Welcome to Hell Notes, Multiversity Comics’ annotation column for the Hellboy Universe. Sorry this one is a little late. I had something entirely different planned for September and it fell through.
For now, I’m going to look at the Heliopic Brotherhood of Ra.
Spoiler Warning. I’ll be discussing huge spoilers for Frankenstein Underground, the latest developments in B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: End of Days (Part 1), plus a lot of general stuff from Witchfinder, Hellboy, and Abe Sapien.
THE GOLDEN AGE
And Larzod said, ‘Behold,’ and light sprang forth out of his eye, and the darkness of that place became as day, and things hidden since before the coming of Man were revealed. And it was like in the beginning when Atum-Ra, with his great eye, looked into the abyssal waste of the Nun and saw it, and had understanding of it.
In 1728, a French merchant named Eugene Remy published a pamphlet, an account of his recent visit to Egypt and his encounter with a being he called Larzod. Remy claimed that Larzod had led him into a secret chamber beneath the Great Pyramid of Cheops. There, Larzod revealed to him knowledge kept secret since the time of Atlantis.
Remy’s claims were largely dismissed, but his writing caught the attention of some wealthy patrons and in following year the Temple of Heliopolis was established, and with it the Heliopic Brotherhood of Ra. The Brotherhood believed Remy’s claims of a pre-human race (the Hyperboreans1) and of a mysterious power called Vril2. The Brotherhood arranged expeditions and performed experiments, and soon they had more than just Eugene Remy’s writings upon which to base their organisation: they had scientific proof.
This was considered the Golden Age of the Brotherhood, and in this period the society grew enormously. In 1857, the Universal Temple of the Heliopic Brotherhood of Ra was established in London, and in 1872 the Golden Lodge was established in New York City.
In 1882, Tefnut Trionus confided to those in her inner circle of visions she had had. She told them of the Watchers, the creation of the Ogdru Jahad, the birth of the Ogdru Hem, and the war that followed. She also told them of the fall of the Hyperboreans, how Ogdru spirits had corrupted the hearts of the first men. And she told them of the end, how the world would be overrun with Ogdru Hem. But she also saw hope.
THE EXPEDITION INTO THE HOLLOW EARTH
Queen Tefnut Trionus believed the remnants of Hyperborean civilisation in the Hollow Earth would be the refuge of humankind. Over several years, an expedition was arranged. They set off in 1889, led by an American and former soldier called William. The expedition members were expecting a paradise, but what they found was more akin to Hell; the Hollow Earth was full of monsters. William and a few other survivors found refuge in a Hyperborean city, but it was too late for William’s daughter, Norah. She died in her father’s arms.
During the night, the spirit of the city filled Norah and brought her back to life. The expedition members thought it was a miracle, and that they really had found their promised land. But one of the expedition members, Dr. Lubitsch, started digging around in the Hyperborean tombs of the Black Priests. He awoke an Ogdru Hem spirit, which he channelled into William for his own purposes.3
Norah saw the change in her father and confronted him, so William shot her. Since then, all the expedition members grew older, but never died. By 1956, they were all walking corpses, except William and Dr. Lubitsch; those two had not aged a day. And that’s when Frankenstein’s creature showed up (or Frank as I like to call him).Continued below
Of course, there was a big confrontation with Frank, Dr. Lubitsch, and the possessed William. Frank’s efforts released the Hyperborean spirit, destroyed the Ogdru Hem spirit, and freed the souls of the expedition members.
As for Frank, he was alone, but the underground was transformed into a beautiful garden. Perhaps some day this garden will be the refuge of humanity, just as Queen Tefnut Trionus foretold.
THE FALL OF THE BROTHERHOOD
Sir Edward has quite a history with Brotherhood. He first encountered them in London, 1879, while investigating the mysterious deaths of the Saunders Expedition members.4 The Saunders Expedition had apparently discovered a civilisation in the Sahara desert that predated the human race. So obviously this was of interest to the Brotherhood.
August Swain, a member of the Brotherhood, attempted to buy the bones from Sir Edward, and when he was refused, delivered a thinly veiled threat. Later the Brotherhood tried threatening Sir Edward at gunpoint (which obviously didn’t work because you’ll never get Sir Edward to co-operate by pointing a gun at him).
But the biggest mistake the Brotherhood made was when tried to capture the Hyperborean slave creature.
