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Comic Book / Scarlet Traces

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Written in 2002 by Ian Edginton and D'Israeli, Scarlet Traces is the story of a post Martian invasion Great Britain. The first series is told roughly a decade after the invasion, and follows the exploits of former soldier, spy, and adventurer Robert Autumn and his valet Archibald Currie. Basically an Alternate History continuation of the novel by H.G. Wells, the series deals with the Crapsack World that they live in, and the mystery they have to solve, which involves the highest levels of British government.

A fairly faithful graphic novel adaptation of the original The War of the Worlds was written as a prequel in 2006.

Scarlet Traces: The Great Game takes place years after the original series, with an elderly Autumn recruiting photojournalist Charlotte Hemming to travel to Mars, and find out why so few servicemen have returned from war...


It was followed by sequel series series serialized in 2000 AD including:

  • Scarlet Traces: Cold War (2016-2017)
  • Scarlet Traces: Home Front (2019)
  • Scarlet Traces: Storm Front (TBA)


  • Adaptation Expansion: The trilogy starts with a basic telling of The War of the Worlds and expands it into the socio-political ramifications such an event would have on the rest of the 20th century. The major difference is that the aliens only attack Britain as being the dominant superpower, Britain posed the greatest threat, and the aliens could assimilate the humans and take over much of the world covertly.
  • Alternate History: The Martians invasion actually happening, Great Britain remains a super-power, inter-planet travel is common by the early 30's, yeah, it's an alternate history alright.
    • After the alien invasion of Britain fails, the Imported Alien Phlebotinum allows Britain to become an even more powerful military superpower, meaning World War I and World War II never happen.
    • Oswald Mosley becomes Home Secretary of Great Britain, and forms a version of the S.P.C. even more brutal than in our world.
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    • Haile Selassie is the Secretary General of League of Nations, and Abyssinia has never been taken over by Italy.
    • Space travel has been developed to rocket level by the Thirties, though gravity cannons provided the first space travel device since 1908 and the first retaliation against Mars.
    • By 1968, there are new and familiar nations such as the United Soviet Confederacy, the North American Republic, and the German Federation.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: The alien invaders, who seem to have no redeeming qualities whatsoever.
  • An Arm and a Leg: Archie looses his right arm in the end fight underneath Cairfax Abbey to a guard's heat ray gun.
  • Battle Butler: Archie was a sergeant alongside Robert in the Coldstream Guards, and as his accomplice in international espionage. Fights alongside Autumn and Ned Penny in the lair at Cairfax Abbey, and earlier against two government thugs.
  • Britain is Only London: Averted. While a large part of the action takes place in London in both books, the characters also make a trip up to Scotland, and the counties outside of London. However, London is the biggest and most modernist city in the country, thanks to the Martian tech used to rebuild.
  • Crapsack World: The British empire after the invasion is a nationalistic, paranoid nation that hides its darker core under a veneer of progress and modern technology. The North is basically under military law, with curfews and military actions against civilians. Meanwhile, the government is using the Martian war to direct public sentiment away from the domestic problems, and instill public support of the government.
  • Cool Car: Most of the cars shown are pretty cool. Great Britain does away with regular wheels, and converts them to multi-legged hansom cabs(Scarlet Traces) and black London cabs (The Great Game) and similar vehicles. However, one of the coolest are massive army trucks on Mars (most are so big they have catwalks circling them, and carry massive loads. The low Martian gravity probably helps.
  • Cool Plane: The flying wing that Robert, Archie and Archie's brother take to Scotland is large enough that they have fireplaces and private cabins and lounges on board. Also the RAF's jet fighter planes on Mars are pretty cool, with the addition of Gatling gun pods on them as well.
  • Death Ray: The Martian Heat Ray, vaporizes people on contact, and incinerates the surroundings.
  • Diesel Punk: While the story has some Steampunk elements, most of The Great Game has more Diesel Punk overtones, with cars most likely powered by gas, or having a Martian power source.
