HELLBLAZER #181
The Game of Cat and Mouse
Annotations By :
Adrian Brown

For an interactive guide to the London locations referenced in this issue and elsewhere, click here

Click Here for issue synopsis



A stand-alone issue with its fingers in several pies. This connects to the immediate, ongoing storyline and two several points in the long history of the Hellblazer comic. Right back to the start in fact.

Cat and Mouse might well be a variation of draughts (checkers) where you have three pieces that can only move one square at a time versus one piece that can move more freely. But I'm probably confusing that with Fox and Geese. Anyway there used to be a computer that played this at the Science Museum in Birmingham.

Page 1: London, England.

As we will find out "later" in this story John is rushing across London EC (east central).

The structure of this tale is like the classic film noir story, where we find out the end circumstances and then have the events leading to those circumstances shown to us. "Memento" is a very good recent example, and both versions of "DOA" (where the lead character is on the verge of death at the beginning) are worth a look.

The lad in the baseball cap is giving out fliers for the Sensations Adult Club, there are a fair few such places on the fringes of the City of London (the financial district, nuff said).

JJohn's quite nippy for a forty-nine year old, but then I play veterans football with several players who are fifty-plus years old. But then he's not exactly relying on his own fitness. There have been questions about how John can knock the fliers out of the guy's hand - there are some indications in the story that he is getting less physical the longer he is removed from his body

NEXT

Page 2: "Twelve hours ago"

Watford calls John to the morgue because a dead body has been asking for him.

Note that he was sat in a burned out Volvo (a fairly upmarket car if new) and that "burnt" is the more commonly use word in this instance in UK English.

Peking Duck. Yum. Especially crispy in pancakes. Watford means the body is charred and dark, not covered in plum sauce.

You americans know about petrol = gasoline these days, don't you ?

NEXT

Page 3:

Well, this chap knows John, but John doesn't remember the face.

And that's because it's Gary Lester speaking from Hell via an animated corpse.

Gary goes back a long way - Issue 1, "Hunger".

Flashback to 1987: John's Landlady referred to Gary Lester as "that druggy one" and John used Gary's addiction to trap the demon Mnemoth which Gary had foolishly brought back from Africa. Gary ends up dead after his addiction consumes Mnemoth's greed.

There's Watford still trying to do his job by identifying the body.

John's reference to stopping and searching Jamaicans relates to a certain crime prevention policy, which allows the police to stop people under the suspicion that they might be up to no good. By strange coincidence, you most frequently see white coppers stopping black guys and statistics indicate that most of these come to nothing. A nice one-liner about genetic fingerprinting from John.

NEXT

Page 4:

Gary tells John he is dealing with Lukhavim. This sounds a bit like a drinking toast (l'khayim - "to your health"), but I expect Mike Carey has some arcane derivation for this. The closest reference I get is "L'havim = "flames" 1) an Egyptian tribe descended from Mizraim"

It strikes me that Gary would not be difficult to dupe to bring this message to John, but he says "friends of Domine Fredericks" which points again to a wider conspiracy to the recent tale.

NEXT

Page 5: Now.

I'd say the pages with black borders represent the sequential story of John being chased across London by the Lukhavim and the white borders are "flashbacks". But there's a page later where this doesn't seem to apply. In any case, his route seems rather tortuous. Remember that Clarice (see next page) lives in Maida Vale ?

I may be over-interpreting here, but perhaps John is tracing a path across London like Gull in Moore and Campbell's "From Hell" ?

See below for John's route. Anyway, Limehouse and Wapping are close to the River Thames just at the south of the East End.

This is Old London.

NEXT

Page 6: Six hours ago.

See cover annotations for details of Clarice's handiwork.

Mike Carey pointed out on the Straight to Hell forum that these are henna tattoos.

Note that Clarice is using a wooden implement, not a needle.

John's suspicions are raised by his past history with Gary (see above).

Of course, John tells us more about the Lukhavim than the internet ever can.

As explained in the cover annotations, Clarice's sigils are an invocation to Uriel who is not the Australian angel of the wedding, but one of God's top four hench-angels. By coincidence Uriel is "the flame of god".

Clarice's advice to "slip a knife up your sleeve" spiritually is important. She's protected John's physical body.

NEXT

Page 7: Now.

Whitechapel. Roughly guessing, John has come up Commercial Road from Wapping to the Spitalfields area.

I recognised this passageway immediately. It borders on the area well-known for the perambulations of Jack the Ripper.

