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You are in the Annotations section > Chapter 1 > Part two (pages 11 to 20)

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Page 11

Upon seeing The Exorcist for the first time in many years shortly before scripting Heart of Empire, I was struck by how much an influence the atmosphere of the brilliant opening desert sequence must have unconsciously had on the "discovery of the codex" scene in The Adventures of Luther Arkwright. With these barking dogs, I was trying to get some of that atmosphere in there again - this time deliberately. You have to imagine the echoes.

1. This is another favourite place of mine in Rome, when it's devoid of tourists other than me. I love to sit at Barberini's table with a beer or espresso.


Page 12

The simulacrum is a symbol for the real Heart of Empire and an indication of its power, as well as being, I hope, an intriguing mystery. It directly faces the title page which names it, purposefully giving the game away right at the start (once you realise it!)

I cooked this spaghetti, and the bolognaise sauce specially so that I could draw it from life for this panel. I served out two portions for dinner, arranged the remainder into the simulacrum shape and stuck it in the fridge to draw the next day.

There's a couple of subliminal skulls in the sauce and a pretty blatant L for Luther in a piece of pasta.


Page 13

The frontispiece: this is genuine hand lettering (not computer generated) over a version of the British Royal crest which represents here the clash between Anne/Henry/the Empire as symbolised by the lion and Victoria and the forces of liberalisation represented as the unicorn. This crest dates back to the 14th Century with the formation of the Knights of the Garter (see below) and is the origin of the old nursery rhyme "The Lion and the Unicorn were fighting for the Crown".

The lion is well established as a symbol for Britain and its Monarchy and Royalty in general, being the "King of the Beasts", but can also represent cruelty and ferocity. The (white-haired) Unicorn has a strong association with young virgins (which Victoria is, at least at the beginning) and represents innocence, virtue and strength of mind. It adorns the breastplate of Victoria's Britannia costume and eventually becomes the symbol of Albion. It is an attribute of virgin moon goddesses, especially Artemis/Diana and the lion and unicorn together represent the contending forces of solar / male and lunar / female. In alchemical symbolism the lion is sulphur and the unicorn quicksilver.

The motto on the belt, "Honi soit qui mal y pense", is on the real thing and is the motto of the Knights of the Garter, who (on our parallel) still meet in St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle, thus its relevance to the story.

By Bryan Talbot: the stitched lettering was also hand-drawn by me, scanned, dropped in and coloured by Angus.

Angus did 6 different versions of the colours, each time refining it until it was the clearest and best we could get.

The deep blue background represents royalty.

The title: Heart of Empire.


Page 15

A direct reference to the very first page of The Adventures of Luther Arkwright. In the original story we see Arkwright standing before the memorial erected by Queen Victoria to her husband Prince Albert, "a result of Victoria's death-fetish" being one of the possible reasons. In this case it is The Arkwright Memorial and was built by Queen Anne, who has a death fetish extraordinaire. A major theme of the story is that of history repeating itself.

I think of this page and following sequence as the equivalent of the swelling of the main theme after the prelude in a piece of classical music, with the memorial, park and Crystal Palace as recurring melodies from a previous but thematically linked work: different works from the same cycle.

The figure was redrawn and reinked after I decided that Victoria's cloak was too plain. I redesigned it, loosely based on a cloak in a Victorian illustration. Here is the very first character sketch I did of Victoria.

Victoria's colours throughout the story are black, red and white (her hair). At the beginning she wears mainly black. By the end, mainly red.

While I was working on Heart of Empire, the real Albert Memorial was completely renovated and now gleams in refurbished Victorian splendour.


Page 16

3. I painstakingly hand-lettered the inscription, in perspective. Angus cheerfully told me later that he could have done it on the computer in five minutes.

4. The mysterious "firework device"

Maurice Williams : see page 65 notes.


Page 17

Not as striking as the cock-up with page 9, but here was another example of the wrong colour files being used on pages 16 and 17. These here are the correct files. In the comic Angus's penultimate drafts were used. Apart from the cruder state of the colours (no shine on the gloves, sky in the background of panel 4, where we should have been looking DOWN on Maurice etc.) the obvious difference is that Maurice's eyes were blue instead of green.


Eye level

The placement of the point of view of the reader is a very important visual storytelling device. For example, a high point of view, looking down on a character can make that character seem vulnerable. Batman and Judge Dredd are two examples of where a low eye level is consistently used to give these characters an aura of power: subliminally we are looking up at them: they are bigger than us. In The Tale of One Bad Rat I wanted the reader to sympathise with the protagonist, Helen - a survivor of child abuse. One of the ways I did this was to place her on the reader's eye level. Even when she was in a crowd, we were at her eye level, not those of the surrounding crowd. Of course, it would be boring if this was true for every panel and it's necessary to vary angles for dramatic effect but, for the majority of the panels, we were "with" Helen.

