Tomorrow Stories Special 1 – Splash Brannigan
Below are annotations for Tomorrow Stories Special, No. 1 of 2 “The Big Seep” (12 pages, January 2006)
Writer: Alan Moore (AM), Artist: Hilary Barta (HB)
>return to Splash Brannigan annotations index
Note: some of this stuff is obvious, some very very obvious… but you never know who’s reading this and what their exposure is to any given reference. Apologies for stuff that’s too obvious to you. If there’s stuff I missed or got wrong, let me know in comments, or email linton.joe [at] gmail.com
General notes: This is AM’s parody of the detective noir literature, including books and movies. This is the longest Splash Brannigan story ever, and I don’t think it was collected anywhere… there goes my readership! Note – there’s a running gag where almost every panel features Splash holding a satirically-titled detective novel – I’ve listed all those book titles at the bottom – scroll way down to find them.
- The overall look of the panel is very film noir, which typically includes dark settings with dramatic shadows across things.
- “Indelible Investigator” is a change from the usual subtitle Indelible Avenger.
- Kaput is looking at Miss Screensaver’s breasts.
- Someone is trying to kill the detective who sits at that chair – icepick, axe, knife, fork, and bullet holes. Splash is hiding in the dark below.
- “A watery private eye” refers to a watery eye, a symptom of illness. (Though maybe it could be someone crying?)
- “He’s some kind of dick. Not dripping.” Dick is slang for detective… but a dripping dick would be a penis urinating or worse.
- “The Big Seep” is a play on The Big Sleep, a 1939 Raymond Chandler detective novel made into a 1946 movie.
- “All is Kaput” is a slogan for Kaput Comics, sounds kind of like “Make Mine Marvel.”
- The red-clad super-hero by Miss Screensaver’s hair is Sarcastic Thug.
- “Open Wide, My Sweet” refers to Murder My Sweet, a 1944 detective film. There’s a running gag through the whole story, where every panel Splash is reading a cleverly titled detective book. Instead of writing about these for each panel, I’ve done a list of them. The list is at the bottom of this page – scroll way down. The changing book titles echoes a 1954 Mad comics parody of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven.” The parody was created by Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder. For part of the story, the titular raven holds a book under its wing; each panel the book’s title changes.
- Pretty much all Splash’s dialogue, from this panel forward, sounds like a parody of 30s-40s detective fiction.
- “My ditzy blonde secretary Daisy” is delusional; Miss Screensaver is neither ditzy nor Splash’s secretary. It’s an example of AM parodying the rampant sexism in ’30s detective fiction (which outlasted the 30s.)
- “Premises” has a clever double meaning: it can mean the concept to hang the plot on, or it can mean a location. Daisy means the former. Splash responds to it meaning the latter.
- “…she moaned seductively.” is the first of way too many jokes about how pulp detective writing over-uses phrases like “X [form of “said”] Y-ly” – “she said sharply” etc. etc. etc. I looked through some Raymond Chandler, and he uses this construction now and then, but it’s nowhere near as common as AM parodies it to be throughout this story. These phrases are found in many many panels throughout, I haven’t noted them all.
- Splash is taking Screensaver to a 1930s detective “premise” – in the location sense – an office he’s found.
- “Case the joint” is fairly cliche detective-speak for investigating a location.
- When Splash whisks people across town quickly, they get motion sickness – or perhaps teleportation sickness, a sci-fi convention also found in AM’s Watchmen, too. It happens to Miss Screensaver here, and later (Page 3, panel 4) to Ms. Front.
- Splash’s “she said” statements are all very sexual from here through the next few panels (when Miss Screensaver is being anything but sexual toward him): “she retorted, moist tongue sliding wantonly across her chin,” then “she panted provocatively,” and “she ejaculated prematurely.”
- “Single file” which means lined up in just one line, seems to be just a joke on there being only one file; these offices usually having file cabinets full of case files.
- “She was a knockout, but after recovering consciousness, she got down to business.” Knockout is, of course, slang for a beautiful woman. Splash is apparently expressing it literally, as if he actually was literally knocked out by her.
- “I began to see the broader picture” Splash states, looking at Ms. Front’s butt.
- I couldn’t find any reference for Coffeeburg Mayor Joe DeCaffrey. It’s probably just a play on “decaf” – decaffeinated coffee. City redevelopment is arguably analogous to coffee decaffeination: both are more-or-less removing the essential core element of things, leaving them a sort-of gutted shell of their former selves.
