Monday, March 23, 2015

Crossover Covers: The Black Centipede

In Creeping Dawn: The Rise of the Black Centipede, the titular vigilante makes his debut in Zenith City, battling the evil Doctor Almanac. The Centipede refers to Professor James Moriarty as one of the many people he encountered during his career as a crimefighter. The future Centipede became friends with Howard Lovecraft as a young man after writing to him about the Necronomicon. Miskatonic University is mentioned as fictional. After a comment by the Centipede-to-be, Howard changes the unwieldy title of a story he’s working on to “The Call of Cthulhu.” A crimefighter in New York who laughs a lot and has his own radio show is referenced twice, obviously the Shadow. William Randolph Hearst refers to a certain Chinaman who should trademark the word “insidious,” a reference to Dr. Fu Manchu. The Centipede’s enemy Bloody Mary Jane Gallows fed Doctor Almanac Henry Jekyll’s serum, turning him into a villain. The sequel is Blood of the Centipede, in which the Black Centipede travels to Hollywood to act as a consultant on a movie adaptation of the pulp magazine very loosely based on his exploits, and winds up battling the returning Jack the Ripper. The Ripper possesses the Necronumericon, another book written by Abdul Alhazred, author of the Necronomicon. The Centipede refers to “that guy that lives in the Empire State Building,” whom Amelia Earhart describes as “Doc Do-Good.” This is a reference to Doc Savage. One of the stars of the Black Centipede movie is Nora Desmand, who is meant to be Norma Desmond from Billy Wilder’s 1950 film Sunset Boulevard. The Centipede works with Lieutenant “Big Jack” Matteo of the L.A.P.D., who is meant to be the father of Lieutenant Jack Matteo from the Kolchak: The Night Stalker episode “The Vampire.” Sherlock Holmes is mentioned in a flashback to the Ripper’s murder of Mary Jane Kelly. Amelia refers to “that fellow in New York—the one with the chronic private joke,” who has several agents, a reference to the Shadow. The Centipede’s foe Baron Samedi lists individuals who, like the Centipede, played with forces they didn’t fully comprehend, including Faust, Prometheus, and Victor Frankenstein. The third book in the series is Black Centipede Confidential, in which the Centipede battles Professor James Moriarty, who has assumed the mantle of Lord of Vampires after killing the previous holder of the title, Count Dracula. Among the Centipede’s allies in his conflict with Moriarty are J. Alfred Prufrock (from T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”); Gregor Samsa (from Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis”); Walter Gibson and Lester Dent, who describe their working relationships with the men whose lives they fictionalize (the Shadow and Doc Savage, respectively); the faceless assassin Anonymoushka, actually Vionna Moriarty, the Professor’s daughter, who will later use the name Vionna Valis, as seen in Miller’s book Vionna and the Vampires; and an elderly Sherlock Holmes. Moriarty’s own allies include Herbert West. Jack Matteo and the Jekyll formula are mentioned. The portrayal of Moriarty as a vampire, Holmes’ death, and the revelation that Moriarty is really Holmes’ older brother Sherrinford all conflict with Holmes and Moriarty’s established history in the CU. Combined with the portrayal of Miskatonic University and implicitly Cthulhu as fictional in Creeping Dawn, the Black Centipede’s exploits and other related stories by Miller must take place in an alternate universe.

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