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Scarlet Traces (2002) is a comic of the Steampunk genre, written by Ian Edginton and illustrated by D'Israeli. Scarlet Traces is also used as the collective name for the story and its sequel, Scarlet Traces: The Great Game (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 develop 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 Squaremarker 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.

Publication history

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..."

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

"...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 Having retrieved the property, Ian (Edginton) then managed to license our previously-unpublished comic to Rebellion's Judge Dredd Megazine as a reprint — thus giving us the funds to complete the story while retaining ownership."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).

D'Israeli reworked Scarlet Traces as a traditional comic book story. This version was serialised in 2002 in the UK anthology Judge Dredd Megazine issues 4.16, 4.17 and 4.18. In 2003 it was collected in its own 4-issue limited series (with minor revisions) by Dark Horse Comics, and subsequently collected into one volume by Dark Horse Comics in August 2003 (ISBN 1-56971-940-3).

Collected editions

Both stories have been collected:

  • The Great Game (4 issue mini-series, Dark Horse, 2006, tpb, 104 pages, May 2007, ISBN 1-59307-717-3)


Scarlet Traces

The story begins ten years after the abortive Martian invasion of Earth, with bodies turning up in the dark corners of a glittering post-invasion Londonmarker. Emerging from comfortable retirement in fashionable Bedford Squaremarker, Major Robert Autumn DSO and his trusty manservant Colour Sergeant Arthur Currie search for the culprits. Robert 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. The climax is a grim one in which virtue does not triumph.

Scarlet Traces: The Great Game

Thirty years after the events of Scarlet Traces, the counter-invasion of Mars is going badly. The central character is an aristocratic young photojournalist Charlotte Hemming. She is saved from the thuggish agents of an increasingly repressive British Government by a now elderly Robert Autumn, but he has a dangerous mission for her — she must travel to Mars to unravel dark secrets behind the war.

References to/in Scarlet Traces

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 Abyssiniamarker from an assassin. Ned Penny can be seen on the Thunder Child. An Archie the dog look- alike appears in the ruins of London. 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. The adaptation ends with the narrator reflecting that it may be possible for humans to spread throughout the solar system also, a reflection that was not in the original book and is the basis for the plot of Scarlet Traces.

The design of the British war vehicles and spacecraft appear to be based on those designed by Wernher von Braun for his Das Marsprojekt and illustrated by Chesley Bonestell for the Man Will Conquer Space Soon! segment for Collier's.

In Scarlet Traces, when the main characters disembark at the Londonmarker airport, Captain Haddock, Tintin and Snowy can also be seen arriving, along with two figures who appear to be Phileas Fogg and Passepartout, and the shopkeeper from Mr. Benn. The Prime Minister, Sir John Cabal, shares his name with the main character in H.G. Wells's movie Things to Come. The character of "Sergeant Dravott" is perhaps intended to be Sergeant Daniel Dravot from Rudyard Kipling's The Man Who Would Be King.

Dr. Spry's office from the back of Scarlet Traces contains a photograph of the Face on Mars (although it is too small to be seen from any Earthly telescope).

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

Among a number of figures from popular British culture in the 1950s and 1960s that make brief and whimsical appearances in The Great Game are Sergeant Major Snudge (from the TV series The Army Game); Dan Dare and Digby (from the Eagle comic) and Shari Lewis with her sock puppet Lamb Chop. Autumn's teapot is the head of a Dalek from Doctor Who. Haile Selassie and Oswald Mosley are also mentioned as being the Secretary-General of the League of Nations and British Home Secretary, respectively. Cavorite, developed by Cavor from H.G. Wells' The First Men in the Moon, is used as the winning weapon at the end of the war; after Cavor is said to have killed himself, the substance was re-discovered by Barnes Wallis. There is also a reference to the fictional town of Walmington-on-Sea and it's local militia, a nod at British sitcom Dad's Army.

Also appearing in The Great Game are two characters who bear a strong resemblance to the Mitchell brothers from the British soap opera Eastenders. They appear and are killed in the first chapter, threatening Charlotte. Their identities are confirmed in chapter two, when they are referred to as "Grant" and "Phillips".

The elderly Robert Autumn's home in The Great Game is the abandoned "Hobb's Lane" Underground station from the 1960s British Science Fiction Movie Quatermass and the Pit which features the discovery of a crashed Martian space ship underneath the station.

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

In The Great Game issue 1, Carl Kolchak makes a cameo appearance; and 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.


  • 2007 nominated for the Eisner Awards for:
    • Best Limited Series, The Great Game
    • Best Writer, Ian Edginton, for his work on The Great Game

See also



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