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Alan Moore Writes A Gay, Jewish


Protagonist For Providence To
Address Lovecrafts Prejudices
Posted April 23, 2015 by by Hannah Means Shannon

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The first issue of the new series Providence, by Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows,
arrives on May 27th, and weve run an interview on the site previously, as well as an
advance review of the first issue. But this week, you can also find an interview with Alan
Moore in Bleeding Cool Magazine #16, on the subject of Lovecrafts legacy and the
cultural context of the comic. Today we bring you a companion piece to that interview,
something of a Part 2 which explicitly addresses the character choices made by Moore
and Burrows in their protagonist, Robert Black. Weve also thrown in a delightfully direct

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rejoinder that Moore presents when pondering whether the series Providence is likely to
meet with the same library-banned fate as its forerunner by Moore and Burrows,
Neonomicon.

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For
those who are H.P. Lovecraft fans, and have followed the tradition of scholarship and
research that surrounds his life and works, you may well be aware that H.P. Lovecraft
was vocally homophobic and anti-Semitic in his personal life and, to some extent in his
writings. In fact, thats one of the things Ive seen crop up in conversations about this
comic Providence already, in the form of speculation. Some fans have essentially asked
why people who create Lovecraft-based stories shy away from addressing these hard
truths about Lovecrafts prejudices.
So its with great pleasure that I present this interview with Moore on the subject of
Robert Black, a character who is revealed very early on in the series to be both gay and
Jewish, and why Moore felt it not only appropriate but necessary that his protagonist
should navigate life as an outsider in the year 1919 in a world of Lovecrafts creation.
Moores choices are particularly significant because the reader will be spending quite a lot
of personal time with Robert Black in the comic. Not only is he a perspective character,
but he is also associated with much of the meta-material included in the series, and as

http://www.bleedingcool.com/2015/04/23/alan-moore-writes-a-gay-jewish-protagonist-for-providence-to-address-lovecrafts-prejudices/[31/08/2015 17:17:04]

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Alan Moore Writes A Gay, Jewish Protagonist For Providence To Address Lovecraft's Prejudices - Bleeding Cool Comic Book, Movie, TV News

Black experiences outsider status, so too does the reader.

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HMS: Can you tell us about this really important element that helps pull all
the ideas in Providence together, which is the character Robert Black? How
did you decide on his features and his personality?
Alan Moore: Robert Black. I decided that I wanted somebody who provided an example
of the new American man around about 1919. I wanted somebody who was young, who
had a sense of purpose, but who was an outsider. Somebody who was not related to the
mainstream of American society, whatever that was. I chose some parts of Roberts
character specifically because they resonated interestingly with some of Lovecrafts
prejudices.
I thought this would be a good way to actually make some of Lovecrafts views
emotionally explicit by showing them from the point of view of someone who could not
help but be hurt by them. Robert is probably a little too smart for his own good. Hes
bookish, hes literary, he thinks hes a little bit cleverer than he is. He is planning to write
a Great American Novel where he is planning to use the Outsiders, perhaps occult
Outsiderswhom he is on the trail of across New Englandas a metaphor for social
outsiders. Perhaps for his kind of social outsider. Hes looking for a metaphor but what
he finds is far from metaphorical (laughs). He also starts to question the notion of what a
real outsider might be.
The idea of the outsider was, I think, fairly central in Lovecrafts fiction, and also in his
image of himself. I think he saw himself as a stranger in the 20th century, as an outsider.
Probably not the same kind of outsider as the decomposing ghoul in the story of that
name, but probably not a million miles away from it. Now, I would question whether
Lovecraft really was an outsider, any more than any of us are.

Im sure he felt like one, but if you actually look at his


attitudes, they are actually precisely those of the white, middle class Anglo-Saxon
Protestant heterosexual men of his period. All of his fears were almost exactly the median
of social fears at the time. He was frightened of Bolsheviks. He was frightened of
foreigners. He was frightened of women. He was frightened of gay people.
In Providence, we kind of examine the idea of the outsider. Who is the real outsider? Is it
Robert Black? Is it any of the characters we meet during the course of Providence where
their outsider status might perhaps be more profound? Providence gives us a chance to
look at that and Robert Black seemed like an interesting character for it.
We needed to have a journalist. I considered other options, but journalist seemed like the
kind of profession that might easily lead to the kind of narrative that I was imagining.
And once wed decided upon journalist, it was a matter of filling in the background.
Which newspaper? These were things that Steve Moore found out for me, things about

http://www.bleedingcool.com/2015/04/23/alan-moore-writes-a-gay-jewish-protagonist-for-providence-to-address-lovecrafts-prejudices/[31/08/2015 17:17:04]

