REVIEWS OF GRAPHIC CLASSICS: H.P. LOVECRAFT
Gr. 9-up. Following books on Poe, Conan Doyle, and H. G. Wells, this fourth volume in the Graphic Classics series lives up to the intent of the series, which is dedicated to reintroducing classic authors of the macabre in comics format. The book includes an introduction by Gahan Wilson, George Kuchar's 1975 comics biography of the early-twentieth-century horror writer, graphic novelized adaptations of several Lovecraft stories, some original comics stories based on Lovecraft lore, and a 36-stanza epic poem, "Fungi from Yuggoth," illustrated by 17 contemporary cartoonists. In all, more than three-dozen artists contributed to this black-and-white album. The cartoonists, many of whom have also worked in other areasfilm, commercial art, music, underground comics, teachingrepresent many countries. Richard Corben and Rick Geary are American; Dominique Signoret is from France; Gerry Alanguilan is from the Philippines. Artists from England, Denmark, and Italy are also included. As an introduction to Lovecraft, this is fine fare; for teens already enamored of the hallmark American author, the book offers a satisfying array of stylish interpretations. In keeping with Lovecraft's own sensibilities, creepiness, rather than violence, is the running theme.
Tom Pomplun started Graphic Classics in 2001, and since then has published half a dozen titles, one about every six months: Edgar Allan Poe, H.G. Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle, H.P. Lovecraft, Jack London, and Ambrose Bierce all excellent, and all of potential interest to Locus readers (even Jack London includes some SF!). The best of the good lot, though, is H.P. Lovecraft. Like all the volumes, this is a collection of several adaptations done by various artists and authors. Gahan Wilson sets the tone with an affectionate illustrated introduction, followed by a reprinted biographical introduction to Lovecraft by George Kuchar. Its hard to choose a favorite from among the works adapted here, though Lisa K. Webers The Cats of Ulthar is a clear standout. Her illustrations for Lovecrafts fable of a land where cats may not be killed are wonderfully whimsical even in their depiction of the grotesque, reminiscent of Charles Addams. Seventeen different artists take part in illustrating the surreal epic poem Fungi from Yuggoth, with mixed results the best of these full-page illustrations are breathtaking, especially Jeff Remmers beautifully realistic unspeakable alien and Maxon Crumbs offbeat portrait of the author. Matt Howarths rendition of The Shadow Out of Time is quite faithful to the original text, complete with word balloons that say things like Incoherent shriek, Mindless panic, and Gibber! Howarth obviously grasps the inherent humor in illustrating an author whose works so often depend on Indescribable Cosmic Horrors. The Outsider is effectively abridged by editor Pomplun and drawn by Devon Devereaux, whose version of the foetid apparition looks much like Murnaus title creature from Nosferatu. Tom Suttons portfolio of images inspired by The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath is reprinted from a 1978 limited edition, and while some of the illustrations are overly detailed to the point of incomprehensibility, others achieve a surreal grandeur.
Some of the illustrators follow the grand tradition of creating their own works based on Lovecrafts efforts, as in Dominique Signorets bizarre Le Chaos Rapant, which features Nyarlathotep as a hip-hop perfonmer who disturbs an amusingly bourgeoisie Cthulhus sleep. Chris Pelletieres Reflections from RLyeh is more impressive, a minimalist series of wordless panels depicting Lovecrafts oblique interactions with the fishlike denizens of Innsmouth these are some of the most beautifully drawn pages in the book.
All the Graphic Classics volumes are attractively designed and inexpensive, and in addition to H.P. Lovecraft, I would especially recommend Edgar Allan Poe (where Lisa K. Weber once again contributes my favorite adaptation, this time of Hop Frog) and H.G. Wells. With luck, the series will keep going for a long time, and make its way to Jules Verne, H. Rider Haggard, Robert Louis Stevenson... the possibilities are wondrous.
THE PEOPLE OF INNSMOUTH #36
THE GOODS: Graphic Lovecraft anthology
COMIC BOOK GALAXY
After previous volumes adapted works of Edgar Alan Poe, H.G. Wells and Arthur Conan Doyle, H.P. Lovecraft, writer of avant garde horror psychodramas, gets the Graphic Classics treatment. I have the Poe volume and I can tell you that the production standards are top notch and the talent illustrating these stories are fantastic. For more information on the man and his work, check out the The H.P. Lovecraft Archive.
