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Alan Moore's Providence

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Travern

Yes the artwork is on point. I'm looking forward to this myself, and yes, I found Neonomicon quite disturbing...but wasn't that the point?

I'm often suprised by how many people dislike Neonomicon for being too creepy, disturbing, horrific, etc. Isn't that the point of HPL's writings?

 

Neonomicon is Moore's explicit and deliberately stomach-turning commentary on the way women are too often treated in horror - i.e. sex objects and rape victims - but that's not really Lovecraftian.  Moore went with a variation on Creature-from-the-Black-Lagoon exploitation-monster movie rather than digging into the inhuman subtext of "The Shadow Over Innsmouth". It's also debatable whether the average reader of the gore-heavy comic books that Avatar Press puts out was receptive to this critique of the genre, any more than a lot of undiscriminating superhero fans appreciated that Moore intended Watchmen's Rorschach to be viewed as a psychotic creep.

 

The other problem lies with its treatment of cosmic horror, which culminates in the revelation {spoiler} that the protagonist is going to give birth to Cthulhu.  Lovecraft would never have given any of his human protagonists such an important role in the Mythos (at best, there's Lavinia Whateley and her monstrous but minor offspring). For Lovecraft, mankind is "a mere superfluous speck in the unfathomable vortices of infinity and eternity".  Moore, however, is a humanist at heart and cannot quite accept this position, even in a work of horror.

 

On the other hand, Moore got everything right about updating Lovecraft in his excellent Courtyard. We'll have to see how Providence ends up, I suppose.

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Aklo

suddenly realizes he's never offered to post the itw he did with Alan Moore in 1987 here..........

Is it possible you could offer? Or perhaps if I asked nicely? ^^

 

 

I agree with you Ben Joss that the graphic novel goes into VERY uncomfortable territory, and I see your point about cosmic horror Travern, but to me, neither of those features kept the work from being Lovecraftian. I agree Lovecraft would never have considered humans so important to the Old Ones, but Alan Moore's work always connects his subject matter with human concerns and perspectives. (an approach made no less valid by the intended audience at Avatar Press, no matter which company Moore works at, he expects his work to be interpreted intelligently, this is true now at Avatar press as it was during his early work with DC and later Vertigo)

 

Also, I see no real problem with the Xothian horror that is Cthulhu rising from a figurative ocean, the concept that Rl'yeh is a kind of immense subconscious all humans share, and thus a portal through which the Elder Gods and Old Ones can reach through and manipulate us sounds right on track for me, and goes right with the waking dreams and other-worlds Lovecraft himself wrote about. And after all the rise of Cthulhu means the end of humanity, so in many ways he's a minor god or entity, confined to earth at least until he's destroyed us all.

 

To say "you can't do that, because Lovecraft didn't" will largely limit and curtail much of the creativity that is already going into the genre of cosmic horror, and sticks us only with the same three or four story beats and finales Lovecraft left us with. I can't speak for him of course, but I would much rather see many different well written, horrifying, and memorable interpretations and expansions on his work, it is a genre of fiction ripe for exploration, and always will be.

 

Bottom line, Neonomicon is deeply disturbing, graphic, and in some ways offensive. I still consider it a valid and creative interpretation of Lovecraft's work, and don't think it should be discredited or dismissed because it takes a different approach from the master's. Hopefully Providence will continue the trend of creative homage to Lovecraft's mythos, but maybe Mr.Moore will dig even deeper this time.

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Travern

(an approach made no less valid by the intended audience at Avatar Press, no matter which company Moore works at, he expects his work to be interpreted intelligently, this is true now at Avatar press as it was during his early work with DC and later Vertigo)

 

True, and Moore's respect for his audience's intelligence is a rare thing in comics.  Avatar Press is a mixed bag, though, and their editorial input is a factor the equation for both Providence and Neonomicon ("The Courtyard" was adapted from Moore's 1994 short story).  Moore describes the origins of his working with them as less inspiration than necessity: "I had a tax bill coming up, and I needed some money quickly. So I happened to be talking to William {Christensen} from Avatar, and he suggested that he could provide some if I was up for doing a four-part series, so I did."  Avatar publishes everything from Moore, Warren Ellis, and other interesting creator-owned works to versions of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Night of the Living Dead and extra-gory post-apocalypse comics so extreme that all their covers resemble grindhouse movie posters interpretations of old EC horror comics.  Literary theory's perennial debate over authorial intent vs. reader response aside, it's no wonder that Neonomicon appeals in precisely the wrong way to their valued customers.

