A bit late to this graphic novel but considering the responses to recent geek movies The Shape of Water and Annihilation, the moment seemed appropriate for quick thoughts about Providence.
Providence is both a prequel and sequel to Moore’s previous stories Neonomicon and The Courtyard, and is part of H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos.
Fundamentally, Moore builds on the foundation of Lovecraftian tradition to fashion a tale of horror that is at once disorienting and familiar.
When one considers that Lovecraft was a misanthrope in real life, a middling prose writer and by all accounts a ‘failure’ – his ideas have permeated modern pop culture to such an extent that most of the general public would be cognisant of his concepts without knowing who the fuck he was.
Moore cleverly exploits this fact to weave a tale of fiction that explains why this is so – by using the protagonist Robert Black’s own journey of discovery as a backdrop to setting out the very basis of Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos.
For ten issues, the story is set in the early 20th century (the prequel) with the final two issues in the modern day (the sequel) as Moore ties up all the myriad strands raised by Neonomicon and The Courtyard.
Fans of Moore’s work will recognise his signature style here – the text pieces at the end of each chapter, the descriptions that contrast with the art, the detailed research and an unflinching commitment to historical accuracy.
While the series was wrapped up in early 2017, two subsequent movies have tapped into the Lovecraftian concepts without most mainstream audiences blithely unaware of the sources of inspiration.
Whereas the Oscar-winning The Shape of Water has been criticised for featuring a creature that is a rip-off of Hellboy’s Abe Sapien (!), the deeper meaning can be found in the original inspiration of the Gill-Man (from The Creature From the Black Lagoon) which in turn was birthed from Lovecraft’s fish-men the Deep Ones (“The Shadow Over Innsmouth”) – also prominently figured in Neonomicon.
Ironically, the second Lovecraft-influenced film – the critically acclaimed Annihilation – while ostensibly an adaptation of Jeff Vandermeer’s novel – is actually more a direct riff off “The Colour Out of Space”.
These two examples exemplify Moore’s point of the pervasive influence of Lovecraft in modern-day pop culture, despite the creator’s own relative anonymity.
Thus, besides its obvious benefits as an intriguing horror mystery tale, Providence is also an excellent introduction to Lovecraftian concepts, and in particular, the Cthulhu Mythos.
… still there’s more …