As a writer, H. P. Lovecrafts powerful ability to evoke horror was due to the sophisticated authenticity of his language. If youve never read Lovecraft, here was an author who could take a concept like "Hideous Crab-Men from Pluto" and spin a truly terrifying tale for the reader. Tom Pomplun, the editor of Graphic Classics Vol. 4 H. P. Lovecraft understands this completely. His cyclopian collection carefully preserves the integrity of Lovecrafts language while at the same time marrying it to the images of enough artists to choke a Shoggoth. The book serves as an excellent introduction for readers new to Lovecraft and a source of horror as well as humor for old fans of the Cthulhu Mythos. Check out Graphic Classics Vol. 4 H. P. Lovecraft from Eureka Productions in this months Comics Section and also be sure to pick up Eurekas other Graphic Classics featuring Edgar Allan Poe, H. G. Wells, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle all available from the Star System.
COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE
The first four volumes of Graphic Classics collected illustrated works written by (or adapted from) great authors such as Edgar Allan Poe, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and H.G. Wells. This fourth volume collects stories from the equally great but less-renowned H.P. Lovecraft. HPL's following has always been more "cult" than "mainstream."
It's a great HPL sampler. First, there is a wide variety of styles represented. There are illustrated stories and poems, comics adaptations of stories, art portfolios, and one or two "based on HPL" pieces.
The second praise for this collection is that it's not all Cthulhu. While readers love that Elder God, Lovecraft wrote about much more. The "main feature" is "Herbert West: Reanimator," with "The Shadow Out of Time," "The Cats of Ulthar," "The Terrible Old Man," and many other less frequently adapted pieces backing it up.
A variety of talented artists contribute. Among the more familiar names are Gahan Wilson (who wrote the introduction), Rick Geary, and, surprisingly, Trina Robbins. A few of the pieces have appeared before, but these are not the familiar E.C. and Marvel adaptations. Few readers have seen the 1975 HPL biography from Arcade or the 1978 Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath portfolio.
The downside? Only that it will probably only attract current fans or those already curious about Lovecraft. With HPL not being as familiar a name as Poe or Wells, fewer impulse buyers are likely to just pick it up.
Pro: Great HPL sampler.
Installment number four in the Graphic Classics line of literary comic adaptations is, like any such experiment, everything a fan would expect, and more, and less but thankfully more of the "more". For this H. P Lovecraft edition, as with its predecessors (Edgar Allan Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle and H.G. Wells), editor Tom Pomplun is the true star, assigning artists both appropriate and unpredictable, to mixed but always fascinating results. To wit: Gahan Wilson provides a light-hearted but effective introduction; four artists (including a personal favourite, Richard Corben) pull tag team on the infamous short story Herbert West: Reanimator and no fewer than 17 artists contribute full-page drawings for the (curiously included) epic poem Fungi From Yuggoth. It's these far from obvious choices, though, that make this series more than just satisfying, truly refreshing. For more info, see GraphicClassics.com
Graphic Classics are illustrated adaptations with an emphasis on the more obscure works of literary legends like Edgar Allan Poe, H.G. Wells and Arthur Conan Doyle. In the case of Lovecraft, you're dealing with bizarre, and sometimes grotesque subject matter. John Coulthart's full-page illustration based on Whateley's demise in "The Dunwich Horror" is one of the first images to trounce your consciousness, as it accompanies the introduction by Gahan Wilson. I can sum up this picture only by saying: "E-e-e-e-w-w-w-w!" Which I mean in the nicest possible way.
The text for Lovecraft's epic poem, "Fungi From Yuggoth," is included in its entirety, accompanied by the work of 17 illustrators. Among these, the contribution from Maxon Crumb, brother of the legendary Robert Crumb, was an excellent choice for translating that Lovecraft vibe into visual form.