  • Driven to Madness: The fate of the captive alien who was smart enough to hermetically seal his tripod. Or so he wants us to think.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Autumn after he fails to stop Spry.
  • Energy Weapon: Again, the heat rays.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: The lair under Cairfax Abbey, the foundry room, and the Martian Hives all count as underground bases.
  • Fat Bastard: Davenport Spry, who is quite rotund. The spymaster general of Great Britain and future Prime Minister is a pretty much a heartless bastard. His treatment of our hero is pretty horrible, and his manipulation of events to create the war and the ensuing police state are all horrid as well.
  • Government Conspiracy: The Prime Minister and Spry, as well as lesser soldiers and functionaries, all cover up the conspiracy of the missing girls.
  • Grim Up North: The north of England and Scotland, where the alien tech is produced, suffer from massive unemployment and starvation thanks to increased automation.
  • He Who Fights Monsters / Not So Different: Much of the British Empire turns bad worse after decades of war with the aliens. The comparison between colonial imperialism and Planet Looters was present in the original The War of the Worlds but ignored by most western adaptations.
  • Human Resources: Spry feeds the blood of young women looking for work to a captive alien and the aliens themselves use humans as guinea pigs in their hybridisation experiments.
  • Humans Are Bastards: Pretty much any governmental character, though James Dravott is more of the "doing my duty" sort.
  • Imported Alien Phlebotinum: The Martian technology, though it was mainly captured and re-engineered by the British Empire, and used against them.
  • Killed Offscreen: Davenport Spry is only mentioned to be among the eleven millions killed in the Martian bombardment.
  • Mechanical Horse: In the first book, many cavalry have moved onto mechanical contraptions to get around, either shaped like mechanical versions of horses, or the more sinister Royal Articulated Hussars, who are only used to suppress trouble spots in the empire. It is shown that they massacred several protesters earlier during a demonstration in Scotland.
  • Noodle Incident: Autumn angrily decries an incident involving Spry and several men left behind in the Crimea at some point before the story proper.
  • Officer and a Gentleman: Robert Autumn
  • Ray Gun: The Heat Rays look like this in Scarlet Traces. The War Of The Worlds prequel comic (an adaptation of the original novel) instead has them as the invisible rays described in the novel.
  • Shout Out
    • Prime Minister Cabal is a reference to John Cabal from the film version of The Shape of Things to Come.
    • The two thugs who kill Goldman are the Mitchell boys from EastEnders
    • Two of the fighter pilots from Mars are from the Dan Dare comics
    • Two characters in each of the books is made to resemble a friend of Ian Edgington and D'Israeli
    • A van is seen on the overpass during the ride to the Interceptor which says A. Jones Butcher (a reference to Jack Jones, the butcher/homeguardsman in Dad's Army).
    • Another Dads Army reference is the Martian in the first book being captured by a local militia in the coastal town of Walmington-On-Sea, where Dad's Army is located.
    • The two government killers in the first series are based on Michael Caine's and Sean Connery's characters from The Man Who Would Be King.
    • In the first volume, Tintin, Snowy, and Captain Haddock can be seen in the airport terminal.
    • Among the League of Nations members are the Duchy of Grand Fenwick (their LN ambassador is even drawn to resemble Peter Sellers) and the Principality of Ruritania.
  • Status Quo Is God:
    • By 1950, Britain's power is much diminished and has lost most of its empire, including India, and has thankfully become a bit less imperialist in the process.
    • In 1968, Harold Wilson is the Prime Minister.
  • Steampunk: More prevalent in the first story than the second, but the use of hansom cabs as travel in the first, powered by Martian technology, miniature tripods to destroy pigeons in Trafalgar Square and more have the more Steampunkish atmosphere.
  • Stripped to the Bone: What the heat-ray does to people when it hits them.
  • Tank Goodness: Tanks are developed several years ahead of their actual creation, and are much larger, and carry a reverse-engineered heat ray in their turrets.
  • Tripod Terror: The Martian tripods. They are more organic-looking than many depictions, and also more numerous as well. See the trope page for an image.
  • Zeppelins from Another World: Airships are seen sometimes in the background scenes, but most of the technology seems to have lead to literal airships of the sky, huge jet liners that ply the skies.

