Scarlet Traces

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Scarlet Traces
The cover of the hardcover
Created by Ian Edginton
Publication information
Publisher Rebellion
Dark Horse Comics
Schedule Monthly
Formats Original material for the series has been published as a strip in the comics anthology(s) Judge Dredd Megazine and a set of limited series.
Publication date October–December 2002
July–October 2006
Number of issues 3
Creative team
Writer(s) Ian Edginton
Artist(s) D'Israeli
Letterer(s) D'Israeli
Colourist(s) D'Israeli
Creator(s) Ian Edginton
Editor(s) Alan Barnes
David Land/Katie Moody
Collected editions
Scarlet Traces ISBN 1-56971-940-3
The Great Game ISBN 1-59307-717-3

Scarlet Traces is a comics story of the Steampunk genre, written by Ian Edginton and illustrated by D'Israeli. It was originally published online before being serialised in 2002. A sequel, Scarlet Traces: The Great Game, followed in 2006.

Edginton and D'Israeli's 2006 adaptation of H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds is effectively a prequel to Scarlet Traces, as key characters of Scarlet Traces can be glimpsed therein and the same designs for the Martians and their technology are used.


Scarlet Traces is based on the premise that Britain was able to reverse engineer alien technology, abandoned after the abortive Martian invasion of The War of the Worlds, to establish economic and political dominance over the remainder of the world.

The artwork shows an imposition of futuristic devices on early 20th century society. In the first series, set in 1908, London cabbies and the Household Cavalry have swapped their horses for mechanical devices with spiderlike legs; homes are heated and lit by modified versions of the Martian heat ray; the pigeons of Trafalgar Square are thinned out by miniature Martian war machines. In the sequel, Britain of the late 1930s is recreated along fairly recognisable lines but with an additional layer of alien derived technology and a political agenda that has modern parallels.


Scarlet Traces[edit]

The story begins ten years after the abortive Martian invasion of Earth, with bodies being washed up on the banks of the river Thames. The bodies are all female and drained of blood, prompting a local drunk who discovers them to think that a vampire is on the loose. Emerging from comfortable retirement in fashionable Bedford Square, Major Robert Autumn DSO and his trusty manservant Colour Sergeant Arthur Currie search for the culprits after being informed that Currie's niece is most likely one of the missing girls.

Autumn is represented as a classic Victorian hero: honourable, perceptive and brave but out of his depth in a new age of ruthless exploitation personified by the bullish, cynical government official Dr Davenport Spry.

After following the investigation across England and Scotland the pair, now accompanied by the drunk from London, discover that a single Martian has survived the bacteria by turning its own war machine into a hermetic chamber. In return for its life - and human blood to sustain it, the alien dubbed "Humpty", has been assisting British scientists in understanding Martian technology.

In the finale, Spry reveals that Britain, having come to dominate Earth using its new technology, now intends to invade Mars. In an ensuing fight Currie is killed, and Autumn loses an arm. Spry kills the captive Martian which has now served its purpose, and contemptuously dismisses Autumn as a "dusty relic". A crippled and alcoholic Autumn witnesses the departure of Britain's stella expeditionary force to Mars, amid general scenes of patriotic fervor.

Scarlet Traces: The Great Game[edit]

Thirty years after the events of Scarlet Traces, the counter-invasion of Mars is going badly, with the Martians successfully defending themselves using heat ray weapons against the invaders. An aristocratic young photojournalist Charlotte Hemming is saved by Robert Autumn from the thuggish agents of an increasingly repressive British Government - led by Spry, now Prime Minister. Autumn asks her to travel to Mars and investigate why out of the thousands of soldiers sent, only three hundred and seventy two have returned from the war. At the same time, the government is shown to be under pressure from a Nationalistic Scottish breakaway faction; plus Canada, Australia and New Zealand who wish to remove their troops from the space combat.

Hemming's spaceship is shot down as it enters Mars' atmosphere. She survives, but her cover is blown. She discovers that the Martians are not in fact native to Mars, but seem to have originated from a now-destroyed planet that occupies the asteroid belt. She theorises that a previous civilisation existed on Mars and was itself plunged into warfare by the arrival of the Asteroid "Martians", resulting in their extinction.

Hemming also discovers that the Martians have been using genetic techniques to mimic humanity to an indistinguishable degree - but the government is already aware of this, and has been preventing any substantial return of veterans to Earth, in case they are in fact disguised Martians.

Spry's government is about to deliver a coup de grace in some unknown form, and destroy all the remaining Martians - as well as an expendable rearguard left behind when the main body of the expeditionary force is secretly evacuated.