I was pleasantly surprised to find a contribution from comic book veteran Richard Corben, while Devon Devereaux's aesthetic take on "The Outsider" summoned a pre-sell-out Tim Burton to mind. I don't have room to do justice to the awesome work found here, but the two visuals from R.K. Sloane are, I think, the most perfectly matched to this collection. A must-have for those who appreciate the darkly imaginative in general, and poor old H.P. in particular.
©2003 Weekly Alibi
Graphic Classics: H.P. Lovecraft (Eureka) is one in a series of graphic adaptations of classic fiction produced by Tom Pomplun of Mount Horeb. Pomplun has comic artists and book illustrators adapt the texts, usually short stories or poems, and draw the pictures. (Sometimes Pomplun abridges the text.) "It's pretty much a labor of love," he says, as you might expect. Already published are volumes of Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle and H.G. Wells; Jack London is due in March 2OO3, to be followed by Ambrose Bierce and the great short works of Bram Stoker. Pomplun keeps an eye open to visual possibilities: "'To Build a Fire' is probably Jack London's most famous work. But it wouldn't make a good comic." There's graphic invention galore in the Lovecraft volume, by artists ranging from The New Yorker's Gahan Wilson to Isthmus contributor Andy Ewen. Available at bookstores, comic shops or at graphicclassics.com.
THE MONTREAL GAZETTE
H.P. Lovecraft's stories betray a profoundly distasteful unease with anyone who isn't learned or aristocratic (preferably both), white, and masculine. His overuse of portentous adjectives and adverbs quickly becomes tiresome. Lovecraft aficionado Gahan Wilson addresses this stylistic overindulgence in his introduction: "commentators on the works of Lovecraft have put him down for his lavish use of unspecific adjectives (which accusation even the most profound admirer of H.P.L. must admit is not entirely inaccurate)." Yet it's undeniable that his monstrous space gods, mad visionaries, and dangerous grimoires have justly become permanent staples of fantastic fiction.
In Graphic Classics: H.P. Lovecraft, editor Tom Pomplun pays homage to the controversial writer with a selection of comics, fiction, and poetry, with abundant graphics by a diverse crew of illustrators. Like all the volumes in the Graphic Classics series, this is a gorgeously produced book. The bizarre and compelling artwork, on nearly every page, deliciously spices the mix with humour and terror. Highlights include cartoonist's Matt Howarth's 22-page adaptation of "The Shadow Out of Time", the stylishly witty illustrations of Devon Deveraux and Lisa K. Weber, and Giorgio Comolo's nightmarish portrait of Lovecraft's most famous monster, Cthulhu.
I find most of Lovecraft's fiction just this side of unreadable, yet there's no denying that Graphic Classics: H.P. Lovecraft is a delightful collection -- and probably the best way to sample the writer. Most of all, Pomplun's admiration of Lovecraft does not blind him to the unsavoury aspects of his character, and the collection includes two comics stories -- one by George Kuchar, the other by Chris Pelletiere -- that lampoon Lovecraft's neuroses and prejudices. The Kuchar piece is particularly funny, while the Pelletiere slides into macabre surrealism.
This is a very attractive and entertaining package.
©2003 Claude Lalumière
A short while ago, I reviewed the first two volumes in Tom Pomplun's GRAPHIC CLASSICS trade paperback series. Each installment presents comic book adaptations of the works of a celebrated author in the horror, mystery, or sci-fi genres. Volume One featured Edgar Allan Poe, Volume Two showcased Arthur Conan Doyle, and Volume Three spotlighted H. G. Wells. But all along, the one I've been anticipating most has been VOLUME FOUR: H. P. LOVECRAFT. Well, it's here, and it's the best one so far.
The painted cover, by Todd Schorr, actually made me chuckle; it's a Norman Rockwell-esque painting of a scene in the idyllic, all-American town of Innsmouth; well, all-American except that the little boy licking his lips over a fried seafood treat has the skin of a salamander, and instead of ketchup, he's slathering Cthulhu Cocktail Sauce on the unidentifiable meal.
Another artist whose style is ideally suited to HPL is the late Tom Sutton, to whom this book is dedicated. His tragic death earlier this year makes a new story from him impossible, but Pomplun has included in this book Sutton's THE DREAM QUEST OF UNKNOWN KADATH, originally published in 1978 as a rare, limited-edition portfolio. It consists of six full-page drawings illustrating key parts of the epic tale, and the fact that its previous appearance was in an extremely limited form means that, for most readers, this will be their first time seeing the art.
