Scarlet Traces

Notes by Eamonn Clarke

This is a set of annotations to the graphic novel Scarlet Traces by Ian Edginton and D'Israeli. Links to the other books in the series can be found on the home page.

The Title. Mikal Dyas notes a possible link with the title of Iain Sinclair's 1987 book White Chappell, Scarlet Tracings which deals with, amongst other things, the Jack the Ripper legends. Sinclair is an interesting writer concerned with the psychogeography of London. He has been cited by Alan Moore as one of the influences for From Hell particularly for the geographical landmarks, notably the Hawksmoor churches.

Page 6, panel 1. Note the Martian manipulators constructing a tower building which presumably account for the much altered and elevated London skyline here.

I've also just noticed the whale shaped airships which may be a reference I don't recognise. Interestingly there is revived interest in airships at the moment and in early 2008 a french architect called Jean-Marie Massaud unveiled his plan for a whale shaped floating hotel he has named Leviathan which happens to be the title of another Edginton/D'Israeli book! They should sue.

Page 6, panel 3. Pretty Polly Perkins of Paddington Green was a popular music hall song first published in 1864.
Eirik Hunt points out that it was sung by Henry Hook in the film Zulu. This film starred Michael Caine who crops up in Scarlet Traces as the inspiration for the appearance of Coughly.

Page 6, panel 4. Our first view of Ned Penny wearing his seaman’s cap from the HMS Thunder Child.

Page 6, panel 5. Penny has a Jack Russell dog, called Pike who will reappear in The Great Game.

Page 7, panel 1. Note the memorial to those who died in the Martian War marked with wreaths. Wreaths of Poppies were not used at memorials until after the battles of Flanders Fields in 1917 during the First World War which does not happen in the Scarlet Traces universe.

Page 7, panel 5. I’m not sure if American readers will be familiar with the word Palaver which means useless small talk or babble.

Page 8, panel 1. Penny makes his first reference to a returned monster. As later becomes clear Ned Penny believes that the drained corpses are the work of a vampire, probably Varney the Vampire who was a character introduced in 1845 in a series of cheap pamphlets known as Penny Dreadfuls. It seems appropriate for a character called Penny to introduce this idea into Scarlet Traces.

Page 9, panel 1. The narration tells us that ten years have passed since the Martian invasion. As we later learn that the date of the invasion was 1898, the year of the publication of Wells’ novel, this puts us in 1908. Queen Victoria died in 1901, her son Edward VII is on the throne (assuming he survived the War).

Page 10, panel 1. Instead of a London underground rail network we have an Overground network powered by Martian technology. There isn’t an underground station called Oxford Street St Giles circus, the equivalent is Oxford Circus. Having slightly different names for elevated stations seems to make sense. The London Underground first adopted the Roundel design sign shown here in 1908.

Page 10, panel 2. In Trafalgar Square we see the memorial to HMS Thunder Child, which is referred to as the Thunderchild throughout Scarlet Traces. In TWOTW the Thunder Child was an ironclad torpedo ram which took on a number of Martian Tripods before being destroyed by a heat ray. It is famously depicted in the iconic image on the cover of Jeff Wayne’s musical version of TWOTW.

Obviously there is no bridge above Trafalgar square; this just illustrates how the London of Scarlet Traces has expanded upwards using the new technology.

Page 10, panel 3. A visual joke about Japanese tourists posing for photographs in front of Nelson’s column. Note the miniature tripod machines dealing with Trafalgar square’s ever present pigeon problem!

Page 10, panel 5. This is the Crystal Palace which has become London’s main airport. Built for the Great Exhibition of 1851 the real Crystal Palace was destroyed in a fire in 1936.

The flying wing aircraft reminds me of the Vulcan bombers used by the RAF in the 1950s.

Page 10, panel 6. The crowd are watching the Changing of the Guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace, but with a difference.

Page 11, panel 2. Major Robert Autumn DSO. I suppose it’s just possible that Autumn’s name is a reference to the song Forever Autumn from Jeff Wayne’s musical version of TWOTW.

DSO stands for the Distinguished Service Order, a medal introduced by Queen Victoria in 1886 and typically awarded to officers ranked Major or higher.

Page 11, panel 4. Major Robert Autumn is very much the classic Victorian Gentleman Adventurer in the mould of Allan Quatermain. Here we see some of the bits and pieces he has collected on his travels including Elephant guns, a Kris dagger, shield, spear and sword. As well as some interesting looking skulls.