Tropes in The Great Game

  • Ancient Astronauts: The ruins of Mars were not only built by them, but their murals show that the solar system was once teeming with sentient life, all now assimilated by the Martians... who aren't really from Mars, but from the now-destroyed fifth planet, known to humans as the asteroid belt.
  • Bio-Augmentation: The Martians capture human soldiers to pick apart and study human biology. This is so they can infiltrate the moon base and take over the magnetic rail gun, so they can bombard the Earth with meteors.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The British expeditionary force defeated the Martians on Mars with modified Cavorite, but they couldn't stop the Martian-human hybrids from using the Lunar colony's magnetic accelerator to bombard southern England to kingdom come and wiping out the bulk of the expeditionary force. Fortunately, the Commonwealth space fleet finished off the Martians and saving Earth. The British government collapsed with Spry, Mosley, and the entire Royal Family (except Princess Margaret Rose) killed from the bombardment, and is replaced by a more benevolent Parliament which reversed its predecessor's repressive rule while nations like India successfully declared their independence from a dead British Empire.
  • Body Horror: The human/alien hybrids.
  • Cannon Fodder: Most of the soldiers left on the surface of Mars towards the end are this when they hold up the Martians till the Cavorite weapon is released, resulting in the destruction of both the Martians and themselves as they float off into space from the Cavorite
  • Continuity Nod: Several of the alternate history variation, including Monty commanding the forces in the Martian desert and an engineer named Barnes Wallis who develops a revolutionary type of bomb. There are also several callbacks to the original The War Of The Worlds.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Apart from the initial assault on Earth, the final battle of the war on Mars ends with the destruction of most of the Martian forces being destroyed by the Cavorite bombs at the end. Also the destruction of the moon base by the combined British/Commonwealth fleets against the Martian infiltrators. Though they take severe losses, and most of Southern England is obliterated, they manage to destroy what may be the last vestiges of the Martians in the Solar System.
  • Da Editor: Charlotte Hemmings' boss is Bernard Goldman, the editor of The Interceptor. He is the one who initially meets with Charlotte about her mission to Mars. However, both are attacked by thugs and he is killed by them, but Autumn kills them to protect Charlotte. His sister survives the destruction of London.
  • Foreshadowing: Did the Brits really just gun down their own men in cold blood? No, they didn't. They killed Martians who are disguised as human beings.
  • Government Conspiracy: They cover up why so few servicemen have returned from the war out of several hundred-thousand recruits.
  • Incompatible Orientation: Bernard Goldman claims he would marry Charlotte if it weren't for the fact he was a queer.
  • Magnetic Weapons: The moon has been turned into a Magnetic rail gun, designed originally to shorten the time between travelling between the Earth and Mars from almost a year, down to a month at most. However, Martian/human hybrids infiltrate the base, turning it into a giant gun, which flings, according to one character, "the equivalent of a Flying Scotsman hurled at the Earth every five minutes".
  • Orbital Bombardment: At the climax, the Martian-human hybrids takes control of the Moon's magnetic accelerator and using it to fire moon rocks on England.
  • Pendulum War: Neither side really gains much a victory on Mars, as both sides fight over Olympus Mons and other territories before the final Cavorite attack.
  • Shout Out: Dozens - see here for a (mostly) complete list of those appearing in The Great Game.
  • Space Station: One orbits the central operations on the ground on Mars, headquarters for Field Marshal Montgomery. Might also have elements of space elevator, as it seems to be connected to the ground in some way.
  • Spider Tank: Used by the British during the first counter-attack against Mars, seen boarding the ships to Mars in the telecast.
  • Suicide Attack: The Scottish rebel who blows up the BBC broadcasting house on live television, in the name of Scottish independence.
  • Violent Glaswegian: Played for Drama - Scotland has effectively been reduced to an industrial hellhole by the south, to the extent that the Scots are now participating in guerilla warfare, resulting in martial law throughout much of Britain.
  • Weapon of Mass Destruction: The Cavorite bombs used to destroy the Martians on Mars, and the accelerator cannon used to destroy London and Southern England at the end of the book. Both kill millions of human lives.

