Kingdom of the Wicked is a graphic novel by Ian Edginton and Matt Brooker aka D'Israeli, first published by Dark Horse comics in 2004. It had previously been published in black and white format by Caliber comics in 1996. It deals with a children's author who rediscovers the fantasy world he created as a child only to find that it is now a much more sinister place.
This is a set of notes and annotations to references in the book. Please email if you have any corrections, comments or suggestions.
For annotations on other books by the same authors please see my home page.
The Title. Kingdom of the Wicked is also the title of a 1985 Anthony Burgess novel about the development of Christianity after the death of Jesus.
Among all the toys is a Trojan horse like rocking horse.
The concept. The idea of an adult rediscovering a fantasy land they created as a child and learning that much has changed in their absence is a fascinating one. It was used by Neil Gaiman in the Sandman storyline A Game of You. Please send any other examples of this concept that you know of.
Jon Rennie emailed me to point out a similar theme in Robert Louis Stevenson's poem The Land of the Counterpane. A counterpane is a type of quilt or bed cover which also ties in nicely with the patchwork quilt imagery in chapter one.
Prologue. Hugh Mearns' ghostly poem Antigonish is quoted. It has also been used in Star Trek and a Stephen King novel.
Page 6. The fantasy land is called Castrovalva. This is the title of a lithograph by M.C.Escher which depicts the abandoned Italian village of the same name. The patchwork appearance of the hills and fields will appear later in the book.
Castrovalva is also the title of a story in the Doctor Who TV show in which the city of Castrovalva is trapped in a space-time loop with bizarre effects on the inhabitants and events.
On the left of the panel are some Cuckoo clock birds feeding a chick.
The tethered flying pig above the city recalls the cover of the Pink Floyd album Animals. There's more Pink Floyd references later on in the book. Wonder what happens if you play Dark Side of the Moon while reading it?
The pink Elephant may be a link to the famous hallucinogenic sequence in Disney's Dumbo movie.
The building with the pillars looks like the main entrance to the British Museum.
It seems likely that a child would construct a fantasy world with bits and pieces of the world he had experienced.
We don't recognise the ONGO reference on the base of the statue, or the yellow pyramid on a plinth.
Page 7, panel 4. Wavy Davy Dali is an obvious reference to the look and art of Salvador Dali. Tiny Tom Fish Head could be based on a number of characters with animal heads. He is similar to Viz comics' Billy the Fish. There is a webcomic by Victor Vasquez called Boy with a Fish for a Head but that came after Kingdom of the Wicked.
Page 8, panel 2. There is a clockwork cow in the Edginton and D'Israeli book Stickleback.
Page 8, panel 3. There is also a similar, but much more unpleasant image of babies growing on trees in Stickleback.
Page 11, panel 2. The rhythm of the prose here and in the next panel is similar to the cataloguing of the Rats' mischief in the Pied Piper of Hamelin poem by Robert Browning.
The inhabitants of Castrovalva are similar to several generic children's book characters. The Rabbit heads look familiar and are slightly reminiscent of Matt Groening's Life in Hell. Behind the Boy is someone who looks like a cross between Bart Simpson and Dilbert.
Chapter one. Chris with Fuzzbox and the others look like Christopher Robin and Pooh Bear setting out on an "expotition" .
Page 15, panel 2. This quilt cover will become the landscape on the next page.
Page 16, panel 1. Sitting on the patchwork quilt landscape are a girl called Alice and a giant. As becomes clear later on the protagonist of Kingdom of the Wicked is writing a sequel to Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland books.
The giant sharing a meal with a little girl also recalls another classic children's author Roald Dahl and his book The BFG.
Page 19, panel 1. "I want to go home" may be a reference to Pink Floyd's The Wall. See page 22.
Page 19, panel 2. The author's name is revealed as Chris Grahame which is a nod to Kenneth Grahame of Wind in the Willows fame.
The Fitch gallery may be a reference to a couple of children's authors: Sheree Fitch and Lucy Fitch Perkins.