Victoria needed a different treatment. During the story Victoria's character changes, from the foul tempered, racist elitist (by dint of her upbringing and station in life) to a much better person, as a result of her experiences. So, at first, I didn't want the readers to empathise with her. Dramatic licence aside, our point of view throughout the first half of the story is at the eye level of people surrounding her - distancing the reader and giving her an aura of power. Subconsciously, we are "beneath" her. Suddenly, at the moment when the hallucinogenic tincture kicks in, the eye level jumps to Victoria's. We are now "with" her for the rest of the story.

Also note the smallness of her pupils. When we are pleased to see, or sexually aroused by someone, our pupils dilate. When asked to choose the most likeable faces from photographs, subjects in psychological tests always choose the ones with large pupils (even between photos of the same person - one with large pupils, one with small). Subconsciously we get the message that they are friendly towards us and therefore fundamentally nice people. Throughout the first half of the story, Victoria's pupils are small, for the reasons given above. At the same point where our eye level jumps to hers (page 155 onwards), Victoria's pupils suddenly dilate and remain large for the rest of the story, encouraging us to take a liking to her.

2. "God's tits": 17th Century English expletive.

3."Perfidious Albion": a phrase coined by Napoleon. The caricature of Anne as an octopus is a true reflection of the nature of the Empire and is another reference to Henry's "hellish estate". I had in mind "The Plum-pudding in danger", the famous cartoon by Gillray of Pitt and Napoleon carving up the world. From what we discover later, it's reasonable to assume the broadsheet was probably written by Gabriel Shelley. The cartoon I attributed to "Bell"; a parallel version of our own Steve Bell, political cartoonist for The Guardian and The New Statesman, who kindly gave his approval.

4. Divine Right: an obviously stupid and simpleminded doctrine to our modern eyes. Kings and Queens have the right, by birth, to rule and do whatever the hell they like because that's exactly what God wants. People actually used to believe this bullshit.

"Universal Suffrage"

It's important that the reader has to turn the page to see what they're talking about.


Page 18

The real Crystal Palace was built in Hyde Park to house Prince Albert's ambitious and wildly successful project, The Great Exhibition of 1851. It was later relocated to Sydenham (the area now called "Crystal Palace") where sadly it burned to the ground in 1936, a fate that's repeated in The Adventures of Luther Arkwright.

The famous nickname of the Great Exhibition building, "The Crystal Palace", was originally coined on our parallel by Punch magazine.

This drawing, based on a grainy photograph of the original, took four hours to ink and, grateful though I am, I still can't believe that Angus took a similar amount of time to colour it, masking off each individual window. The effect is dazzling. Other colourists would have told me to bugger off.

Barlowe: his name is a pathetic in-joke. "Superintendent Barlowe" played by Stratford Johns was a popular detective in the 60s and 70s British TV cop shows Z Cars and Softly, Softly.

"Ethiopian delineators": an authentic, typically Victorian euphemism for black face minstrels.


Page 19

1. "If one doesn't wish...etc." - see the notes for page 157.

4. Gabriel Shelley.

5. "The Great Exhibition": taken from The Great Exhibition of 1851, the grand project of Prince Albert and the reason for the construction of the original Crystal Palace, built to house it.


Page 20

2. Prof. Lang: not deliberately a caricature of Einstein as some have said, but simply a "German Mad Scientist" type. His skin: we realise by the end of the story that he has been dying from radiation sickness due to his exposure to refined "persephonium" (uranium) whilst working on his bomb.

4. The skyships first appeared in The Adventures of Luther Arkwright (as Prussian "Luftmaschines") and have been developed since, by the look of it. I originally designed these to get away from the zeppelins and blimps that usually clutter steampunk and retro SF stories and rather liked the idea of flying cruise liners, thinking more along the lines of something Jules-Verney. I don't know if these would be feasible - we never see inside these things. Perhaps they are very light - tin plate over a wooden frame - with huge bags of helium filling up the bulk of the interior?

5. Captain Clarke: a reference to the 23 enigma.

Go to the next page of notes.


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Heart of Empire Directors Cut
Contents | Annotations | Pencils | Inks | Colours | Hi-res colours | Index

Introduction | About the author | Dramatis Personae | Interviews | Back covers
Biographies | The Adventures of Luther Arkwright

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are copyright by Bryan Talbot 1997 - 2006:
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