Oh, and there was one other thing that the Brotherhood wanted, one of the relics found by the Saunders Expedition…
Yep, that’s the sword of Agent Ted Howards5 from the B.P.R.D. And before it was his sword, it belonged to the prehistoric warrior Gall Dennar. And in 1879, for a short while, it was Sir Edward’s until the Heliopic Brotherhood of Ra knocked him out and stole it. Of course, they couldn’t kill an agent of the Queen without causing trouble for themselves, so instead they killed all Sir Edward’s allies.
The 1880s were a period of upheaval for the Heliopic Brotherhood of Ra, and no doubt Sir Edward had much to do with this, but unfortunately those stories haven’t been told yet. The Witchfinder series is only up to 1881 at the moment. I suspect we’ll bump into the Brotherhood in the next miniseries, which will likely be set in 1882. If not that one, then the one after that.
However, we aren’t completely in the the dark. We know Sir Edward was involved in the investigation into the Jack the Ripper murders in 1988. Rumours have it the Brotherhood was involved in this affair. Sir Edward wanted to reveal the true identity of the killer, but Queen Victoria thought it best to keep this information a secret, prompting him to leave her service in 1889.Continued below
After that he set about his own business… which is interesting because in 1890, the Golden Lodge in New York and the Temple of Heliopolis in Paris both closed. I suspect Sir Edward was involved. In 1893, the Universal Temple in London closed, an incident Sir Edward was certainly involved in; he admitted it himself in the pages of Hellboy in Hell.
This is one of many reasons why I get so excited about new Witchfinder stories. There are so many mysteries waiting to be be explored.
THE OANNES SOCIETY
Other secret societies have their roots in the Heliopic Brotherhood of Ra. The Oannes Society was born in 1736 from a heated argument between Brotherhood members concerning the origins of the Egyptian god Atum. According to the revelations of Larzod, Atum was self-created. However, a small number of Brotherhood members believed Atum was “born from the primal sea.”
These members left the Heliopic Brotherhood of Ra to form the Oannes Society, named after Oannes, the fish-man that was said to have taught the Babylonians horticulture and geometry. Unlike the Brotherhood, the Oannes Society did not grow over time, but rather dwindled. However, they had a few wealthy members, so they could still afford rather elaborate expeditions for the scientific research.
In 1834, the young scientist (and future B.P.R.D. agent, Abe Sapien) Langdon Everett Caul joined the Oannes Society. Caul became an important part of the Oannes Society. Together with Ensner, Dameron, Sundbourne, and McWhirter, Caul discovered the location of Atlantis. In 1865, while exploring the ruins, Caul recovered a mysterious egg with some kind of entity inside it. During an attempt to commune with the entity, the spirit inside the egg awoke and entered Caul, transforming him into Abe Sapien.
Caul’s companions were thrilled. They thought that Caul had been filled by the spirit of Oannes himself. And then they abandoned him. For whatever reason, Caul’s fellow Oannes Society members were afraid to stay in America after Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. Why they had anything to do with this event remains a mystery.
Lord Adam Glaren, of the Heliopic Brotherhood of Ra, took Panya into his care. Panya was never a member of the Brotherhood, but she certainly had a lot of contact with its members. For a while she was somewhat of a celebrity in London, until Lord Glaren decided to limit her contact with certain undesirable people (such as Martin Gilfryd, the curator of the Historical Society’s Egyptology Wing6).
Though she was very involved in the Brotherhood’s activities, she was also a prisoner in their care. Eventually, Panya had had enough, and she escaped from the Brotherhood with the help of Oannes Society members Ensner, Dameron, Sundbourne, and McWhirter.7 Little did Panya know, she was merely changing prisons.
The Oannes Society took Panya to a small island in Indonesia, where she stayed for well over a century. In that time Panya worked on experiments with the Oannes Society, creating a host of hybrid animals. But the Oannes Society did not trust Panya. She had already escaped the Brotherhood, and they were careful to make sure the same thing couldn’t happen. They burnt opiates around her bed to mute her psychic abilities. Over time, Panya became enfeebled, unable to walk, and, eventually, unable to leave her bed. At the time Panya said this was her age catching up to her, but since then she’s been examined by B.P.R.D. doctors that believe Panya is actually getting younger and may walk again. Perhaps the Oannes Society was doing something to her without her knowledge. Or perhaps Panya wasn’t being entirely truthful. (It wouldn’t be the first time.)
