Third Worlds : The Pit
Annotations By : Adrian Brown
Click Here for issue synopsis
Note that the cover features John and Angie, some Australian aboriginal imagery, some mushrooms and skeleton in a pit.
"Every night they dig the pit. Dig it for the first time."
This is a hint that there's a repetition going on here. Later on this page, we are told that they have done this for 200 years - ie since the event that is haunting the location. The British moved into Tasmania in 1803. "At the time of British settlement the indigenous population has been estimated at 5000, but through persecution and disease the population was eliminated (some mixed-blood descendants still survive)".
"Port Adams" is a fictionalised version of Port Arthur in Tasmania.
It is, by all accounts, a remarkable relic of Australian history as a penal colony. In fact, there have been two brutal periods at Porth Arthur. First in the mid 19th century when it was a male penal colony referred to as "Hell on Earth". Second in 1996, when a young man killed thirty-five visitors to the historical site.
Angie asks the question again.
John's answer is possibly incorrect, since most violent genocide of the aboriginal people would have been before the establishment of the prison camp. His comment about wiping out aboriginals to make more room for sheep may be sardonic but there's more than a grain of truth in the systematic extinction of the Australian natives.
Once again, John does his own annotations here.
The last non-mixed birth aboriginal was a woman called Truganini who negotiated with one of the British politicians to have the Tasmanians moved to another island. This turned out to be something of a deception, and they were left to die. Midnight Oil did a song referring to her.
"I've had some bad experiences with dead people recently".
Angie is referring to the dead folk who possessed the folks around St Peter's Hospital (#182 and #183).
Copelandia Cyanescens is a psychoactive mushroom found around the Pacific. By coincidence, they were most likely introduced to Australia from the Philippines or thereabouts, as the European nations spread throughout the Pacific.
John's visited the Dreamtime before (qv Eddie Campbell's issues?), a traditional method of doing so is to ingest some plant-borne psylocibin.
"I know exactly what I'm doing" = famous almost last words.
"Like someone else ate them first" mushrooms like this are often coprophilic, ie they grow on shit. Which Bill Hicks referred to, in his routine about God leaving all these drugs lying around, as the reason folks say "that's some good shit".
There are major campaigns to reinstate the Aboriginal languages. Although most of them have absolutely no remnant since they were only spoken, and the main users of the language were killed or "encouraged" to use other languages. The Tasmanian aboriginals had a language called Pallawa (which sounds like "palare" to me).
The main reason I can see for getting naked is that one might be incontinent while under the influence (see above "good shit").
"Bludging" is Australian slang for skiving. Ie being idle or lazy.
"Skite" is Northern English for a worthless person.
"Fagger" ? most likely the same root as "fag" in the US sense.
(Wow, couldn't discuss this on the DC forums, could we ?)
There would have been a lot of fear of the "black men" at this point since they had every reason to be angry with the British settlers. The soldier in charge is called Bryant, which was also the name of the man who went on a gun rampage in Port Arthur.
Barbed wire hadn't been invented yet.
Remember when John said he knew what he was doing ? Well, he didn't realise that the most powerful dreams of the ghosts around Port Adam would be from the fear of the British soldiers rather than the Aboriginals. So these people are poorly realised fantasies of the British ghosts rather than the real thing.
That's a really nice page.
Mike Carey says that this woman is based on Walyeric, a historical Tasmanian person. In searching the internet for the name, I only got three links, which all refer to a book called English Passengers by Matthew Kneale. The book tells of a voyage to realise the vision of one man who believes Tasmania to be the true site of the Garden of Eden. Coincidence?
Of course the Scouse woman and the ancient Tasmanian understand each other.
So you think Angie's whispering in that first panel, or was there an edit ?
Angie expects the gun to have no substance, like a ghost, but she is surprised by the strength of this one.
Coming from a people whose history was told almost totally via the oral tradition, the woman gives Angie the chance to trade *her* story.
Pages 9 & 10
John explains to the ghost of Maine why the aboriginal people in Maine's prison camp are no good to him. This unnerves Maine, and John finds out how strong the ghosts of Port Adam are.
My first thought was why would an aboriginal woman think of ghosts as white ?
But of course, the desert would soon blast the flesh from a body and reveal the while bone.
The laws she refers to would have been linked to the Christian laws, but there were also laws designed to control the native people. The use of blankets to transmit small pox has been widely reported in British Imperial history. It would also be true that the British would bring strange diseases that they were immune to, but the aboriginal people were not.
There were retaliatory strikes by the aboriginal people throughout Australia, but there was not one at Port Arthur - the fictional Port Adam is used by Mike to tell this story.
Pages 13 & 14
John has broken the British ghost's dream.
Now the three soldiers think that John has let them out, because that makes sense to them. Don't forget they've done the same thing every night for almost two hundred years.
Angie tells her story.
We find out that Jason is three years younger than Angie. And has had signs of schizophrenia since he was fourteen. The aetiology of the onset of that illness is fairly well described on this page, first becoming withdrawn and experiencing negative symptoms, then expressing the symptoms outwardly.
Neurasthenia = literally "nervous weakness" and is a very archaic term in 1990s medicine. Of course, many General Practitioners were trained in the sixties ...
Family members often don't know how else to deal with the unusual behaviour, and it becomes even more disturbing for the schizophrenic. Recognise Angie's Dad from her first appearance ? (#175)
Walton Prison exists. Given Jason's mental illness he ought not to have been admitted there, but the misdiagnosis of this sort of thing is unfortunately common.
Even with treatment, the decline of symptoms does not always slow down at this stage, but the drugs retard the person's behaviour and the effects are less aggressive or less distressing.
I'd have put Angie around her early thirties, and Jason's aetiology stretches that a bit, but might be possible.
Onset of illness, age 14.
Symptoms become more noticeable over the following years - eventually resulting in prison.
He'd have to be over 21 to be in Walton. Where he served 18 months.
Has been in the hospital long enough to have settled enough to wander around at night.
He's at least around 24 years old.
Therefore Angie's at least 27.
John faces the firing squad from the Nineteenth Century.
Of course, this puts him on the side of the aboriginal spirits now ...
... but thankfully Angie's story has done the trick and the more powerful ghosts freeze the bullets.
"Dream(bullet)time" for all you Matrix fans.
"White bone man" - ie man the colour of bone.
The dream will happen again for these ghosts of men on the edge of Hell.
"Kua I'pa" does not seem to appear in any of the resources I've found. Trust those pesky Tasmanian devils !
We're not being told what John and Angie have found out about the Shadow Dog, and there are very few clues that I can find. In a way, this serves to put the emphasis on their relationship, as they have a secret from the reader. However, as has been observed, the last two issues have served to diminish the impending threat of the Shadow Dog.
(And remember, we also don't know who is behind it - in two senses of the word.)
John observes that the woman might not have saved him because he is also white, but she points out that you can use that hate in all sorts of ways. Angie showed in her story that she also has a reason to hate the people who did not treat Jason properly, but she acts on this differently.
The woman points something out that has not been made clear before when she refers to Angie as "your woman, John Constantine". She also says he's in for a bad dream, presumably when they move after the Shadow Dog.
Awwww ! Romance !
Aren't they supposed to have the cigarette afterwards ?