(Today we conclude these looks at other Lovecraftian comics creators. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did, which was a lot. Many thanks to the participants: Steve Jonbes, Shannon Applecline, Mike Vosburg, Francois Launet, Pete von Sholly, Elliot Rodriguez, Sam Gafford, Mars, Jose Oliver, Chuck BB, and Jason Thompson.
The original idea for the series came out of a conversation with Hans Rodionoff, author of Vertigo’s Lovecraft book, as well as the six-issue (and very Lovecraftian) Mnemovore. My plan was to use his guest blog as the capstone. Due to an assortment of things hitting the fan all at once, he was unable to finish his piece. In its place, I am going to review Lovecraft, to at least give you a flavor of the man’s talents in the event you haven’t already devoured it.)
And very, very strange.
Which for a Lovecraftian book is all to the good.
As mentioned here before, the notions of Lovecraft’s stories being ‘real’ and of the Old Gentleman himself being a character in the story are not new. Robert Bloch did it as far back as 1934 (“The Shambler from the Stars”), when Lovecraft was still alive. Therefore, anyone taking this approach -myself included- has to be judged on how cleverly they pull it off. I think of Orson Welles staging Macbeth in a Haitian voodoo setting, or Julius Caesar in Nazi Germany. The same, only different.
How Hans Rodionoff piloted his screenplay into a comic book adaptation by Keith Giffen is unknown to me, as is the specific person responsible for bringing Enrique Breccia on-board as artist. The good news is that it works, a powerful engine firing on all cylinders.
Lovecraft is more than a character in the story; as the title implies, he is the story. Rodionoff has constructed a reasonably accurate biography of HPL –all the important events and traits are here, though often rearranged for dramatic effect– then intertwined it with a story behind the story. What we didn’t know: Lovecraft’s father possesed a copy of the Necronomicon, a book Howard stumbles upon as a child, and to which he sometimes feeds a field mouse.
The story transitions like a movie, leaping forward in time, revealing Lovecraft’s deepening involvement with the book and the strange place it takes him, Arkham. To keep this other world from spilling out into the real world, he has taken to writing stories, essentially spells to keep the gate closed.
One of the most engaging aspects of Lovecraft is the way Rodionoff and Giffen entangle this mission with the real events of Lovecraft’s life, illuminating the man’s character in ways that a straightforward telling could not. His marriage to Sonia Greene and subsequent divorce are particularly affecting and sad. Without attempting to explain the real-life Lovecraft’s quirks, the story illuminates them; his poverty, his relative isolation, his worldview convey a great understanding of the person.
And I can’t say enough about Enrique Breccia’s art, which is perfectly suited to the demands of the story. This shouldn’t be surprising; his father, Alberto Breccia, is famous for many artistic achievements, one of which is his powerful renditions of Lovecraft’s creations. But Enrique is his own man. At first, he alternates a pseudo-antique pen-and-ink for the ‘real’ sequences, with outrageous and scary color paintings for encounters with shoggoths and trips to Arkham. The techniques begin to merge as the story progresses. His monsters, even the ones in striped pants, are disturbing; his Wilbur Whately is my all-time favorite rendition of the character.
Vertigo originally released the book in 2003, but it is still in print.Get a copy.
But bring a field mouse.