As John says Whitechapel was also a frequent target during the German blitz of London during WW2.

John's trying to hide among the dead, but ...

The Lukhavim have found him.

NEXT

Page 8:

That's a surprise.

John is not all there. And tells us that, while he is dying, that very fact saved him on this occasion.

NEXT

Page 9: Two hours ago.

Chez Chas.

Chas shows a penchant for great English mad bastards.

In this case, Pink Floyd, whose song "Paint Box" he is singing as he comes in the door. It's probably the version on Relics - a fine introduction to The Floyd before they became prog. I would not expect Chas to have the talk radio mentality of the majority of London taxi drivers. But I doubt if he'd play that if he had a passenger in the cab.

Missus Chas has been baby-sitting Geraldine's daughter. (Geraldine is his daughter).

Renee has visitors waiting for Chas.

NEXT

Page 10:

We know Chas is used to this sort of thing, and we also know that Renee hates John because of it.

The two panels with close up on their expressions are priceless.

And nicely counter-pointed by the words of one of the Lukhavim (what's singular for that, btw?)

Interesting how much these chaps know about John and his friends, isn't it ?

NEXT

Page 11 & 12: Now.

This is inside Spitalfields Market if I'm not mistaken.

John doesn't really need to get his wind back - it turns out that this is his spirit body.

He knows that the Lukhavim can harm him. If they catch him.

NEXT

Page 13: 30 mins ago.

Chas was forced to call John by the two Lukhavim who were threatening him.

John lets them know he has protection.

The Highland Guards: I thought this was a particularly hard-knock branch of the British Army, but the only reference I can find is to an international bunch of war games folks.

Which makes John's comment even more droll.

NEXT

Page 14:

The seal of Hermes has fallen into common usage via the route of Alchemy.

It was used to protect something, or close a flask to outside elements. ie Hermetically seal it.

"In the third century A.D., the philosophical school of the Neo-platonists arose in Alexandria. They associated the Egyptian god Thoth, the god of alchemy and mystical secrets and inventor of a magical seal, with Hermes, calling him Hermes Trismegistus. In the seventeenth century, English writers began using the adjective hermetic to refer to things that were sealed or secret.
So Hermes is associated with the seal only through the habit of conquering nations to associate their gods with the local gods."

Although John protected his body, he has overlooked his soul (don't forget what Clarice said) and he is separated from it here.

NEXT

Page 15:

Not the first time John's astral body has been at the centre of a story.

Everyone knows about the Thames, but there is a network of rivers under the City of London - many dating back to the medieval settlement. If you're ever in London, I recommend the Museum of London down near the Barbican. The river Fleet is the biggest of the underground streams feeding into the Thames

The reputed route of the Walbrook has been walked and builders excavating foundations approached. None would be interviewed, as the developers feared the commercial consequences should a river be found near to their new developments.

Visiting the Thames where the Walbrook is documented to join it revealed no outfall. There is an opening that is covered by a heavy cast hatch. No water flows from it. The Walbrook certainly in its ancient route is no longer. It is lost and no longer flowing, at least on this occasion. In a sense then the source of the Walbrook is not some up welling in the earth but the maps and books that document its route. As London developed the Walbrook, fair and sweet water became foul with sewerage. Today it seems it is probably joined into a sewer and diverted, as no doubt it has been many times in its history."

John's not gone quite as far west as the Fleet.

He's quoting TS Eliot's "The Waste Land" , which steals the line from Edmund Spenser's "Prothalamion" "Sweete Themmes! runne softly till I end my Song"

The next lines in Eliot's work are "But at my back in a cold blast I hear The rattle of the bones, and chuckle spread from ear to ear." And sure enough the Lukhavim are after him.

He emerges at Liverpool Street station.

(the pages read sequentially from now on)

Page 16:

The cats confront the mouse.

"Did you think it was your round or something ?"

That old Constantine bravado.

(But there is a pub behind the Lukhavim ;-)

"Rabbit" means talk incessantly in London's Cockney Rhyming slang. ("Rabbit and Pork" - talk)

"Fiat Lux" without the "bloody" means "let there be light" and John's used it as a distraction to get past the Lukhavim into the station.

Pages 17 & 18:

Clarice's "dagger" is the light show.

A two page spread to show the souls of the dead attacking the Lukhavim. Most souls they came upon earlier were not so keen to confront them.

Page 19:

But then most souls were not residents of Bedlam.

