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Rocks and Hard Places

March 8, 2000...April 2000
(24 pgs.)


Obviously a take off on various True Romance Comic Books published from the 50's onwards. See for example Truer than True Romance: Classic Love Comics Retold by Jeanne Martinet published by DC Comics

Note the hearts in the background on the cover. The Caption "Was I a Living Legend...or a "Love Cheat?"" could have come straight from any one of the true love comics this is parodying.

refers to an old expression
Caught between a rock and a hard place
which basically means stuck in a difficult situation. There is a site called What's the Meaning of this which lists this phrase but doesn't actually explain it.

William Woolcott's version of Promethea shows Sophie how our life looks when viewed from the perspective of the Immateria. As her explanation progresses it all becomes hyperreal and photographic images take over from comic book sketches for a while. At the hospital Sophie wakes up just before all the demons arrive to attack her.

I'm Big Bill at the moment. I'm not as deep as Margaret or as witty as Grace and I wanted you to notice me. - William "Bill" Woolcott or Promethea(4), pg. 4
I worked on Promethea longer than anyone, '39 through '69. My Promethea wasn't the wisest or the strongest, but I like to think she was the nicest" - Bill Woolcott, pg 5
"... to be honest , Bill was as gay as a spring lamb. Of course, the expression at the time was 'confirmed bachelor' and Bill was certainly that - Promethea(4), pg. 5
"Mine was also sort of the silliest Promethea. Always growing to a giant or visiting Toytown. Actually I didn't think it was silly. I thought it was playful. It was meant for children..." - Promethea(4), pgs 6-7.
All you can consume in roughly seventy years - Roadside Sign - pg. 8
"You could be an intellectual and join the literati. You could be a drunk and join the obliterati" - Promethea(4), pg. 8
"Changing the world's as easy as changing your mind. It's just that matter's thicker and move viscous than imagination so it takes longer" - Promehtea(4) pg. 11
"All myths are true, Sophie. Given that they last longer , they're even truer than the so-called 'real world'" - Promethea(4), pg. 20.


Page 1: Note how the Panels in this issue of action that takes place in the "real" world are mostly circular eg. pgs 2-3, 10-11 (rectangular view), 22-24. I'm not sure if this is significant or not. On this page note how the first panel is small and they keep getting bigger as the platform gets close to earth. Note that the dialogue lettering also starts off small and gets bigger.
Page 1, Panel 1: High Five - first mention of the orbiting satellite that is the HQ of the 5 Swell Guys. We will get to see it in Issue #11.
Panel 2 Suffragette City - is the name of a David Bowie Song
In the first story of Tom Strong Issue #19 (April 2003) entitled Electric Ladyland we learn that The Shelter, sometimes called Suffragette City or Electric Ladyland is an enclave founded secretly by Women’s Liberationists in the Sixties. It is located in Nevada and run by Taylor Sullivan, the Matriach of Matriarchs or M.O.M.. We also learn about a gas called Androgon which turns men into women which probably explains what happened to Roger.
Electric Ladyland is the name of a Jimi Hendrix album.
Whole Page panel: The advertising encourages us to Try New Balls and also The Love Club is offering Free Sex. Other signs partly readable include part of an ELASTAGEL sign and T.. something. Looks like CLY on top right hand side of page. The city seems to be split into numbered levels. The higher you go the higher the number. Here we can clearly see Levels 23 and 22 numbered. They Skybus seems to be going to Firn. Very nice subtle raindrops visible on this page
Page 2, top panel: Two technicians wearing TEXTureTM raincoats are visible. Sign reading
Quit hounding Baskerville
leaves no doubt as to where the mayor gets his surname from. 42 personalities. 42 could be a reference to Douglas Adams' Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy where the computer Deep Thought came up with the answer to Life the Universe and Everything. Multiple Personality sufferers seem to be represented in the crowd.
Page 3, Panels 3-4: Usually Stacia mispronounces Prometheas' name but here for the first time someone else mispronounces Promethea and Stacia corrects her.

