Black Flowers, Part 1 of 2
Annotations By : Adrian Brown

Dr Carey's whirlwind tour of the history of British Lunatic Asylums continues. And the conspiracy around Constantine and his family and friends develops, as another one of his associates finds their family threatened by dark forces.

Page 1

"St Peter's Psychiatric Hospital, Bedfordshire."

The Bedfordshire County Asylum may be Fairfield in Arlesey (according to Arthur Wyatt, Hellblazer forum poster and resident of Bedfordshire). However the "truth" may be more complex.

This should be considered an amalgam of various hospitals in order to create a mood, which it does very well. A useful point of reference is the hospital in the 1972 Amicus film "Asylum". They used the grounds of stately homes for those sort of films, but many of the Victorian-bulit asylums around London are now closed and, if not replaced by new housing developments of rural-suburbia, they often end up being used as film sets.

In any case, it is unlikely that even the low-risk patients would be allowed to wander the premises quite so much.

Page 2

All the patients having bare feet seems extreme.

Note that they are looking into what appears to be a lift shaft. One of those old ones with sliding metal lattices. Whatever Jelly, Mikey, Slip and Jason (Spatchcock) are looking at, it's growing. Or opening.

Page 3

"Totentaz" ? Well "Toten tanz" is dance of the dead (or Danse Macabre).

Looks like some dreadful goth-punk band. I hope Angie was doing research at this gig, rather than betraying her musical leanings.

Note that Angie has some psychic power in action here.

Page 4

As it turns out, Angie's wearing an Interpol t-shirt which is rather more hopeful, perhaps the dickhead she's with chose the band ?

And he is a dickhead.

Angie's comment that they won't answer the phone may be true if she only has the ward number, but unlikely that they would not have a switchboard. "St Peters Fields" is where the Peterloo massacre took place.

Peterloo Massacre (1819)

"Dissatisfaction about the standard of living in Britain continued. On August 16, a large crowd gathered at St Peters Fields, Manchester, to hear call for parliamentary reform. The local troops were called to disperse the meeting. Eleven people died in the chaos as the troops moved in. The incident was dubbed the Peterloo Massacre in comparison to the carnage at Waterloo in 1815."

Page 5

This is a lovely page, reminiscent of the horror comics of the EC era. With the colours washed out except the blood red, and disconcertingly skewed angles adding to the sensation.

Despite the accurate depiction of the night shift staff in a closed office, the door to the nurses station would very likely have that glass reinforced with wires.

Page 6

When Angie previously said "to the station" it would be fairly clear that she meant Lime Street. Liverpool's main escape route to the world. (Other than escaping by water.)

Ah, I was wrong, he's a dick-no-head.

Serves him right if you ask me, nothing puts a person off sex like being worried about a family member.

Angie's kick would require a very supple body though, wouldn't it ?

Page 7

Not much to add here.

It'll take Angie just over three hours to drive the 180 miles from Liverpool to Bedfordshire, assuming she takes the usual M62, M6, M1 route (although the new A14 improvements might make it quicker to take the A1). Mind you, nice car, might be quicker.

Page 8

It seems that Lee Bermejo googled up a very retro post van !

I actually assumed it was a milk van on first inspection, because the song playing on the radio is "Ernie, the fastest milk man in the West" by Benny Hill. A novelty number one hit in the UK charts in 1971.

Registered mail - you pay an extra charge to make sure your letter gets there in one piece. Someone has to sign for it when the postman delivers it. Special delivery is 3.65 guaranteed next day or your money back. Recorded delivery is 90p but goes at the normal speed. First class should get there next day, but it rarely does outside of cities.

Page 9

You rarely see superheroes in the bathroom, do you ? This is a fine depiction of John.

Page 10

Now, when Tim the Enchanter advised Arthur and his Knights "Follow. But! Follow only if ye be men of valour, for the entrance to this cave is guarded by a creature so foul, so cruel that no man yet has fought with it and lived! Bones of full fifty men lie strewn about its lair. So, brave knights, if you do doubt your courage or your strength, come no further, for death awaits you all with nasty, big, pointy teeth." This is what I was expecting. Not this.

King Arawn Pen Annuvin

"Arawn (ah-RAWN): The Death-Lord is "the worst of villains, the embodiment of evil". He is a powerful enchanter with the desire to destroy Prydain and gain total domination. He learned his enchantments from Achren when she ruled Prydain. He took the throne from her. He is never "seen" until the last book. One important power he has is to change shape, but then his skill and strength is no greater than the shape he takes on. This is the only time he can be killed. LA purposefully does not describe the Death-Lord or his kingdom in much detail. "When you're dealing with terrible villains - in other words...monstrous, awful, terrible [beings] - the less description specifically, the better." We only "see" Arawn in other shapes, shadows, and finally, as a serpent...the ancient symbol of evil." A character from Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles.

