art by Jacen Burrows
Is this framed land/sea image based on something specific? Detail of Providence #2 P9,p4 – art by Jacen Burrows

1. What is the framed land and sea picture?

It’s on the wall at Suydam’s, next to an image of King Tut, first on Page 9, panel 3 and it’s visible in a handful of panels. It could be generic, or maybe there’s a specific reference that Moore and Burrows are trying to make.

The mysterious second statue at Suydam's. Detail from Providence #2 P14,p1 - art by Jacen Burrows
The mysterious second statue at Suydam’s. Detail from Providence #2 P14,p1 – art by Jacen Burrows

2. What is the second statue at Suydam’s?

There’s a small statue with horns (P10,p2) which we’re pretty sure is Cernunnos, a Celtic horned deity. Then there’s a second small statue that we never quite get a really clear view of. Continue reading

Providence #2 Annotations Posted

Providence #2, detail from Page 6, panel 3 - art by Jacen Burrows
Providence #2, detail from Page 6, panel 3 – art by Jacen Burrows

Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows Providence #2 comic came out two days ago, and it’s an excellent read. Moore tugs readers along with sweet human interaction, anticipation, and a touch of horror. Burrows delivers a detailed portrayal of likable expressive characters inhabiting a believable early 20th Century Brooklyn and he always does the noir lighting and scary creature well, too.

We’re still re-reading, spotting more, and re-working, but we’ve posted our basic annotations already, which do include spoilers.

There are, of course, plenty of references to H.P. Lovecraft stories, especially The Horror at Red Hook. That story is very much worth a read or listen. If you’re looking for just a little background before you read Providence #2, read our spoiler-free preview post Continue reading

Read Before Providence #2: Intro to Robert Suydam of The Horror at Red Hook

The church on the cover of Providence #2 appears in Courtyard and Neonomicon as Club Zothique. Art by Jacen Burrows
The church on the cover of Providence #2 appeared earlier in The Courtyard and Neonomicon as Club Zothique. Art by Jacen Burrows

Based on its cover, an advance review, and references in Providence #1, annotated here, we think we can guess at some of where Providence #2 looks like it’s going. Providence #2 will be out July 8th, and we’ll learn if our projections are correct. For now, though, for Providence readers, here’s an introduction to the sinister Robert Suydam and the 1925 H.P. Lovecraft short story The Horror at Red Hook.

We’ve quoted and summarized below, but if you’re not already familiar with it, we highly recommend reading The Horror At Red Hook. Read the full text here, or listen to an audiobook version hereContinue reading