Other highlights of this volume include Matt Howarth's adaptation of THE SHADOW OUT OF TIME, and THE FUNGI FROM YUGGOTH, HPL's epic poem. Pomplun wisely did not attempt to adapt the latter work directly (poems rarely work in any form but, well, poetry), but instead supplemented it with nineteen full-page drawings by the likes of Maxon Crumb, S. Clay Wilson, and Trina Robbins. The only piece in this book I didn't like was an odd little strip which merged Cthulhu with rap music. Fortunately, it was only two pages long.
With a cover price of $9.95 for 144 pages, GRAPHIC CLASSICS: H. P. LOVECRAFT, like the earlier books in the series, is a real bargain: the page count of six Vertigo comics for the price of three. While I admit it may be due to my personal enthusiasm for Lovecraft's work, I feel this volume is the best one so far, meriting Four Rabid Fanboys. And hey, there's more than enough HPL material remaining to fill yet another volume or two!
Copyright 2002 by E.C.McMullen Jr.
THE TOMB OF DARK DELIGHTS
This volume of illustrated Lovecraft fiction and poetry is so cool that I can hardly put it down. As an unabashed (and very picky) Cthulhu-head, I can tell you that this fantastic collection kept the old TombKeeper enthralled from first page to last. It opens with a wonderful introduction by Gahan Wilson and launches into an illustrated biography of the great H.P.L., followed by Herbert West: Reanimator brought to life by four great artists, including one of my all-time favorites, Richard Corben, who drew the scariest werewolves that ever graced the pages of the late, great Creepy magazine. You'll also find artwork by Rick Geary, Maxon Crumb, Stephen Hickman and more. A truly stupendous volume, TombRats! Click on the cover and get yourself a copy, quick! TombKeeper's highest recommendation.
Creature Feature ©D. Dyszel 2003
THE ELDRITCH DARK
Can you say kuh-THOO-loo?
H.P. Lovecraft was born in Providence, Rhode Island ten years shy of the 20th century. Unfortunately at the time of his death in 1937, he didn't live to see a single one of his novels in print. His weird fiction was published in fan magazines staring in 1916 up until 1923 when Weird Tales picked Lovecraft up as a regular short story contributor. Today, almost everything he's ever written is available in some form or another, including reference material from the estimated 100,000 letters he wrote to his trusted confidants.
I first stumbled across Lovecraft about a dozen years ago when publisher Adventure Comics adapted Lovecraft's story The Lurking Fear into comic book form. I was looking for some nostalgically old DC horror comics I had when I was young, and fortunately for me the dingy comic store I visited each and every week had none of the aforementioned in their cluttered and dusty inventory. When I saw the grizzly painted cover of HP Lovecraft, Master of Horror #1 I knew I was in for some great storytelling. I was somewhat disappointed in the adaptation, but I knew under the surface of that terrible comic laid traces of something great. And that is when I became a fiction fan of the modern day horrorist, Lovecraft.
Eureka Productions recently released Graphic Classics 4: H.P. Lovecraft. Basically, this book is homage to the suspenseful, creepy tales of cult favorite Lovecraft adapted by many great comic creators. This volume collects ten tales of strange writings adapted by the likes of Richard Corben, Matt Howarth and Lisa K. Weber. The list of illustrative artists for this collection is impressive,
"Herbert West: Reanimator" is the first story is the collection and is adapted by Corben, Rick Geary, J.B. Bonivert, and Mark A. Nelson. The story bounces between comic panel and text, and weaves together in an intricate retelling of Dr. West's deranged aspirations of curing death after life's expiration. Of course if you are a practicioner of necromantic studies you already know that newly dead bodies are often hard to come by and certain acts and sacrifices need to be done in the pursuit of scientific research. This team of artists captures the true horror of the story and still leaves room for the imagination to roam and concoct creepy images on its own.