Page 11, panel 5. Presumably this picture is Autumn’s wife?I don’t think she is mentioned in the text. Did she die in the Martian war? Autumn is shown in his military uniform. He appears to have visited Japan on his travels.

Rowin Buist points out that Ian Edginton originally intended that the gallant major should have a feisty and aristocratic love interest. However as the story evolved the role of Ned Penny expanded and there wasn't time and space for the heroine. Instead this character became the basis of Lady Charlotte Hemming in The Great Game.

Page 13, panel 4. The word Synchronicity was coined by Carl Jung in the 1920s so its use here might be anachronistic. However, Autumn could have met the young psychoanalyst on his travels and been introduced to the concept before it became popular fifteen years later.

Page 14, panel 1. I don’t recognise Detective Inspector Derbyshire and Sergeant Chips but feel that I should? There is a Detective Sergeant Chipps in Stickleback by the same authors.

Page 15, panel 1. Greenwich observatory has clearly been expanded with new technology. The large pyramid with the black globe on top never existed in our world.
Tom Proudfoot notes that the statue of General Wolfe of Quebec can be seen silhouetted in front of the pyramid.

Page 15, panel 3. Above the door is a variation on the Masonic square and compass design. Freemasonry also features in the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and The Man who would be King. Bernard Paxton adds that this symbol also appeared on the flag of East Germany during the years of the Berlin wall. There is a Spartan helmet design on the trolley at bottom right of the panel.

Tom Proudfoot points out that the light above the desk is an Orrery, a mechanical device to plot the positions and movements of the planets. Bearing in mind what we will learn of Spry's plans at the end of the book it would clearly be important for him to know when Mars was closest to Earth.

There's also a statue of Hermes, and all in all this staircase looks similar to the library of the Brotherhood of the Book in Stickleback. Hermes was the god of boundaries so it could be argued that this represents a link to the library which connects all the various worlds in the Edginton/D'Israeli universe. See my notes about page 85 of Stickleback.

Page 16, panel 1. Adam Bezecny points out that Spry was the name of one of Dan Dare's cadets, Christopher Philip 'Flamer' Spry. Possible one of Dr Spry's descendents?

Page 16, panel 2. On Dr Spry’s desk are a Spartan helmet and a design which may be for the rail gun seen on the Moon in Scarlet Traces: The Great game. It would seem that the Spartan helmet has been adopted as a symbol of Spry’s organisation.

Page 16, panel 3. H.G. Wells’s first name was, of course, Herbert.

Page 17, panel 5. This image of the starving girl is familiar but I can’t place it.

Page 22, panel 1. Another helmet design. Tom Proudfoot notes that this one is very similar to the logo of Trojan Records.

Page 22, panel 2. Sir John Cabal is the Prime Minister. John Cabal was the name of the pilot in the film Things to Come which Wells adapted from his own novel The Shape of Things to Come.

Page 22, panel 8. Cabal refers to an earlier incident which may relate to events connected to the discoveries on page 57?

Page 23, panel 2. “God is an Englishman”. A popular expression used to describe the Victorian era and the British Empire. Possibly based on a quote by Grant Allen: “An Englishman's idea of God is another Englishman twelve feet tall”.

Page 24, panel 3. I have no idea why there is a tin of Fish Paste in Autumn’s bag of tools. Anyone? The mystery solved.

Page 25, panel 2. The steward informs Autumn and Currie that they will shortly be arriving at Glascow Central. Tom Proudfoot reminded me that this is the current train station you arrive in if travelling from London.

Page 26, panel 1. I do not know of any vampire legend about Dulwich Red. It’s possible that this might be a nod to the vampiric bounty hunter Durham Red from 2000 AD.

Tom Proudfoot notes that this panel is similar to the work of Giovanni Piranesi. See page 55 for more details.

Page 26, panel 2. While Ned Penny describes his findings and his vampire theory we can see Coughly and Dravott for the first time. As others have pointed out they appear to be based on Peachey Carnehan and Daniel Dravot, the two roguish adventurers from Rudyard Kipling’s The Man who would be King. In Scarlet Traces they resemble Michael Caine and Sean Connery who played them in the movie adaptation.

