Tentacle Tuesday: Ho ho ho, Mr. Lovecraft

Christmas is approaching fast, so naturally it occurred to me that I have never really done a proper H.P. Lovecraft Tentacle Tuesday. What, does the idea of a festive Cthulhu sound strange to you? But he’s the one who brings nameless horror… err, gifts to little children!

“For several years now, artist Amy L. Rawson has crafted a needle-felted Santa Cthulhu sculpture (often in collaboration with artist Brian East), changing the design each year.” Make sure to visit her website, all aglow with many more Santa Cthulhus and even a Mrs Santa Cthulhu!

I’d like to put us all in the proper chipper mindset, especially since cheer (festive or otherwise) is so hard to come by this horrendous year. For starters, I can make a few decorating suggestions. How about some Christmas ornaments with tentacles? Or perhaps a Cthulhumas wreath? You say your partner would most certainly object… Well, how about an ugly Cthulhu sweater to impress people at your next Zoom meeting? No, not your cup of tea, either? Some people are so hard to please! Well… in that case, let’s just check out some comics.

I actually think that there’s not much point in attempting to adapt Lovecraft stories into comics – it’s just too hard to do properly, and few (if any) people have managed it. How can you transform a description like « the words reaching the reader can never even suggest the awfulness of the sight itself* » into images on paper? Yet I can sympathize with artists who tried to do just that – the grandeur of Lovecraft’s visions is a compelling force. At the same time, he has become a bit of a ridiculous figure by now, his legacy awkwardly stuck between reports of his racism and misogyny and the current ubiquity of the characters he created. Oh yes, it’s tentacles all the way down for this father of our (nearly) collective tentacular obsession… down into memes and light-hearted pokes that abound online, spanning the range between ‘amusing’ and ‘blatantly stupid’. It is possible to buy a cuddly baby Cthulhu toy, for instance (and I would have purchased it, if it hadn’t gone out of stock).

*quote from At the Mountains of Madness. I recommend reading H.P. Lovecraft, the pioneer of being unable to describe the indescribable, for a clever discussion of « the collapse of language in the face of an emotionally unhinging reality », how Lovecraft handled it, and how a clever reader could employ his technique in the modern world.

First we’ll take a look at a few serious attempts to adapt HPL stories into comics… ones with tentacles, of course, as this is Tentacle Tuesday, after all. Let’s face it, there have been many, many comics series (and I do mean many) based on, vaguely or directly, on Lovecraft material… and the bulk of this has horrible (in my humble assessment) art, and stories to match. I’m really not interested in reading about how Lovecraft teamed up with Houdini to save Arthur Conan Doyle’s life, but it may be the coolest thing somebody has ever heard. Your own mileage may vary – for every Lovecraft fan who shudders at bad adaptations of his oeuvre, there’s one (or two) who just want to “get to the good stuff, not be derailed by a rambling description of the bloody countryside” (actual quote).

For a detailed look at comics adapting Lovecraft, head over to this Cthulhu Mythos Comics list.

I’ll begin with Tom Sutton visuals – after all, he’s one of our esteemed Tentacle Masters.

The Cover of H.P. Lovecraft’s The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath: a Portfolio (1978), with Tom Sutton illustrations of this classic Lovecraft tale.
One has to admit that the sheer horror on the face of the man stuck amidst all these suggested-but-not-quite-clear monsters is supremely convincing!

On the other hand, Richard Corben opted to for clearly defined monsters when he illustrated Dagon:

Page from Dagon, a Lovecraft story adapted and illustrated by Richard Corben, published in Haunt of Horror: Lovecraft no. 1 (August 2008, Max Comics). I like Corben’s art much, much better in colour, so this leaves me rather cold.
Art (once again by Corben) that was used as a cover illustration for Haunt of Horror: Lovecraft no. 1. Read the issue here.
Lovecraft: The Myth of Cthulhu (2018, IDW). Cover by Esteban Maroto. Maroto did a very nice job of depicting out-worldly creatures in stark black and white, with just the right proportion between the well-defined and the merely suggested – have a look at the inside of this book over here.
I’ll quote the artist, Richard Svensson:  « This is actually a panel from my 10-page comic version of H. P. Lovecraft’s “The Dunwich Horror”. I did it for a small-press Swedish (mostly humorous) comic book Lovecraft anthology. Since there aren’t that many images around showing Wilbur Whateley’s mostly-invisible twin I thought I’d post my own attempt at portraying the unnamable.» A pretty good job, I think!

I don’t actually like Svensson’s art that much, with the exception of this comic, but I dig his animation work, for which he builds monsters out of clay! Watch Out of the Old Land, his latest from September, 2020.

I mentioned earlier how the Great Old Ones have been repurposed as butts of jokes and tropes for memes. Well, I’m not here to share memes (other than very occasionally), but I do have a few nice illustrations-cum-cartoons to share.

Matchbox design by Chet Phillips (2000); he has a done quite a few, and sells them as prints in his store. I haven’t really witnessed the age of colourful, stylish matchboxes, but I understand the people who collect them! It’s a very quaint and romantic topic.
A very relatable cartoon by Pavel Lujardo (2019).
Instant Cthulhu by Christian Krank (2018).

Readers, do you have any favourite comics adaptations of Lovecraft?

~ ds

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