The thing is, practically everything we know about Panya we have heard from Panya herself. It’s possible (though I think unlikely) that even her name may is a lie. The Oannes Society called her Naunet, a name Panya protested at every opportunity.Continued below
I don’t know what happened to the Oannes Society. Perhaps it continued to diminish until there were no members left. I do know at least four members remained: Ensner, Dameron, Sundbourne, and McWhirter. They stayed with Panya on the island in Indonesia, working on their own projects. However, the were getting old, and so they built new robotic bodies for themselves, becoming Victorian cyborgs. These were merely temporary bodies though.
The four Oannes cyborgs were working on four bodies: large muscular men—their idea of perfection. These bodies would function as spiritual reservoirs, able to hold millions of human souls. The plan—originally conceived by Caul before his transformation—was to set off a series of earthquakes along the Pacific Rim, creating tidal waves that would kill millions and channel their souls into the Oannes Society’s waiting bodies. Ensner, Dameron, Sundbourne, and McWhirter were to each have a body of their own, full of human souls under their stewardship, each a living nation of humanity. With these bodies, they planned to claim dominion over the new world that will arise after the Apocalypse.
Pretty crazy, huh?
When Abe found these four Oannes members again in the early Twentieth Century, he was horrified that it had been his former self that had come up with this idea. He turned on the Oannes Society and utterly ruined their plans. Abe hacked Sundbourne to bits, blew up Dameron, and broke Esner’s cyborg body and left him to die.
Only McWhirter escaped. He showed up briefly at the end of B.P.R.D.: King of Fear…
…but hasn’t been seen since. However, given that the last issue of B.P.R.D. had the Oannes Society submarine make an appearance, I think we’ll be seeing McWhirter again very soon.
THE OSIRIS CLUB
Another secret society with its origins in the Heliopic Brotherhood of Ra is the Osiris Club. The club began with seven members, six of which were from the Brotherhood. On the 2nd of September, 1866, these six held a séance with Miss E.T. Hatton wherein the spirit of Larzod appeared before them. He told them they would live to see the last days of humanity, and that they should watch for the coming of a king. According to Larzod, this king would refuse his crown, yet his soldier would still know him. In the end, the king would lead his army into last battle. The king would die on that battlefield.
Miss Hatton and the other six became the Osiris Club. Over time they accepted new members, and searched for signs of the coming king. In 1954, they made an arrangement with Professor Trevor Bruttenholm, Director of the B.P.R.D.: he was to send them his adopted son, Hellboy, for a test. Hellboy wasn’t told much by Bruttenholm, only that he should trust the Osiris Club.
The second curious thing about Hellboy’s encounter with the Osiris Club in 1954 was that the members he spoke to were the original seven members. You know, the ones that saw Larzod at a séance eighty-eight years earlier. None of them appeared to have aged a day.Continued below
This isn’t exactly unique to the Osiris Club. The two remaining members of the Heliopic Brotherhood of Ra’s expedition into the Hollow Earth in Frankenstein Underground also seemed to be frozen in time (although one of them was possessed by an Ogdru Hem spirit, which could have been responsible for this). And while the other Oannes Society members aged, Langdon Everett Caul remained youthful into his sixties.
While you ponder that mystery, let’s continue to look at the Osiris Club. In the first decade of the Twenty-first Century, they sent Hellboy a letter. The had kept tabs on him since he left the B.P.R.D., but now they needed him in England to hunt giants. By this point, the original seven seemed rather certain of their theory that Hellboy was the king Larzod had spoken of. The other members of the Osiris Club knew that Hellboy had king’s blood, but unlike the original seven, they weren’t too happy about it, and they tried to kill Hellboy.
The Osiris Club continued to watch Hellboy as he wrestled with his inner demons, until, at last, he claimed the sword Excalibur and became the rightful King of England. The Osiris Club members were extremely alarmed at this turn of events… except for the original seven. As far as they were concerned, Hellboy was the king foretold by Larzod. The end of days had come. So, while the other Osiris Club members were trying to call the Prime Minister and deal with the “crisis”, the original seven pulled out guns and calmly murdered them. There had been seven Osiris Club members in the beginning; there should be seven at the end.