 

Whatever Avatar's editorial standards, though, I am optimistic that Moore is at least approaching Providence more seriously than Neonomicon (which he called "one of the most unpleasant things I have ever written,")  Instead of dashing off something exceptionally nasty - and note that Neonomicon is rare in Moore's work in depicting sexual assault without having a positive sex scene elsewhere as a counterbalance - he's been reading more deeply into HPL's work and catching up on criticism.  In a more recent interview, Moore goes into all the effort he put into researching Providence and the insights that came out of that.

 

{...} with Lovecraft, his was a kind of – it was largely a Horror of the present day, it was a Horror of the things that were being discovered by the scientists of Lovecraft’s era. It was Einstein, it was the quantum physicists. Their ideas were destabilising the traditional universe that Lovecraft had grown up in, and he was intelligent enough to realise what the implications of that were. He realised that, yeah, humanity was a tiny little outbreak on a fleck of dirt somewhere in a rather unimportant part of a galaxy that was one among millions. And so this blind, impersonal, chaotic universe, the thing that was actually – the forces, the blind, chaotic insensate forces that were actually dominating this universe, this is what he expressed in his blind idiot gods, his chaotic forces, his Haunters of the Dark, and indeed in Lovecraft’s later work you can see this really radical fusion of Horror and Science Fiction. It’s not really surprising that At the Mountains of Madness {...} was Science Fiction. It was just Science Fiction played on the heavy low notes at one end of the piano. And it was a new thing. It seems to me that Lovecraft offers possibilities for a completely new, progressive, radical, and experimental form of Horror that actually allows us to see Lovecraft in a new light, and in a less familiar light, and I think that is going to make Lovecraft’s concepts more frightening, at least in terms of what we’re doing in Providence.

Whether he pulls this off is to be seen, of course, but he's set himself an impressive goal with Providence: "it is an attempt to come up with a comprehensive and integrated picture of the world of Lovecraft’s fiction{...}"—and its footnotes alone could provide supplemental material for CoC, too.

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Aklo

 

 

Whatever Avatar's editorial standards, though, I am optimistic that Moore is at least approaching Providence more seriously than Neonomicon (which he called "one of the most unpleasant things I have ever written,")  Instead of dashing off something exceptionally nasty - and note that Neonomicon is rare in Moore's work in depicting sexual assault without having a positive sex scene elsewhere as a counterbalance - he's been reading more deeply into HPL's work and catching up on criticism.  In a more recent interview, Moore goes into all the effort he put into researching Providence and the insights that came out of that.

 

 

Excellent points Travern!

 

Very insightful interview christian, thank you for posting it!

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Wilbur

Hi, new poster here. First post. Hello. 

I liked Providence a lot. It's very slow moving though, the artwork by Burrows is lovely and it certainly nails the sense of place and time. I wasn't entirely sold on the middle section where the main character more or less steps into the apartment from HPL's Cool Air for six or seven pages... and some of the dialogue there is a bit on the nose thematically- â€œThis truth, it is a land sunken beneath many fathoms†- but I'm also really intrigued to see where it's going. 

It's way more restrained than Neonomicon

Although the decision to have a journal at the back to sum up the plot from the point of view of the main character (which really adds very little) was a bit strange- I couldn't work out the point of that. But it's the first issue, and it's very much easing you into this world. It doesn't try and grab your attention with shocking moments or overt horror, and I think that's probably a good thing. 

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paladin2769

I, too, liked it alot.  There's a cool website where they have annotated each issue of Neonomicon, The Courtyard and now, Providence.  I don't have the link handy but Google should find it easily enough.  I went back and re-read Cool Air as well as watched the Night Gallery episode after reading the first issue.  I believe the main character will soon find himself taking a trip to scenic Innsmouth before too long, maybe even Dunwich too, if he's fortunate enough.  ;)

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Wilbur

Yeah, that'll be this blog-  https://factsprovidence.wordpress.com/moore-lovecraft-comics-annotation-index/providence-1/

Good annotations too, and they're still updating, useful for phrases like 'dropping hairpins' and the like which was covert gay slang of the time.

I have to admit I don't really know what the last page of Providence is meant to signify- I know what's going on storywise, but I don't really know what it's meant to mean for the reader, unless there's some link to things hidden beneath things or something... I don't mind not fully understanding though, as the atmosphere is strong enough and there's more to come. 