Page 26, panel 3. The appearance of the landlord and his companion may be based on the actors Sid James and Barbara Windsor who were very popular in the Carry On films.

As we discover on page 42 this pub is in the fictional borough of Walford, the setting for the TV show EastEnders. In recent years Barbara Windsor has played Peggy Mitchell the landlady of the Queen Vic pub in Albert Square, Walford.

Page 28, panel 3. Dravott calls Coughly “Peachy” confirming the link to The Man who would be King.

Page 28, panel 4. Tom Proudfoot notes that Coughly also calls Dravott 'Danny boy' further confirming the link.

Page 27, panel 9. Eirik Hunt points out that the timer on the bomb has the inscription Faraday Fishpaste.

Page 29, panel 2. Eirik also notes that there was a character called Greengrass in the long running British TV series Heartbeat. Although the sign here probably just says 'Greengrocers'.
The street name Erskine could be based on a number of people or places.

Page 30, panel 3. There have been several events referred to as ‘Bloody Sunday’ involving violent clashes between demonstrators and the authorities. The most notable probably being the shooting of several civilians by the British Parachute regiment in Northern Ireland in 1972. The earliest event with that name occurred in London in 1887 and again involved clashes on the subject of the ‘Irish problem’.

Page 30, panel 8. Mike McLean emailed me to note that the shop on the left is called Oakley & Co after one of Matt D'Israeli Brooker's friends Shane Oakley, artist on Alan Moore's Albion.

Page 31, panel 1. Paul Schroeder points out that the printer working here looks a lot like D'Israeli himself.

Page 31, panel 6. A bookshop called McLean’s appears in the ruined London scenes at the end of Edginton and D’Israeli’s TWOTW book (TWOTW page 45, panel 3). There was also a wine shop of the same name (TWOTW page 54, panel 4).

This post on D'Israeli's blog reveals that his friend Mike McLean is the owner of Asylum Books And Games in Aberdeen. He makes regular appearances in D'Israeli's books and will crop up again on page 14 of The Great Game.

Likewise D Moyes is a reference to another of D'Israeli and Edginton's friends, the writer David Moyes.
Eirik Hunt reminds me that he also shows up in Leviathan and Stickleback.

Brooker is D'Israeli's real name. He makes all the Fishpaste in these books.

Presumably the other shops are also owned by friends of Edginton and D'Israeli.
Update: Mike McLean himself emailed me to add that Bett's the Butchers is a reference to Julie Bett a friend of Mike and Matt Brooker. They often tease her about her violent tendencies.

The right hand shop apparently makes Flummery which is a kind of pudding. Paul Schroeder also notes that the shop is owned by someone whose name begins J.Den... which may be reference to Jenny Denitto who was the drummer with the band Linus and was a friend of the late Steve Whittaker.
However, Mike McLean tells me that that this may be named after another comics creator called Jeremy Dennis.

Page 32, panel 4. The advertising posters on the office wall look authentic but I cannot find their real-life counterparts.

Page 34, panel 1. Another Faraday Fishpaste bomb timer.

Page 38, panel 2. The street scene reminds me of the paintings of L.S. Lowry.

Page 39, panel 2. Adam Bezecny notes that Davy Currie's wife is called Marie. An odd echo of Marie Curie.

Page 39, panel 10. The paper may refer to Jo-Jo the Dog-faced boy.

Page 40, panel 2. TitBits was a weekly magazine first published in 1881. It covered salacious stories with lurid headlines and pictures of attractive women. It still survives in a slightly different format today.

Below the picture of Ned Penny there seems to be a reference to the Elephant Man. Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man, died in 1890.

Page 42, panel 2. The panel which set us all looking for references.

Behind Autumn and Currie are Phileas Fogg and Passepartout.

The man in the red fez seems to be the shopkeeper from Mr Benn.

On the left of the panel are Captain Haddock, Tintin and Snowy the dog.

Over Tintin’s shoulder is a bearded gentleman who resembles Allan Quartermain but could also be one of the politicians who appear at the end of the book.

I don’t know who the man in the Russian jacket is.

Page 43, panel 3. Autumn asks the cabbie to take them to Walford which is the name of the fictional district in the  BBC TV soap EastEnders.

Page 43, panel 4. The date problem.

