Harker Issue 7 - annotations

Tuesday at 29.9.09

And away we go with annotations for the first of six issues making up Book Two: Murder By The Book...

Vince didn't tell me what he was doing for the cover of this issue (I simply asked for some kind of scene setter featuring Harker) and I was bowled over by this gorgeous shot, which feels very Cerebus to me. Harker here is halfway up the famous 199 Steps (known by some as Caedmon's Trod) in Whitby, which leads from the old town up to the ruined abbey on the cliff tops (and also up to where we've situated the hotel where Harker is staying). He's trying to light a fag whilst ducking from the gulls, just in case you were wondering, though I like the ambiguity of the image a lot. This also serves as the first panel of the book because...

Page One
...because here in panel one, you can see he's arrived at the top of the steps and is approaching St Mary's Church, which lies right at the top of the stairs.
Harker is singing to himself here a song called 'Mary', which you'll find on the Exposure album by Robert Fripp (which also features Brian Eno, Peter Gabriel, Tony Levin, Phil Collins and Daryl Hall). The lyrics were written by Fripp's girlfriend of the time, Joanna Walton, who later died in the Lockerbie tragedy of 1988.
He's singing it as the lyrics describe his relationship to his great grandmother, whom is clearly Mina Harker, from Bram Stoker's Dracula book, and also, of course, from Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Our Inspector Harker doesn't live in Moore's wonderful League universe, so this Mina is no more or less than the character from the novel. Though his great grandfather might interest you, and it's not going to be who you think it is. I've said too much already...
Harker is clearly a regular visitor to the grave.
Those familiar with Whitby might note that Vince has pulled the abbey closer to the church in that shot in the last panel, just so that you can see it.

Pages Two to Three
Right in the middle of this gorgeous shot by Vince of Whitby harbour, you can see the 199 steps, leading up to the church and the abbey. Vince and I know Whitby very well, and we went on location just prior to starting the story to get the flavour of the town (just as we did with the British Museum environs for Book One). I'm rather looking forward to our trip to Portmeirion in four months as we begin Book Three...

Page Four

The Grand Hotel here is (in real life) the Abbey Tourist Information Centre and youth hostel.
Agatha Fletcher's name derives, of course, from Agatha Christie (writer of the Poirot novels, amongst many others, and a central influence on Book Two) and Jessica Fletcher, the heroine of the truly dreadful Murder She Wrote. I can't begin to tell you how much I loathe that series, for all the reasons that Harker talks about in issue eight. In this issue we very deliberately use a typical Murder She Wrote set-up (murder takes place whilst detective just happens to be there, investigation ensues), but you'll see this typical set-up come crashing down in tatters in issue eight, as we discover that Harker is not going to play that particular game willingly. This very much encapsulates our approach with the Harker series - take the standard television and fictional detective's formulas, and mess them up good. Hopefully this issue should really have the feel of an opening 20 minutes to a typical Poirot or Murder She Wrote episode, but watch as we subvert it all, beginning in issue eight...

Page Seven
Harker here is singing again: 'Perfect Day' by Lou Reed. Fortune's kipper shop really does exist, not far from the foot of the 199 Steps (and in fact, once you get there on some days you can smell it from there). I urge you to go visit, they sell the most wonderful kippers, and the interior of the shop is like stepping back into the past.
The shopkeeper says 'Be seeing you', an intentional quote from The Prisoner.

Page Eleven
This is actually the interior of The Station Hotel in York, which had just the sort of cheesy, nasty interior we needed. Here we've transported it to Whitby, just to irritate Harker. We're cruel like that.

Page Twelve
Harker does indeed read Conan Doyle - we saw him (possibly) steal a first edition copy of 'A Study In Scarlet' from the British Museum Reading Room way back in issue one.

Page Fifteen
Check the woman stood at the bar in the top panel on this page: Angela Lansbury, who played Jessica Fletcher, with a brief cameo. She's probably appalled at the hatchet job we're about to do on her series, which seems rather unfair given that she stopped making it about fifteen years ago.

Page Seventeen
'Fog Warning' in the newspaper - something that will play a major role towards the end of this particular six-parter in issue 12.

Page Eighteen
Harker here is already showing his reluctance to being drawn into this scenario, something we expand upon in issue eight.

Page Nineteen
Amusingly, Critchley here is claiming not to have been taken in by the whole Satanist thing in issues 1-6. Clearly he's got loads of charm to go with it, though, as had he not been called by Harker he looks almost certainly on for some fun with these three girls here. It's to Critchley's credit that he doesn't think twice about answering Harker's summons - his dedication to the job is absolute.

Page Twenty
Vince drew a gorgeous shot of the abbey here, and in the first print of the comic version it came out all black. Below is what the page should have looked like (click to embiggen)...


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