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Aklo

Still awaiting my copy of Providence #1 appreciate the mini-review Wilbur. I hope to get every issue, and then, if the work stands up, snag the inevitable collected edition as well.^^

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Wilbur

I get the feeling that it's a book that will read better as a whole due to the pace. My guess is issue one is a tribute to Cold Air and from the sounds of it issue two might move towards Horror At Red Hook territory, but that's guesswork. It does namecheck Robert Suydam (from though in a conversation Red Hook...) in a conversation though and implies that's a character to come. 

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Wilbur

Issue three is out tomorrow- looks like they're heading for a certain seaside town where I'm sure the residents will all be exactly what they seem. 

STK676266.jpg
 
I'm enjoying to but issue one and two have leant heavily on the source material in a way that reduces the story to "Visit Lovecraft character, interview him, move on..." so I'm hoping the structure shakes things up a bit in the next issue or so. 

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Aklo

Hello Wilbur,

 

Just wondering if you've been keeping up the series?

I've just finished Seven which I quite enjoyed and were wondering what you thought so far. As you've stated it does read better whole rather then broken up into little pieces and I kind of wish I'd just waited to see it collected. The question for me is if the build will justify the somewhat meandering plotline thus far. I quite like some of the remixed Lovecraftian tropes, but felt they were stronger and more justified in issues #3 and #7 than they were in #5 and #6. Hoping its all leading somewhere.

 

Perhaps the more sedate pace is in response to how Neonomicon was received, but so far I rather prefer that volumes focused story-line over what I've found in Providence thus far. I DO enjoy reading the journal entries at the back of each issue since they kind of communicate more clearly what our protagonist was thinking of during each encounter, but I wonder why I can't usually read more of these reactions in the art or the way the characters are written. Intentional misdirection? Ambivalence? 

 

Regardless we have five issues to go so I'll be sticking it out to the end.

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Wilbur

Yeah, I've been keeping up with it and I pretty much agree with you- the format of Robert going from town to town and meeting different Lovecraft characters is nice, but it doesn't quite make for a gripping storyline. It's an odd one. The writing is fine, the art is lovely, but it still feels like it hasn't quite begun... 

There was one nice bit in one of the journal entires (I think in 4 or 5) where Robert is thinking on an idea for a story- an unaware person caught up in horror that he constantly manages to rationalise to himself until he realises it's too late- and he's unwittingly describing his own situation. But again I agree- it's odd how the journals are used to fill in bits and pieces of the story, rather than doing it in the comic itself. 

I think the next issue has been delayed until April as well. Hopefully though it'll all come together in the final few issues in a way that Moore can be very good at (his recent series Crossed 100+ had an excellent final two issues that pulled the rug out from everything you thought you knew) - in a weird way I think the comic suffers from being a bit too faithful to Lovecraft's world. 

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yockenthwaite

I've given up on it, I'm afraid. I like the framing structure, but a lot of the individual stories aren't grabbing me enough. I also find the sex scenes gratuitous and unnecessary in many cases - it's not so much them, but it's incredibly visual! So I rarely feel any great desire to read the next issue any time soon, even if it's sitting beside me waiting to be read ...

 

Having said that I did like the way it reworked the Horror at Red Hook story. This is by far my most troublesome of Lovecraft's originals, so filled with racism and unpleasant ideas. And the comic changed it quite a lot, while retaining the original core plot ideas. So thumbs up there, but generally not good for me. I really wouldn't recommend this comic series.

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GRWelsh

Sorry to use Ye Essential Saltes on this old thread, but I only recently read the PROVIDENCE series and really enjoyed it for the depth of research Alan Moore put into it, as well as the careful attention to detail in the art of Jacen Burrows.  The breadth of references to HPL's works, as well as details of his life and those who were in his circle, is impressive.  The covers are amazing works of art, especially the Dreamscape variants.  The ending was strange, yet fitting (when you think it through, how else could you possibly end it?).  There were some things I didn't much care for, but overall I think the series is worth reading by any HPL fan.

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Wilbur

I'm in two minds about the ending - on one hand I like the anticlimactic nature of it and how it ties in both *The Courtyard* and *Neonomicon*, but on the other... it is a comic where a lot of characters stand around explaining things, and the last issue was a prime example of that. We have people more or less explaining their idea of what the plot was. 

 

Then again, any Lovecraftian tale which actually brings in ST Joshi as a character to try and make a critical analysis of the situation deserves a gold star for that at least. 

 

It's one I look forward to re-reading when it comes out in paperbacks. The artwork was fantastic throughout though and worth the price of admission - I think I could have just done with more story and a little less people just telling their story. 

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