Sharp-eyed readers will have already noticed in previous panels that this newspaper presents a date problem.The paper banner is dated June 20th, 1900. It is clearly a current paper as the front page headline is about Ned Penny and the Dulwich Red story. If we accept the convention that the events of TWOTW occurred in the year of the book’s publication 1898, then Autumn’s narration at the start of Scarlet Traces and Cabal’s speech at the end would set this book in 1908. This paper puts us in 1900 when Queen Victoria is still on the throne and the newspaper banner proclaims “God save the Queen”.

To add to the confusion the countdown clock in Spry’s Carfax office gives the date as 1904.

Page 43, panel 5. Marble Arch makes its Scarlet Traces appearance. The park on the left is Hyde park.

Page 44, panel 1. The first advertising banner tells us to eat Mongue. I have no idea what that is.
However, Mike McLean emailed me to recount an in-joke amongst Matt Brooker and his friends about the truly terrible culinary creation of a former flatmate which has ever since been known as Mongue.

The second is for Zopto-Bemsol which reminds me of Pepto-Bismol, and is presumably a fictional patent medicine, possibly like the miraculous Tono-Bungay in Wells’ novel of the same name.

Zopto-Bemsol also appeared on page 30, panel 3 of Edginton and D’Israeli’s TWOTW.

I can’t decipher the third poster. The fourth one is for Bovril.

Eirik Hunt notes that the advertising banners use the same style font as the album art for Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds.

Page 45, panel 4. More Zopto-Bemsol.

Page 46, panel 1. The destroyed pub was called the Queen Bess. The pub in EastEnders is called the Queen Vic.

Page 46, panel 5. “Father McTell’s Seaman’s Mission” is a nod to Ralph McTell and his song “Streets of London”, the last verse of which is:

And have you seen the old man
Outside the seaman's mission
Memory fading with
The medal ribbons that he wears.
In our winter city,
The rain cries a little pity
For one more forgotten hero
And a world that doesn't care

Which seems very appropriate for Scarlet Traces.

Page 47, panel 7. The Coldstream Guards are Britain’s oldest regiment.

Page 49, panel 1. The notes at the end of the volume tell us this is Carfax Abbey which was a fictional ruin used by Count Dracula as his English base in Bram Stoker’s novel. The abbey was based on St Mary’s Abbey in Whitby in the north of England but the Dracula legend places Carfax on the outskirts of London.

Page 49, panel 2. It’s impossible to hear the Martian singing “Daisy, Daisy” without being reminded of the HAL 9000 computer losing its mind in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Page 49, panel 4. More Spartan helmet images. The Mister X like lab workers also have the badge on their coats.

Page 51. Clytie was a water spirit who loved Apollo the Sun God. When he abandoned her she pined away, refusing food and drink while always staring at the Sun. She was transformed into a Sunflower.

Page 52, panel 1. The image reminds me of Jerome K Jerome’s novel Three Men in a Boat which features, as the title suggests, the exploits of three men (and a dog) on a boat trip along the Thames.

However, Autumn’s narration and his comment on the preceding page that “We are in Hell” tells us that this is a much darker journey and refers to Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Which was, of course, the inspiration for Apocalypse Now.

Page 52, panel 6. Varney the Vampire is named.

Page 52, panel 7. The Red Weed from TWOTW.

Page 54, panel 4. Autumn quotes from Shakespeare's Henry V.

Once more into the breech dear friends, once more,
Or close the wall up with our English dead

Page 55, panel 3. Thanks to Mikal Dyas for pointing out that the catacombs are based on etchings by the Italian artist Piranesi.

Page 56, panel 6. The skull and bat wings design may signify Dracula. However it is also seen in English churches where the skull has one bat's wing signifying death and one angel or dove's wing signifying life.

 

Page 57, panel 2. This panel is puzzling:

Katherine Curry is the name of Archibald Currie’s missing niece.

Mary Kelly was the last of the ‘canonical’ five victims of Jack the Ripper. Her body was discovered in 1888 (although the movie version of From Hell suggests she may have survived).

Mary Reilly was the name of Dr Jekyll’s maidservant in Valerie Martin’s novel Mary Reilly.
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde was published in 1886.

I’m probably getting too hung up on the dates issue and this is just Edginton and D’Israeli nodding towards other SF classics from this period.

