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The Radiant Heavenly City

The Radiant Heavenly City

"If she did not exist we would have to invent her"

June 2 1999...August 1999
2 pgs of text + 32 pgs.


NOTE: There are two variant covers for this Issue. One by Alex Ross (Egyptian cover) and the other by JH Williams III & Mick Gray (internal art)
The Alex Ross cover has a painted version of Promethea in the centre with Egyptian hieroglyphics and other symbols surrounding her. Also a small version of the Sun symbol associated with her at the top right hand corner.
The JH Williams and Mick Gray cover shows Promethea in the center with Thoth in a blue circle to the left of her and Hermes in a red circle to the right. The original little girl Promethea is shown wandering in the desert at lower left and Sophie Bangs is shown being attacked by the Smee on the right which also has JH Williams Symbol and Gray in neon lights just behind the Smee. Promethea's sun symbol can be seen just below the central Promethea.
Here is a sketch version of the original Alex Ross cover taken from the ABC Sketchbook

Both covers paraphrase the same quote which originally comes from Voltaire
"If God did not exist we would have to invent him"
If anyone is interested in trying to decipher the hieroglyphics that occur in various places here is the Hieroglyphic Alphabet
Claire Jordan points out that
the spiral-ish pattern partway down the righthand side, just above the Greek helmet, is a Troy (a.k.a. Troi, Troy-Maze or Walls of Troy). This is an ancient (Bronze Age to Mediaeval) European meditation-aid - a sort of one-way maze, originally set out in low earth ridges, and later inlaid into mosaics on church floors (I believe there's one in Notre Dame). It's not a sort of maze you can get lost in: instead, you follow the lines very precisely, one foot in front of the other, and it takes you weaving back and forth within a very narrow space - so it could take 20 minutes to get to the centre of one only 10 feet across. The effect is hypnotic and I believe it was seen as a sort of mini-pilgrimage. You can either draw the line you walk, or the barriers which surround the line you walk

The Radiant Heavenly City could refer to Revelations Chapter 22

In Alexandria in 411 AD Promethea's father, a hermetic scholar and magician, is killed by a mob of Christians just after he sends her off into the desert to save her. There she meets 2 of her father's gods Thoth-Hermes who rescue her by taking her off into the Immateria where she will no longer be just a little girl but a story living eternally.
In New York in 1999 AD Sophie Bangs is working on her term paper about Promethea a fictional character who has appeared in 18th century poems, newspaper strips, pulp magazines and comic books. Her friend Stacia goes to a rock concert while she tries to interview Barbara Shelley, the widow of the last person to write Promothea comic books, but is promptly ushered out.
New York's resident science heroes the Five Swell Guys find her and ask if she is being menaced by anybody but at the time she feels safe.
Shortly after a Smee (or Semi-Mindless Elemental Entity) tries to kill her but she is rescued by Barbara who has turned into Promethea. Hiding from the Smee Barbara explains about Promethea and how Sophie can become her just by writing about her. When the Smee returns to attack again Sophie has managed to turn into Promethea and just about kills it but Margaret has been wounded and Promethea flies off with her to taking her to a hospital.

"There is no point. That is the genius of Weeping Gorilla" - Stacia pg. 5
"You don't wanna go looking for folklore and you especially don't want folklore to come looking for you" - Barbara Shelley pg. 7
"No extraterrestrial creatures bothering you? No government conspiracies, ancient demonic cults, nothing like that?" - Bob from the 5 swell guys, pg. 10
"What did I do? I haven't done anything. I'm a college student. All I ever did was read books. What did I do?" - Sophie
"Wrong Books" - Smee pg. 13
"Is your world very far?" - Promethea(0)
"No. It is always in the place where you are standing" - Hermes. pg. 21
"A Smee is a Semi-Mindless Elemental Entity. It'll probably rape, kill and disembowel us. Maybe even in that order" - Barbara pg. 23
"I am Promethea, art's fiercest spark...I am all inspiration...all desire. Imagination's blaze in mankind's dark..I am Promethea.. I bring you FIRE!" - Promethea(6) pgs. 27-28

The Promethea Puzzle: An Adventure in Folklore
Two other of Alan Moore's ABC titles Tom Strong and Top Ten also began with 2 page introductions densly packed with background details.
In the original comic book this 2 page introductory article was placed after the comic book itself but in Book One it is placed before the illustrated chapters. The interesting thing here is that Alan Moore manages to give the reader so much background detail without actually giving the plot away. Here he manages to intermix real people with totally fictitious ones in a very convincing way

Page 1
All the quoted lines will be repeated in Issue #4
Cowslip, and Flax, and Jenny-in-the- Wood,
And sweet Promethea...