The images on the display panels include characters from Castrovalva including the Rabbit heads and Otto the Cannibal Chef.
Page 20, panel 3. The title of the book he is writing is a pun on the phrase "Beyond the pale". In that context a pale refers to a fence around an enclosed settlement, or the settlement itself.
Page 21, panel 2. Another pun, Belle for bell.
Page 22, panel 6. This resembles a scene from the film version of Pink Floyd's The Wall when the rock star Pink is found collapsed on the floor of a hotel room by his manager. The manager was played by Bob Hoskins, Chris's agent looks like a combination of Hoskins and Roy Kinnear. Interestingly in the film during Pink's collapse he flashes back to the events of his childhood and tries to change them.
He also tries to snap out of one of the fantasy sequences by screaming "I want to go home" much like Chris does on page 19.
Page 26, panel 6. Sergeants usually have three stripes. Maybe Fuzzbox has received a brevet promotion from Corporal and has not had time to find an extra stripe. Or maybe they do things differently in the Ursine infantry, shorter arms and all that?
Page 28, panel 1. L.P.Hartley's novel The Go-Between begins with the famous line "The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there."
Page 28, panel 3. Bob Dog and the Captain look like familiar children's book characters but that might be for the same reason so many of the others do. Edginton and D'Israeli are successfully tapping into that rich history of characters from our childhood stories. There was a character called Bob Dog in the American children's TV series Mister Roger's Neighborhood.
Page 29, panel 1. The shopkeeper wears a Fez which is perhaps worth mentioning as D'Israeli is fond of drawing the Fez wearing shopkeeper from the TV show Mr Benn in his books.
Page 29, panel 2. A Mrs Miggins ran the pie shop in the second series of Blackadder and a coffee shop in the third series.
Page 31, panel 5. The airplanes resemble some of those used by the Vulture squadron in Dastardly and Muttley in their Flying Machines.
The skeletal soldiers wear German military helmets and uniforms.
Page 32, panel 2. The defending soldiers are dressed in traditional British colonial army uniforms from when having troops wearing bright red seemed like a good idea.
Their fatal charge recalls The Charge of the Light Brigade. It is also similar to the legend of the Battle of Krojanty when a Polish cavalry unit attacked German machine guns and armoured personnel carriers in 1939.
The Great Dictator was the title of a Charlie Chaplin film in which he parodied Hitler and Mussolini.
Notice the little square headed robot at the bottom of the panel. A similar robot appears as the logo of Must Destroy Records.
Page 33, panel 2. Rik Mayall played a character called Flasheart, or Flashheart, in the second and fourth series of Blackadder. The name may also be a nod to the character of Flashman who was the school bully in Tom Brown's Schooldays by Thomas Hughes, but who then became the dashing antihero of a series of novels by George MacDonald Fraser.
Page 34, panel 1. Here he's referred to as Flashheart.
Page 34, panel 5. Fuzzbox tells Chris "We'll meet again someday?" which is similar to a line from Vera Lynn's famous song "We'll meet again" which is strongly associated with the British Army in the Second World War.
Page 35. The over the top sequence is familiar from many films and iconic images of World War one.
Page 36, panel 1. In particular Fuzzbox's tragic demise and the appearance of the blood red Poppies recalls the emotional ending to the final episode of Blackadder Goes Forth.
Page 37, panel 5. Grahame's daughter wears a Fishpaste t-shirt.
Page 38, panel 3. There's a copy of the Eagle comic featuring Dan Dare in his trunk.
Page 38, panel 4. There is a brand of Teddy bear called Chumblies. This was also the name of some small robots in the Doctor Who story Galaxy 4.
Chapter Two. Note that they're stepping into a giant handprint.
Page 41, panel 2. Strictly speaking the doctor is holding an otoscope and should be looking in Chris's ears. An ophthalmoscope is used for examining eyes. However he might just be using the light of the otoscope to check pupillary reflexes.