The old London hospital and lunatic asylum has given its name to scenes of insane mayhem.

There is still a hospital called the Royal Bethlehem in south London, and there are at least two other former sites, but this site was the original one. Spitalfields is actually short for "hospital fields" (see next page for links about Bedlam). Is that an unusual sign of remorse from John in that last panel ?

 

Page 20:

Here are some good references about St Mary of Bethlehem: one two three

Seeing the Lukhavim get zapped by the ground only when they realise that it is consecrated reminds me of the times that Wile E Coyote suddenly realises that he's walking on air before plummeting to Earth.

Page 21:

Yes, that plaque is real.

The third of the Lukhavim that Gary spoke of has been lurking. Making it a LURKhavim !

Note that this one is not trying to kill him. Most peculiar.

John's disembodied spirit is getting less substantial.

"The dog is pressing against the first door."

A reference to Fredericks' dream and apparently linked to the larger conspiracy that John is becoming embroiled in. So far this conspiracy has threatened his family, his friends and his magical associates.

Who is next ?

Note on a possible theory about the first door.

In Karnak Temple, Luxor, there is a small temple of Osiris-Haka-Djet. It's not on the main tour, but tourist police will show it to you for a small sum of money. In the main room on one wall there are seven concentric carved doors

Osiris is the Egyptian god of the dead.

John's quote - "this is Hell, nor am I out of it" - comes from Christopher Marlowe's "Dr. Faustus" the famous tale of a man who sells his soul to the devil for infinite knowledge. It is said by Mephistopheles, the devil through whom Faustus intends to sell his soul, as a lament about having fallen from the grace of god:

Meph. Why this is hell, nor am I out of it.
Think'st thou that I who saw the face of God,
And tasted the eternal joys of Heaven,
Am not tormented with ten thousand hells,
In being depriv'd of everlasting bliss?
O Faustus! leave these frivolous demands,
Which strike a terror to my fainting soul.

Page 22:

I like this touch. Normally, John makes his cocky comments and people ignore them or get riled by them.

But the messenger is just puzzled by it.

Southwark is just south of the river, near the area that Paul Jenkins based a lot of his London-based stories and probably near where Chas lives.

News from Nowhere is a radical bookshop in Liverpool.

"Smell the cheese" - it's a mousetrap.

John's being lured in by a challenge that someone knows he'll find hard to resist.

Note that John is still a spirit as the issue ends.

Are we going to see him get back in his body in the next issue ?

Do we need to see him do so, or can we assume he will - in between issues ?

Anyway, here's the DVD correct order remix of this issue:

Read pages in this order 2,3,4,6,9,10,13,14,

1,5,7,8,11,12,15,16,17,18,19,20,21,22

To read the annotations in the order click "NEXT" after each panel.

HELLBLAZER 181 appendix - John's route around London described by Jock.

John starts out 'around Upper Thames Street or Cannon Street


pp5 is based in Wapping - the only place Andy (Diggle) and I didn't make it to, so the lane is a shot from Whitechapel (if memory serves) and the railway arches are based on similar near Bethnal Green.

pp7: Whitechapel. In the script 'somewhere like Bell Lane or Toynbee Street..' again the exact name of this alley escapes me.

Perhaps this is 'Artillery Alley'?


pp11: This is Spitafields market. There was an extra panel I was going to put in here, as i believe one of Hawksmoor's churches stands nearby and it would have been a nice nod to From Hell
(Ade: yes Christchurch as seen in From Hell - here's the scene you didn't get to see.)


pp12: the junction at Bethnal Green Road, just down the road from Liverpool Street.

pp15 panel4/5: John emerges onto Bishopsgate in front of Liverpool Street Station.

pp17/18: interior of Liverpool Street Station.

pp21: Mike only refers to a 'side alley' rather than Bishopsgate, so I was extremely happy to chance across the plaque... hopefully it gave the scene a bit of resonance.


pp22: a shot down Bishopsgate, specified as 'the eastern skyline' but I'm not sure whether this is. I wanted to get the cranes in, to nail the balance of old and new that seems to permeate London right now...

 

Acknowledgements: To Jock for offering the photos he took during his trip around London. To Mike for making this stuff up. To the various Hellblazer forum folks for pointing more things out and asking questions that made me come up with No Prize answers. Especially to Funk for spotting page 21's quote. I realise that with all this poetry I have not made the usual music references, so I direct you to Sparklehorse's reading of William Blake's "London" and Chas and Dave's "Gertcha".


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