The seven planned to be there when Hellboy fought his final battle. They were going to cut off his right hand and use it to claim dominion over the new world. Or at least, that was the plan. The thing is, not everything Larzod said happened the way they expected. Yes, Hellboy was the rightful king, he denied his crown, and he died on the field of battle… but he didn’t lead his army into battle, he gave up his sword, and the battle he died in was not the final battle after all.
So the Osiris Club decided they had been mistaken.
But were they? There’s still a crown waiting for Hellboy in Pandemonium, one that he has since denied. And there’s an army waiting for him, an army that Hellboy is meant to lead into the last battle. But the Osiris Club doesn’t know this.
THE BROTHERHOOD IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY AND BEYOND
By the end of the Nineteenth Century, things were going pretty badly for the Heliopic Brotherhood of Ra. After seeing various temples and churches shut down, the years of decline had begun. The Brotherhood was forced into the shadows, and gradually vanished from public consciousness.
But they weren’t gone. In New York, 1902, Dr. Carp, a Grand Master in the Heliopic Brotherhood of Ra, performed an experiment. He managed to summon a demon—Hellboy from 1991—and take a sample of his blood.
Carp injected Hellboy’s blood into a chimpanzee, which transformed the creature into a demonic version of itself. The creature went on a rampage, fatally wounding Dr. Carp and his associates before being shot to death. Upon the creature’s death, Hellboy was mysteriously returned to 1991.
If you haven’t realised it by now, this event really hits the point home. The Heliopic Brotherhood of Ra was dangerously reckless. They were doing things that would get themselves and others killed. The San Francisco earthquake of 1906 and the Tunguska forest explosion of 1908 were rumoured to have been connected to Brotherhood activities. Whether there is any truth to these rumours remains to be seen, but it does seem likely.
Sir Edward was certainly convinced the Tunguska incident needed looking into. He left London and spent the next six years travelling all over Europe, investigating the Brotherhood. In 1914, Sir Edward arrived in New York. For the next two years he hunted the remaining fragments of the Brotherhood.Continued below
As for the Knights of the Silver Star, they continued to operate throughout the rest of the century.
In the early Twenty-first Century, they attracted the attention of a kid called Scottie. He’d been dared to go into a creepy building, and in the process he stumbled onto the chamber where Amdusias had been summoned a hundred years ago. Scottie immediately freaked out and called in the B.P.R.D. who sent agents Lehane, Grafton, and Howards to investigate.
Grafton immediately recognised the signs of the Heliopic Brotherhood of Ra. She knew quite a bit about the Brotherhood and suspected they had something to do with the Jack the Ripper murders. While she and Lehane investigated the machinery in the main chamber, Howards wandered off by himself and found a bunch of interesting relics in a display cabinet. One item in particular jumped out at him…
Upon touching the sword, Howards fell into unconsciousness. Grafton and Lehane tried to get him out of there (being very careful not to touch the sword), but they were interrupted by the arrival of an old man.
Everyone started shooting, and Howards was the only survivor. But that’s another story.
The point is, unless that old guy was the last living member, then the Heliopic Brotherhood of Ra is definitely still active. They may be operating on the fringes for now, but don’t expect them to stay there forever…
Abe Sapien #27: Icthyo Sapien comes out October 14. Take a read and see if you can figure it out which secret society Captain Cavendish was affiliated with.
And that’s it for another Hell Notes.
1Hyperboreans: See Hell Notes: The Races of Man.
2Vril: See Hell Notes: What the Hell is Vril?.
3What Dr. Lubitsch stirred up: Take a close look at this sequence in Frankenstein Underground. There’s some very interesting details with links to Abe Sapien: The Drowning and Hellboy: The Island.
4The Saunders Expedition: See Witchfinder: In the Service of Angels.
5Agent Ted Howards / Gall Dennar: If you don’t these guys, there’s a few arcs of B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth you should reread: The Abyss of Time, Wasteland, and Flesh and Stone.
6Martin Gilfryd: The man who would become Memnan Saa, and former student of the necromancer Gustav Strobl. He played an important role in the B.P.R.D. Plague of Frogs story cycle.
7Panya’s escape from the Heliopic Brotherhood of Ra: In Hellboy: The Companion the date of this escape is said to have occurred in 1891. This is incorrect. Panya’s escape could have been no later than 1880 since Lord Adam Glaren was still alive at the time.