- “S.S. Indelible” is the name of a boat (S.S. was originally for Steam Ship.) I think this is just a reference to motion/teleportation sickness I mentioned above on Page 2, panel 2. Indelible is a common type of ink.
- I’m not sure what the nun refers to. Google tells me there was a nun witness central to the plot of Appointment With Danger, a 1951 film noir crime movie.
- “I flung her roughly against a wall. ‘OK sugar,’ I slurred misogynistically. ‘This time I want the truth.” This is a detective trope, which AM and HB have exaggerated to absurdity. Usually the detective, woman and wall are in an embrace, all within a foot or two of each other – so it’s more like a forced embrace with a shove, still rather violent – but not literally throwing someone dozens of feet away into a wall.
- Not sure what that octopus means, other than another boat motion sickness reference.
- “Antiquated fairground ride” is a running joke (reaching its end where the story ends on Page 12 panel 6.) The “run-around,” the “flim-flam” (Page 4, panel 4) and I think some others [I’ll fill this in as I go] are pulp detective slang, which AM compares to amusement park rides.
- “Flim-flam” see Page 4, panel 1 above.
- Splash’s use of the mail slot is pretty gratuitous; he could have just gone in the door.
- “She clicked Swahilily” is a reference to African Swahili language includes clicking sounds (example vid.) Probably this is just the continuation into absurdity of the she-said descriptions (see Page 1, panel 3 above.) Perhaps it is meant to refer to an emphatic pronunciation of Hunt Runt Funt which could sound sort of like Hunt-tuh Runt-tuh Funt-tuh?
- “Slowly, the figure turned and spoke” and “So… de… tec… tive… at… last… we… meet…” are a silly grammatical joke. Slowly is a kind-of grammatical misplaced modifier, applying to both “turned” and “spoke,” so Funt is speaking slowly. Splash corrects himself in the next panel, stating “The figure turned slowly and spoke.”
- “Spillocil” I couldn’t find any conclusive reference. It sounds a little like Spillexcel, which is a brand of oil spill containment products.
- “Out darn spot” is from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, though the actual line there is “Out, damned spot!” Here it, of course, is the label of a stain remover, which one would use to get rid of ink, which Splash is made of.
- It could be a colorist error, but the Funt portraits on the wall have changed slightly from panel 5 to panel 6.
- The Funt portrait on the left looks like one of the Mario Brothers computer game icons.
- “Dream sequences” are, of course, common B-movie storytelling devices. They’re sometime shot with low-budget special effects including “dry ice fumes.”
- “Injury to the bloodshot eye motif” is a reference to Un Chien Andalou (An Andalusian Dog), a surrealist short film by director Luis Buñuel and artist Salvador Dalí. The eye injury occurs at about minute 1:30 in the above video. There’s also a famous injury to the eye motif from a comic book dream sequence: Jack Cole’s needle to the eye panel from the 1947 story Murder, Morhpine and Me! in True Crime Comics No.2.
- I am not sure what the man throwing wheels represents. Or the man brushing the giant tooth.
- The melting watch and ants are from the painting The Persistence of Time by Salvador Dalí.
- The crutch holding up Splash’s index finger is also a trope from Dalí (example.)
- The naked at school dream is fairly common.
- The chalkboard features a game of hangman. The missing letter is, of course, E, to spell out MURDER, but Splash has guessed various less common letters ZQWPF.
- “Locked room” mysteries are a fairly common sub-genre of detective fiction. (My favorite one is just called The Locked Room by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö; I wrote about it here.)
- “Her expression ambiguous” is, again, Splash completely failing to observe what’s going on. Ms. Font is laughing at Splash, holding up a sign that represents “you sucker.” She has, of course, suckered Splash into appearing to have committed the murder.
- “Apply white-out to my temples” refers to the common way that movie make-up will whiten men’s temple hair to indicate that they’ve aged.
- I don’t know what the swastika reference is here.
- The “come on” carnival ride continues the joke from Page 4, panel 1 above.
- The guy on the right looks like he might be from some kind of slasher movie.
- The tunnel-behind-the-pinup poster technique is from the movie The Shawshank Redemption.
- “Was Oswald really acting alone?” refers to the John F. Kennedy assassination, which Lee Harvey Oswald reportedly committed alone.
- “Forget it, Daisy, it’s Chinaware” is a reference to the last line of the 1974 detective movie Chinatown, where the last line is “Forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown.”