The actual names of the fairies in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream are
Peaseblossom, Cobweb, Moth and Mustardseed
but these names are certainly a good crib from the originals.
Jenny-in-the-Wood sounds vaguely familiar but I haven't been able to trace it anywhere.
A Faery Romance by New England Poet Charlton Sennet (1751-1803)
In Issue #4 we will also learn that A Faerie Romance is also the title of a book about the Life and Works of Charlton Sennet
In 1901, in the Sunday color section of William Randolph Hearst's New York Clarion
The actual real newspaper was either the New York Morning Journal or the New York Evening Journal. There never was a paper called the New York Clarion.
We will meet Margaret Taylor Case in Issue #5
Here is a description of 8 pages of Little Margie in Mystic Magic Land as seen in America's Best Comics 64 page giant special
The Splendid Strand of Yawn
Dogworm's Fuming Terrace
Baron Fireglove's Chuckling Orchard
are all titles of unseen episodes of Little Margie in Misty Magic Land

Page 2 lead figure heroine occasional series short fantasy novellas in Astonishing stories (Feb. 1924)
Astonishing Stories is the name of a real magazine but it was only published between 1940 and 1943
In our world one of the first of the pulp magazine was Amazing Stories which began publication in 1926
For information about Pulp Magazines see The Pulp Zone website
A Warrior Queen of Hy Brasil (Feb. 1924) is also one of the titles given for Issue #6
Marto Neptura a house pseudonym
This was common practice when authors did not want to be known to have written certain stories Promethea and the Manigators was 8th story in series
We will meet Marto Neptura Grace Brannah and the Manigators in Issue #6
style compared to Margaret Brundage
Margaret Brundage was a real artist who worked for Weird Tales
...young radical new writer Steven Shelley ...
P.Craig Russell is a very famous real comic book artist
death from cancer in 1996
This is contradicted on Page 23, Panel 3 when Barbara talks of him having died in '91

Part of the script for this page can be found here
Caption: 411 A.D. - two important events that occured this year, both concerning the Roman Emperor Constantine III, were his conversion to Christianity in a bid for sanctuary and his subsequent execution.
Also in this year (or thereabouts) St. Augustine preached the following sermon.
Page 1, Panel 4: Note the little statues of Hermes and Thoth at each end of the desk.
Promethea's father appears to be translating Egyptian hieroglyphics (paper on left) into another language (perhaps Greek)
Page 1, Panel 5: "They are coming for me, as they came for beautiful Hypatia" - presumably Hypatia is the name of Promethea's mother. If so she might be this Hypatia
Note the caduceus leaning on the wall behind little Promethea.

Page 2, Panel 1 "We shall each other in the Western Lands" - yes they will but we have to wait until Issue #19 before that happens.
Panel 3: Devil worshipper would have been a common taunt made by Christians against any pagans at this time
Page 2, Panel 5 & Page 3 I'm not sure why Promethea's father speaks the dialogue of the 5 christians just before they do. It reminds me a bit of Obi-Wan Kenobi in the first Star Wars film but there he was using mind control and I don't think Promethea's father wants to be killed.
Marc William de Giere points out that
I see it as he knows his fate and accepts it, even facilitates it. This doesn't mean he "wants" to die, he just is aware of what he must do for Promethea and her story to begin. Very much like Jesus sacrificing himself. Remember, he is smiling.