Alan Moore Writes A Gay, Jewish Protagonist For Providence To Address Lovecraft's Prejudices - Bleeding Cool Comic Book, Movie, TV News

the New York Herald, its history, and its offices. The fact that they had discovered David
Livingston. I found out later that theyd also been a prime mover in the case of Mary
Rogers, the murdered cigar girl that Edgar Allan Poe based Marie Roget upon. The New
York Herald had been a kind of scandal-mongering rag that had been behind quite a lot
of that.
Having situated Robert, I worked out where hed come from, that hed come from
Milwaukie, in Wisconsin. That for various reasons hed felt dissatisfied or hemmed in by
his upbringing and he had wanted to go to the big city. Where he could pursue, amongst
other things, his career as a journalist. That mustve been a fairly common story back
then, at the start of the 20th century when everybody had such hopes for it, and for
themselves, before Prohibition happened. When people still believed that, No, no, no
theyll never enforce Prohibition. Everybody likes a drink too much; itll never happen.
This was before the time when the First World War concluded, and when everybody kind
of worried that the Versailles Treaty would stir up trouble that would inevitably lead to a
Second World War. All of these things put Robert right at the heart of things. As a
reporter, reporters are sensitive to their times and the world around them. They are well
informed. I could use Robert to say intelligent things about the culture that he was living
in. I think that he makes quite a good Lovecraftian protagonist. Hes certainly not a
muscular, two-fisted Robert E. Howard type.

HMS: Thats right. Hes not.


AM: Hes much closer to Lovecraft characters, even if there are a couple of areas where
its very unlikely that hed be the kind of character that Lovecraft would have written. By
the time Id finished writing that first episode of the series, I felt that I at least had a
handle on Roberts personality. I felt that I knew him and I could navigate him through
the rest of the series without too much difficulty.
HMS: Thank you. I have one more question today. Do you expect that this
book, Providence, will be banned and kept out of libraries on the basis of the
same kinds of criticism leveled at Neonomicon?
AM: Now, I was probably very remote and distant at the time, and didnt hear an awful
lot about those criticisms, but if I understand the situation properly now, I dont think I
wouldve been greatly distressed even if I had known more about them then. Correct me
if Im wrong, but it seems to me that this might have been the problem of people whose
idea of a comic has not been modified in the last 40 years or so. These are people who,
though working at libraries, are still working under the assumption that all comics are for
children.

http://www.bleedingcool.com/2015/04/23/alan-moore-writes-a-gay-jewish-protagonist-for-providence-to-address-lovecrafts-prejudices/[31/08/2015 17:17:04]

Alan Moore Writes A Gay, Jewish Protagonist For Providence To Address Lovecraft's Prejudices - Bleeding Cool Comic Book, Movie, TV News

HMS: Yes. Thats a fair summation.


AM: Which is clearly not the case, certainly over here. I dont know about AmericaI
havent been to America for a long time. But over here most people kind of understand
that not all comics are for children, and certainly not over the past 30 or 40 years. If I
could suggest that people in libraries, or in positions like that actuallyhow to put this?
actually read the material that they are allocating. If they cant be bothered to do that,
and if they cant be bothered to actually keep up with the current state of culture, then
Im afraid that I dont have a great deal of sympathy for them. Perhaps if they just did
their job? And actually read the material?
Let me just say for the record: I think that very little of my work is suitable for children.
It is not written for children. It is written for adults. Some of it is, perhaps, more
innocuous than other material. I deal with H.P. Lovecraft in The League of
Extraordinary Gentlemen as well as in Neonomicon and Providence, but its two
very, very different approaches to H.P. Lovecraft. One of them is the kind of playful,
broader fictional mosaic of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which Lovecrafts
characters are made to fit into. This one, Providence, is pure Lovecraft. This one is more
grown up and more intense than any treatment I have done of Lovecraft that I have done
before. I would say that it is probably more extreme, in its way, than Neonomicon, which
did not set out to be extreme. As with Providence, I simply set out to follow Lovecrafts
ideas to what I see as their logical, dramatic conclusion. It is not my intent to shock or
offend, I simply dont care that much. That probably sounds awful, but I dont write my
work thinking about a reader who is likely to be offended, particularly a reader who has
evidently picked up my work by a grotesque mistake.

HMS: Absolutely.
AM: Im mainly writing to please myself. Of course, Im not solipsistic. I hope that I
write well enough to know that when Im pleasing myself, I will be pleasing the reader as
well. But, you can never predict these things. There may be people who look at a few
pages of Providence and think, Yes, this is the perfect book to put next to The Cat in the
Hat.
HMS: (Laughs) Im trying very hard not to imagine that actually happening
now
AM: They may well think that, but I dont really think that I can be held responsible, and
I dont second guess that stuff. Let me just say again: Providence is really, really horrible,

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Alan Moore Writes A Gay, Jewish Protagonist For Providence To Address Lovecraft's Prejudices - Bleeding Cool Comic Book, Movie, TV News

and its really disturbing, its really frightening, and its meant for grown-ups. Even if you
do accidentally find it in some childs corner of your library, Id advise you to take it to
the main desk and ask that it be re-allocated. But thats pretty much as much as I can say
about the matter.
HMS: Well, thank you. Thats a very earthy and realistic answer to that
question.
AM: If people are determined to misconstrue you, then Im sure they will do so, but I
cant really concern myself with them.

Providence #1 arrives on May 27th and Providence #2 arrives on June 24th in shops,
and are currently listed in Previews World with item codes MAR150951
andAPR151097. You can find the solicit information for issue #3 here on Bleeding Cool.
Avatar Press is the parent company to Bleeding Cool.

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Alan Moore Writes A Gay, Jewish Protagonist For Providence To Address Lovecraft's Prejudices - Bleeding Cool Comic Book, Movie, TV News

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