Page 41, panel 4. Among the medical prints on the doctor's wall is this illustration of Bedlam, which was the slang name for the Bethlem psychiatric hospital in London.
Page 42, panel 3. "Like the seventh cavalry to save the day". The Seventh Cavalry was famously commanded by Lieutenant Colonel George Custer and all but wiped out at the Battle of Little Bighorn.
Page 42, panel 4. There's a copy of Lion comic on the bed.
Page 43, panel 2. One of the characters here has a round head and zig-zag jumper like Charlie Brown.
Page 44, panel 3. This panel has the same layout as panel 1 on page 28.
Page 45, panel 3. The Brontës created a fictional African kingdom called Angria. The capital of Angria was a glass city called Verreopolis or Verdopolis. Fantasy worlds like this are apparently known as Paracosms. Please email us with further examples.
The British Museum arch appears again.
Page 47, panel 4. Rubella is also known as German Measles.
Page 47, panel 5. Tetanus, Mastitis and Sexually Transmitted Diseases are obviously real conditions and may appear in information posters in a doctor's surgery, although probably not in such a graphic format!
Scrofula is more interesting. Known as the King's Evil, scrofula was probably tuberculosis of the lymph glands in the neck. It was reputed that the King's touch could cure it. Despite the resurgence of TB in recent years this condition is almost unheard of in Western countries. I'm not sure why a British general practitioner would have a Scrofula poster in their waiting room.
Page 48, panel 5. The TV show features thinly disguised versions of Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd.
Page 50, panel 1. Is this the ONGO statue from page 6, panel 1?
Page 51, panel 2. It would seem that Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck have been eaten and only their skulls remain?
Page 51, panel 3. The hero blundering into the dwelling of a cannibal character and discovering the steaming pot is a common storyline in fairy tales and legends. The next thing that usually happens is ...
Page 51, panel 4. Otto the Cannibal chef was glimpsed in the pictures at the gallery on page 19. He looks like a fairy tale troll or ogre wearing a Davy Crockett hat. His nose and mask recalls the Chief Blue Meanie from the Yellow Submarine film. It also looks like the mask Alex wears during the disturbing rape sequence in the film of Clockwork Orange. Otto can be seen again on the endpaper at the end of the book wearing his chef's outfit.
Page 52, panels 2 and 4. Otto talks in classical fairy tale giant style.
Page 56, panel 2. A Mugwump, with a U, was a creature in William Burroughs' novel Naked Lunch.
Page 58, panel 5. Otto says the "Time to Die" line used by Leon and Roy in Blade Runner. In particular Roy Batty says this to Deckard while stalking him through a ruined building in the film's finale.
Page 61, panel 2. The back page of the paper has a line about fish fondlers?
Page 62, panel 3. The British Telecom company have since replaced the piper logo with a new corporate logo.
Page 64, panel 1. As will be revealed in the next chapter the blue billboard poster shows a disembodied head with the caption "I am going to die of cancer soon" which seems unusual. Perhaps this is Chris's subconscious mind speaking to him?
Page 64, panel 4. The Dictator's assistant Hecktor looks a bit like one of the nightmarish creatures from Terry Gilliam's Time Bandits.
Chapter three. Chris and Fuzzbox appear to be playing with a version of Tiger Tim and a masked Charlie Brown. Tiger Tim appeared in his own comic in the early part of the 20th century.
Page 67, panel 3. The Dictator references Maurice Sendak's classic children's book Where the Wild Things are.
Page 67, panel 4. We've seen him already but this is the clearest image of the Great Dictator so far. His uniform and general appearance resembles a Prussian general. In chapter four we'll see that he is also wearing jodhpurs and riding boots. We almost expect a monocle and duelling scars.
Page 68, panel 4. A Blue Shift means that something is moving towards the observer. Something bad is coming for Chris and bearing in mind the title of the book we could almost say "Something wicked this way comes."
Page 69, panel 2. Another reference to the Light Brigade.
Page 70, panel 1. The use of O negative blood in the emergency trauma situation is appropriate. According to the blood bags it is "yummy"?