I didn’t recognise the name Katrina Kaye.However Ken Shinn was kind enough to email and let me know that Catriona Kaye is a recurring character in many of Kim Newman's Diogenes Club stories. She frequently appears in a Thin Man style relationship with her paramour and fellow sleuth Edwin Winthrop. Newman also wrote the Anno Dracula books and it seems possible that the Scarlet Traces version of Kaye was investigating Carfax Abbey and came to an unfortunate end.

Page 58, panel 1. Spry’s design resembles the suits worn by the adventurers in the film version of H.G. Wells’ First Men in the Moon.

Page 58, panel 3. We get a closer look at Spry’s office in the notes at the end of the book.Note the space suit from First Men in the Moon. The date on the clock says 1904.

Are the red jars samples of different bloods that they tried to feed the Martian?
Note: the expanded scene of the office in the backnotes shows that the contents of the jars are even more gruesome.

Page 58, panel 6. Autumn knows Spry as the head of British Intelligence and the spymaster of the Great Game.

Page 58, panel 7. Spry and Autumn are too young to have been involved in the Crimean war of 1854-56. Presumably Autumn refers to some secret operation involving British Spies in the Crimean Peninsula.

Page 58, panel 8. The Great Game refers to a fascinating period of European history when the British and Russian empires struggled for control of parts of Europe, Asia and the Balkans.

It involved a great deal of subterfuge, spying and adventurous derring-do. It was very much a Victorian version of the Cold War.

The phrase ‘The Great Game’ was popularised by Rudyard Kipling’s book Kim. For more information read Peter Hopkirk’s book on the subject.

Page 59, panel 8. Autumn was not in England at the time of the Martian invasion. As we learned in book one he and Currie were probably rescuing Emperor Menelik in Ethiopia in 1898 or recovering in Sevastopol.

This panel is also based on Piranesi's etchings.

Page 60, panel 1. John Bull is a stereotypical personification of Great Britain.

Page 60, panel 2.Update: On his blog D'Israeli says the statues are of Gog and Magog.

Page 60, panel 3. The Rosetta Stone is in the British Museum. Because it features the same piece of text in three different languages it was the key to deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphics.

Page 60, panel 4. Walmington-on-sea is the fictional home of the Home Guard unit in the long running British TV comedy series Dad’s Army.

Page 61, panel 4. Tom Proudfoot quite rightly points out that "Big Hug" was one of the catchphrases of the Teletubbies!

Page 62, panel 1. Adam Bezecny made an amazing catch here. The holographic projection of Martian text is written in Doop speak, the language used by the character Doop from the X-Men comics. Using one of the available online translation keys such as the one here, Adam was able to translate this text as:

"There was a young man from Madras,
Whose balls were made out of brass,
When he banged them together,
They played stormy weather,
And lightning shot out of his ass."

Blimey!

And Adam wrote again to note that this limerick appeared in the film Leprechaun 3.
Although the limerick probably predates the film as most rude limericks seem to go back several years.

Page 68, panel 6. “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away” comes from a music-hall song of the same name from about 1900. The phrase was famously used in his retirement speech by General Douglas MacArthur in 1951.

Page 69, panel 1. This must be an ancestor of Kate Adie, the BBC journalist and war reporter.

Tom Proudfoot notes that the phrase 'Stellar Expeditionary Force' recalls the British Expeditionary Force from world wars I and II.

Page 70, panels 1-4. Apart from Spry I don’t recognise the men sitting behind Cabal on the platform.
However Tom
Proudfoot points out that the speech is coming live from Khartoum and that bearded gentleman to the left of Cabal may therefore be General Gordon of Khartoum.
Adam Bezecny suggests that it could be Professor Quatermass based on his resemblance to Andrew Keir in the film version of Quatermass and the Pit and the fact that he's obviously involved in rocketry.

Adam also notes that the beer bottle Autumn throws at the screen in panel 5 is a real brand of beer called Old Jock Ale.

Page 71, panel 4. The bobby calls his partner 'George'. Adam points out that this could be George Dixon from Dixon of Dock Green, a character who also appears in Stickleback by Edginton and D'Israeli.

Page 71, panel 8. The posters on the wall show the cover of the Varney the Vampire Penny Dreadful. Either a publisher has jumped on the Dulwich red bandwagon or the government have re-issued it as a convenient 'cover' story for the events of Scarlet Traces. The smaller poster appears to be for Star Brand Fishpaste.

On to The Great Game

Back to The War of the Worlds

Back Home