Page 11

"Mucus on my duvet" ! Heh.

The first inkling in a while that we are in the territory described by Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman. That is to say, a place where the works of fiction describing death, fantasy, the afterworld are in some way connected. Alexander's Death-Lord is troubled by ructions caused by the opening of doors (see previous issue).

It is also noteworthy that all and sundry in the afterworld/underworld are trying to get John involved.

And John's dreaming of Angie ?

Page 12

There was a Stone Cross Inn in Midsomer Norton. Though, why would a pub called The Stone Cross have a horse's head on the sign ... ?

The chap with local knowledge points out that Bedford is quite flat, and this picture looks to me like Glastonbury, with the Tor visible from the main street. The old house overlooking the town is a staple in these stories, so I will ... erm ... overlook this.

There's an indication here that "the shadows" are possessing the living rather than attacking them. "Shadows in holiday mood" is probably not a reference to the Cliff Richard film "Summer Holiday".

Page 13

John does some divining.

Page 14

Useful, but more useful still.

A Gaelic poem about travelling. Followed by the first line of another "Well can I say my rune".

Liverpool is just below John's chin on that map. Bedfordshire is just above his forehead. There are seven places called Stone Cross in the UK. REMEMBER, this is fiction.

Note that Silk Cut packet looks just like a Silk Cut packet.

Page 15

The pub sign is askew. A very nice hint that things have changed since we last saw the town. Angie seems unconcerned by the pram, which had an abandoned baby in it on page 12.

Now I have read light-hearted criticism that a chap would not jump through a window and eat raw meat. But we know that something funny is going on, that makes people behave differently to usual. Don't we ?

Page 16

The Bull and Butcher, now there's an appropriate pub name. I expect this is the young person's venue rather than the Stone Cross Inn with its real ale and NO JUKEBOX. I would say the clock on the wall says ten to five. Glad to see that Angie drove carefully.

The scenes inside the bar suggest something "enjoying" a new lease of life - with other people's bodies.

Page 17

London to Luton, about an hour in the day-time. Less at night. And you'd certainly not want to bother with the Midland Mainline (from Kings Cross).

Wait a minute, who's Marie ? I thought Chas's missus was Renee ?

Oh this back story confuses me !

Kev would, of course, be stopped by the police for not wearing a helmet.

Page 18

The classic "House on the Hill", see ?

Having consulted Ordnance Survey map of Arlesey, the psychiatric hospital is on a "hill" 30 metres above the town.

Page 19

Black flowers everywhere.

Perhaps that explains the "many-throated hissing" and probably the bites on Angie's hands.

Jason isn't expecting her as far as we know, unless he's got that psychic gift as well as Angie ?

Page 20

When Kev turned up, I was reminded of those chaps in Star Trek who you've never seen before who are going to end up dead later in the episode.

John's noticed the flowers straight away.

Page 21

Once more, I'll pause to compliment Lee Bermejo on this sequence. It's just got the right pathos, and the impression that John is thinking his way around a worrying problem, rather than being cocky.

Look at the teeth on them flowers !

Page 22

You know, in those Amicus films, Angie would have to be saying something to let us know her thoughts, and it always comes over corny. But here, she is dumbstruck - and her face tells her feelings.

That scary chap with a mask (looking vaguely South American) and a necklace of hands doesn't look very friendly. But then who'd have thought a mucosal bug-eyed rabbit-fly would be an ally ?

While looking up references for necklaces made of hands, I found this -


"The supreme deity of the Ibo of Eastern Nigeria, Chuku is the creator, and the Ibo believe that all good comes from him. Once he sent a dog messenger to men, advising them that, should anyone die, they should be lain on the ground and strewn with ashes, after which they would return to life. The dog, however, was tired and so delayed, so Chuku sent a sheep with the same message. It too got delayed, stopping to eat on the way, and on arriving had forgotten the wording of the message it had brought. Guessing, the sheep told men that they should bury a corpse in the earth. When the dog arrived later with the correct message, it was not believed, and so death was established on the Earth."

See ? It's that dog thing again. And the dead coming back to life.

Annotations By : Adrian Brown

Additional input from James Wilkinson -

Do our American friends know what a "biro" is? (It's a brand of cheap disposeable pen. And is Mike implying that the big slobbery bunny fly actually does carry one about?)

I'd also like to add that the Emissary's features seem more like a spider's than a fly's, though I'm no expert on the matter. Still... note the difference between a fly's head (large, compound eyes) and a spider's head (multiple eyes, big horrible mandibles)

Annotations By : Adrian Brown

Read issue synopsis.

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