The expected doomsday weapon is delivered, and turns out to be modified Cavorite in capsule form, which sticks to anything it touches, and lifts it off the planet into the vacuum of space. Hemming is amongst those who survive, but upon her return to Earth they discover that enough of the Martians have escaped to take control of the Lunar colony, and turn its mass driver into a weapon targeted on Earth.

Ultimately the Martians are defeated when a Commonwealth space fleet, originally intended to evacuate their troops, arrives and with the surviving British ships engage the Martians in a crossfire.

Earth is saved, and the British government falls, with Spry being amongst those killed in the mass driver attacks. Some years later a retired Hemming is approached by officials of the new government who are worried she will expose the truth, which has been repressed. She assures them that she has no intention of upsetting the status quo, and returns to her garden, which contains several Triffids.

Allusions and cameo appearances[edit]

References within the story[edit]

In The Great Game, when Charlotte reaches the cavern with the glyphs, the original inhabitants of the Solar System are revealed to be:[1]

In The Great Game issue 1, Carl Kolchak makes a cameo appearance. In issue 2, Autumn's bookshelf includes a work entitled The Perils of Andrea, a reference to Perelandra. Both references were made by D'Israeli.[1]

References in other media[edit]

The War of the Worlds adaptation by Dark Horse Comics contains several references to Scarlet Traces. Autumn and Currie can be seen in a newspaper as having saved Emperor Menelik of Abyssinia from an assassin.[2] Ned Penny can be seen on the Thunder Child.[3] An Archie the dog look-alike appears in the ruins of London.[4] An official figure supervising the removal of Martian tripods after the end of the war resembles a young Dr. Spry, while the two army sergeants awaiting his orders reappear as Coughly and Dravott in Scarlet Traces.[5] The adaptation ends with the narrator reflecting that it may be possible for humans to spread throughout the solar system also,.[6]

In Kingdom of the Wicked, also by Edginton and D'Israeli, the main character's wife is seen reading Scarlet Traces.

Publication history[edit]

The original Scarlet Traces was conceived as a partially animated serial, intended for the now-defunct website Cool Beans World. In an interview for 2000AD Review, Edginton said "The Cool Beans version was to have been like a little movie in many ways. It had music, sound effects, zooms, pans and dissolves. There was even going to be some limited animation of the War Machines. A lot of the work was done and in the can when Cool Beans shut down production..." [7]

The website ceased operation after only a fraction of the serial had been published — estimated by Wakefield Carter as "about the first five pages".[8]

"...when Cool Beans folded, we had a comic which was only 75% complete and which was still owned by the defunct publisher... Having retrieved the property, Ian (Edginton) then managed to license our previously-unpublished comic to Rebellion's Judge Dredd Megazine as a reprint — thus giving us the funds to complete the story while retaining ownership." (D'Israeli, from his blog).[9]

D'Israeli reworked Scarlet Traces as a traditional comic book story.[9] This version was serialised in 2002 in the British anthology Judge Dredd Megazine (vol 4) issues 16 to 18. In 2003 it was collected in its own 4-issue limited series (with minor revisions) by Dark Horse Comics, and subsequently collected into one hardcover volume by Dark Horse Comics in August 2003 (ISBN 1-56971-940-3).

Collected editions[edit]

Both stories have been collected:


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Identification of the aliens from The Great Game #3 by Chris Roberson
  2. ^ "War Of The Worlds eComic: Week 2: Page 13". 2006-01-13. Retrieved 2010-10-05. 
  3. ^ "War Of The Worlds eComic: Week 8: Page 55". 2006-01-13. Retrieved 2010-10-05. 
  4. ^ "War Of The Worlds eComic: Week 22: Page 103". 2006-01-13. Retrieved 2010-10-05. 
  5. ^ "War Of The Worlds eComic: Week 26: Page 121". 2006-01-13. Retrieved 2010-10-05. 
  6. ^ "War Of The Worlds eComic: Week 26: Page 125". 2006-01-13. Retrieved 2010-10-05. 
  7. ^ Hanly, Gavin. "2000AD Review interview with Ian Edginton". Retrieved 2007-03-15. 
  8. ^ Carter, Wakefield. "BARNEY Thrill Zone entry for Scarlet Traces". Retrieved 2007-03-15. 
  9. ^ a b Brooker, Matt "D'Israeli". "D'Blog of 'Israeli: I Have Often Walked Down This Street Before". Retrieved 2007-03-15. 
  10. ^ "Dark Horse page for the ''Scarlet Traces'' book". 2003-08-27. Retrieved 2010-10-05. 
  11. ^ "Dark Horse page for the ''Great Game'' book". 2007-05-16. Retrieved 2010-10-05. 
  12. ^ "The 2007 Eisner Awards: 2007 Master Nominations List". 2010-07-21. Retrieved 2010-10-05. 


External links[edit]