Monday, 15 January 2007

FROM HELL: 4/29

Another in an occasional series of single page selections from Alan Moore's From Hell scripts. I've been picking them for anecdotal or some other special interest. This is one that had to be rethought in the finished work due to a logistical problem about the precise location of the old Billingsgate fish market (i.e. Upon investigation it didn't fit a point on the pentagram). Therefore it's an unusual page in that there isn't really an illustrated version of it and all that's left of the scene, apart from some important lines of dialogue moved elsewhere, is in the typescript. Shame to have lost all that fish imagery.

The shifted dialogue apppeared on what is now page 30 instead of 29 due to an earlier logistical problem regarding a bridge which I had resolved by adding in an extra page of art.



Chapter 4
PAGE 29
PANEL1
THERE ARE THREE WIDE HORIZONTAL PANELS ON THIS PAGE, TAKING UP A TIER EACH. IN THIS FIRST ONE, WE HAVE A WIDE ANGLE SHOT OF BILLINGSGATE FISH MARKET, FOR WHICH I’M AFRAID I COULD GET VERY LITTLE IN THE WAY OF USEFUL REFERENCE. WE SEE THE VARIOUS FISH STALLS SET OUT WITH THE TRADERS AND CUSTOMERS BUSTLING AROUND THEM. THE MAJORITY OF THE BUSTLE SEEMS TO BE GOING ON TOWARDS THE LEFT OF THIS WIDE PANEL, WITH PEOPLE THRONGING ABOUT AMIDST THE BUCKETS OF FISH ENTRAILS, PICKING THEIR WAY OVER COBBLES SHINY WITH PARED-AWAY SCALES AND SLIVERS OF FISH SKIN. OVER TOWARDS THE RIGHT OF THE PANEL, BEYOND THE IMMEDIATE PRECINCT OF THE MARKETPLACE, WE SEE NETLEY’S COACH, WITH HIM AND GULL SITTING ON TOP OF IT, SURVEYING THE SPRAWL OF BILINGSGATE. ASSAILD BY THE STENCH OF FISH GUTS, NETLEY LOOKS QUEASIER THAN EVER, WHILE GULL SEEMS COMPLETELY RELAXED AMIDST THE STENCH AND CLAMOUR AND CONTINUES TO CONVERSE IN HIS USUAL, GENIAL FASHION. THE RAIN IS DEFINITELY STARTING TO THIN OUT HERE, WITH NO MORE THAN A FEW SPOTS FALLING. ABOVE THE MARKET, THE SUN THREATENS TO PEEK THROUGH ITS RAGGED BANDAGE OF CLOUD, ALTHOUGH IT IS BY NOW VERY LOW ON THE HORIZON, AND NOT FAR AWAY FROM SUNSET. THE BALLOONS BELONGING TO THE MARKET TRADERS ARE ALL FREE FLOATING AND TAILLESS, AND THEY JUST BOB AROUND ABOVE THE CROWD OVER TO THE LEFT OF THIS WIDE PANEL. GULL’S BALLOONS ARE DISTINGUISHED FROM THEM BY VIRTUE OF THE TAIL THAT POINTS TOWARD GULL.
TAILLESS BALLOON: YE-O-O! All alive TURBOT!
TAILLESS BALLOON: Fine grizzlin’ SPRATS, large an’ no small!
TAILLESS BALLOON: Had-had-had-had-HADDICK!
TAILLESS BALLOON: Now or never! Five brill a pound!
TAILLESS BALLOON: YE-O-O!
GULL :Sometimes, an act of social magic’s NECESSARY: Man’s
triumph over Woman’s INSECURE, the dust of history
not yet SETTLED
GULL : Changing times erase the pattern that constrains society’s
irrational, female side…