Pages 4-5: Note the clocks behind Big Bill. The Space scene on pg. 5 is filled with planets and cubes and eyes in the sky. Also Apples with wings. I might be reading too much into it but you could say Apple = Beatles, Wings = Paul McCartney. Nice face in the ground too.
Page 4 Panel 2: Nice star in a circle at the top of this panel.
Claire Jordan notes that
The star-in-circle at the top of this page is Bill's own version of the Promethea sun. Later, when Sophie summons four Prometheas to the hospital, this sign will appear over Bill's head, along with the Maori sun for Grace, the stone one for Sophie and the slightly depressed-looking one for Margaret.
William Woolcott The only famous person I can think of with a surname of Woolcott was Alexander Woolcott an American Theatre critic who helped discover the Marx Brothers and was the basis of the lead character in The Man who Came to Dinner. Also here
Pages 6-7, top panel: Big Bill's shoes can be seen on left (pg 6) but he has also just turned into little Promethea sitting on the dodgem car (pg 7)
Middle panels: Eyes and planets and stars still predominate up in the night sky but Sophie is now starting to learn in more detail about the 4 magical weapons or elements or human qualities represented by Wands, Cups, Swords and Coins signifying Fire, Water, Air and Earth and corresponding to Spirit, Compassion, Intellect and Physical existence. Apart from planets and eyes in the sky we can also see the four suits of modern day playing cards. Diamonds, Spades, Hearts and Clubs.
More detail to be added later:
Pentacles Coins Discs
Swords Smart
Cups Compassionate
Bottom Panel: Nude cowgirl with hat and boots along with a green beer mug representing the Mortail Coil Bar & Grill. The Last Rest Stop before Reality. Route 32 is an important signpost
Pages 8-9: This whole section with it's viewpoint of how material existence looks from "up here" reminds me of the CD-Rom game for Monty Python's The Meaning of Life.
Top Panel: The Garden of Worldly Deligths. Ask About Our Specials. All You can Consume in Roughly Seventy Years. Oh Taste and See
Middle Panels: Happily married couple appear to be celebrating, maybe the birthday of one of their 3 children, Bald old miser sitting atop his pile of coins and paper money, Alcoholic sitting on the ground in front of the city of ?tyland (Claire Jordan thinks this is Cityland), nice house in the country, studious female with books on maths, science and poetry, couple making love, King and Queen of Hearts playing-cards.
Bottom Panel: The material world smells of sulphur
Pages 10-11: Painted Doll using his futuristic binoculars to see the Mayor (Page 10, Panel 3) and 3 of the 5 Swell Guys (Page 10, Panel 4) as well as Benny Solomon and a group of accompanying demons (Page 11, Panels 1-3). As he says "This ought to be good"

Page 12, Panels 2-3: Nice Monopoly tokens (top hat, iron, racing car, dog) and board. You miss a turn for true love and achieving sainthood means you go to jail. Blind chance 13 with a black cat. Income tax is a skull. The skull under the Income Tax sign must be a reference to the traditional pairing of "death and taxes." Alan Moore has a good sense of humor.
Page 11, Panel 4: the thirty-second path
Pages 13-20 were done by Jose Villarubia.
Quotes about these panels come from an interview he did which can be found at the Alan Moore Fansite
Extra quotes and information not found in the interview are taken from comments Jose sent to me:
page 13, panel 2 on the right is a floating head of Hypnos, the Greek god of sleep.

page 14 is based on Frieda Harris tarot card the Universe.