Page 3, Panels 2 & 5: "the radiant, heavenly city" is most probably a reference to Revelations Chapter 22
Page 4: Caption 1999 A.D. - the year Promethea was first published.
Prostitutia and Prosthetica: two mispronunciations of Promethea by Stacia. There will be quite a few more later on
I don't think I need to explaing what a prostitute is
Prosthetic means
Serving as or relating to a prosthesis.
Of or relating to prosthetics

and a prosthesis is
An artificial device used to replace a missing body part, such as a limb, tooth, eye, or heart valve.
Replacement of a missing body part with such a device

Defintions taken from
The House seen above the giant poster on Level 9 could be Moore's house of Magic seen on the last page of this issue
The two flying saucers numbered 12 and 4 could be police. They are both shining beams on a person standing on L2
Not sure what PXXX stands for
The chequerboard pattern seen on the left can also be seen on the Cab
The T on top of the cab must stand for Taxi
Note that the sun image has its' eyes closed on pages with Sophie and it is not until she turns into Promethea towards the end of this issue that the sun image has its' eyes open

French version

Page 5 Panel 1: Note the small lights on the frame edges of Stacia's glasses. The right one is turned on to make it easier to read in the dark.
Panel 3: Prolapsia another mispronunciation from Stacia
A prolapse comes from
[L. prolapsus, fr. prolapsus, p. p. of prolabi to fall forward; pro forward + labi to glide, fall.] (Med.) The falling down of a part through the orifice with which it is naturally connected, especially of the uterus or the rectum. --Dunglison
Panel 4: Sign reading View Apartments.
Elastagel sign. First mention of Elastagel which will be prominent in the plot in issue #11.
GRAY sign for inker Mick Gray
Not sure what BOY with a star in the O is a reference to
Marc De Giere notes that
The "Gray" sign could also be a reference to Grayshirt, which has a cover title that looked very similar. The "boy" sign could refence the issue 7 romance.
Just under the arrow pointing upwards to L3 sign and behind Sophie's silhouette what looks like a pepsi sign
Page 6: "I'm Sophie Bangs" - In Issue 14 we will learn of a writer with the surname of Bangs whom Sophie is related to. I was always kinda hoping that she might also be related to the rock music critic Lester Bangs,
(immortalized in the lyrics to the REM song It's the end of the world as we know it
"Leonard Bernstein. Leonid Breshnev, Lenny Bruce and Lester Bangs.")
but it hasn't happened yet.
Pages 6-7 a lot of background history complementing what we have been told in The Promethea Puzzle can be found here. See also pg. 22
Nice effect of spiral staircase to the left and right of the framed panels.
Page 6 Panel 2: Note the picture on the wall appears to have the same solar face seen throughout this issue and even on these pages.
The police Flying saucers are also seen outside the window.
Panel 3: Looks like a silhouette of Batman on the first small picture on the wall
Panel 4: Note the sad teardrop effect created by the rain outside the window
This is the only panel viewed from outside the apartment
Page 7 Panel 1: Just one police flying saucer seen outside the window this time
Pages 8-9: In all of the Alexandria 411 AD panels the sun's eyes are open
Page 9, Panels 1-3: The creature might be a salamander. Thanks to Marc de Giere for the following information
The first thing I thought of when I saw the creature was a salamander, as it is referenced to a lot in religious writings. This information comes from here:
It was considered the "king of fire" and as such was representative of Christ who would baptize with the flames of the Holy Spirit and who surprized his followers by warning, "I have come to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division." [Lk 12:49 & 51]William of Normandy called the salamander the symbol of the 3 Hebrew children who survived the fiery furnace. [Dan 3] The salamander can also represent the 4th man seen in the furnace who promised, "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you ...When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you." [Is 43:2] Cloquet considers Christ the salamander king of fire because He passed through the fires of hell after His crucifixion without harm. The salamander represents those who pass through the fires of passion and of this world without stain. Therefore, it stands for chastity, loyalty, impartiality, virginity, courage, Jesus, Mary, and the faithful. The salamander is also used to symbolize the flames which it passes through and so is a symbol of fire, temptation, and burning desire.