PANEL 2.
IN THIS SECOND WIDE PANEL WE CLOSE IN UPON GULL AND NETLEY AS THEY SIT FACING US ATOP THE BOX OF THEIR COACH. GULL IS SITTING GAZING CALMLY TOWARDS US AS HE SPEAKS, ABSENTLY PLUCKING ONE OF THE REMAINING TWO OR THREE GRAPES, BUT GAZES STRAIGHT AHEAD AT US WITH HIS PALE GREY EYES. PERHAPS WITH HIS FREE HAND HE GESTURES TOWARDS THE SQUALOR OF BILLINGSGATE SURROUDING THEM, THE MURKY OUTLINES OF WHICH WE CAN SEE RISING UP IN THE BACKGROUND BEYOND THE COACH. NETLEY, SITTING ON THE RIGHT HERE, LOOKS VERY SICKLY INDEED, AND HAS PERHAPS PULLED OUT A HANDKERCHEIF TO PROTECT HIS NOSE FROM THE STOMACH-TURNING SCENT OF THE FISH. THE VERY LAST FEW SPOTS OF RAIN SPLASH DOWN UPON THE REEKING COBBLES, AND THEN THE RAIN IS OVER AND A LATE AFTERNOON LIGHT ONCE MORE BEGINS TO GRADUALLY PERVADE THE MARKET PLACE.
GULL: Our workers, lately given VOTES, now talk of SOCIALISM, talk of
RIGHTS, riot in Trafalgar and won’t quit ‘til they are shot, whereon
their fury DOUBLES! King Mob’s clamour drowns out Apollonian debates.
GULL: Reason’s BESIEGED: For all our science we are become an age of table-
rappers, tealeaf readers and Theosophists; where Dr. Westcott founds his
“Golden Dawn”, mistaking hokum for the wisdom of Antiquity!
GULL: The Séance-Parlour’s murmurings; the gutters’ pandemonium…these threaten
Rationality itself!

PANEL 3.
NOW, FOR THE FINAL SHOT OF THIS PAGE, WE ARE LOOKING ACROSS THE SLAB-TOPPED COUNTER OF ONE OF THE MARKET STALLS. SPREAD OUT UPON THE SLAB AND RANGING ACROSS THE PANEL ARE A ROW OF FRESH FISH. THEIR SIGHTLESS EYES ALL STARE COLDLY AT THE LIGHTENING SKY, A CHILL AND WATERY GLEAM OF LIGHT IS GLISTENING ON THEIR BELLIES. TO ONE SIDE FO THE PANEL, MAYBE WE SEE THE ARMS OF A FISHWIFE INTRUDE INTO THE PANEL FROM OFF, CAUGHT HERE IN THE ACT OF SLITTING A FISH’S BELLY OPEN. HELD IN HER STRONG HANG, ITS DEAD EYES STARE AND ITS MOUTH SAGS IN DISMAY AS THE KNIFE SLICES EFFORTLESSLY UPWARDS THROUGH ITS WHITE FLESH. LOOKING BEYOND THIS, AND WHATEVER SHADOWY FIGURES ARE GATHERED AROUND THE MARKET STALL WE ARE LOOKING AT THE REAR OF NETLEY’S COACH AS IT HEADS AWAY FROM US, MAKING ITS WAY BACK ALONG THE RATCLIFFE HIGHWAY OR THEREABOUTS IN THE DIRECTION OF SPITALFIELDS, ITS PENULTIMATE SHOP. AS THE COACH PULLS AWAY, GULL CONTINUES HIS DISCOURSE WHILE LUCKLESS FISH HAVE THEIR STOMACHS RIPPED OPEN IN THE FOREGROUND.
GULL: Our Sufragettes demand that women vote, and have equality!
They’d drag us back to that Primordial nursery, the rule of instinct and the
Tyrrany of mother’s milk!
GULL: We can’t have that.
GULL: Not though they bawl like all the fisher-wives of Billingsgate,
Named for the Sun God Belinos.
GULL: Up Cotton Street, beside East India Docks towards Commercial Road.
GULL: Come, why so SILENT! Is your biliousness worse?

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3 Comments:

Anonymous navan.ghee@gmail.com said...

Re: the biliousness at the bottom--

I'm sure this passage was intended to echo the introduction of Gull & the conversation with his father, thereby alluding to the supposed 'architecture of time', but do you think Netley was also intended to be representative of Gull's father? (Poor, uneducated, working class, etc.) If so, what does that say about his eventual, accidental 'murder' at Gull's hands?

Pro'lly reading too much into things, but couldn't pass up the chance to ask...

15 January 2007 4:53:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

"is your billiousness worse?'
the same question he asks his father on the second page of chapter 2.
you know, i've never noticed that before....

(the dialogue is still in the book, its effect reduced by the absence of the fish.)

i'll need to think about that one...

15 January 2007 5:05:00 pm GMT-5  
Anonymous navan.ghee@gmail.com said...

Let me know what you come up with.

I'm fascinated with the unlit corners of this book. Moore's Gull is very human in his contradictions-- unquestioning service to the queen while plotting a magickal end to matriarchy, most notably. The idea that Gull 'kills' Netley using the architecture of time is particularly fascinating, because he's the only male victim in the pattern Gull's woven, and done rather as an afterthought (even if only in hallucination, as might be inferred). It would make a terrible sort of sense if Netley were meant to be an echo of Gull's long-dead da...

15 January 2007 11:55:00 pm GMT-5  

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