Page 72, panel 3. There's a famous Japanese film called Realm of the Senses.
Page 73, panel 2. The painting in this panel looks like a Turner but I'm not sure which one.
A Matter of Life and Death starring David Niven was released as Stairway to Heaven in the US. The central idea of a man caught between two worlds while his body undergoes surgery is, as Chris says, very similar to the film.
Page 75, panel 1. The elderly Colonel Flashheart resembles a character from another great Powell and Pressburger film The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp. The actor Roger Livesey plays a soldier called Clive Candy who fights in the Boer war and World War I but finds that by the time of World War II he is too old, and his morals and methods too old-fashioned for a 'modern' war.
Page 77, panel 2. The line "Old soldiers never die" was also used on page 68 of Scarlet Traces.
Page 77, panel 3. The list of the fallen includes several comic creators including the authors themselves, the letterer Woodrow Phoenix, Warren Ellis, Mark Buckingham and Steve Whittaker. Sadly Steve Whittaker died in early 2008. RIP
Page 78, panel 3. Flashheart uses the phrase The Great Game which is also the title of a book by Edginton and D'Israeli. His speech here is similar to the views expressed by Clive Candy in The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp.
Page 79, panel 4. The gun has the muzzle of a semi-automatic but other features of a revolver. On the next page it is shown to have a rear pull-type hammer. This doesn't resemble any particular gun, although it is slightly similar to an Austrian pistol called a Bittner.
It is possibly the type of gun a child would imagine which is, of course, entirely appropriate as everything in this world was created by Chris's brain when he was a boy.
Page 81, panel 2. The Dictator has a strange gargoyle servant who we don't recognise.
Page 82, panel 4. The floor map includes a Silver city, a Mirror forest, the Upside-Down woods, the tea room, a hill called Biblios, the Land under the Bed and the China mountains.
Page 83. Obvious references to the Lewis Carroll Alice books, the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe and to the Wizard of Oz. All of which involve fantasy worlds or Paracosms as we now like to call them!
Page 84, panel 3. Chris appears to have made a Mobius strip, possibly an indication of the link between the two worlds or between himself and the Dictator.
Page 86. Abandoned weaponry, muddy battlefields and refugees pushing handcarts look like the aftermath of so many bloody conflicts.
Page 87, panel 1. This is the character with the Charlie Brown jumper that we have seen before.
Page 88, panel 3. The Dictator's flag has a red background around a central circular design in black and white. As such it is very similar to the Nazi flag and to the one used by the British Union of Fascists.
Page 89, panel 1. The Land under the Bed looks like Mordor?
Chapter four. The adventurers in an upturned umbrella recall Christopher Robin rescuing Piglet from the flood in Winnie the Pooh, and also the Sage of Um from the Rupert the Bear stories who travelled in a flying umbrella.
Page 93, panel 1. The caption is the title of one of the Caprichos etchings by the artist Francisco Goya.
Chris is still receiving O negative blood. They have had time to cross-match him by now so this must be his actual blood group. It's still "yummy" apparently.
He must be in an NHS hospital because his cardiac monitor appears to be powered by clockwork.
There's a nice poster on the wall about what to do "When someone snuffs it".
Page 93, panel 2. The poster in the doctor's office gives some useful advice about the types of objects not to insert into part of your anatomy. It is generally accepted that every doctor has a story of a bizarre object they removed from a patient's delicate areas.
Page 93, panel 3. The doctor's thumb across the eye of the smiley face is a little nod to the iconic image from Watchmen.
Page 96, panel 6. This is Doctor 2. The other chap must be Doctor 1 ?
Page 96, panel 8. The doctors are describing the Vanishing Twin syndrome which does actually happen from time to time but not with the effects shown here.
Page 108, panel 4. The patchwork quilt of Castrovalva's landscape comes together. One of the squares seems to be Stonehenge.
Page 115, panel 3. Emma Grahame is reading Scarlet Traces. She has excellent taste.