Page 10 Panel 1: Sophie is on L2 here
Page 10, Panel 2: First appearance of the 5 Swell Guys, New York's resident Science Heroes. Kenneth is obviously having some problems coping with his recent divorce and his psychic abilities leave much to be desired (or do they?).
Page 11 Panel 2: ON! sign and beside it L7. (Note that L7 is somestimes used as slang for "square" as in un-hip in contrast to C-Moon which is a circle)
Panel 5: Our first view of the Smee
Page 12 Panel 1: L25 should really be L2.5
Page 12, Panel 2: It's a bit dark but note that on the poster for The Limp just behind Sophie a hand is reaching out for her just as the Smee will do in another few panels.
Panel 5: Nice lettering on the Smee's speech bubbles
Panel 8: Sophie drops most of her notes
Page 13 Panel 8: Signs visible include Weeping Gorilla Comix and The Devil (Apartments?) next to a Piz(za?) place
Pages 14-15: (L)OVE (C)LUB and (G)od's Store also ...INESE ...KE ...IT (probably CHINESE TAKE OUT) and Hong Kong and Gir(l)s and Fantasi. Goldberg's (Apartments)
Page 16, Panel 1: Weeping Gorilla is published by the Apex Publishing Co.
Page 17: Looks like Promethea can punch the Smee and leave a gap in his body without affecting him too much
Smee says "Open you like a fish..." and then on the first panel of page 19 we see a fish sign on the right.
Page 19: After all the excitement of the last few pages the panels return to normal once again
Pages 20-21: Nice effect of both Hermes and Thoth speaking in unison with their combined speech bubbles surrounded by squiggles including the female or Venus sign
The Gods are so bright that even during night-time it is as bright as day around them
Page 22 More background history. Now Barbara is telling Sophie the story instead of vica-versa as on pgs 6-7. On the right hand side we can see all the persons who brought through the previous Prometheas: Charlton Sennet, Margaret Case, Grace Brannagh, William Woolcott and Steve Shelley.
They channelled Promethea
Channeling is defined as
The act or practice of serving as a medium through which a spirit guide purportedly communicates with living persons
according to
Here is a fuller definition of Chanelling and here is a list of channeling links
At the bottom right hand side is Charlton Sennet with Promethea. Bottom left Promethea appearing to a soldier during WWI and top left little Promethea with a centaur.
Note the little pink fairies flying in the air and the little green men on the ground (the one with his back to us has a tail and might be a demon of some kind). Also note that there appear to be two suns in the sky
Page 23, Panel 1: From Promethea/Barbara's point of view we see Sophie. Note that she is still Promethea in costume with sandals on her feet
Panel 2: One leg has jeans and the other Promethea's skirt. She is starting to transform back to Barbara
Panel 3: She is now back to being just Barbara
"Steve had the imagination. He died, '91" - Barbara Shelly. This contradicts The Promethea Puzzle: An Adventure in Folklore which talks about "his death from cancer in the spring of 1996".
Panel 7: Barbara hands over her notebook and pen to Sophie passing on the mantle of being Promethea on earth to her
Pages 24-25: Nice effect of small shots of Sophie and Barbara waiting for the Smee with bigger pictures of the Smee tracking them down in the rain
Page 24 Panel 2: signs visible (T)OYS or is it (B)OYS. Also The Egg and We're HOT...Thai Food...letter Z...and another Pepsi sign
Smee is just visible climbing up the bridge
Sophie's corrections on this page "Her name was" and "Promethea thou art" crossed out to be replaced by "I am Promethea" moving from 3rd person to first person narrative
Other changes on this page
tied ... bound
Page 25:
more changes
The Smee seems to track his victim using his sense of smell on this page

Page 27: The Temple...Jack Faust...The Night Queen
We will learn a bit more about these enemies as the series progresses but at the end of Issue #27 although she has been mentioned a few time we have yet to see what the Night Queen looks like
This is a nice way to introduce the latest incarnation of Promethea a bit at a time. First her torso and then her upper body and part of her face just below the eyes before the full effect of
Page 28: Note that the sun symbol now has its' eyes open. On Promethea's costume we can see an ankh and a scarab beetle and her right leg has a tatoo of Thoth on it
Page 30:

You'd think that this would be the end of the Smee but wait until the start of Issue #22
Page 32: Moore's House of Magic - this will reappear as a background detail in some future issues. The Weeping Gorilla Comix logo is very similar to America's Best Comics
Note the silhouettes of Thoth and Hermes on top and a laurel wreath and a scarab beetle on the bottom.
I'm not sure if the joker/fool type head and the W have any significance.Possibly the W is for JH Williams. Maybe someone else knows?
The rain appears to have stopped which reminds me of the film Blade Runner where Harrison Ford and Rutger Hauer fight it out on rooftops above the city in the rain but when Rutger Hauer releases a white dove symbolising his soul as he is about to die it flies upwards into a clear blue sky.
Also note that the rain is not visible when Promethea attack the Smee on pgs. 28 and 30


Page frozen: 20 November 2003