Quote from Jose Villarubia
The most difficult image to create was the first splash page in the sequence, a celestial vision of a Tarot card called the Universe. Moore asked me to base it in the Tarot designed by Aleister Crowley and illustrated by Lady Frieda Harris. It is a very complex image, with six floating figures, and it took me a while to combine them in a way that made sense and at the same time was exciting.

page 15 panel 3 the dialog in the comic page is from Watchmen.
It is taken from Chapter XI, page 9, panels 5-6 and is part of the argument between two lesbians near the newstand. The Dialog is
"Uh-huh. so that's it, just like that? I tried my goddamned best, actin' like you wanted me to..."
"See? over there? I put your stupid dyke disco poster up..."
"I...listen, I don't have to justify anything to you. I like nice chicks, you give me this political shit..."
"I'm not crying! Who the hell says I'm crying?"
some of the extra dialog bubbles are left out.

page 16 panel 3 Alan asked for the "Gallery of Horrors" banner. Jose Villarubia added "Side Show Minstrel Museum". The moths in panels 3 and 4 are Promethea moths.

Page 17 Top panel: Drucker shooting Bill : Jose Villarubia said in an interview
The other thing that was hard to do was the sequence of Dennis shooting Bill in the head. I fortunately don't know anyone who owns a gun, and I couldn't get a prop gun, so I ended up using a picture of a gun and combining it with a photo of a model holding his hand out. I tried to make this, the most horrifying scene in the story, very beautiful and sad. I hope I succeeded

page 18 The straight jacket and padded cell were designed and made by artist David Page, whose work was featured in "Hannibal" the movie.
The character of Dennis Drucker ages more than forty years during the course of the story. Instead of getting different actors to portray him I digitally aged the model for the splash page where he appears at the end of the sequence.

page 19, panel 1: ...that's Saturn, which is the part of the name of the moths.

page 20: Alan asked for a vulture instead of an eagle, which is more commonly depicted with Prometheus.
Jose Villarubia made the caduceus sign in the hospital door based on a design by JHW3.

page 21, panel 1: Jose Villarubia is the ghost of the little little boy looking at the viewer in the bottom of the panel.
Here are some other quotes from Mr. Villarubia in an interview he did at the Alan Moore Fansite:
Moore did something that I don't think has been done in comics before: the drawn characters in the story transform into photographic versions of themselves. More impressively, he justified this transformation in the context of the story. The characters arrive to a realm of Inmateria where things appear to be hyper-real. In comicbook terms, where reality is line drawings, hyper-reality would be photographic imagery.
AMFS: So, how was your experience working with Alan Moore?
José: A dream come true. Moore has long been my favorite comics writer. He was absolutely wonderful to work with. He actually asked me what kinds of images I wanted to do. I told him what I like doing and in particular I told him I wanted to do a Prometheus. Not only he included him, but he made it the climax of the story, where Promethea's name is finally explained.
AMFS: Mind explaining how you went about creating your artwork?
José: First I drew the pages in pencil, with a fair amount of detail. Then I photographed the models in costume and the props. I scanned the photographs and combined them with digitally generated and manipulated backgrounds. Some of the backgrounds were done in Bryce and some of the animals were done in 3-D Studio, but everything was assembled in Adobe Photoshop.
AMFS: How does the creative process work, between you and Moore?
José: Moore worked a little differently with me than he normally does. Because I needed a little extra time, he wrote my part of issue seven first, in one of his famously detailed scripts, but without dialog. I then illustrated the piece and later he wrote the text. After I read the captions I made some minor adjustments.
AMFS: Did you work with J.H. Williams or anyone else on the creative team?
José: Yes, everybody. J.H. and I had to coordinate efforts, since we wanted the transition between drawn art and computer art to be really smooth. J. H. was delightful to work with, and he actually matched the imagery that I created in the opening scene of my sequence perfectly. Jeromy Cox, the colorist, also did a splendid job emulating the color scheme that I used in that sequence. And Todd Klein, who is the consummate letterer, made the word balloons translucent for my sequence, and placed the text extremely carefully so it would flow without obscuring the art. Everybody involved in the book was completely enthusiastic and cooperative and for that I am very thankful.

Page 24: Can anyone name all the demons visible on this page?


Page frozen: 8 December 2003