Tropes in the Cold War

  • Aliens Steal Cable: Icarus has been watching and studying human film and TV transmissions in order to properly meet with humanity. Apparently, Icarus loves Coronation Street and it is one of his many reasons that he wanted to stop the Martians from destroying Earth and the Solar System.
  • Fantastic Racism: The Venusians that fled "Martian"-occupied Venus for Earth (specifically Britain) faced discrimination by alien-fearing humanity. Even Enoch Powell gives his infamous "River of Blood" speech but with Venusians added in. Ahron Shakespeare, a first generation Earth born Venusian who was badly abused by humans since he was a little boy, points out that he is not angry at humanity for his and his kind's predicament but at the "Martians" for making humanity to be afraid of anything alien.
  • Hope Spot: The "Martian" leadership are killed off in Sohna's psychic cascade and allowing the human coalition fleet to land on Venus. However, the "Martian" scientist activates the weaponized sun, wiping out the fleet and leaving Earth vulnerable to another invasion.
  • Humanity Ensues: The Martian scientist who transfers his mind into a humanoid body start to experience human feelings that he find this completely unexpected. He even mention that if the other aliens find out about this they would cull him for what they perceive as weakness.
  • Insistent Terminology: As of the events in The Great Game, the "Martians" are not native to Mars but originated from a now-destroyed planet that occupied the asteroid belt. However, humanity still refer to the aliens as "Martians" much to Icarus' annoyance, whom he refer to the aliens as the "Makers."
  • Les Collaborateurs: The Venusians living under "Martian" rule obey to the invaders' will out of fear. It is later learn that a fringe radical group called the Cerulean Sisterhood took advantage of the invasion of Venus and brokered a deal with the aliens to eliminate the Theed, thus destroying any chance of a Theed/Venusian alliance of saving Venus and in turning capturing Theed Mentats to build their superweapon to destroy the Solar System, until the aliens turned on them.
    • Irya, wife of Icarus, is forced to work for the aliens in finding the last Theed Mentat in exchange for amnesty and that she is pregnant with their child. Though she later changes her mind when nearly all of the alien leadership are killed off from the psychic cascade.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: The "Martian" aliens, who have already wiped out life on every other planet in the solar system. To be fair, they were in a vulnerable kill-or-die position, since their original home planet got turned into the Asteroid Belt 65 million years ago. The cataclysm was what messed up Mars' ecosystem and the fallout killed the dinosaurs on Earth. They took over Mars, as a temporary home, killing what remained of its original inhabitants and then waited for Earth to recover. After their Earth expedition failed, they also attacked Venus. As of "Cold War", after the events of The Great Game that put the "Martians" into the verge of extinction, the aliens plan to destroy the entire Solar System by weaponzing the Sun.
    • It's all consistent with their portrayal in The War of the Worlds: they're biologically incapable of emotions or compassion.
  • The Remnant: The "Martians" are on the verge of extinction after the events of The Great Game have rendered all life on Mars eradicated and all that is left of them are those living on Venus. By 1968, the aliens are starting to die out and they have become desperate to finishing off their human enemies by planning to destroy the entire Solar System.
  • Take Me to Your Leader: Icarus said this as he meets the British Army.
    Icarus: Now, there's something I have to say. I know I should have written it down.... oh yes... Take me to your leader!
  • War Refugees: A flotilla of Venusians fled "Martian"-occupied Venus for Earth shortly after the events of The Great Game. However, not everything goes smoothly at first as the refugee flotilla were shot by humanity after being mistaken as an invasion fleet until they finally realize of their mistake. But, the surviving refugees are later herded into detention centers, where some died from Earth's diseases, for three years before being release in which they lived in slums and treated by humanity as pariahs for "taking white people's jobs."
  • Weapon of Mass Destruction: The Martians try to weaponize the Sun in order to wipe out the Solar System. They eventually use it to create a solar flare that destroy the Allied Fleet.

Tropes in the Home Front


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