The few stories that are not pure adaptations of Lovecraft's verse and truer to the comic form are definitely my favourites. George Kuchar's Lovecraftian biography was initially published in Arcade #3 in 1975 and appears in this anthology. This is a great story with a lot of questionable info on H.P. himself. And then there is Onsmith Jeremi's "The Terrible Old Man"; well crafted and drawn with affection.
The largest story "Fungi From Yuggoth" has 17 full-page illustrations from the likes of Maxon Crumb, Trina Robbins and Stephen Hickman. These illustrations are juxtaposed with Lovecraft's original text and span over 30 pages in length. The talented contributors have summoned up some truly great images.
The mythology of the Lovecraftian world is dense and filled with unnamable evils, populated with Old Gods and alien races. The names and images of Azathoth, Dagon and the great Cthulhu are widely known by Lovecraftian fanatics and can easily be found in various parts in pop culture-music, games, T-shirts and plush dolls. So, if you are a fan of the creepy tales of Lovecraft, this book will be a great addition to your horror collection.
4 of 5
Copyright 2002 comicreaders.com.
KNIGHTS OF THE DINNER TABLE
If you haunt the magazine racks like I do, you've doubtless seen the handsome literary magazine Rosebud. Literary magazines usually give me a rash, but Rosebud demonstrates a refreshing lack of pretension not to mention great fiction, cool design, and some really kick-butt cover art. Recently it's published stories by Ursula K. LeGuin, Joe Lansdale, and newcomer Ray Vukcevich, as well as comics 'n cartoons from folks like Robert Crumb, Joost Swarte, and Nick Craine Heck, they've even published poetry by Leonard Nimoy if that's not reaching out to genre readers, I don't know what is.
A few months ago Rosebud's art director Torn Pomplun launched the Graphic Classics series, produced in the same format and with the same high production values. The first one to appear was Graphic Classics: Edgar Allan Poe, a thick (136 pages), beautifully designed and reasonably priced (a measly $8) anthology of Poe's stories adapted to comics by top authors and cartoonists, including Gahan Wilson, Rick Geary, Richard Sala, Clive Barker, Mark A. Nelson, and Joe R. Lansdale.
Pretty damn spiffy though I'll admit I couldn't really get too worked up over a new Edgar Allan Poe collection. I had the same problem with the next two volumes: Arthur Conan Doyle and H.G. Wells. Glad to make space for them in my library but, really, they weren't about to displace any of the bedtime reading material on my night table.
But with the fourth volume, Graphic Classics: H.P. Lovecraft, I've finally got a reason to clear the decks. H.P. Lovecraft, of course, is the grandfather of modem horror, author of such classics as "The Call of Cthulhu," "Dagon," and "At the Mountains of Madness," and if there's anyone whose work is crying out for a finely crafted graphic adaptation, it's HPL. With this volume the Graphic Classics series finally moves out of the literary attic, and heads straight for the comfy chair in the living room.
The first thing about GC: HPL to grab your attention is the cover, and it's a doozy. A grinning lad pours ketchup unto a hot dog while the vendor an earnest young man with the nametag "Howie" looks on approvingly. It takes a second look to notice the twisted architecture of the buildings in the background, the squirming feelers growing from the hotdog... and the multi-tentacled monstrosity secretly operating the hotdog stand. This cover captures so much of the spirit of Lovecraft's work its dense texture, creepy surprises, and especially its unabashed pulp sensibilities that it's a perfect fit.
The introduction "Illustrating H.P.L," is a funny and affectionate piece by Gahan Wilson, whose Playboy cartoons have drawn a lot of inspiration from ol' HP over the years. The book kicks off with a 3-page comic biography by George Kuchar, reprinted from the 70's underground comic Arcade. It includes a lot of fascinating details of HPL's life I was unaware of, but in general the piece is played for laughs, and usually not very successfully.
The next contribution, however a retelling of HPL's famous tale "Herbert West: Reanimator," adapted by Pomplun and illustrated by Richard Corben, Rick Geary, Mark Nelson and others is a knockout. Young Doctor West is obsessed with reviving dead animal tissue, and his experiments at the Miskatonic University Medical School in Arkham allow him to slowly perfect a serum for just that purpose His first covert human experiments (On a fresh cadaver appropriated from a nearby cemetery) is a disaster, but the horrifying plague that strikes Arkham years later provides him with a unique opportunity for experimentation... as do the European battlefields of World War I. But like many who reach for forbidden knowledge, the results eventually return to haunt him... and in the case of West's many ghastly failures, the haunting is horrific indeed.