- The kid standing in line, wearing the red hat is wearing a Testostor T-shirt, see TS No. 8.
Below is the list of book titles (in parenthesis: page, then panel.) These are the noir books that Splash is carrying starting from page 1, panel 2. In some cases I tracked down similarly titled ones. In some cases they form a sort of ongoing sequential Burma-Shave type joke. A lot of times, they just include some alliteration.
- “Open Wide, My Sweet” (1,2) refers to Murder My Sweet, a 1944 detective film.
- “Restraining Order For Cutie” (1,3) refers to Slay Ride for Cutie, a 1949 British pulp fiction novel.
- “Baby Hold My Teeth” (2,1) could refer to Baby Don’t Dare Squeal, a 1951 British pulp fiction novel.
- “The Frail Carried Pepper Spray” (2,2)
- “Sweetie, Where’s My Socks?” (2,3)
- “The Lady Wore Cardboard” (2,4) could refer to The Bride Wore Red, a 1937 film, The Filly Wore Red, a 1952 novel, and/or The Bride Wore Black, a 1967 film
- “Fondle Me When I’m Dead” (2,5) could refer to Alfred Hitchcock Wake Me When I’m Dead 1980s TV series.
- “Tomatoes Can Be Touchy” (2,6) could refer to Frails Can Be So Tough, a 1951 novel.
- “Skirts Can Be Sarcastic” (3,1) – see 2,6
- “Popsie, That’s My Spleen” (3,2)
- “Hitler, Hold Me Tight” (3,3)
- “Frisk Me When I’m Naked” (4,2) – see 2,5
- “My Gun Is Damp” (4,3)
- “The Tease Wore A Toe-Tag” (4,4)
- “Slap Me While I’m Baffled” (4,5) – see 2.5
- “Baby Please Stop Smirking” (4,7)
- “Gals Can Be Grumpy” (5,1) – see 2,6
- “Call Girls Can Be Men Dressed Up” (5,3) – see 2,6. See also next two below, for a sequence joke.
- “But That Can Be A Good Thing” (5,4)
- “Not That I’d Know Anything About It” (5,5)
- “Anyway, Moving On…” (5,6)
- “Honey Don’t Stand Upright” (6,1)
- “The Stiff Was Still Seductive” (6,2)
- “Flopsy That’s My Hernia” (6,3)
- “Dead Men Don’t Line Dance” (6,4) could refer to Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, a 1982 noir parody film, not unlike this Splash parody.
- “Googie, Break My Thumbs” (6,5)
- “The Lady Was, As It Turned Out, 13” (7,3)
- “Death Rode A Unicycle” (7,4)
- “My Gun Is Tiny” (7,5)
- “Skanks Can Be Skittish” (8,1)
- “My Gun Goes Off Unexpectedly” (8,2)
- “And Is A Really Weird Color” (8,3)
- “Nutsy, Boil My Rabbit” (8,4)
- “Punch Me While I’m Rampant” (8,5)
- “Lassie, Go Get Help” (8,6)
- “Startle Me While I’m Shaving” (9,1)
- “Missy Don’t Wear Horizontal Stripes” (9,2)
- “Cozy Was My Cell” (9,3)
- “Death Got Work Release” (9,4)
- “Chicks Can Be Choosy” (9,5)
- “Lady, Please Get Drunk” (9,6)
- “Stab Me While I’m Knitting” (10,1)
- “Death Looked Shorter Than On TV” (10,3)
- “My Gun Is, Frankly, A Penis” (10,4)
- “Baby Don’t Skuttle Sideways” (10,5)
- “The Lady Wore Toothpaste” (10,6)
- “The Lady Got Custody of the Kids” (11,1)
- “Broads Can Be Brutal” (11,2)
- “Frails Can Be Frightening” (11,3)
- “Pretty Obviously I Have Issues With Women” (11,4) – from here through 12,5 is a sequence.
- “And My Own Fragile Sense of Mascultinity Thinking About It.” (11,5)
- “Then There’s This Morbid Obsession With Violence and Death” (12,1)
- “Face It I’m A Mess” (12,2)
- “I Might As Well Dress Up In High Heels and Be Done With It” (12,3)
- “Or Lipstick and Sheer Lingerie and Stuff Like That” (12, 4)
- “Mom, This Is All Your Fault” (12,5)
- “Remainder Me After I’m Fashionable” (12,6)