Next is the famous tale "The Outsider," illustrated by Devon Devereaux, in which the narrator overcomes incredible obstacles to free himself from an underground crypt in ancient Egypt... only to find people fleeing from him in terror. But soon enough he finds a home, riding with his fellow ghouls on the night wind and playing by day amongst the catacombs.
Several other pieces in the book, such as "The Terrible Old Man," "The Cats of Ulthar," and the complete epic poem "Fungi from Yuggoth" (illustrated by such heavyweights as renowned fantasy artist Stephen Hickman, World Fantasy Award-winner Allen Koszowski, and infamous underground artist S. Clay "Twisted" Wilson) are also impressive. But the highlight of the book is Matt Howarth's adaptation of HPL's masterpiece, "The Shadow Out of Time."
"Shadow" opens in 1913 as Nathaniel Peaslee, Miskatonic University professor, suddenly emerges from a strange mental affliction. His last memory was teaching a Political Economy class in l908, and he discovers that in the intervening years he somehow journeyed all over the world, became intimate with leaders of occult groups, and built a strange scientific apparatus that has now vanished. As Nathaniel tries to piece together his life he's plagued by dreams of ancient aliens called the Great Race, and even older and far more horrible creatures called the Old Ones. When he finds references to both the Great Race and the unspeakable Old Ones in forbidden texts and ancient manuscripts, Nathaniel is moved to publish the details of his dream imagery and he's promptly contacted by a geologist who's found almost identical markings on an Australian dig. Soon enough Nathaniel is in the outback, where he comes face-to-face with both the truth about human history, and an unspeakable horror from the dawn of time.
"Shadow Out of Time" is one of the great works of genre fiction, a profound and original work of cosmological horror that's also a great monster tale, and Howarth's version is a wonder of graphic story telling, compact and fast-moving without losing any of the punch. It's worth the price of the book all on its own.
If you're a fan of HPL, this is a must-have, and if you're not, this book will make you one. Nab your copy now before horrible, grasping tentacles beat you to it.
THE BLACK SEAL
The presentation of HP Lovecraft in comics is wildly variable and frequently very difficult to find. Graphic Classics' HP Lovecraft Special brings together the styles of over two dozen different artists, including Allen Koszowski, John Coulthart and Paul Carrick. This is the fourth volume in a series that already covers Edgar Allan Poe, Conan Doyle and H G Wells.
The opening piece by George Kuchar provides a sensationalist biography of Lovecraft concentrating on death, madness and sex. This will doubtless offend the purists and Lovecraftian scholars amongst us, but you have to bear in mind that this was drawn back in 1975. Fan rumours and distortions were rife and there was comparatively little information about Lovecraft's life available with the exception of L. Sprague De Camp's now controversial biography which seems to have been the artist's main source of reference.
This is followed comic strip and text with pictures adaptations of several Lovecraft tales and poems including 'Herbert West ? Re-animator', 'The Terrible Old Man', 'The Shadow out of Time', 'The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath' and 'The Outsider'. My personal favourite is Lisa K Weber's version of 'The Cats of Ulthar' that is both eerie and childlike at the same time, perfectly matching the tone and grim ending of Lovecraft's story.
The highlight of the book is a full presentation of 'The Fungi from Yuggoth' sonnet cycle with two sonnets to a page that is faced with an appropriate illustration by a different artist. Of all Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos pieces, this is the hardest to find and its presentation here compliments and enhances the prose. This item alone makes Graphic Classics worth the cover price.
From a role-playing perspective Graphic Classics makes a very accessible (and quick) introduction to the world of Call of Cthulhu. There is a wealth a material that can be used in the game to illustrate creatures, personalities and situations. If you've never bought a Mythos related comic before, do yourself a favour and buy this one to see what you're missing.
© Andy Bennison, The Black Seal is published by Brichester University Press